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

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The ‘No’ Vote and What it Means for Scotland

No Vote

As many of you know, Scotland has decided to remain a part of the United Kingdom. In the end, the vote was 55% No and 45% Yes. So what now? Right after the vote there were some riots in places such as Glasgow. Also, the First Minister of Scotland resigned. There is supposed to be further devolution of power, but no change is fast. A few signs and activists linger in the streets. Divided sides are in the process of reuniting. Life continues.

For Further Information

Glasgow Riots

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/scottish-independence/glasgow-riots-footage-shows-yes-and-no-voters-in-running-street-battles-in-disorder-after-prounion-rally-9745771.html

Political Implications

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/02/campaign-scottish-independence-over-yes-movement

Economic Implications

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/allister-heath/11108214/Seven-ways-in-which-the-Scotland-No-vote-will-affect-the-UK-economy-and-markets.html

Hong Kong Unrest from an Insider’s View

Protests and tensions rise as more Hong Kongers flood the streets, demanding democracy. What’s really going on in Hong Kong? There’s much more than what first meets the eye. Take a look at this video by China Uncensored that does a great job explaining some of the underlying complications.

Mid-Autumn Festival

MidAutumn Festival - China9/8/2014. It is the Mid-Autumn Festival for this year. It is the second most important festival in Chinese culture (the first one is the Chinese Spring Festival). In Chinese culture, people pray to the Sun for a plentiful harvest and people pray to the Moon in appreciation for the harvest. So, you can say the Mid-Autumn Festival is Chinese thanksgiving. Koreans also celebrate it as 추석 (Chuseok), but I’ll let Dani write more about that later.

What do people do for Mid-Autumn Festival? Families gather together on this day and have a party while watching the Moon. Many people eat moon-cake during this party and different cities have their own way to celebrate this festival.

MidAutumn Festival - China 2The moon is important in Chinese culture as the Chinese calendar is based on the changing of the moon. Every Chinese month is a period from the new moon to the full moon and then back to the new moon again. As such, every Chinese month has 30 days and every 15th day in the month is the day that has the full moon. Normally, the Mid-Autumn Festival has the biggest and brightest moon in the whole year. Chinese people associate “reunion and happiness” with the full moon, and associate “separation and loneliness” with the incomplete moon. When a Chinese person sees a full moon, they miss their family and friends more.

Moon-cake is the special food for Mid-Autumn Festival. It is said that since the Tang Dynasty(618~907 A.D.), the moon-cake was similar to the one that you can find today. Here is the history behind the moon-cake:

MooncakeDuring 1271~1368 A.D. China was controlled by Mongolia. During that period, Chinese people were treated as animals. Chinese people didn’t have names, only a number was used to identify themselves from others. For example, the first emperor after this period is Zhu YuanZhang, but this name was given by himself, because he was called 88 when his parents were living. He could only choose his own name after all of his family members had been killed. When Double Eight was leading his army to fight with Mongolia, he had to capture a city, NanJing, which is protected by a tall and strong wall. Double Eight asked his men to cook a lot of moon-cakes and put notes in them, which said, “We are coming to attack after 10 days.” They sold the moon-cakes in that city on Mid-Autumn Festival because only Chinese people eat moon-cake and celebrate the festival. Therefore, when his army came after 10 days, they found the city was already controlled by the citizens. If you go to the city, NanJing, you still can see the broken walls that were broken during the second World War.

Short Overview on Five Major Religions