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Taboo rope

A special rice straw rope made when a child was born and hung over various significant objects or places, such as a gate, village entrance, crockery terrace and village tutelary tree, to warn unwanted visitors to fend off evil forces. When a child was born, a straw rope was hung over the front gate of the baby’s home, announcing his or her birth. In addition, the straw rope was intended to prevent the entrance of uninvited visitors to the house under the belief that some evil forces might exploi

Korean Rites of Passage

Memorial plaque

A kind of funeral prop placed at the burial site, jiseok refers to a stone plate or plaque inscribed with biographical information of the deceased: name, bongwan (Kor. 본관, Chin. 本貫, clan origin), year of birth and death, gyebo (Kor. 계보, Chin 系譜, family lineage), and achievements. The memorial stone plaque also serves as a grave marker. It is presumed that this kind of memorial stone plaque originated from China and was first introduced to Korea during the Three Kingdoms period. The practice of e

Korean Rites of Passage

Spirit tablet case

A sacred space or facility where the image of a deity or object symbolizing a supernatural being is stored. Gamsil is a facility inside a Confucian shrine used to store the spirit tablets of the ancestors. There were, of course, many households that had a gamsil to enshrine the spirit tablets of their ancestors, even though they had no family shrine. The size of the gamsil varied according to the number of the generations of ancestors for whom memorial rites were regularly held. The most prevale

Korean Rites of Passage

Death anniversary rite

A Confucian rite performed in memory of ancestors at the earliest possible hour on their death anniversary. Gijesa is a term referring to a Confucian memorial rite held to honor the ancestors at the earliest hour on the anniversary of their death with food offerings prepared the day before. Koreans have maintained this tradition to remember and honor their ancestors on this day. The ceremony was traditionally held at jasi (Kor. 자시, Chin. 子時, the hour of the rat, between 23:30 to 00:30) when a ne

Korean Rites of Passage

Holding ancestral rites and showing hospitality to guests

Confucian virtue of holding ancestral memorial rites and showing hospitality to guests. The head family of a clan typically held more than twelve ancestral memorial rites in a year to fulfill their duty of sadaebongsa (Kor. 사대봉사, Chin. 四代奉祀, lit. conducting memorial rites for the four latest generations of ancestors), including gijesa (Kor. 기제사, Chin. 忌祭祀, memorial rite for ancestors on their death anniversary), myoje (Kor. 묘제, Chin. 墓祭, memorial service held at the grave of an ancestor) and cha

Korean Rites of Passage

Rites for four generations of ancestors

Confucian custom of holding memorial rites in honor of the four latest generations of ancestors, from deceased parents to the great great grandparents. The tradition of sadaebongsa was established in the belief that the great great grandparents would be the oldest ancestors one has a chance to see before their death. Descendants sharing the same great great grandparents are sometimes referred to as yubokchin (Kor. 유복친, Chin. 有服親, lit. relatives in mourning garments), because they were entitled t

Korean Rites of Passage

Ancestral grave visit

Visiting ancestral graves to clean and look after them. Seongmyo refers to visiting ancestral graves on major traditional holidays such as Chuseok (Kor. 추석, Chin. 秋夕, harvest moon festival, fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month) or seasonal occasions such as Hansik (Kor. 한식, Chin. 寒食, lit. cold food [day]) to clean and take care of them. Looking after the ancestral graves where the bodies are buried has been traditionally considered as important as holding ancestral rites in honor of the ances

Korean Rites of Passage

Ritual offerings

Ritual food offered by the descendants to the ancestors during memorial rites. Jemul refers to food offerings used in memorial rites. Those preparing the rite take great care to keep the offerings from impurities by cleansing themselves, body and soul. They do not say anything unnecessary when buying the food or try to get discount on them. While cooking, the food is not tasted and care is taken to prevent human hair from falling onto the food. It is believed that if these taboos are not observe

Korean Rites of Passage

Head family

Head family of a clan descended through the eldest sons (under the concubine system, legitimate eldest sons). The concept of jongga originated in the code of clan regulations. The code of clan regulations is the logic that helps keep a kin group remain stable within a pyramid-shaped system; it is also a rule that prescribes where the legitimacy of the group is held. According to the code of clan regulations, an entire patrilineal kin group, that is, a lineage of eldest sons is called daejong (Ko

Korean Rites of Passage

Hoe Washing Festival

Homissisi (Kor. 호미씻이, Chin. 洗鋤宴, 洗鋤會, lit. hoe washing) is a traditional summer festival held in farming communities in the beginning or middle of the seventh lunar month. By this time major activities related to the growth of crops are finished, as it is reflected in the name of the festival: a homi (Kor. 호미, hand hoe) is the main tool for weeding, the last task that farmers need to complete before harvesting in autumn. Thus, Homissisi represents the end of weeding via the act of "washing

Korean Seasonal Customs


Hemp fabric made by stripping the bark of hemp plants to make thread that is woven into cloth. Sambe is one of the major traditional textiles used in Korea, along with cotton, ramie, and silk. It is cloth made by peeling the bark off hemp plants and splitting it into thin strips to make the threads, which go through a number of different processes before they are woven on the loom. Of all the traditional textiles, hemp cloth was the most common and was worn by the ordinary people. Myeongju silk

Korean Clothing

Grave goods

Miniature objects in various shapes, including human beings, animals and man-made objects, buried with the body of the deceased, symbolizing wishes for their peace and comfort in the afterlife. The grave objects called myeonggi are miniature items in the shape of human figures and various everyday objects such as kitchenware, musical instruments, furniture, and weaponry. They came into use from the early Joseon period and are well documented in the “Chapter of Five Rites” in “Sejongsillok, ” wit

Korean Rites of Passage
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