October 3, 2019
Today Koreans celebrate a holiday called “Korean Foundation Day.” In Korean it is called 개천절 (Gaecheonjeol). It celebrates the legendary formation of the first Korean state of Gojoseon in 2333 BC. This date has traditionally been regarded as the date for the founding of the Korean people.
There is a myth that tells the story of the Foundation of Korea. It’s a very cherished myth in Korea, and it has to do with a bear and a tiger… which is why these animals were the symbols of the Winter Olympics held in PyeongChang in 2018:
Here is the summary… this comes from 90 Day Korean.com. Link is HERE.
History of National Foundation Day in Korea
The Korean creation myth goes back to the beginnings of the 고조선 (Gojoseon) period, before the three kingdoms era of Korea. Gojoseon literally means ‘old Joseon’ because this period of Korean history came long before the Joseon dynasty. Legend has it, the God-king 단군 (Dangun) founded the first Korean kingdom in 2333 B.C.
Dangun, Grandson of Heaven and Son of the Bear
Dangun is known as ‘the grandson of heaven’ or ‘the son of a bear’. Yes, an actual bear!
The story goes that 환웅 (Hwanung), the son of the Lord of Heaven, wished to live on earth. So his dad, 환인 (Hwanin), allowed him and three-thousand of his followers to build a city on 백두산 (Baekdu Mountain).
Historians regard Baekdu Mountain as the birthplace of Korea. It straddles the North Korea-China border and is actually a caldera, a volcanic mountain with a lake at its summit.
The mountain looks like this:
This last photo is when South Korean president and his wife visited the mountain. He was the first South Korean president to ever make an official visit to the mountain with the North Korean President. I’m so sad relations seem to be getting worse between the Koreas again. So much to pray for…
It was here that Dangun’s father, Hwanung, allegedly descended from heaven, giving the lake its name ‘heavenly lake’. This mountain became the center of the Gojoseon kingdom which, at its height, stretched across the Korean peninsula and deep into Manchuria.
The word 개천 (Gaecheon), which makes up the holiday’s Korean name 개천절 (Gaecheonjeol), means ‘opening of heaven’, and refers to how Hwanin opened heaven to allow his son to descend to Baekdu Mountain.
While on the mountain, Hwanung met a bear and a tiger, both of whom asked him to make them human. To test their worthiness, Hwanung tasked them with spending one hundred days living in a cave with only garlic and mugwort to eat. The tiger completely failed the challenge and gave up after twenty days. The bear however, managed to complete the challenge. Thus the bear became a human woman, eventually marrying Hwanung and giving birth to a child. This son, Dangun, went on to found the first Korean kingdom.
Ready for Star Shop? … Go HERE.
I posted in Instagram that I went to a performance celebrating the Foundation of Korea. It was an event organized by the Korean Cultural Society of Boston. It was traditional Korean music (Gugak) and it included the three drum dance. And I was ‘lucky’… I got a seat that was front and center (second time this happens in my life and it is in a performance of Korea!) I was sitting in front of the Consul General of Korea in Boston! (Because of this many people came up to him to say hello! and that meant they stood in front of me! I imagined that must be what it feels to be with someone like Ilwoo in a public space! Kinda annoying! )
I couldn’t take any photos or videos as they were not allowed… only at the end…
The musicians and singer were so good! I felt every note bring me closer and closer to Ilwoo…