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Ritual Wine

Jeju, or ritual wine, is the term for wine that is poured on the ground or offered to the gods in the course of a ritual. In ancient times, people were mystified by the intoxicating capacities of the bubbly substance acquired through natural alcohol fermentation and believed it possessed sorcery powers. When the ritual officiant became drunk, they believed that the spirit had descended on his body. Intoxicated rapture was perceived as an act of communicating with the gods. Wine, therefore, came

Korean Folk Beliefs

Steamed Rice Cake

Tteok, or steamed rice cake, is a sacrificial food offered at rituals, made by steaming powdered rice, then pounding or rolling the dough. A steamer from the Bronze Age serves as evidence of the earliest rice cake, and with the spread of rice plants and farming in the Three Kingdoms era (57 B.C.E.–676), rice production increased and the use of earthenware steamers spread as well. It is believed that the earlier form of tteok was close to steamed rice, then plain white rice cake was steamed with

Korean Folk Beliefs

Lit. receiving a big table

Preparing a big reception table for a deity who bestows longevity and fortune on the host of the feast. In ancient society, the highest luxury in entertaining a guest was to present a table loaded with all sorts of delicacies. As such, the most important point in a feast was to set a magnificent table for a deity, invisible and yet the guest of honor, so that the deity would descend on the table and bless the host of the feast. This table for the deity was called mangsang, as it was there only t

Korean Rites of Passage

Ginseng Chicken Soup

Samgyetang (Kor. 삼계탕, Chin. 蔘鷄湯, lit. ginseng chicken soup) is a popular dish for Sambok (Kor. 삼복, Chin. 三伏, Three Dog Days, three hottest days in the sixth and seventh lunar months), made by boiling a young chicken with ginseng in a rustic ceramic pot. This soup is also referred to as gyesamtang (Kor. 계삼탕, Chin. 鷄蔘湯). According to the “Dongui Bogam” (Kor. 동의보감, Chin. 東醫寶鑑, Exemplar of Korean Medicine, 1613), “eating the meat from a chicken with yellow feathers helps to control excessive thirst

Korean Seasonal Customs

Sea Mustard

Miyeok, or sea mustard, is a sacrificial offering in rituals related to childbirth or to Samsin (Goddess of Childbearing). Sea mustard is known to help produce breast milk and also to possess diuretic effect, both beneficial for post-partum mothers who are nursing, which is why it has traditionally been used as an important offering in birth-related rituals. The practice of offering sea mustard soup to Samsin is still widespread today. Homes prepare for childbirth by stocking rice, sea mustard a

Korean Folk Beliefs

Cylinder-shaped Rice Cake

Garaetteok refers to a type of rice cake made by pounding rice dough and shaping it into long thin cylinders. Sliced garaetteok is the main ingredient in the special New Year food called tteokguk (Kor. 떡국, lit. rice cake soup). According to the “Dongguk Sesigi” (Kor, 동국세시기, Chin. 東國歲時記, A Record of Seasonal Customs in Korea, 1849), the cylinder-shaped rice cake was also called baekbyeong (Kor. 백병, Chin. 白餠, lit. white rice cake), and the soup made with its slices was an essential part of the New

Korean Seasonal Customs

Sweet Rice Puffs

Gangjeong (Kor. 강정, Chin. 羗釘) is a common name for glazed puffy sweets made from rice or wheat powder, honey, grain syrup and sesame oil. There are two types of this traditional Korean confectionary, depending on the ingredients used for the glaze – honey and oil-glazed yumilgwa (Kor. 유밀과, Chin. 油蜜果) and sugar-glazed dangsokryu (Kor. 당속류, Chin. 糖屬類). Koreans enjoyed gangjeong from very early times. It was mentioned first, among the remaining records, in the “Samguk Yusa” (Kor. 삼국유사,

Korean Seasonal Customs

Hua Tuo’s New Year Liquor

Dosoju (Kor. 도소주, Chin. 屠蘇酒), an herbal liquor made of a blend of various medicinal herbs, is believed to expel evil forces and help maintain a happy and long life if consumed on the Lunar New Year’s Day. Now widely regarded as the origin of all other New Year liquors, it was invented by Hua Tuo (華陀, 145-208), a Chinese physician of the Later Han (25-220) who was specialized in pharmacy, acupuncture, moxibustion and regimen and treated the chronic headaches of General Cao Cao (曹操, 155-220)

Korean Seasonal Customs

New Year's Liquor

Seju (Kor. 세주, Chin. 歲酒) refers to any kind of alcoholic beverage consumed on New Year’s Day with family or neighbors for good health in the coming year. In an 18th century book, “Gyeongdo Japji” (Kor. 경도잡지, Chin. 京都雜志, Miscellaneous Records of the Capital), there is a description of this custom: "A meal served after the New Year greetings on New Year’s Day is called sechan [Kor. 세찬, Chin. 歲饌, New Year’s meal] and the liquor served along with it called seju. The liquor sho

Korean Seasonal Customs

Loach Soup

Loaches are frequently consumed between the seventh and eleventh lunar months as they become plump after spring and early summer and are the tastiest around this time. Loach, known in Korean as mikkuragi (Kor. 미꾸라지), can also be referred to by Sino-Korean character-based names including ichu (Kor. 이추, Chin. 泥鰌, 泥鰍) or chueo (Kor. 추어, Chin. 鰍魚); accordingly, chueotang (Kor. 추어탕, Chin. 鰍魚湯) is the name for loach soup. The oldest Korean mention of loach soup is found in the “Oju Yeonmun Jang

Korean Seasonal Customs
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