30 January 2011

Science AND Ancient History? Sign Me Up!

Note: I visited some museums this weekend and as a result I got some pictures to put in some of my history blogs.  So I've updated my Prehistory and Confederated Kingdoms posts and I also replaced a picture on my Busan post that I had taken from Wikipedia.  Now every picture on this blog has been taken by me.

I finally made my way to Daejeon this weekend.  December 26th was actually my originally planned date for the trip, but for multiple reasons it got pushed back to January 29th.  It was a little bit of a nerdy trip in that I visited quite a few museums, but I had a lot of fun.

I got into Daejeon around 10:15 and hopped on the subway to go to Seattle Park.  The park really wasn't anything special, but I felt a little bit of an obligation to go see it because of the name.  I then walked my way up to EXPO Park, which was the sight of the 1993 Daejeon Expo.  This place is kind of an amusement park combined with a science center.  It was pretty fun to tour around because it had quite a few unique buildings.

I then crossed the highway to wander around the National Science Museum.  The museum featured a little bit of everything.  It had a planetarium, exhibits on animals, displays of ancient Korean culture, and even a military exhibition.  I really enjoyed it and I think anyone interested in science would probably enjoy it as well.  It's nowhere near as extensive as the Smithsonian, but it still provides some interesting facts and a pleasant diversion from city life.

Mobius strip in front of National Science Museum
Can you guess what Korean words are for seconds, minutes, days and years?  I'll give you a hint.  It takes 8 minutes and 20 seconds for light from the sun to reach earth
I actually didn't really end up getting lost on this trip.  I found my way to the Currency Museum after I left the science center.  This place was okay, but I wasn't really expecting too much to begin with.  It basically commemorates Korean currencies throughout the years and also investigates currencies from around the world.  I toured it pretty quickly, but I enjoyed the time I spent there.

My only long trek of the day took place between the Currency Museum and Daejeon World Cup Stadium.  This stadium didn't really stack up to the one I saw in Daegu.  It was okay, but not something worth going out of my way.  Luckily, the Daejeon Prehistoric Museum was close by and I ended up getting some great pictures for my blog from the displays.  The museum covers the Paleolithic Age, Neolithic Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. 
Scene from the Bronze Age
So that about rounded out my day in Daejeon.  I ended up heading back to Waegwan at 6:15 and going out in Gumi on Saturday night.  I had fun on the trip, but my Japan trip is really what I'm excited for at this point.  I can't wait to set sail for "The Land of the Rising Sun" on Wednesday.

29 January 2011

The Analects

The Lunyu ( 论语 ), better known in English as the Analects or as the Analects of Confucius, is considered to be one of the most influential books (if not the most influential) on Chinese and other East Asian cultures.  The Analects is one of the Four Books, which, along with the Five Classics, were considered to be fundamental reading for any Chinese scholar.  As a result, these books have been widely read in China for over two thousand years and form the core of what we know today as Chinese culture.  The Four Books consist of Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean, the Analects, and Mencius and the Five Classics include the Classic of Poetry, the Classic of History, the Classic of Rites, the Classic of Changes, and the Spring and Autumn Annals.  I've already made my way through two of these, the Analects and the Classic of Changes, and while I have no intention of reading all nine of the books, I might read a couple more while I'm over here.  The Four Books serve as an introduction to Confucianism and the Five Classics are books that were thought to have been either compiled or edited by Confucius. 

So who exactly was this Confucius character?
Of the nine texts listed above, the only two that are considered to provide reliable information about Confucius' life are the Analects and the Zuo Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals.  The Shih chi, or Records of the Historian, is generally used for biographical information about Confucius, but many of the "facts" in this work have come under scrutiny.  Basically, there are numerous legends surrounding the history of Confucius, so it is very difficult separate myth from fact.  For example, Confucius was originally thought to have compiled or edited all of the Five Classics, but his actual influence on these texts is now a matter of debate.  But let's try to separate fact and fiction and find out about one of the most influential men in Asian History.

We'll start off with the fact that Confucius isn't actually Confucuius' name.  Confucius was born with name Kong Qiu ( 孔丘 ) and is referred to in China as Kong Fuzi ( 孔夫子 ) or Kong Zi ( 孔子 ).  Confucius is supposed to be the romanization of 孔夫子, or Kong Fuzi, and while not entirely accurate, it has stuck as the name used in the west to refer to this Chinese teacher.  Confucius was born in either 552 or 551 BC in the Chinese state of Lu and spent much of his adult life traveling.  He actually left Lu for 13 years near the end of his life to travel to various states in China.  Confucius died in the year 479 BC.  This honestly seems to be about the extent of completely reliable information concerning his life.  So I'm not sure if the next few sections are entirely accurate because there is different information presented in different sources.

Early Life
The Zuo Commentary lists Confucius' father as Shu He of Zou, while the Shih chi names Shu Liang He as his father.  Most histories do seem to agree however, that Confucius' father died when Confucius was around three years old.  Nothing is mentioned about his mother in these ancient texts, but I have read sources that claim that Confucius became an orphan at a very young age, others that write that his mother died when he was 17 and still others that claim she died when he was 23.  In other words, nothing is really known about his mother.  Despite his supposedly noble lineage, Confucius was poor when he was growing up, which was most likely due to the death of his father.

Middle Age
Although the exact year of his arrival and departure are unknown, Confucius traveled to the Chinese state of Qi sometime during the end of the 6th century BC.  After his return to Lu, it is believed that Confucius occupied the office of police commissioner between the years of 502 BC and 497 BC.  Confucius became dissatisfied with the position (there are a couple different stories about what happened) and left Lu again in 497 BC.  He first traveled to the Chinese state of Wei, before moving on to the states of Song, Shen, Cai, and then finally returning to Wei.  Confucius returned to Lu around 484 BC.

Old Age
It is believed that Confucius received a low-level counseling position in Lu after his return.  It is also reported that he spent a lot of time studying history and music.  Confucius died in Lu in the year 479 BC.


Study, Study, Study
Confucius was a huge proponent of the constant acquisition of knowledge.  Although he did present his own ideas about the world, he really encouraged his disciples to come to their own conclusions about the world through observation and study.

The Way
Dao ( 道 ), or the Way, is a concept that had already been around for a long time prior to Confucius, but is nonetheless something that was referred to multiple times in the Analects.  The Way is difficult to explain and to understand.  In some cases "the Way" seems to refer to universal truths about the world and mankind.  The Way can also refer to the path taken by a person or an institution.  It can refer to what is right, or proper, while also being used to describe the practices used to attain enlightenment, as well as englightenment itself.  There really is not one exact definition for the term, but it has played an important role in Chinese culture and religion.

De ( ), or virtue, is also a term with more than one meaning.  However, among Confucianists the term is generally described as a gift from heaven, which brings with it terms of obedience that must be obeyed.  The five major virtues are discussed below.

1. Benevolence
Benevolence was seen as the most important moral quality that a man could possess.  The term really refers to the act of looking at the situation from another person's perspective and acting accordingly.  Confucius was known for championing the "Silver Rule", which is similar to the "Golden Rule".  Confucius is quoted in the Analects as saying "never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself".

2. Wisdom
Wise men are never confused about the distinction from right and wrong.  A wise man is also a good judge of character.  Confucius believed that men acquired knowledge through constant learning, although there is a famous quote in the Analects in which he suggests the possibility of a being that is born with knowledge.  He never claims that this being actually exists, but he does leave open the possibility.

3. Courage
Courage is another important aspect of men in Confucianism.  Confucius states that any benevolent man is sure to possess courage.  However, the opposite is not necessarily true. 

This concept, known as hsin, encompasses more than the English word "sincerity", but it is the closest equivalent.  Like the English word, hsin means to be reliable in word.  However, this doesn't just refer to lying or to keeping a promise.  This also deals with resolutions and any statement made not based in fact.  So anytime you've failed to keep your New Year's resolution, you failed to be hsin.

5. Reverence
Understood as the awareness of one's responsibility to mankind.  Reverence is a fear of failing combined with a man's understanding of his goal in succeeding in his responsibility. 

Confucius taught that men should be constantly striving to become the best possible men that they can be.  This was not for the purpose of obtaining rewards in heaven or on earth, but rather it was pursued for its own sake.  Although Confucius does make multiple references to God, he was not a religious teacher and he never goes into any specifics about what a man should do to get to heaven. 


Confucius' disciples carried on his ideas after his death and eventually succeeded in spreading Confucianism to government officials in China.  The ideology went through some ups and downs over the next few hundred years, but in 140 BC Confucian literature became a mandatory requirement for the civil service examination.  This requirement continued until the 19th century.  As a result, Confucius' ideas have formed the bedrock of Chinese culture.  His influence also spread to many neighboring Asian countries.

The Analects
The Analects are a collection of Confucius' teachings that were assembled by his disciples between 30 to 50 years after his death.  The book consists of 20 chapters and while each chapter contains a central theme, the book itself does not seem to be arranged in any logical order.  I'm going to cover this book with the same method I used for I Ching and provide some interesting quotes.  Some of these quotes are from Confucius' disciples, rather than from Confucius himself, so I've indicated Confucius' disciples' quotes with a "D".  I've also bolded some of my favorite quotes.  The main aspects of Confucianism have already been discussed earlier in this post, so it probably won't be too hard to see which quotes or chapters apply to which ideas.  Also, a quick note on the chapter titles.  The names of the chapters usually come from the first few lines of the chapter and therefore do not necessarily represent the theme of the chapter.

Book I: Studying [Xue Er ( 學而 )]
D - "Being good as a son and obedient as a young man is, perhaps, the root of a man's character." (2)
"Make it your guiding principle to do your best for others and to be trustworthy in what you say." (8)
"When you make a mistake, do not be afraid of mending your ways." (8)
"The gentleman seeks neither a full belly nor a comfortable home.  He is quick in action but cautious in speech." (14)
"It is not the failure of others to appreciate your abilities that should trouble you, but rather your failure to appreciate theirs." (16)

Book II: The Practice of Government [Wei Zheng ( 為政 )]
"The rule of virtue can be compared to the Pole Star which commands the homage of the multitude of starts without leaving its place." (1)
"Nowadays for a man to be filial means no more than that he is able to provide his parents with food.  Even hounds and horses are, in some way, provided with food.  If a man shows no reverence, where is the difference?" (7)
"He put his words into action before allowing his words to follow his action." (13)
"To say you know when you know, and to say you do not when you do not, that is knowledge." (17)
"Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage." (24)

Book III: Eight Lines of Eight Dancers Apiece [Ba Yi ( 八佾 )]
"When you have offended against Heaven, there is nowhere you can turn to in your prayers." (13)
"The asking of questions is in itself the correct rite." (15)
"What can I find worthy of note in a man who is lacking in tolerance when in high position, in reverence when performing the rites and in sorrow when in mourning?" (26)

Book IV: Living in Brotherliness [Li Ren ( 里仁 )]
"If a man sets his heart on benevolence, he will be free from evil." (4)
"In his errors a man is true to type.  Observe the errors and you will know the man." (7)
"... the gentleman is not invariably for or against anything.  He is on the side of what is moral." (10)
"If one is guided by profit in one's actions, one will incur much ill will." (12)
"Seek to be worthy of appreciation." (14)
"The gentleman understands what is moral.  The small man understands what is profitable." (16)

Book V: Gongye Chang [Gongye Chang ( 公冶長 )] - A student of Confucius
"How dare I compare myself with Hui (one of Confucius' disciples)? When he is told one thing he understands ten.  When I am told one thing I understand only two." (9)
D - "While I do not wish others to impose on me, I also wish not to impose on others." (12)
"... he was not ashamed to seek the advice of those who were beneath him in station.  That is why he was called 'wen'." (16)  This refers to Kung Wen Tzu and the word "wen" means diligence in learning and seeking advice.
D - "Chi Wen Tzu always thought three times before taking action.  When the Master was told of this, he commented, 'Twice is quite enough'." (20)
"Others may equal his intelligence but they cannot equal his stupidity." (21)

Book VI: There is Yong [Yong Ye ( 雍也 )] - Yong was a student of Confucius
"A man whose strength gives out collapses along the course.  In your case you set the limits beforehand." (12)
"To be fond of something is better than merely to know it, and to find joy in it is better than merely to be fond of it." (20)

Book VII: Transmission [Shu Er ( 述而 )]
"It is these things that cause me concern: failure to cultivate virtue, failure to go more deeply into what I have learned, inability, when I am told what is right, to move to where it is, and inability to reform myself when I have defects." (3)
"When I have pointed out one corner of a square to anyone and he does not come back with the other three, I will not point it out to him a second time." (8)
"I never dreamt that the joys of music could reach such heights." (14)
"In the eating of coarse rice and the drinking of water, the using of one's elbow for a pillow, joy is to be found." (16)
"... he is the sort of man who forgets to eat when he tries to solve a problem that has been driving him to distraction, who is so full of joy that he forgets his worries and who does not notice the onset of old age" (19).  This quote is in reference to himself.
"I would rather be shabby that ostentatious." (36)

Book VIII: Taibo [Taibo ( 泰伯 )]
"It is not easy to find a man who can study for three years without thinking about earning a salary." (12)
"Do not concern yourself with matters of government unless they are the responsibility of your office." (14)
"Even with a man who urges himself on in his studies as though he was losing ground, my fear is still that he may not make it in time." (17)

Book IX: The Master Shunned [Zi Han ( 子罕 )]
D - "There were four things the Master refused to have anything to do with: he refused to entertain conjectures or insist on certainty; he refused to be inflexible or to be egotistical." (4)
"I kept hammering at the two sides of the question until I got everything out of it." (8)
"I have yet to meet the man who is as fond of virtue as he is of beauty in women." (18)
"It is fitting that we should hold the young in awe.  How do we know that the generations to come will not be the equal of the present?  Only when a man reaches the age of forty or fifty without distinguishing himself in any way can one say, I suppose, that he does not deserve to be held in awe." (23)

Book X: Among the Xiang and the Dang [Xiang Dang ( 鄉黨 )]
D - "He simply never drank to the point of becoming confused." (8)
D - "The stables caught fire.  The Master, on returning from court, asked, 'Was anyone hurt?' He did not ask about the horses." (17)

Book XI: Those of Former Eras [Xian Jin ( 先進 )]
"You do not understand even life.  How can you understand death?" (12)

Book XII: Yan Yuan [Yan Yuan ( 顏淵 )] - Also known as Yan Hui, one of Confucius' favorite disciples
"Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire." (2)
"The gentleman is free from worries and fears." (4)
D - "Duke Ai asked Yu Juo, 'The harvest is bad, and I have not sufficient to cover expenditure.  What should I do?'  Yu Juo answered, 'What about taxing the people one part in ten?'  'I do not have sufficient as it is when I tax them two parts in ten.  How could I possibly tax them one part in ten?'  'When the people have sufficient, who is there to share your insufficiency?  When the people have insufficient, who is there to share your sufficiency?'" (9)
"Raise the straight and set them over the crooked." (22)

Book XIII: Zilu [Zilu ( 子路 )] - A student of Confucius
"Show leniency towards minor offenders; and promote men of talent." (2)
"Fathers cover up for their sons, and sons cover up for their fathers.  Straightness is to be found in such behavior." (18)
"The gentleman is at ease without being arrogant; the small man is arrogant without being at ease." (26)

Book XIV: Xian Asked [Xian Wen ( 憲問 )] - Yuan Xian was a student of Confucius
"If a man remembers what is right at the sight of profit, is ready to lay down his life in the face of danger, and does not forget sentiments he has repeated all his life even when he has been in straitened circumstances for a long time, he may be said to be a complete man." (12)
"Men of antiquity studied to improve themselves; men today study to impress others." (24)
"It is not the failure of others to appreciate your abilities that should trouble you, but rather your own lack of them." (30)
"To be neither modest nor deferential when young, to have passed on nothing worthwhile when grown up, and to refuse to die when old, that is what I call a pest." (43)

Book XV: Duke Ling of Wei [Wei Linggong ( 衛靈公 )]
"He who gives no thought to difficulties in the future is sure to be beset by worries much closer at hand." (12)
"The gentleman is troubled by his own lack of ability, not by the failure of others to appreciate him." (19)
"Not to mend one's ways when one has erred is to err indeed." (30)
"I once spent all day thinking without taking food and all night thinking without going to bed, but I found that I gained nothing from it.  It would have been better for me to have spent the time in learning." (31)
"Benevolence is more vital to the common people than even fire and water.  In the case of fire and water, I have seen men die by stepping on them, but I have never seen any man die by stepping on benevolence." (35)

Book XVI: Chief of the Ji Clan [Ji Shi ( 季氏 )]
"To take pleasure in the correct regulation of the rites and music, in singing the praises of other men's goodness and in having a large number of excellent men as friends is to benefit.  To take pleasure in showing off, in a dissolute life and in food and drink is to lose." (5)
"Those who are born with knowledge are the highest.  Next come those who attain knowledge through study.  Next again come those who turn to study after having been vexed by difficulties.  The common people, in so far as they make no effort to study even after having been vexed by difficulties, are the lowest." (9)

Book XVII: Yang Huo [Yang Huo ( 陽貨 )]
"It is only the most intelligent and the most stupid who are not susceptible to change." (3)
"For the gentleman it is morality that is supreme.  Possessed of courage but devoid of morality, a gentleman will make trouble while a small man will be a brigand." (23)
"If by the age of forty a man is still disliked there is no hope for him." (26)

Book XVIII: The Viscount of Wei [Wei Zi ( 微子 )]
This chapter seems completely out of place in the Analects.  It deals more with experience of Confucius' disciples than with Confucius himself.  It also provides listings of men who removed themselves from society and who were known as gentlemen.

Book XIX: Zizhang [Zizhang ( 子張 )] - A student of Confucius
D - "A man can, indeed, be said to be eager to learn who is conscious, in the course of a day, of what he lacks and who never forgets, in the course of a month, what he has mastered." (5)
D - "When a man in office finds that he can more than cope with his duties, then he studies; when a student finds that he can more than cope with his studies, then he takes office." (13)
D - "The gentleman's errors are like an eclipse of the sun and moon in that when he errs the whole world sees him doing so and when he reforms the whole world looks up to him." (21)

Book XX: Yao Spoke [Yao Yue ( 堯曰 )]
"A man has no way of becoming a gentleman unless he understands Destiny; he has no way of taking his stand unless he understands the rites; he has no way of judging men unless he understands words." (3)

So what do you think?  Some wise words?  I would say so.  Confucius seems like a man who was obsessed with self-improvement and for that I really respect him.  He presents some universal truths as well as some of his personal opinions on government and society.  His words have helped to guide Asian cultures for thousands of years and as a result he must be viewed as one of the most influential human beings to have ever walked the earth.

26 January 2011

Let's Recap

With the two month mark approaching I thought it would be appropriate to provide a short post on my experiences here thus far.  I have obviously been dedicating most of this blog to travel and history, but maybe a quick synopsis of my everyday life is in order. 

A normal day during the week usually sees me getting up around 10:00, getting on the internet to talk to people or write on the blog before work and then getting ready for work and heading out around 1:00.  My day starts at 1:30, but I don't actually have to teach until 3:20.  These 2 hours before class are dedicated to prep time, but I usually don't need the full 2 hours.  Once classes start, there are B, C, D, E, F, and G level classes.  The B level students are in the first class of the day, which runs from 3:20 to 4:05, and these students only have a very basic knowledge of English.  The C level class is next (each class is 45 minutes, with a 5 minute break), and these students are also pretty new to learning English.  Pronunciation and reading are the two big areas I focus on with these levels.  D level is the last class before dinner, which is at 5:45.  D level students are definitely more advanced, so more emphasis is placed on understanding.  The dinner break is from 5:45 to 6:20, for which I usually get some Korean take-out (Hansot).  Dinner is followed by the E and F classes.  E students are similar to the D level, but F students for the most part are very advanced.  I can have pretty good, albeit basic, conversations with these students.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays the F class is the last class of the day.  However, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I teach G level students.  There are 3 levels of G students and I teach all 3 levels for 25 minutes each day.  These are the best English speakers in the school and for the most part, they all speak English very well.  On these 3 days I end work at 9:40.  After work I usually either go out with my coworkers for a little or head back to my place to plan some trips, read, or write on the blog before turning in sometime between 2:00 and 3:00. 

My weekends aren't quite as regimented, so I can't really provide a profile of a typical weekend day.  These days can really span everything from waking up at 6:30 to getting out of bed at 1:30.  I could be wandering around Seoul or planning my next trip.  I might be getting to bed at 12:30 or 5:30.  So it's pretty much all over the place.  But anyway, here's a report card (I'm a teacher now) to keep you updated.

Me: B
Well, it's always tough to give yourself a grade on something.  I'm not the most objective person in the world on this subject to say the least.  But I feel as though I've made very good progress in teaching.  Teaching is very tough to do well.  A lot of people teach for 35 years and still don't completely master it, so in no way am I suggesting that I've even come remotely close to mastering this art.  But in considering that I've only taught for 2 months and I have no prior training, I think I'm coming along very well.  I really am continually learning and I've been doing my best to change up the lessons from day to day or week to week. 

Coworkers: A
My coworkers have been really great (and by the way, to the best of my knowledge none of my coworkers read my blog, so this isn't just pandering).  I really wasn't sure about what to expect in terms of English-speaking ability from my coworkers, but it turns out that many of them have experience in English-speaking countries and as a result speak English very well.  My boss lived and studied in the United States for multiple years.  One of my coworkers lived in England and another one has traveled all over Europe.  My Canadian coworker has also been very helpful during the transition process.

Students: A+
These guys are pretty great.  With the exception of a couple students, I don't really have anything bad to say about them.  They're motivated, smart, and respectful.  What more could you ask for?

Me: A
I would say I've done a pretty good job of maximizing my travel experience here so far.  I've traveled and explored almost every weekend (last weekend being the notable exception) and I still have an almost endless list of stuff that I'm looking to do.  After all, I've only been here in the winter so far.  Once springtime rolls around, it's go time.

South Korea: A
I've really enjoyed seeing the sites in South Korea.  This grade comes after only seeing 1 of my top 3 things to see in Korea, which are Seoul, Mt. Seorak, and Jeju Island.  I can't wait to see the other two and more of this country.

Me: C
Honestly, I haven't been going out very much (although when I have gone out, I've stayed out until like 5:00).  I really have just been completely focused on travel and unfortunately nightlife kind of gets in the way.

South Korea: A-
South Korea has more bars than I've ever seen in my life.  Not necessarily the rocking out bars (although there are those too), but there are just a lot of places to sit down and have a drink with a few people.  I've really enjoyed the bars, especially in Daegu and Seoul, but I really don't like the whole idea of staying out until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning.  It really screws up my travel plans.

Trains: A
I haven't even taken the KTX yet, which is South Korea's bullet train, but the trains system gets this grade simply because of its complexity.  You can travel to any city in the country within a few hours.  This makes day-trips and weekend-trips a very real possibility for most places.

Subways: A+
Overall, the nicest subway system I've ever seen.  Some of the smaller cities, like Daegu, could use more extensive systems, but this grade really comes from the cleanliness of the trains and stations.  The subway networks are obviously new and very well maintained.

Buses: C
These are so-so.  The lack of English signage can be problematic.  They also just have a much more cramped feeling than the trains or subways.

Cars: N/A
I don't know how I would actually grade the cars, but I just wanted to talk about how different the road system is in Korea.  There are a total of like 2 or 3 traffic lights in Waegwan and probably about as many stop signs.  Basically, people make up their own rules of the road.  Even the traffic lights seem to be more like "suggestions" than actual laws.  It's really not that uncommon to see someone running a red light a few seconds after the light has completely changed. 

Walking: D
This comes from South Korea's refusal to salt their sidewalks.  Seriously, I feel like Crash Bandicoot sometimes on the way to work.  This was even the case in Seoul, so it's not just limited to small towns. 

Overall Grade: A
This has been an amazing experience thus far.  Living in another country, especially in Asia, provides such a different experience from the normal everyday life in the United States.  I love the fact that I've been continually learning while I'm here and really hope that doesn't change.

Despite how much I love Korea, I'm going to be heading across the Korea Strait on February 2nd for a five day trip to Japan.  So wish me luck on that and I'll be providing some pictures and stories about Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and other areas of western Japan. 

22 January 2011

Cribs: Seoul Edition

Waddup yo?  This is your boy, King Sejong.  You know how I do.  Welcome to my country: "Kingdom of Great Joseon".  And I've got a real treat for you today.  You didn't think I'd only have one palace did you?  Or two?  What am I?  Japanese?

Do you have your own statue in front of your house?  I didn't think so.
I've got 5 Grand Palaces.  That's right.  Count 'em.  FIVE.  I ain't clownin around.  Granted, some of 'em were built after I died, but I'll still be taking you on the tour.  They don't call me King Sejong the Great for nothin.  Oh, and we'll be swinging by my boy's place over at Unhyeongung during the tour too.  See how he's kickin' it.

So you've already been stupefied by my main palace, Gyeongbokgung, but sometimes a man has got to clear his head.  So let me take you on a tour of the places I go to sit back, relax, and sip a little soju in the sun.

Let's start things off at Changgyeonggung ( 창경궁 ), or as we call it in the hood, "The Palace of Flourishing Gladness".  I built this one for my pops (King Taejong) in 1418.  Now personally, I call this place Suganggung, but King Seongjong decided to to be a hater and change the name to Changgyeonggung. But the real haters in this story are the Japanese.  They got no respect.  So back in 1592, a hundred years after Columbus sailed the ocean blue, I was forced to bid my beloved palace adieu.  A certain somebody from Japan, and ya I'm lookin at you Hideyoshi, felt the need to invade my country and destroy my palaces.  There's a little bad blood between us to say the least.  But not to worry!  Built this place right back up in 1616.  And you wouldn't believe what the Japanese did next.  They invaded my country. Again!  I really don't like the Japanese.  In 1911 these guys added a zoo to my palace.  Yes, a zoo.  Then they had the balls to downgrade it from a palace to a park.  Have I mentioned that I hate the Japanese?  We finally got rid of the monstrosity that was that zoo in 1983 and since then my fellow Koreans have been restoring this place to its former beauty.  So let's take a step through Honghwamun and I'll show you around.

Checkin out Honghwamun
Walkin straight through my main gate brings us to Myeongjeongjeon. I like to throw some pretty crazy banquets up in this place.  You know, you know. 

Party room!
On the left up here we got Munjeongjeon.  This is the place I go to actually get a little work done.

Check out those 5 peaks.  You know I got that royal authority.
There are some other cool places to chill here, but let's head out back.  I've got a pretty ballin backyard.

View of Myeongjeongjeon
Taesil of my great-grandson, King Seongjong.  Don't even ask what it is.  Let's just say my family's weird.
The Japanese built the Great Greenhouse.  Don't tell anyone, but I kinda like it.
Alright yo, let's head out the back gate and we'll swing on over to Changdeokgung ( 창덕궁 ).  I like to call this place the "Palace of Prospering Virtue".  My old man started building this palace in 1405. Of course those #@!%*& from Japan burnt this beauty down in 1592.  Please pardon my French.  Or should I say Korean.  Or, I'm actually speaking in English.  I don't know, but those Japanese really bring out the worst in me.  Anyway, this became the official royal residence when we rebuilt her in 1610 and the King and Queen chilled here till Gyeongbokgung was finally redone in 1872.  The Japanese messed up the place again when they occupied Korea.  They apparently partied a little too hard and destroyed seventy percent of my buildings.  Not very courteous guests if you ask me.  So let's wind our way through the grounds till we get to Daejojeon, otherwise known as "no man's land".  This part of the palace belongs to my queen.

My lady's place.  Don't worry, my house is bigger.
Next we'll swing by my house, which is known as Huijeongdang.

Like that paint job?
The throne hall to the left, Seonjeongjeon in front of ya, and my place on the right.
And now on to the crown jewel of this palace.  Injeongjeon is my pride and joy.  My throne hall. 

A little intimidated heading down this path?  I hope so.
Heading out of Donhwamun to mingle with the commoners.
Okay.  Let's check in on my boy, King Gojong AKA the Gwangmu Emperor AKA Jaehwang AKA Myeongbok AKA Myeongbu AKA ...  Basically, this man's gotta lot of names.  Cause he's a ballaaaa.  He lives down the street in Unhyeongung ( 운현궁 ).  It ain't considered one of the Grand Palaces, but he's doing alright for himself.  This is the youngest palace in Seoul and didn't get that title until 1864 when King Gojong took that throne.  He actually grew up here and became King when he was 12 years old.  12 years old!  I guess he was kinda like the Justin Bieber of Korea. His Dad ruled in his place for a couple years until he was ready to lay down the law.  Unfortunately, my man died at the hands of ... drum roll please ... the Japanese.  Who else?  Well I shouldn't say that as a matter of fact.  It ain't proven they killed him.  But he just so happened to die after he was put into confinement by the Japanese.  Coincidence?  I don't think so.  Well let's check out his crib.  I'll be honest wit ya.  This place ain't nothin compared to what I got.

Let's see if my man's home.
Well, hello sir.
Here we are at King Gojong's house, which he calls Irodang.
Now I'm gonna take ya for a ride in my dragon chariot.  Ya, those are 28 inch spinners.  You know how I do.  We gonna head downtown to Deoksugung.  You can check out Gyeongbokgung on your right during the drive.

My own, personal body guards at Gyeongbokgung
Pretty cool how City Hall is right across the street from this next palace.  Deoksugung ( 덕수궁 ) went up in 1454, but it wasn't until King Seonjo moved here during the Imjin War (those Japanese) that it became an official palace.  I love the name.  You know, "Palace of Virtuous Longevity".  This is one place that the Japanese actually didn't destroy during the war.  But it wasn't quite as lucky when the Japanese decided to invade again in the 20th century.  Only one third of my buildings are still around.  So here it is!  Check out my front gate and then we'll head inside.

Pretty grand entrance at Daehanmun, don't ya think?
Let's make a right and we'll head on over to Seojeodang.  My boy, King Seongjo kicked it here for a while after the Imjin War.

Nice place, eh?
Here we got Jeonggwanheon.  King Gojong, or should I say Emperor Gojong, put this one up in 1900.

Doesn't quite go with the rest of my place, but Gojong seemed to think it was a good fit.
 We'll round out this tour by headin over to Junghwajeon and Gwangmyeongmun.

We in Seoul! 
Gwangmyeongmun.  Check out my ballin water clock on the right.
Peeking at Junghwajeon through Junghwamun
These guys keep me safe at night.
We gonna finish this tour off right.  Let's roll on over to Gyeonghuigung ( 경희궁 ), otherwise known as the "Palace of Serene Harmony".  This is the baby of the Grand Palaces.  This one was built in 1620, which means one thing.  The Japanese couldn't destroy it when they invaded in 1592!  But don't worry, they got around to it when they came back the next time.  And then they built a Japanese school on the site.  Talk about a slap in the face.  This place only has a third of her former glory, but she'll have to do. 

Come on in!  Just head right through Heunghwamun.
Wish you had a throne?
Or at least a crazy ceiling?
Hope ya had fun on the tour.  How could you not?  These are palaces we talkin about here.  Not 50 Cent's mansion.  Although that place is pretty amazing to be honest.  But anyway, it's been real yo.  This is your boy K to the G King Sejong sayin I'm out.

Original completion dates of Seoul Palaces
1392 - General Yi (later to be known as King Taejo) dethrones King Gongyang and assumes control
1393 - King Taejo renames the country the "Kingdom of Great Joseon" and begins the Joseon Dynasty
1394 - The capital is moved to Hanseong, which is modern-day Seoul
1395 - Completion of Gyeongbokgung (Constructed from 1394 - 1395)
1412 - Completion of Changdeokgung (Constructed from 1405 - 1412)
1418 - Completion of Suganggung (Later to be named Changgyeonggung)
1454 - Completion of Deoksugung
1483 - Suganggung is expanded and its name is changed to Changgyeonggung
1620 - Completion of Gyeonghuigung
1864 - Completion of Unhyeongung (not one of the Grand Palaces)

20 January 2011

The Times They Are a-Changin

Besides being one of my favorite songs of all time (and being part of one of the coolest introductory credit sequences I've ever seen, in Watchmen), I thought this was a fitting title for my post on I Ching.

I read this book about a month ago (it's pretty short and you could probably read it in an hour or two if you wanted).  The book is about divination, which I obviously don't believe in, so rather than scrutinize the merits of the text, I figured I would provide a short history and explanation before quoting some of the parts that I found interesting, amusing, disturbing, or just representative of the differences between the East and the West.  This is a text that was highly regarded for a long time within China, so it certainly had a significant impact on certain areas of Asian culture.

I Ching ( ), also known as the Classic of Changes, is possibly the oldest Chinese classic that is still in existence today, but there is much debate about the actual age of the text.  In fact, the dates of its creation range from 2800 BC to 206 BC.   The original creation of I Ching is often credited to Fu Xi ( 伏羲 ), who by most accounts is a mythological emperor of China.  He supposedly lived around the 28th or 29th century BC and was inspired to record the 8 trigrams (to be talked about later) when he saw the markings on a dragon arising from the Luo River.  These 8 trigrams were then expanded into 64 hexagrams (by using the permutations of these 8 trigrams) by King Wen of Zhou ( 周文王 ) during the 11th century BC.  King Wen's son, King Wu, explained the significance of each line in the hexagrams.  Confucius also expanded upon I Ching by by writing commentaries on the text and the sum result of all of these actions led to the book in its current form.  It should be noted however, that Confucius' contribution to the text is a matter of debate.

Explanation of the 64 Hexagrams
Each line in the hexagrams is either yin ( ), represented by the broken line, or yang ( ), represented by the unbroken line.  Yin and yang are universal compliments and can be either bad or good depending upon the current situation.  These lines are then combined to form 8 trigrams, which are shown in the figure above.  Each trigram represents qualities that can be applied to the situation at hand.  Heaven represents strength or creativity, Lake represents joy or attraction, Fire represents attention or awareness, Thunder represents initiative or action, Wind represents penetrating or following, Water represents passion or danger, Mountain represents stopping or stillness, and Earth represents receptivity or docility.  Notice the difference in meaning between the heavy yang symbols and the heavy yin symbols.  For example, Heaven, which is heavy yang, shows strength, while Earth, which is heavy yin, shows docility.

As stated previously, this was a text used for divination.  This was accomplished by choosing two trigrams with qualities that were relevant to the current dilemma.  These two trigrams would then lead to two hexagrams, depending on which symbol was on the top and which was on the bottom.  The text concerning these two hexagrams could then enlighten the reader about the correct path to choose.  Each hexagram can also be paired with two other hexagrams, called a primal correlate and a structural complement, for further explanation of the subject in question. 

Some Interesting Quotes

1. The Creative - Heaven over Heaven
Line 6 - Yang - "Dragons that fly too high have regrets."

3. Difficulty - Water over Thunder
Line 3 - Yin - "Chase deer without a guide, and you will only go into the forest."

4. Innocence - Mountain over Water
Line 1 - Yin - "It is advantageous to use punishments to awaken the ignorant."

10. Treading - Heaven over Lake
Line 4 - Yang - "Treading on a tiger's tail, be very cautious and it will turn out all right."

13. Sameness with People - Heaven over Fire
Line 2 - Yin - "Assimilation to others in a clannish way is a route to shame."

15. Humility - Earth over Mountain
Line 1 - Yin - "If humbly humble cultured people use this to cross great rivers, they will be lucky."

20. Observing - Wind over Earth
Line 3 - Yin - "Observe the ups and downs of your own life."

27. Nourishment - Mountain over Thunder
Line 1 - Yang - "It is bad luck to ignore your sacred tortoise and watch me with your jaw dropping."

34. The Power of Greatness - Thunder over Heaven
Line 6 - Yin - "A ram that has run into a fence cannot withdraw and cannot go ahead.  No profit is gained."

41. Reduction - Mountain over Lake
Line 5 - Yin - "If given ten pairs of tortoises, no one is able to oppose.  Very Lucky."

42. Increase - Wind over Thunder
Line 6 - Yang - "Do not increase something so much that it might be attacked; when you set your mind to something, do not be so persistent that it leads to bad luck."

49. Change - Lake over Fire
Line 2 - Yin - "On the day it is done, then you have changed something."

51. Thunder - Thunder over Thunder
Line 4 - Yang - "Thunder falls in the mud."

53. Gradual Progress - Wind over Mountain
Line 1 - Yin - "As geese gradually make their way onto the shore, if the little ones struggle, there is advice, not blame."

57. Conformity - Wind over Wind
Line 3 - Yang - "Repetitious conformity is embarrassing."

61. Truthfulness in the Center - Wind over Lake
Line 6 - Yang - "When a chicken tries to fly up into the skies, it bodes ill to persist."

Overall, I thought this was a pretty easy and interesting read.  I'm sure a person actually reading this for guidance might have a more in depth analysis of the topic, but I was just reading it for the purpose of gaining more insight into Asian culture.  I have read The Analects since reading this book and I will be writing a post on that sometime in the future.  I am also currently reading a book on Buddhism and I may be periodically posting on that material as I make my way through different sections of the book.

19 January 2011

Chinese Commanderies and Confederated Cingdoms in Corea (108 BC - 313 AD)

This is considered to be an intermediate period in Korean history and as such, there is not a considerable amount of material available covering this time (but I definitely did my best to dig stuff up).  This time period occurred between the fall of Gojoseon and the rise of the Three Kingdoms.  The Three Kingdoms did exist during this period, but they had not yet acquired enough power to rule the entire peninsula.  Although there is no precise date for the start of the Three Kingdoms Period, the year 313 AD was the year that the last Chinese Commandery was removed from the peninsula, meaning that Koreans could continue the formation of their culture unhindered by the Chinese.

The Han Dynasty's Influence

Location (or at least the believed location) of the Commanderies
After their defeat of Gojoseon in 108 BC, the Han Dynasty established three commanderies in the domain of Wiman Joseon and then proceeded to establish one more commandery in a Northern area of the peninsula.  The southernmost commandery was Zhenfan ( 真番郡 ), known as Jinbeon ( 진번군 ) in Korean, which was located slightly north of the current border between North and South Korea.  Xuantu ( 玄菟郡 ), or Hyondo ( 현도군 ), was the farthest north and was located slightly above the boundary between China and North Korea.  Lelang ( 樂浪郡 ), or Nakrang ( 낙랑군 ), was positioned in west near modern-day Pyongyang and Lintun ( 臨屯郡 ), or Imdun ( 임둔군 ), was located in the east near the Sea of Japan.

So what exactly were these Commanderies?  
All four of the areas share the last symbol called "jun", or 郡, and this is interpreted today to mean commandery.  A commandery was an administrative division of China that was positioned on the border regions of newly acquired territory.  Counties, or xian ( 县 ), were also created in these areas, but by the time of the establishment of the four commanderies in Korea (actually, anytime after 221 BC), commanderies had become more important divisions because of their military power.  There is some debate over how accepting the Korean people were of their new leaders.  On one hand, the Lelang commandery was able to survive for over 400 years on the peninsula.  This would seem to indicate that the people in the region were generally willing to submit to Han authority.  The other side of the argument points to raids by the up-and-coming Goguryeo and Buyeo Kingdoms as evidence of Korea's displeasure with their foreign invaders.

Success of the Chinese Commanderies
In 82 BC, after only 25 years in existence, the Zhenfan and Lintun Commanderies were eliminated and their areas of control passed to Lelang and Xuantu respectively.  What does this indicate about the success of these commanderies?  Talk to a Korean scholar and he'll tell you the commanderies were forced to shut down because of Korean resistance.  Talk to a Chinese scholar and he'll tell you that the areas simply came under more centralized control by the Lelang and Xuantu Commanderies.  So what's the truth?  Well, it seems me that the Chinese view is probably more accurate than the Korean viewpoint.  That's not to say there wasn't resistance on the part of the Koreans, but overall it seems as though the Chinese treated Koreans fairly.  In 75 BC, the Xuantu Commandery, the northernmost commandery, was moved west.  This again may or may not have been due to resistance by the Korean people.  In 204 AD another commandery was established near the modern-day North Korean / South Korean border and it was named Daifang ( 帶方郡 ), or Daebang ( 대방군 ).  Xuantu was the first of the commanderies to fall when Goguryeo conquered it in 302 AD.  This was followed by the Goguryeo annexation of Lelang in 313 and of Daifang later that year. 

Lasting Influence of the Han Dynasty
What does the Han Dynasty have to show for a 400 year presence in Korea?  The Han Dynasty actually ended up being arguably the most influential Chinese Dynasty on Korean culture.  The Koreans borrowed new art forms, new technology, and even new burial practices from the Han Dynasty.  Korea was also influenced by China's religious ideas and social organization, which would both manifest themselves later when the Koreans adopted Buddhism and Confucianism.

The Rise of the Confederated Kingdoms

The Four Old States (in addition to Gojoseon)

These states were part of the Iron Age in Korea
Buyeo ( 부여 )
Buyeo was founded between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC and remnants of the kingdom lasted until 494 AD when the royal court surrendered itself to Goguryeo (to be talked about later) authority.  This was the earliest of the Confederated Kingdoms and is known as the second kingdom on the peninsula.  The kingdom was situated in a fertile plain in what is now Northeast China, making it the most northern of any of the Confederated Kingdoms.  It is reported that Buyeo's territory stretched 2,000 ri ( 리 ), or about 500 miles, in all directions from the capital, but the name and exact location of the capital is still unknown.  The founding date of Buyeo is also unknown, but through Chinese records it becomes apparent that Buyeo became a powerful kingdom around the beginning of the 1st century AD.  Despite China's initial weariness of Buyeo, China and Buyeo developed a close relationship due to their mutual enemy, Goguryeo.  This relationship with the Chinese protected Buyeo for most of its existence from Goguryeo and the nomadic people to the north.  However, Buyeo became exposed when nomadic tribes forced the Jin Dynasty ( 晋朝 ) to move south in 316.  Murong Huang ( 慕容皝 ) of Xianbei ( 鲜卑 ), a nomadic people in Manchuria and Mongolia, invaded in 346 and took the king prisoner.  Possession of Buyeo was later passed to Goguryeo in 370.  After paying tribute to Goguryeo for many years, Buyeo's royal court finally moved into Goguryeo territory in 494 after an attack by the Mohe ( 물길, pronounced Malgal in Korean ), bringing an official end to the state of Buyeo.

Okjeo ( 옥저 )
Heading south leads to the state of Okjeo.  Okjeo was a minor state that existed on the Korean peninsula from about the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD.  It was located on the east coast in the middle area of modern-day North Korea.  Okjeo was originally part of Gojoseon prior to the fall of that kingdom.  Despite its 600 year existence, it was never able to expand into a true kingdom due to constant interference from its neighbors.  Okjeo was turned into a vassal state by Goguryeo in the 1st or 2nd century AD before being annexed by Goguryeo in the early 5th century.

Dongye ( 동예 )
Dongye, also known as Eastern Ye, was a small state located directly to the south of Okjeo.  Very little is known about this state, but it is believed to have existed between the 3rd century BC and 5th century AD.  As was the case with Okjeo, Dongye encountered constant interference from Goguryeo, which greatly hindered the state's development.  Dongye served as a vassal state to Goguryeo and was also annexed around the same time as Okjeo.

Jin ( )
Jin was the southernmost Korean state during this period and existed during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC.  The state of Jin encompassed the area of modern-day South Korea.  Jin was a culturally homogeneous area, but it more than likely consisted of small walled-town states as opposed to one centrally organized state. During the 3rd century and most of the 2nd century, Jin was prevented from obtaining the advanced metalworking knowledge of the Chinese because of the obstruction of Wiman Joseon's position between itself and China.  However, the collapse of the Joseon Kingdom led to rapid change in Jin as it began to acquire more knowledge about the use of iron.  Jin began growing in power as a result of this new technology and it eventually turned into three new states that became known as the Samhan.

Restructuring the Peninsula
Goguryeo ( 고구려 )
Note: This post will only cover Goguryeo's interaction with the Chinese Commanderies and the other early Korean states.  I will cover Goguryeo in more depth when I discuss the Three Kingdoms Period.

Goguryeo was founded in 37 BC and from the very beginning this was a warlike kingdom.  In fact, the more I read about this kingdom, the more I came to think of Goguryeo as the Sparta of the East.  Goguryeo's history is centered around constant battles with the Chinese and with neighboring states in Korea and Manchuria.  Members of the warrior aristocracy did not engage in any activities other than training for combat, even in times of peace.  The main reason given for Goguryeo's almost constant aggression is the lack of resources within its own territory.  The state formed at the modern-day border of North Korea and China, but Goguryeo was eventually able to expand its territory to include all of North Korea, the northern area of South Korea, and a good portion of Manchuria.  As stated previously in this post, Goguryeo successfully conquered Buyeo to the north, Okjeo and Dongye to the southeast, and the Xuantu, Lelang, and Daifang Commanderies to the southwest.  In addition to these conquests, Goguryeo also successfully obtained the Liao-tung region to the west and conquered a Manchurian tribe to the northeast.  Goguryeo holds a special place in Korean history because of its ability to rid Korea of the Chinese Commanderies and its unification of the northern half of the peninsula.

Samhan ( 삼한 )
Mahan Pottery
The Samhan states ("sam" means 3 and "han" means great) consisted of the Mahan ( 마한 ), Jinhan ( 진한 ), and Byeonhan ( 변한 ) confederacies and existed in the area previously controlled by the state of Jin.  All three of these confederacies showed allegiance to the previous Jin state.  Jinhan obviously adopted the name, Byeonhan used "Byeonjin" as an alternate name, and the Mahan leader was referred to as the "King of Jin".  Each of the confederacies consisted of a number of different walled-town states.  Mahan was the largest with 54, while Jinhan and Byeonhan both consisted of 12 states.  The most important historical aspect of these three confederacies is their transformation into the Baekje and Silla Kingdoms.  Mahan was located in the southwest portion of the peninsula and began in the 1st century BC around the time of the fall of Gojoseon.  It lasted until the 3rd century AD, when one of its member states, named Baekje, overtook the other states and started the Baekje Kingdom.  Jinhan was located in the southeast and lasted from the 1st century BC to the 4th century AD.  The Jinhan confederacy ended when Saro, one of its states, took over the other states and eventually started the Silla Kingdom.  The Byeonhan Confederacy was slightly different in that it didn't get taken over by one of its members.  Instead, it transformed into the Gaya Confederacy, which was later annexed by Silla.  Byeonhan lasted from the beginning of the 1st century AD until the 4th century.  As a side note, an interesting practice in Samhan was to bury a person with the wings of a large bird so that they would be able to fly away to the afterlife.  Ancestor worship was very important in Samhan, along with divination and various shamanistic beliefs.

So we've finally arrived at the Three Kingdoms Period.  Goguryeo has successfully conquered the northern portion of the peninsula, while Baekje and Silla occupy the south.  My next few posts will probably be on this time period because it is the first extensive period that I will be covering on this blog.  I'm thinking maybe a post on each kingdom and then one to tie to everything together, but I haven't really figured it out yet.

18 January 2011

Prehistory and Gojoseon (700,000 BC - 108 BC)


History is defined as a written account of the past (the word "history" comes from the Latin word "historia" meaning narrative, account, or story).  So in many ways prehistory is not history at all.  Prehistory really falls more under the realm of archeology because it relies on archeological evidence to surmise what may have happened in the lives of ancient humans.  For this reason it is subject to change quite often, so my post may become outdated with the unearthing of new evidence.

However, I'll use the best available data to inform you about the current view on the lives of ancient Koreans.  Let me also apologize in advance for the lack of pictures in this entry.  Many of the artifacts from this time period are very simple stone, bronze or iron tools, which don't make for the best pictures.  They also don't appear to be very different from anything used by prehistoric man in other parts of the world.

Paleolithic Age
Hominids may have arrived on the Korean Peninsula as early as 700,000 BC.  The Paleolithic Age, or Stone Age, stretches from the arrival of Hominids on the peninsula to the creation of pottery in about 8,000 BC.  The Paleolithic is divided into the Lower Paleolithic Age between 700,000 and 100,000 BC, the Middle Paleolithic Age from 100,000 - 40,000 BC, and the Upper Paleolithic Age from 40,000 - 8,000 BC. Paleolithic man is known to have been both a cave-dweller and also to have built his own housing on level ground.  These people survived by eating fruit and hunting with stone weapons.  The life of Paleolithic man on the Korean peninsula does not appear to be very different from the lives of humans around the world during the same time.

Neolithic Age

The Neolithic Age, or New Stone Age, began in Korea around 8,000 BC.  The Neolithic Age on the peninsula began relatively early compared with the rest of the world.  The only two areas that appear to have entered the age earlier are found in the Fertile Crescent and in India.  The Neolithic Age on the Korean Peninsula is divided into the Jeulmun and Mumun Pottery Periods.

Jeulmun Pottery Period
The Jeulmun Pottery Period began at the end of the Paleolithic Age in 8,000 BC and ended in 1,500 BC.  Jeulman, or 즐문, means comb-patterned.  The pottery of this time period is gray with a V-shaped bottom and is known for the parallel lines on the outer surface that resemble lines made by a comb.  Pottery with this comb-pattern design has been found in Siberia, Manchuria, and Mongolia.  Most dwellings in this time period appeared near water, so fishing was extremely important, in addition to hunting and gathering.  Only later in this period does agriculture appear to have made a significant impact on society.  
The basic unit of society was the clan and these clans were totemistic, which means each clan identified itself with a certain object.  Another interesting fact is that Chaekhwa, or 책 화 (I think, I actually wrote that one out myself so I'm not positive), was a principle used in this time that prohibited hunting or fishing within another clan's territory and required retribution if an infraction occurred. 

Sites I may be seeing from this time period: Cheonjeon-ri, Dongsam-dong

Comb-pattern pottery
Mumun Pottery Period 
The Mumun Pottery Period, or 민무늬 토기 시대, began in 1,500 BC and ended in 300 BC.  The name comes from the Korean term for undecorated cooking vessels, which is the pottery that dominated this time period.  The Mumun Period is characterized by an increase in agriculture, the beginning of rice-farming, and the development of much larger settlements.  Megalithic burials have also been discovered from this time period, which indicates a a growing divide between the wealthy and the poor.

Sites I may be seeing from this time period: Namsan, Igeum-dong, Songguk-ri

Humans lived in huts during this period

The Gojoseon (also known as Old Choson or 고조선) kingdom was an ancient kingdom on the Korean peninusla.  It was supposedly founded at the end of the Jeulman Pottery Period in 2333 BC and spanned the entire length of the Muman Pottery Period until finally falling in 108 BC.  The first symbol in the name, , is pronounced go and means ancient in Korean.  Gojoseon began as a walled-town state, but eventually combined with other walled-town states to form a confederation.  

Founding Legend
In Korean Mythology (see my Korean Mythology post for more information), Hwanin was the Emperor of Heaven and his son, Hwanung, wanted to live on earth so that he could bring peace and order to mankind.  Hwanin consented, so Hwanung descended from heaven and founded Shinshi ( 신시 ), which means "City of the Gods", at the Mount Taebaek in modern-day North Korea.  While in the process of teaching humans various skills, a tiger and a bear approached him with the request that he make them human.  Hwanung provided them with wormwood and garlic, and instructed them to eat only these two things while staying in a cave for 100 days.  The tiger, who was impatient, was unable to do this and gave up quickly.  But the bear was resolute, and after only 21 days was transformed into a woman named Ungnyeo ( 웅녀 ).  Ungnyeo desired to have a child, but no man would wed her due to the fact that she was previously a bear (can you really blame them?).  Hwanung took pity on her and decided to briefly take human form in order to provide her with a child.  She bore a son, whose name was Dangun ( 단군왕검 ).  Dangun founded a kingdom called Asadal ( 아사달 ) near the current location of Pyongyang.  The name of the kingdom was later changed to Joseon, which later became known as Gojoseon.  Dangun lived to the age of 1,908, at which point he moved into the mountains and became the mountain god known as Sanshin.

Interpretation of Founding Legend
Obviously the events in this legend didn't actually take place.  But what can be inferred about actual events after reading this myth?  Well, as stated in my post on Korean mythology, people in this time period held totemistic beliefs.  It seems as though a clan, which lived in a walled-town state in the area of modern-day North Korea became very powerful and began to incorporate other walled-town states into its kingdom.  This clan probably held the sun as its totem, which explains the incorporation Hwanin (who in edition to being known as the Emperor of Heaven, was also known as the Sun God).  Based upon the story of the tiger and the bear, this clan probably chose to include a clan who worshiped the bear, while excluding one who worshiped the tiger.  A man named Dangun was later born and he began a kingdom known as Joseon.

What is Actually Known About Gojoseon?
The founding date of this kingdom is unknown, but it is known that Gojoseon had become a powerful kingdom prior to the 4th century BC.  The rulers of Gojoseon had begun to use the Chinese term "wang" ( 王 ), which means king.  This is obviously a title much better fit for the ruler of kingdom, rather than the leader of a walled-town state.  It is also recorded that Gojoseon intended to go to battle with the Chinese state of Yan ( 燕国 ), which would have required a very formidable military. Yan eventually invaded at the end of the 4th century BC, and this led to a period of decline in Gojoseon.  However, China was about to undergo turbulent times, as the area controlled by Yan passed to the Qin Dynasty ( 秦朝 , pronounced "chin", which led to the name China) in 222 BC and then subsequently passed to the Han Dynasty ( 汉朝 ) in 207 BC.  These uneasy times caused many people, including one man named Wiman, to flee China and settle in Gojoseon. 

Wiman Joseon ( 위만조선 )
Wiman had brought many followers with him from China and in 194 BC he succeeded in using his following to drive the king of Gojoseon (King Jun) from the throne and assert himself as king.  Despite the fact that Wiman fled from China, the amount influence that China actually held over Wiman Joseon is unknown.  Wiman Joseon was previously thought to of acted as a Chinese colony, but the fact that Wiman retained the name "Joseon" and that many of the officials of Gojoseon maintained their places of power during Wiman's rule suggests that this kingdom was in fact separate from China.  Wiman Joseon had a very successful military campaign in which he conquered many states and attempted to keep other states from direct contact with the Han Dynasty so he could profit from Han's trade.  The Han Dynasty didn't like this very much.  In 109 BC, with the excuse of violence against a Chinese envoy, Han invaded Wiman Joseon and the kingdom fell a year later in 108 BC.  This officially brought an end to the kingdom that was at least rumored to have lasted for over 2000 years.

Sites I may be seeing from this time period: None.  Thanks North Korea. 

So there you have it!  700,000 years of Korean history wrapped up into one blog post.   I'm planning on doing these history posts sporadically throughout the year as I get the time.  Next up is some information on the Han Commanderies and the Confederated Kingdoms (or Proto-Three Kingdoms).

17 January 2011

Note To Self

Don't "wing it" when traveling to one of the most remote areas of a non-English speaking country.

Well I had a bit of a... let's call it an "adventure", this weekend.  I set out to do some exploring, and as is sometimes the case with exploration, I didn't end up finding too much.  But I hate being a Debbie Downer (copyright Dan McNamara), so I'm gonna start out with the positives that arose from this weekend.

1) As is always the case when I travel, I got a lot of reading done.
2) I got experience with the intercity bus system in Korea, which will surely come in handy sometime in the future.
3) I saw some great scenery during my journey.

And now for the negatives...
1) I didn't accomplish my goal of seeing the Boseong Light Festival.
2) I rode the bus for approximately 10 hours.
3) I spent about 80 bucks on travel expenses and don't have very much to show for it.

So how exactly did this happen?  Well read on to find out.

I went to bed Friday night with the plan of going to Daejeon on Saturday for a science tour around the city.  In hindsight, I probably should of stuck with that plan.  Instead, I woke up Saturday morning with a little bit of thirst for adventure and decided I wanted to go to Boseong for their annual Light Festival.  Sure, I hadn't done much planning (I did in fact look into it a little bit), but what could go wrong?  Well, as it turns out, quite a bit.

In the minimal amount of planning that I did do, I found out that the 12:40 bus to Gwangju (you have to get another bus at Gwangju) is 6 bucks cheaper than other buses.  Well that's perfect!  It's 3 1/2 hours to Gwangju and then another hour and a half to Boseong, so I should be getting there around 6 or 6:30.  Great time to arrive for a light festival, right?  I ended up catching the 12:40 bus, but I was delayed in Gwangju and didn't end up getting the bus to Boseong until 5:30.  That bus ended up taking about 2 hours due to a snowstorm.  Which brings me to my first point about preparation for travel: check the weather. I guess I kind of assumed that since I was headed south I wouldn't have to deal with snow, but I was obviously wrong.

So I finally arrived in Boseong around 7:30.  This brings me to my second point about preparation for travel: while large cities in non-English speaking countries may have lots of English signs, don't count on it in small towns.  I will say that I felt pretty lost in that bus station.  I think I saw a total of 2 signs that had any English on them at all.  However, one of the signs that did have some English happened to be for my destination.  Unfortunately, when I went to buy the ticket, the man at the ticket counter gestured that there were no more buses headed that way.  This was despite the fact that the sign said buses were headed there for another hour, but I guess it may have been due to the snowstorm.  I'm not really sure.  So now I had a decision to make.  Did I want to try to walk to this place?  It was only about 2 miles down the road.  A quick step outside made that decision pretty easy as I was hit in the face with snow and 30 mph winds.

So it was at this point that I decided I might want to just cut my losses and head back to Gwangju to stay at a hostel for the night.  Oh wait.  There aren't anymore buses to Gwangju.  The man tells me I can get a bus to Suncheon and then get a bus from there to Gwangju.  Okay, that works.  I get my ticket and head outside.  Oh, there's the bus to Suncheon heading down the road.  No more buses to Suncheon.  In fact, there aren't anymore buses to anywhere for the rest of the night.  This is at 8 o'clock.

Well now what do I do?  Had it been the summer I may have seriously considered just wandering around Boseong until the first bus left at 6 in the morning.  I'm pretty good at amusing myself.  Unfortunately, it's about 10 degrees outside.  So I leave the bus station to have a look around.  I see some flashing lights, which I assume is a motel, but I'm not really sure.  I head down the road a little bit more.  This place is seriously a ghost town.  I don't think I saw one person and everything looked like it was boarded up.  I turn a corner and see a flashing sign that says "Motel" (in English!).  Well, I guess I know where I'm staying for the night.  I ended up paying 45,000 won (about 40 bucks) for the night, which is about 25,000 won over what I'm usually willing to pay.  But when there's a snowstorm and I have no means of transportation, I am in fact willing to compromise.  It actually ended up being a pretty nice place after I finally figured out how to turn on the lights (which honestly took me a good 15 minutes).

So I spent the rest of night planning my next day in Gwangju.  I tried to learn a little bit from my mistakes.

Looking back on it, I guess I was getting a little cocky about my ability to aimlessly wander around and still find cool stuff.  After all, that's what happened in Daegu, Busan, and Seoul.  Well, I can definitely say that after this trip I have officially been humbled. 

On to Sunday.  A new day!

I woke up at 8 and was on my way to Gwangju at 8:30.  I can't say I really liked Boseong too much, but I will be headed back for a rematch with the Korean countryside.  So anyway, I got into Gwangju around 10 and started to make my way Mudeungsan ( 무등산 ) for some hiking.  I didn't see very much on the way there.  Despite having a population of 1.5 million, I didn't get the sense that there was all that much to actually do in the city.  But there's always hiking!  And Mudeungsan provided some awesome views.

View of Gwangju from Mudeungsan
It's pretty easy to go between the peaks of the mountain and I probably made my way to 5 or 6 them during the day.  The trails were snow-covered, but I only ended up falling one time (it was a pretty nice fall though, and I'm really glad I wasn't carrying my laptop with me).  I always feel a little out of place when I see Koreans wearing hiking boots, snow pants, a winter jacket, and poles for extra balance, while I'm wearing sneakers, jeans, and a sweatshirt.

Observatory on top of one of the peaks

So that was about it for my weekend.  There are temples and shrines on the mountain, but I didn't manage to find any of them.  I might head back to Gwangju one more time while I'm here.  The areas around Gwangju seem to be a lot more interesting than the city itself.  Haenam has a bunch of dinosaur footprints, Boseong has tea fields, and there are supposed to be some pretty cool islands in the area as well. 

Next weekend I'm thinking I'll actually go to Daejeon.  And I do in fact have this trip planned out so hopefully things will go a little smoother.  I was definitely disappointed that I didn't get to see Boseong, but I learned quite a bit and hopefully it helped prepare me for future trips into the more rural areas of the country.