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March 2nd, 2011

Whether it's from red neon crosses lighting up the night sky or the sound of monks rapping on moktok it is not unusual to encounter evidence of the influence that Christianity and Buddhism have had in South Korea. For someone not specifically looking for them though, it can be much harder to spot the references to Daoism and Shamanism that have also played a role in shaping Korean culture.

Buddhist temples - particularly those situated on mountainsides - may have an area reserved for worship of a local spirit, a 'mountain god' (Hangeul, 산신; Hanja, 山神), and these may include paintings representing various deities associated with Buddhism or Shamanism. In addition to this, shaman-related paintings can also be used in ritual performances known as gut (굿) in Korean. According to Yoon Yeolsu (Yoon 2004:10),

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