Tree-Mating(嫁樹)

Tree-Mating

Headword

가수 ( 嫁樹 , Gasu )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Seasonal Customs > January > 1st Lunarmonth > Seasonal Holidays

Writer KimJongtae(金鍾泰)

Gasu (Kor. 가수, Chin. 嫁樹, lit. tree-mating) is the custom of inserting a rock between the branches of a fruit tree in the hope that it will make the tree produce more fruit in autumn. The custom is observed nationwide on Lunar New Year’s Day or on the Great Full Moon Day (the fifteenth of the first lunar month). Just as marriage is the formal beginning of reproductive life for men and women, the symbolic gesture of tree-mating is meant to promote the tree’s fertility.

The custom is mentioned in the “Damjeong Yugo” (Kor. 담정유고, Chin. 藫庭遺藁, The Posthumous Writings of Kim Ryeo), a collection of literary works of a Joseon scholar-official named Kim Ryeo (1766-1822). One of the poems, entitled “Sangwonnigok” (상원리곡, Chin. 上元俚曲, A Folk Song of the First Full Moon), reads, “A local custom called gasu says that if at dawn when the first cry of the rooster is heard, a rock is placed in a fruit tree where two branches form a fork, the tree will bear a lot of fruit.” Gasu is also discussed in the “Dongguk Sesigi” (Kor. 동국세시기, Chin. 東國歲時記, A Record of Seasonal Customs in Korea, 1849) under the heading “Sangwon” (Full Moon of the First Month). According to this record, tree-mating could be performed on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, or the first full moon. The Chinese agricultural treatise, “Nongzheng Quanshu” (Kor. 농정전서, Chin. 農政全書, Comprehensive Treatise on Agricultural Administration, 1639), prescribes tree-mating as an effective method of increasing the yield for plum trees. However, Joseon writings such as “Sesi Pungyo” (Kor. 세시풍요, Chin. 歲時風謠, Songs of Seasonal Folk Customs, 1843) and the above-mentioned “Sangwonnigok” indicate that the custom was practiced by Korean farmers not only for plum trees, but also for peach, apricot and Japanese apricot (ume) trees. Currently tree-mating in Korea can be performed for virtually any kind of fruit-bearing trees, including date, chestnut, persimmon and pomegranate trees.

Although inserting a rock in a branch fork is the most common form of tree-mating, in some regions the custom consists of placing cooked rice (ogok-bap, Kor. 오곡밥, dish made with five kinds of grains) wrapped in a piece of paper or dumplings at the fork of two branches. In some regions, a farmer picks up an ax in front of a fruit tree and makes a motion as if he is about to chop it down. This gesture is a way of “warning” the tree about what could happen to it after another barren year; it is an attempt at intimidating it into bearing more fruit.

Tree-Mating

Tree-Mating
Headword

가수 ( 嫁樹 , Gasu )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Seasonal Customs > January > 1st Lunarmonth > Seasonal Holidays

Writer KimJongtae(金鍾泰)

Gasu (Kor. 가수, Chin. 嫁樹, lit. tree-mating) is the custom of inserting a rock between the branches of a fruit tree in the hope that it will make the tree produce more fruit in autumn. The custom is observed nationwide on Lunar New Year’s Day or on the Great Full Moon Day (the fifteenth of the first lunar month). Just as marriage is the formal beginning of reproductive life for men and women, the symbolic gesture of tree-mating is meant to promote the tree’s fertility.

The custom is mentioned in the “Damjeong Yugo” (Kor. 담정유고, Chin. 藫庭遺藁, The Posthumous Writings of Kim Ryeo), a collection of literary works of a Joseon scholar-official named Kim Ryeo (1766-1822). One of the poems, entitled “Sangwonnigok” (상원리곡, Chin. 上元俚曲, A Folk Song of the First Full Moon), reads, “A local custom called gasu says that if at dawn when the first cry of the rooster is heard, a rock is placed in a fruit tree where two branches form a fork, the tree will bear a lot of fruit.” Gasu is also discussed in the “Dongguk Sesigi” (Kor. 동국세시기, Chin. 東國歲時記, A Record of Seasonal Customs in Korea, 1849) under the heading “Sangwon” (Full Moon of the First Month). According to this record, tree-mating could be performed on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, or the first full moon. The Chinese agricultural treatise, “Nongzheng Quanshu” (Kor. 농정전서, Chin. 農政全書, Comprehensive Treatise on Agricultural Administration, 1639), prescribes tree-mating as an effective method of increasing the yield for plum trees. However, Joseon writings such as “Sesi Pungyo” (Kor. 세시풍요, Chin. 歲時風謠, Songs of Seasonal Folk Customs, 1843) and the above-mentioned “Sangwonnigok” indicate that the custom was practiced by Korean farmers not only for plum trees, but also for peach, apricot and Japanese apricot (ume) trees. Currently tree-mating in Korea can be performed for virtually any kind of fruit-bearing trees, including date, chestnut, persimmon and pomegranate trees.

Although inserting a rock in a branch fork is the most common form of tree-mating, in some regions the custom consists of placing cooked rice (ogok-bap, Kor. 오곡밥, dish made with five kinds of grains) wrapped in a piece of paper or dumplings at the fork of two branches. In some regions, a farmer picks up an ax in front of a fruit tree and makes a motion as if he is about to chop it down. This gesture is a way of “warning” the tree about what could happen to it after another barren year; it is an attempt at intimidating it into bearing more fruit.