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Legends of Place Names

This category of legends narrates the origins of the names of villages and the various related place names. A number of place name legends are found in Samguksagi (History of the Three Kingdoms), the earliest among them being the tale about the origins of the name Changwon, now a major city, which came from the fact that Crown Prince Haemyeong, during King Yuri’s reign in Goguryeo, killed himself with a spear, which is chang in Korean. There are also records of villages populated by people known

Korean Folk Literature

Lit. one hundredth day after birth

The one hundredth day after a child’s birth, or a family party celebrating that day. The term baegil refers literally to the one hundredth day following the birth of a child, but it also simply means many days. Korean society suffered a high infant mortality rate until the early 20th century, with many infants dying before they reached their one hundredth day. That is why past Koreans believed a special celebration was needed for a baby who had passed that critical period. For the celebration, c

Korean Rites of Passage

Childbirth taboos

Taboos to be kept by the mother or her family members before and after the birth of a child. In the past, childbirth was always exposed to bujeong (Kor. 부정, Chin. 不淨, lit. impurities or bad luck), which led to anxieties over a new-born child lest the child go wrong. Childbirth taboos, or chulsangeumgi, were a measure to relieve a pregnant woman or woman with a new-born of their anxieties and to prevent mishaps from taking place. Childbirth taboos are divided by phase into prenatal and postnatal

Korean Rites of Passage

Wedding ceremony

Traditional marriage procedure consisting of gyobaerye (Kor. 교배례, Chin. 交拜禮, lit. bow exchanging ceremony) and hapgeullye (Kor. 합근례, Chin. 合 巹禮, liquor sharing ceremony) held at choryecheong. Literally meaning “a large and important ceremony, ” the term daerye refers to major ceremonies held at the royal court in which the king participated, but outside the court it meant a ceremony held to conclude a marriage. A wedding ceremony has long been called daerye among the Korean people, and has been

Korean Rites of Passage

Aristocratic families with equal standing in terms of marriage eligibility

A clan-based community created through generations of intermarriage among upper class families. Honban refers to “compatible social status suitable for marriage” or “aristocratic families with equal standing in terms of marriage eligibility.” But in social science, it refers to a social alliance formed through frequent intermarriage between aristocratic families of equal social status where the marriage is arranged by a relative. In pre-modern society, marriage was a symbol of the family’s socia

Korean Rites of Passage

Lit. groom’s visit to the bride’s family

Bridegroom’s first visit to the bride’s maiden home after the wedding. Jaehaeng refers to the first visit to the bride’s maiden home by a groom, who returned to his family after the wedding was held at the bride’s house. Generally, jaehaeng takes place before sinhaeng (Kor. 신행, Chin. 新行, post-wedding journey of the bride to the groom’s home), and it can be carriedout with his parents’ permission after receiving a message from the bride’s family. Jaehaeng is meaningful as the first visit to his w

Korean Rites of Passage

Three-Year Mountain Pass

The legend of Samnyeongogae (Three-Year Mountain Pass) narrates the story of a mountain pass that carried a curse that if a traveller stumbled and fell on the pass, the traveller would die within three years. An old man was walking home on Samnyeongogae, a pass across a mountain somewhere in Gyeongsang Province, when he fell down. In despair that he would die within three years, the old man called in his children to deliver his will, but his neighbor, who was a doctor, told him that falling down

Korean Folk Literature

Mighty Baby

The legend “Agijangsu” narrates the story of Mighty Baby, who meets a tragic death for being born with extraordinary abilities into a lowly family. It is unclear how far the tale dates back to, but a warrior born with wings under his arms is documented in Samguksagi (History of the Three Kingdoms), from 12th century. A story similar to the Agijangsu legend is also included in the “Ancient Relics of Gangneung” section of Joseoneupji (Village Records of Joseon). The tale was transmitted widely in

Korean Folk Literature

Rich Man Pond

The legend of Jangjamot (Rich Man Pond) narrates the story of a rich man whose house was flooded in water and turned into a pond as a result of his ill treatment of a monk seeking donation, and of the rich man’s daughter-in-law, who turned into a rock for breaking a taboo imposed by the monk. Rich Man Hwang of Gangwon Province, whose family for three generations owned enough land to harvest ten thousand sacks of rice each year, was known for his ill-treatment of monks that came by seeking donati

Korean Folk Literature

Myth of Kim Alji

The myth“ Kimaljisinhwa ”narrates the story of Kim Alji, progenitor of the Kim royal family of the Silla dynasty and the Gyeongju Kim clan. Kim Alji served as Daebo (Great Minister) under King Talhae and was named crown prince but was not enthroned, and his myth has been transmitted as progenitor myth or as part of clan history through genealogical records or family writings of the Gyeongju Kim clan. In the kingdom of Silla, during the reign of King Talhae, Great Minister Hogong (Duke Gourd) was

Korean Folk Literature

Village Myth

Maeulsinhwa, or village myths, tell the sacred story of a village’s beginnings, as well as the origins of village gods (dangsin) and miracles that demonstrate their divine powers. Village myths are passed down as an integral part of village rituals (dongje), sometimes recited during the rite as in the case of“ Dangbonpuri (Song of the Origin of Village Guardian God) ”from Jeju Island, and they are continuously revised and renewed along with the evolution of the various forms of village god worsh

Korean Folk Literature

Sacred Mother of Mt. Seondo

This myth tells the story of Seondosanseongmo, the goddess of Mt. Seondo in Gyeongju, North Gyeong- sang Province and the mother of Bak Hyeokgeose, the founder and progenitor of the kingdom of Silla. During the reign of King Jinpyeong of Silla, the Sacred Mother of Mt. Seondo appeared in a dream of the Buddhist female monk Jihye, and ordered that the main hall at the temple Anheungsa should be repaired using gold buried under her shrine, and Jihye did as instructed. The goddess was a daughter of

Korean Folk Literature

Great Flood

This legend narrates the story of a great flood in ancient times, which drowns the entire world except for a single mountain peak and two siblings, who wed and become the ancestors of mankind. A long, long time ago, a great flood turned the entire world into a vast sea, leaving only a brother and sister on a single mountain peak. When the world was drained of all the water, the siblings came down the mountain, but there was no one left. The siblings, worried that this would be the end of mankind

Korean Folk Literature

Child Selling

Aipalgi, literally meaning, “child selling, ” is a ritual for praying for the longevity of a child believed to possess a short lifespan or bad fortune, by designating a deity or an object from nature as the child’s foster parent. The term is based on the idea that designating a foster parent is an act of selling the child, and variations include jasikpalgi (child selling), suyangbumo samgi (bind as foster parent) and suyangeomeoni samgi (bind as foster mother). The practice was generally observe

Korean Folk Beliefs

Dragon Fight

The legend“ Yongssaum ”narrates the story of a man who was asked by a dragon that lived in a pond to help in a dragon fight, and in return for assisting the dragon’s victory, was given a wide plain. The earliest remaining record of this legend is the“ Tale of Dojo (grandfather of Joseon’s founder Yi Seong-gye), included in Yongbieocheonga (Songs of Dragons Flying to Heaven). Other versions include the legends of Jeokji and Gonggeomji in Donggukyeojiseungnam ( Augmented Survey of the Geography of

Korean Folk Literature

Legends of Natural Creation

This category of legends narrates the origins of nature and natural phenomena of the world, including the sun, moon and stars; terrestrial features like mountains, rivers, ponds, rocks and caves; the sea, islands and bays; flora and fauna. It also includes tales of origins of geographical features. Some of the most widely observed narratives of natural creation include those of mountains or islands that floated from one location to another, or of mountains that survived a great flood. There are

Korean Folk Literature

Grandmother Mago

The myth of Magohalmi tells the story of a giant goddess who created all of nature and its geographical formations of this universe. Giant goddess Magohalmi carried mud in her skirt and created mountains and islands. Her urine and excrement formed hills and rivers. Big rocks in various villages were placed there by Magohalmi’s hands or whips. Magohalmi’s body was so immense that 90, 000 pil of hemp was not enough to clothe her. She was so tall she walked across the seas off the island Wando, and

Korean Folk Literature
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