Legends of Flowers and Trees(花、树传说)

Legends of Flowers and Trees

Headword

꽃·나무전설 ( 花、树传说 , Legends of Flowers and Trees )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer KimSunpoong(金善豊)

This category of Korean folk narratives tells stories related to flowers and trees that reflect the history, sentiments and cosmology of the Korean people.

Korea’s earliest tree legend would be the Dangun myth, which revolves around Sindansu (Divine Altar Tree), which functions as the shamanic pole, or cosmic tree in the imaginary sacred district Sodo or in the village guardian shrine seonangdang. The name Dangun means “son of dan tree, ” referring to a tree in the birch family. The Yi dynasty of Joseon also emphasize that they were descendants of the pear tree, as reflected in the slogan, “the son of the tree conquered the kingdom, ” which is closely associated with the Korean worship of trees.

The following are some of Korea’s earliest legends about flowers and trees:

Documented in “Sillabongi (Records of Silla)” of Samguksagi (History of the Three Kingdoms) is an anecdote about Queen Seondeok and a painting of peonies sent by Emperor Taizong of Tang China, to which the queen responded, “The flower is beautiful but there are no butterflies depicted in the painting, thus it must be that the flower carries no scent.” An indeed, when they planted the seeds sent along with the painting, the flower had no scent, which proved to everyone of the queen’s brilliance.

“Hwawanggye (Warning to the Flower King)” is an interesting legend, written by the monk Seolchong at the order of Silla’s King Sinmun. On a bright spring day, the peony took the throne as the king of all flowers, and as thousands of colorful flowers entered the Flower King’s fragrant palace, the beautiful and sensuous rose offered to the king, “I have come with a respect and admiration for Your Majesty and his virtues, which I have long nurtured, and ask in all sincerity not to abandon my wishes and to spend a night with this humble subject.” At that moment, the granny flower, a poor scholar who had not been able to enter public office, approached with a humble bow, and expressing wish to serve the king, advised that His Majesty should not be blinded by a sensuous woman. The Flower King, however, was already distracted by the rose and would not listen to the granny flower, even though he knew that the flower was right. The granny flower responded, “This humble subject believed that the wise and intelligent king would recognize true loyalty, but from up close, I now see that is not the case. Intimacy with a sensuous and seductive woman is the path to one’s demise, ” and turned to leave, when the king realized his mistake and apologized to the loyal granny flower. When Seolchong told this tale to King Sinmun, the king said, “It is a meaningful story, which should serve as a guideline for the king’s conduct. I order you to put it to writing and bring it to me.”

Cheoljjuk, or royal azaleas, are indigenous to Korea, and many legends and poems about this flower are observed in the oral and written tradition. The “Surobuin” section of Samgungnyusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) is an account of the story of the beautiful Lady Suro of Silla, who in the reign of King Seongdeok was headed to Gangneung with her husband Sunjeonggong when an old man picked royal azaleas and offered them to her, along with the song “Heonhwaga (Flower Dedication Song).”

Another legend about the peony, referred to as hamjibak (gourd bowl) for its large blossoms, dates back to the Goryeo kingdom. King Chungryeol married the daughter of emperor Shizu of Yuan China. One day the queen was strolling the gardens of Hyanggak (Fragrant Pavilion) in Sunyeong Palace when she spotted a peonies in full bloom and ordered a lady-in-waiting to pick one for her. The queen held the blossom for while before breaking into tears, and soon she fell sick and passed away. She had recognized in the beautiful peony blossom the transience of life, which had brought her to tears.

Another flower legend from Goryeo is the narrative about the lotus. King Chungseon was visiting the Yuan capital Yanjing when he engaged in an intimate relation with a lady in the palace, but sadly had to part when he left for Goryeo. The lady cried endless tears of sadness and the king presented her with a lotus blossom as a token of their love, upon which the lady offered him the following poem: “The lotus blossom that you picked for me the day you left was first red but soon it fell off the stem and now the shade of its withering petals are like that of a man.”

Most flower legends equate flowers with women, while in tree legends, the trees often symbolize masculinity, as in the legend of the castor aralia tree (eomnamu) that guarded King Danjong of Joseon even in death, and the myth of Dangun, depicted as the son of an iron birch tree (bakdalnamu).

Legends of Flowers and Trees

Legends of Flowers and Trees
Headword

꽃·나무전설 ( 花、树传说 , Legends of Flowers and Trees )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer KimSunpoong(金善豊)

This category of Korean folk narratives tells stories related to flowers and trees that reflect the history, sentiments and cosmology of the Korean people.

Korea’s earliest tree legend would be the Dangun myth, which revolves around Sindansu (Divine Altar Tree), which functions as the shamanic pole, or cosmic tree in the imaginary sacred district Sodo or in the village guardian shrine seonangdang. The name Dangun means “son of dan tree, ” referring to a tree in the birch family. The Yi dynasty of Joseon also emphasize that they were descendants of the pear tree, as reflected in the slogan, “the son of the tree conquered the kingdom, ” which is closely associated with the Korean worship of trees.

The following are some of Korea’s earliest legends about flowers and trees:

Documented in “Sillabongi (Records of Silla)” of Samguksagi (History of the Three Kingdoms) is an anecdote about Queen Seondeok and a painting of peonies sent by Emperor Taizong of Tang China, to which the queen responded, “The flower is beautiful but there are no butterflies depicted in the painting, thus it must be that the flower carries no scent.” An indeed, when they planted the seeds sent along with the painting, the flower had no scent, which proved to everyone of the queen’s brilliance.

“Hwawanggye (Warning to the Flower King)” is an interesting legend, written by the monk Seolchong at the order of Silla’s King Sinmun. On a bright spring day, the peony took the throne as the king of all flowers, and as thousands of colorful flowers entered the Flower King’s fragrant palace, the beautiful and sensuous rose offered to the king, “I have come with a respect and admiration for Your Majesty and his virtues, which I have long nurtured, and ask in all sincerity not to abandon my wishes and to spend a night with this humble subject.” At that moment, the granny flower, a poor scholar who had not been able to enter public office, approached with a humble bow, and expressing wish to serve the king, advised that His Majesty should not be blinded by a sensuous woman. The Flower King, however, was already distracted by the rose and would not listen to the granny flower, even though he knew that the flower was right. The granny flower responded, “This humble subject believed that the wise and intelligent king would recognize true loyalty, but from up close, I now see that is not the case. Intimacy with a sensuous and seductive woman is the path to one’s demise, ” and turned to leave, when the king realized his mistake and apologized to the loyal granny flower. When Seolchong told this tale to King Sinmun, the king said, “It is a meaningful story, which should serve as a guideline for the king’s conduct. I order you to put it to writing and bring it to me.”

Cheoljjuk, or royal azaleas, are indigenous to Korea, and many legends and poems about this flower are observed in the oral and written tradition. The “Surobuin” section of Samgungnyusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) is an account of the story of the beautiful Lady Suro of Silla, who in the reign of King Seongdeok was headed to Gangneung with her husband Sunjeonggong when an old man picked royal azaleas and offered them to her, along with the song “Heonhwaga (Flower Dedication Song).”

Another legend about the peony, referred to as hamjibak (gourd bowl) for its large blossoms, dates back to the Goryeo kingdom. King Chungryeol married the daughter of emperor Shizu of Yuan China. One day the queen was strolling the gardens of Hyanggak (Fragrant Pavilion) in Sunyeong Palace when she spotted a peonies in full bloom and ordered a lady-in-waiting to pick one for her. The queen held the blossom for while before breaking into tears, and soon she fell sick and passed away. She had recognized in the beautiful peony blossom the transience of life, which had brought her to tears.

Another flower legend from Goryeo is the narrative about the lotus. King Chungseon was visiting the Yuan capital Yanjing when he engaged in an intimate relation with a lady in the palace, but sadly had to part when he left for Goryeo. The lady cried endless tears of sadness and the king presented her with a lotus blossom as a token of their love, upon which the lady offered him the following poem: “The lotus blossom that you picked for me the day you left was first red but soon it fell off the stem and now the shade of its withering petals are like that of a man.”

Most flower legends equate flowers with women, while in tree legends, the trees often symbolize masculinity, as in the legend of the castor aralia tree (eomnamu) that guarded King Danjong of Joseon even in death, and the myth of Dangun, depicted as the son of an iron birch tree (bakdalnamu).