개천절 (Gaecheonjeol) – National Foundation Day

GaecheonjeolIt’s National Foundation Day in South Korea! Literally translated as the “Festival of the Opening of Heaven,” 개천절 (Gaecheonjeol) celebrates the foundation myth of the Gojoseon state (Ancient Korea). The story places the creation of Gojoseon by 단군 왕겁 (Dangun Wanggeom) at 2333 BC.

The Legend of Dangun

Dangun’s legend begins with Hwanin (환인), or the “Lord of Heaven.” Hwanin’s son, Hwanung (환웅), yearned to live among the valleys and mountains of the earth, so he asked his father to permit him to descend with 3,000 followers. Hwanin gave his son his blessing and permission to descend to the Baekdu Mountains (백두산맥) on the border of modern day North Korea and China. Here, Hwanung founded Sinsi (신시), the “City of God,” where he—along with his ministers of clouds, rain, and wind—taught the humans various crafts and instituted laws and moral codes.

DangunWhile teaching the humans, a tiger and bear prayed that they may become human. Hwanung heard these prayers and gave them orders. With 20 cloves of garlic and a bundle of mugwort, the two were ordered to eat only this sacred food and remain out of the sun for 100 days. Twenty days passed and the tiger could bear no more, so he gave up and left the cave. However, the bear remained, carrying out Hwanung’s instructions. On the 100th day, the bear was transformed into a woman.

Ungneyo (웅녀 ), the “bear-woman,” was made offerings to Hwanung in her gratefulness. However, she quickly became sad for lack of a husband and prayed beneath the Divine Betula tree (신단수, Sindansu) for a child. Hwanung was again moved by her prayers and took her as his wife. Soon she birthed a son by the name of  Dangun Wanggeom (단군 왕겁).

Dangun inherited his father’s throne and built the walled city of Asadal, the first city of the Gojoseon Kingdom (also known as Old/Ancient Joseon.)

10042013_national_foundation_day_001Customs

Every October 3rd, South Koreans commonly celebrate National Foundation Day with festivals, parades, burning of sandalwood incense, and 잡채 (chapjae). Each year, millions of Seoulites and foreigners flood Youido Park along the Han River to watch a magnificent fireworks display. Each country has it’s own display often with Japan, China, and then Korea as the finale. There is also a ceremony held at Chamseongdan altar at the summit of Mt. Manisan in Dangun’s honor. The altar is rumored to have been built by Dangun himself and is a legendary place of worship favored by ancient Korean kings throughout history.

Although North Korea recognizes 개천절 (Gaecheonjeol), it is not celebrated as a public holiday, but tradition is kept with an annual ceremony at the Mausoleum of Dangun.

Learning Korean

오늘의 표현 (Today’s Expression):

이번 주 금요일은 공휴일인 개천절입니다.
i-beon ju geum-yo-il-eun gong-hyu-il-in gae-cheon-jeol-im-ni-da
This Friday is Gaecheonjeol, a public holiday.

단어 (Vocabulary):

개천 (Gae-cheon) — Opening of Heaven
공휴일 (Gong-hyu-il) — Public Holiday
고조선 (Gojoseon) — first Korean kingdom, Old Joseon
단군 (Dangun) — legendary founder of Gojoseon

Chinese Short Story 003 – 晏子使楚 (Yanzi’s Diplomatic Mission to Chu)

When Emperor You was killed in 770 BC by Quanrong, a barbarian tribe, the Chinese royalty lost control of the whole country. China was split up into states and suffered by endless wars until 221 BC.

Yanzi is a famous politician and diplomat in Qi, a state in North-East China. Unfortunately, God didn’t give him a good appearance to match his wisdom and resource. Yanzi was tiny and ugly. One day. the king of Qi, King Jing, wanted to get help from the Chu state in South China, so he sent Yanzi on a diplomatic mission to Chu.

Main Gate of ChuKing Ling, the king of Chu, was not satisfied with the emissary because of Yanzi’s ugliness. He asked his people to close the gates of his city and they told Yanzi, “There is a hole dug in the wall by dogs. King Ling thinks the hole is big enough for you.” Yanzi answered, “People go through a great gate when they visit a great kingdom. People go through a dog’s hole when they visit a dog’s kingdom.” After King Ling heard this answer he asked his guards to open the biggest gate for Yanzi.

After Yanzi and King Ling met each other, King Ling asked, “Are there any people in Qi now?”

Yanzi answered,”There are more than 7,000 clans that live in our capital. People can cover the sun with their arms. There are too many people that flood the streets; so they swarm shoulder to shoulder and feet to feet. How can you say there are no people in Qi now?”

“But why, then, did King Jing send you to me?”

“Great people work together on a great job. We really can’t find a better person than you,” Yanzi answered.

Yanzi's Diplomatic MissionAs was custom, King Ling prepared a dinner for Yanzi. During the dinner, some soldiers walked in with a person who was tied up.

King Ling asked, “Who is this guy?”

The soilders answered,” He is from Qi. He is a thief.”

“Are all the people from Qi good at stealing?” King Ling asked Yanzi.

Yanzi answered, “If you plant an orange tree in the South of Huaihe River, it is called Ju. The fruits are sweet and tasty. If you plant an orange tree in the North of Huaihe River, it is called Zhi. These fruits are bitter and distasteful. They are the same fruit, but the environment has changed them. Why are the people in Qi kind and honest, but changed after they moved to Chu?”

King Ling laughed out boisterously and said, “I shouldn’t try to make fun of you! The person who wants to shame others will always be shamed in the end.”

Chinese Short Story 002 – 愚公移山 (Mr. Stupid Moves the Mountains)

There were two mountains, TaiHang and WangWu, in the North of HeYang State. Both of them were bigger than 700 square miles, and taller than thousands of meters.

Mr. Stupid was a 90-years-old man. His home was in the north of the mountains. Every time, his families had to climb across mountains to go to the city. One day, he convened his family and said,”I am tired of climbing the mountains every time. Do you think it can work, if we move the two mountains to other place?” His wife answered,”It even is unbelievable for you to move the hill outside of our house. Moreover, where can you put the rocks?” Their son said, “We can put the rocks into BoHai Sea.” Therefore, Mr. Stupid led three of his sons and began to break the rocks on the mountains and moved them into BoHai Sea.

At the beginning, all of their neighbors laughed at them. However, more and more people joined them later. One day, Mr. Smart met them and laughed at Mr. Stupid,”You are so stupid. You are so old now. There is no difference between you and a dead person. You can’t finish your plan before you die.” Mr. Stupid answered,”I am stubborn. After I die, my son will keep working on it. After my son dies, my grandson will keep working on it. My family won’t give up, and the mountains won’t grow. There will be one day that we can finish my dream.” Mr. Smart had no words to answer him.

Tip:

When I heard this story in my childhood, I had a question in my mind, “Did Mr. stupid succeed?”  Later, I found my answer from the Chinese map. However, I got another question,”Is this story true? Maybe the two mountains were always at that places where they are.” Honestly, I don’t know. But I know cleverness is not as important as people thought. Intelligence can help people figure out the easiest way to get their goals. However, absurdness is the reason that humans could create so many miracles in our history.

Chinese Short Story 001 – 叶公好龙 (YeGong Loved the Dragon)

The period for this story is 770BC~476BC.

There was a guy, YeGong, he loved the Dragon so much. So, he used the Dragon’s pictures,  sculptures, patterns, etc to decorate his home. He wore the Dragon’s clothes every day and he told everyone he loved the Dragon. One day, the Dragon heard about YeGong. The Dragon thought, “Wow, I have a fan now. I should meet him, since he loves me so much.” However, when the dragon went to YeGong’s home, YeGong was so scared he ran from the Dragon.

Tip for Chinese dragons:

If you know anything about Chinese dragons, you know they are different from the Western dragons. Chinese dragons are kind and friendly. However, they also have a defect: they are egomaniacs. They have no interest in women, but they have an interest in almost all kinds of female animals, such as buffalo, tortoise, fish, etc. People call the monsters of half dragon blood sub-dragons. Sub-dragons are not as powerful as the real dragons, and they also have their own characteristics. This means not all of them are as kind as dragons, such as Jiao (蛟). Jiaos are a cross between dragons and snakes. The Western dragons could possibly be a cross between dragons and bats.

There are two special dragons. One is The Dragon. You can say he is The King of Dragons, and is different from normal dragons. The Dragon has five legs (normal dragons just have four). The Dragon can control his body to become bigger or smaller, and he can use magic to turn into anything he wants. He is the most powerful dragon and all of the other dragons are constrained by his rule.

The second one is the Blue Dragon. He is the Eastern Security for China. (There are three more Securities for the other three directions.) Also the Blue Dragon is the most powerful Security.

Dragons were the signs for Chinese royalty. After 221BC, only the royalty could use dragons’ pattern. The dragon on the emperors’ clothes have five legs. The other royalty members just could use the dragons with four legs. However, the government officers could use the sub-dragons patterns.

Best Sci-fi Short. Ever.

Ok, so I’m a bit of a nerd if you couldn’t already tell from my engineering major and ranging scholarly curiosities. Recently, science fiction has captivated my interest as I work my way through the Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert and the Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan (so far, both great series!) Well, aside from books, I’ve always enjoyed a relaxing movie night on occasion. Well, summer boredom overtook me and I started poking around the sci-fi shorts on YouTube. You can certainly find a variety of them online as they range from quick and cheap homemade films to grandiose projects. After watching a gazillion-and-one of them, I came across this one: Plurality. Why don’t you just take a look for yourself.

Fifteen minutes well spent? I’d say so. The interesting thing is that this short is not highly talked about, surprisingly so as it is a well made masterpiece. It plays on the balance of privacy vs security, a long discussed issue when it comes to modern technology and warfare. Do you think the environment in Plurality could be somewhere not to far in our future?