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General Gang Gam-chan

This legend, in different variations, depicts Gang Gam-chan (948-1031), the renowned military com- mander of Goryeo known as one of the three greatest generals in Korean history, as a supernatural hero. Gang’s mythical accomplishments are recorded in documents and publications including Bohan ji p (Collection of Writings to Relieve Idleness) of Goryeo; Yong jaechonghwa (Assorted Writings o f Yong jae) of early Joseon; and Haedongi jeok (Extraordinary Lives f rom East of the Sea) of Joseon. Haedo

Korean Folk Literature



Dokdo legends narrate the stories surrounding the eighty-nine islands in Dokdo-ri, part of the village of Ulleung, in Ulleung County, North Geyongsang Province. One of the legends related to Dokdo is“ Gum- eongbawi (Hole Rock), ”about a rock located off the shore of Cheonbu Village, which was originally on the waters off Hyeonpo Village. An elderly villager with mighty powers tied up the rock to a boat and tried to take it to faraway waters. But the rock would not be pulled away, and the old man

Korean Folk Literature


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


Second Senior Rank Pine of Mt. Songni in Boeun

The legend of Jeongipumsong (Second Senior Rank Pine), which stands in the path to the temple Beopjusa on Mt. Songni, narrates the story related to the tree and King Sejo of Joseon. The story is based on the king’s visit to the village of Hoein and Mt. Songni in Boeun, North Chungcheong Province, in the second lunar month of the 10th year of his reign (1464). The anecdote about the pine tree, however, is not found in historical records and the oral transmission is based on the imagination and hi

Korean Folk Literature


Top Spinning

Paengi chigi (Kor. 팽이치기) refers to top spinning, a favorite winter pastime for children in traditional Korea. They usually spun tops on ice-covered surfaces. In the “Yeogeo Yuhae” (Kor. 역어유해, Chin. 譯語類解, Categorical Analysis of the Chinese Language Translation), published during the reign of King Sukjong (1661-1720), and the “Hancheong Mungam” (Kor. 한청문감, Chin. 漢淸文鑑, Manchu-Korean Dictionary) that appeared during the reign of King Jeongjo (1752-1800), paengi (Kor. 팽이, top) is spelled pingi (Kor.

Korean Seasonal Customs


Book of a Thousand Characters by a Thousand People

A book of a thousand Chinese characters, each written by a different person as a prayer for the health, longevity, and well-being of a newborn baby. “Cheonin-cheonjamun” is a book produced as a result of the efforts of the grandfather or the father of a newborn baby who ask a thousand acquaintances in person to ask each of them to write a single letter from “Cheonjamun.” The book embodies the grandfather’s and father’s wishes for the wisdom of the one thousand people who wrote the characters to

Korean Rites of Passage


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