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The legend of Bulgasari narrates the story, from late Goryeo, of a frightening monster that kept growing as it ate up all the metal around. Bulgasari is an imaginary monster, sometimes found painted on folding screens or chimneys due to the folk belief that it provided protection against disasters and fire. The book Songnamjapji (Trivial Learnings by Songnam), from late Joseon, records that “In the final years of Songdo (Goryeo’s capital) lived a monster that ate up all the metal scraps, and peo

Korean Folk Literature


Buckwheat Noodles with Seasoning

Goldongmyeon (Kor. 골동면, Chin. 骨董麵) is the name of a dish that consists of buckwheat noodles topped with slices of meat and vegetables and is eaten with a spicy sauce. The word goldong (Kor. 골동, Chin. 骨董) means a variety of ingredients that are mixed together. The seasoning originally was soy sauce-based, but today it is customary to make it from red pepper paste. Goldongmyeon is part of the culinary tradition of cold noodles, or naengmyeon (Kor. 냉면, Chin. 冷麵), popularly eaten in winter (particul

Korean Seasonal Customs


Serpent Cave of Gimnyeong

The legend “Gimnyeongsagul, ” about the cave Sagul in the village of East Gimnyeong in Gujwa, Jeju Island, narrates the story of Seo Ryeon, a judge during the reign of King Jungjong of Joseon, who slayed a giant serpent that lived in the cave. To the east of Gimnyeong Village on Jeju Island was a huge cave in which lived a giant snake and the cave was called Baemgul, or Sagul, meaning Serpent Cave. Each year, the villagers held a grand ritual (keungut), offering a maiden to the snake as a sacrif

Korean Folk Literature


Land Tutelary God

Teoju, or Land Tutelary God, resides on the grounds of a house, overseeing peace in the family and safety on the grounds. This deity is also called Teojusin, Teojutdaegam (Land Tutelary Official God), Teojuhalmae (Land Tutelary Grandmother) and Jisin (Earth God), and is worshipped in the form of the sacred entity teojutgari, placed in the backyard or by the sauce jar terrace. Teojutgari is an earthenware jar filled with the best grains of rice among the first harvest of the fall, covered with a

Korean Folk Beliefs


Torch Fight

Hwaetbul ssaum (Kor. 횃불싸움, lit. torch fight) is a combat-like event in which neighboring villages fight using torches as the main weapon. The activity takes place during the Great Full Moon Festival in the evening of the fourteenth or the fifteenth of the first lunar month. It is performed along with festival customs such as jwibul nori (Kor. 쥐불놀이, lit. mouse fire game), dalmaji (Kor. 달맞이, lit. welcoming the moon) and daljip taeugi (Kor. 달집태우기, lit. burning the moon house). The custom of torch f

Korean Seasonal Customs


Earthenware Steamer

Siru is an earthenware steamer that is used for cooking grains and also as a prop in folk rituals. The earthenware steamer was first used in the Korean peninsula during the late Bronze Age, mainly in the northern regions. By the Three Kingdoms period (57 B.C.E.–676), its use had spread evenly to all parts of the peninsula. The traditional steamer comprises handles, main body, bottom and hole. It cannot be placed directly over fire and requires a separate pot for heating up water. The steamer is

Korean Folk Beliefs


Lantern Festival

Gwandeung nori (Kor. 관등놀이, Chin. 觀燈-) refers collectively to all festive events, games, and performances involving lanterns held in celebration of Shakyamuni’s Birthday in traditional Korea. The historical origins of gwandeung nori can be found in Palgwanhoe (Kor. 팔관회, Chin. 八關會, lit. Festival of the Eight Vows) or Jeongwol Yeondeunghoe (Kor. 정월연등회, Chin. 正月燃燈會, Lantern Festival of the First Lunar Month) of the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392). Introduced from China, lantern festivals were slowly integ

Korean Seasonal Customs