16 December 2010

A Little History and a Little Hangul

I figured as a follow up to some of my travel experiences I would take a little time to look up the historical significance of the places I have visited and try to figure out the translation from Hangul ( 한글 ) to English.  So for your enjoyment, or at least my own enlightenment, I present a short history and language lesson.

Seomun Market

The largest Korean traditional market in Daegu and the third largest in all of South Korea.  With over 4,000 shops you are bound to find pretty much anything.  I would have spent more time exploring the market if I had known it was this large.  I only saw a piece of it and I was still blown away by the number of shops. 

The name Seomun ( 서문시장 ) means "west gate" (seo or means "west" and mun or means "gate") and the origins of the market date back to 1669 during the Choson (or Chosun or Joseon depending on the translation) Dynasty.  The market began as a five day market that was positioned outside of the north gate of Daegu Fortress and was known as Daegu-jung market ( 대구시장 ).  During the 1920's the market moved to the west gate and acquired its current position and name.  I believe the actual romanization of the name is Seomun Sijang.

Daegu Stadium and World Cup Museum

This stadium was completed in 2001 in preparation for the 2002 World Cup.  It hosted four matches, including a Group Round match between the U.S. and South Korea that ended in a 1-1 draw.  The name is currently Daegu Stadium ( 대구경기장 ), but prior to 2008 it was known as Daegu World Cup Stadium (  대구월드컵경기장 ).  대구 translates as Daegu, 월드 means World, means Cup, and 경기장 means stadium.  The stadium has a capacity of 68,000 and is currently home to Daegu FC of the Korea Professional Soccer League.

The stadium will host the IAAF World Championships this coming summer.

Gatbawi and Palgongsan


Palgongsan ( 팔공산 ), or Mt. Palgong (san or means mountain), is a mountain located at the northeast corner of Daegu.  Pal ( 팔 ) is the number eight and the name Palgong references the eight generals who saved Wang-Geon, the founding king of the Goryeo kingdom.  Palgongsan is actually comprised of a number of different peaks (which means I will definitely be going back), with the highest peak being 1192 meters above sea level.  The mountain served as a sanctuary for Buddhist monks fleeing from persecution during the Choson Dynasty.

Gatbawi ( 바위) translates to "hat rock" ("gat" or means "hat" and "bawi" or 바위 means "rock"), which references the stone slab on top of the Buddha.  Gatbawi Buddha was originally known as Gwanbong Buddha because it is located atop Gwanbong peak and the official name for the statue is Gwanbong Seokjoyeoraejwasang ( 관봉석조여래좌상 ) and means Gwanbong sitting stone Buddha.

For those interested, - Gwan, - bong, - Seok, - jo, - yeo, - rae, - jwa, - sang.

However, the name Gatbawi Buddha is the most popular and well known.  Gatbawi Buddha is specifically known as the Buddha of Medicine and people will travel from all over Korea to pray for loved ones who have become ill.  

There are two popular legends connected to Gatbawi.  The first and most well-known is that this Buddha will grant one wish per person.  The second legend concerns the designer, Uihyeon.  It is said that he made the statue to appease his mother's soul and that a big crane flew to guard him every night while he was making it.  I couldn't find a definitive date on the creation of the statue, but it seems to be from between the 7th and 9th centuries.

I am going to try and write these sort of articles for most of the places that I visit.  I personally found this article really interesting to write and learned quite a bit.  I will be writing articles on the history of Daegu and Waegwan when I get the time.


  1. Homie, 3 things:

    1) You keep talking about how there are fewer letters (24 or w/e) so it makes the language easier, but how many of those symbols do they have? That's ridiculous. How is a word as basic as "rock" demonstrated by 2 symbols?

    2) I thought they wrote right to left, but your literal translations all read left to right. Do only some asian languages read right to left?

    3) How you doin them jimmyjanks with the drawings? I can't find them in Excel. To quote the great friend of Ton', "I ain't neva seen shit like dat befo;..."

  2. 1) The symbols are made up of the letters. For example, the symbol 산 is pronounced san and made up of the letter ㅅ which is the s sound,ㅏ which has an ah sound, and the letter ㄴ which has an n sound.

    2) Korean reads left to right. I know Chinese and Japanese can be read right to left, but I've actually seen it more top to bottom.

    3) I've just been getting them off the internet. If I wrote this blog at my school I could actually just write them with the computer because the computer keyboards at my school can switch between English and Korean, which is kind of cool but also kind of annoying.

  3. Timeeee. If the symbols are made up of the letters, how do you now what order to read the letters? It would be like hat, hta, tah, tha, aht, ath.

  4. You read left to right and top to bottom. So for example, a symbol with four letters that has a letter in each corner of the symbol would be read top left corner first, top right corner second, bottom left corner third, and bottom right corner last.