Saturday, February 5, 2011

Korea Traditional Sports and Games

Cheongdo So Ssa-eum (Bull Fighting) Unlike Spanish bull fighting which pits man against bull, Korean bull fights are real bull fights: bull vs. bull. Two bulls butt heads and try to push each other backwards. The first bull to back off loses.

Ch'ajon-nori This is a provincial game involving the entire community. Two dongchae ("ships" made from wood and old rice stalks), each born by several strong men and captained by one leader, repeatedly ram into each other. If a leader falls down or if the dongch'ae is allowed to touch the ground, the opposing side wins.

Chang-gi (Korean Chess) Although very similar to Western chess, Chang-gi has a slightly different playing board, pieces, and rules. Like most strategic games, the rules can be easily picked up, but the skills of a good player take a long time to learn.

Hwa-t'u (Go-Stop) On trains, in the park, at restaurants and bars- almost anywhere you go you can see (and hear) the familiar sight of Koreans playing cards. To properly play, one should slap ones cards down when playing them. Most people play for money, although the stakes tend to be only 10 or 100 won per point for "friendly" games.

Jul T'agi (Rope Walking) Rather than simply walk from one end of the rope to the other, Korean tightrope walkers jump up and down, do somersaults, and tell jkes to the audience.

Kite Flying Not just a children's past time, many older Koreans enjoy flying kites, especially on major holidays such as Ch'usok and the Lunar New Year. The traditional Korean kite (yon) is made with bamboo sticks and Korean paper.

Nol-Ttwigi (Korean See-saw) Unlike in the West where riders sit atop either side of the see-saw, nol-ttwigi participants stand on their side, then jump up, forcing their partner into the air on the opposite side. This game is popular among females, usually during traditional holidays and festivals.

Paduk Called Go in Japan, paduk has a very large following in Korea. Played on a 19x19 line checkerboard, two players alternate placing their pieces on the board to try to surround their opponent. The one who "captures" the most amount of real estate wins. TV shows demonstrate strategy and feature games between highly ranked competitors- there's even an entire cable TV channel dedicated to it! You can also buy

(Spinning Tops) Children all over the world enjoy spinning tops, and Korea's kids are no exception. Traditionally, tops were spun in an enclosed box, with points scored for various actions. Also popular is fighting tops where players try to knock their opponents' tops out of a designated area.

Ssirum (Korean wrestling) Ssirum is somewhat similar to Japanese sumo wrestling, with two opponents trying to wrestle each other in a sandy ring. The one who throws his opponent to the ground wins a point. The annual competitions attract many spectators.

Yut (Four-Stick Game) A traditional Korean game, usually played on the first day of the Lunar New Year, involves 4 players or teams. Four sticks, flat on one side and curved on the other, are tossed in the air for each side's turn. The combination of flat and curved faces pointing upwards determines the number of spaces moved along a board (picture on the right). Landing on an intersection circle enables the side to take the shorter path. The first person/team to travel all the way around the board wins.

Korea History - Koryo Dynasty


Koryo Dynasty

Shilla was torn to pieces by rebel leaders such as Kyon Hwon who proclaimed the Latter Paekche (Hu Paekche) state in Chongju in 900, and Kung Ye who proclaimed to Latter Koguryo (Hu Koguryo) state, the following year at Kaesong.  Wang Kon, the last rebel leader, the son of a gentry family, became the first minister of Kung Ye.  Overthrowing Kung Ye for misdemeanors and malpractice in 918, he sought and received the support of landlords and merchants whose economic, as well as political, power overwhelmed the Shilla government.
Wang Kon easily raided Latter Paekche in 934.  Wang Kon accepted the abdication of King Kyongsun of Shilla in 935.  The following year he easily conquered Latter Paekche and unified the Korean Peninsula.
Wang Kon was at first content to leave provincial magnates undisturbed.  He was particularly careful to placate the Shilla aristocracy.  He gave former King Kyongsun the highest post in his government, and even married a woman of the Shilla royal clan, thus somewhat legitimizing his rule.
Enthroned as the founder king of the Koryo Dynasty (91801392), the name of which was derived from Koguryo, he drafted 10 injunctions for his successors to observe. Among the 10 injunctions he predicted probably conflict between his state and the northern nomadic states with Koguryo's territory as the objective, and advised the strengthening of the state.  He advised that Buddhist temples must not be interfered with, and warned against the usurpation and internal conflicts among the royal clans and the weakening of local power.

Korea History - Unified Shilla

Unified Shilla

Shilla (57 B.C. - A.D. 935), reached the peak of power and prosperity in the middle of the eighth century.  It attempted to establish an ideal Buddhist country and constructed the Sokkuram Grotto shrine and Pulguksa temple with splendorous masonic art.  Extensive printing of Buddhist scripture was undertaken with wood blocks.  The oldest imprint of the Sharani sutra, probably printed between 706 and 751, was brought to light during the recent restoration of a three-story pagoda at Pulguksa temple.
The nobility of Koguryo and Paekche were treated with some generosity.  Scholars specializing in diplomatic correspondence, medicine, mathematics, and astronomy were invited to bring professional personnel into government service.  The distribution of chongjon (equity land system) was put into practice in 722 for the peasants, and the people in the country then became eligible to cultivate allotted lands.  In addition, reservoirs were erected for rice field irrigation.  For the allotted land the peasants had to return in kind crops of rice, millet, barley and wheat.  Taxation in kind was collected in accordance with the actual crops from the land.  In addition, the peasants were bound to plant mulberry trees for silkworms, and walnut and pine nut trees as a side tax to the government and nobility.  They raised cattle and horses, two to four head in each household.  The Shilla people enjoyed an affluent life.  The capital city prospered and there were street of more than 10 km distance.
During this period, a prominent monk, Wonhyo (617-686) started a new sect of Buddhism among the common people.  By his creative thinking, Buddhism was brought to the public as a popular religion.
There was no more war in the eighth century and the desire for learning grew.  Idu, a new transcription system of Korean words by the use of Chinese characters, was invented by Shilla scholars of the mid-upper class next to the upper-royal nobility, or Chin-gol (true bone).  The growing need for scholarly work necessitated the recruitment of mid-upper scholars, so a quasi-civil service examination system was instituted in 788 to meet this end.
The state cult of Buddhism began to deteriorate as the nobility indulged in easy and luxurious lives.  Buddhism began to establish a new Son sect (generally known in the West by its Japanese name Zen) in the remote mountain area.  In the cities, the state cult also encountered difficulties as conflict among the nobility in outlying districts intensified, and the throne continued to lose power as struggles within the Chin-gol clan also increased.  King Hyegong was assassinated in 780.  During this time, there were frequent, but futile, attempts to usurp the throne.
In the outlying areas there also were uprisings initiated by Chin-gol magistrates.  King Aijang was killed by his uncle who succeeded to the throne.  Thus Shilla in the ninth century was shaken by intra-clan conflict both around the throne and in district administration.  Chang Po-go, a successful merchant, held sway in maritime commerce in the ninth century and Ch'songhaejin (Wando), transporting goods to and from Chinese and Japanese ports.  He was one among many local leaders to rebel against the Shilla throne.
The government prohibited the building of new temples and extravagant decorations altogether in 806.
One of the many prominent scholars, Ch'oe Ch'i-won, who had passed the Tang civil examination and drafted a manifesto against Huang Tsao, returned to his own home country.  However, his suggestions were not taken seriously, nor put in practice.  Although offered a high-ranking office, Ch'oe retreated to Haeinsa temple to live as a hermit.  Scholars and talented persons from the mid-upper class wished for a change from Shilla's rule.

Korea History - The Parhae Kingdom

The Parhae Kingdom

Subsequent to the fall of Koguryo, Tae Cho-yong, a former Koguryo general, formed an army of Koguryo and Malgal (a Tungusic tribe) people, and led a migration to Chinese-controlled territory.  They settled eventually near Jilin in Manchuria, and there founded a state which was at first called Chin, but in 713 was renamed Parhae (Bohai in Chinese). Parhae soon gained control of most of the former Koguryo territory.  The ruling class of Parhae consisted mostly of Koguryo (i.e. Korean) people.  Parhae declared itself the successor to Koguryo, and sometimes called itself Koryoguk (state of Koryo).
Parhae prosperity reached its height in the first half of the ninth century during the reign of King Son.  At that time, Parhae territory extended from the Sungari and Amur rivers in northern Manchuria all the way down to the northern provinces of modern Korea.  Its capital was Tonggyong, in the Jilin area, where the state had originally been founded.
Parhae was to become a victim of the political confusion and violence which accompanied the fall of the Tang Dynasty.  In 926 the Khitan, who later came to dominate much of Manchuria and northern China, conquered Parhae.  Many oft he ruling class, who were mostly Koreans, moved south and joined the newly founded Koryo Dynasty, which replaced Shilla at that time.
While the Manchurian portion of the Parhae territory was lost, the area south of the Amnok (Yalu)- Turman (Tumen) boundary was restored and the people migrated to Korea.

Korea History - Ko Chosun

The Ko Choson

The people of Ko Choson or the oldest kingdom of Korea are recorded as Tong-i, "eastern bowmen" or "eastern barbarians."  The propagated in Manchuria, the eastern littoral of China, areas north of the Yangtze River, and the Korean Peninsula.  The eastern bowmen had a myth in which the legendary founder Tan-gun was born of a father of heavenly descent and a woman from a bear-totem tribe.  He is said to have started to rule in 2333 B.C., and his descendants reigned in Choson, the "Land of Morning Calm," for more than a millennium.
When the Zhou people pushed the Yin, the eastern bowmen moved toward Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula for better climactic conditions.   They seem to have maintained unity, as China's great sages, Confucious and Mencius, praised their consangquineous order and the decorum of their society.
The eastern bowmen on the western coast of the Yellow Sea clashed with the Zhou people during China's period of warring states (475 B.C. - 221 B.C.).  This led them to move toward southern Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula.
There were other tribes of eastern bowmen, the Yemaek on the Manchurian area and the Han on the Korean Peninsula, all of whom belonged to the Tungusic family and linguistically affiliated with the Altaic.  When Yin collapsed, Kija, a subject of the Yin state, entered Tan-gun's domain and introduced the culture of Yin around the 11th century B.C.
Then came invasion of Yen in the northeastern sector of China, and Ko Choson lost the territories west of the Liao River in the third century B.C.  By this time, iron culture was developing and the warring states pushed the refugees eastward.
Among the immigrants, Wiman entered the service of Ko Choson as military commander with a base on the Amnokkang (Yalu) river.  He drove King Chun to the south and usurped power.  But in 109 B.C. the Han emperor Wu-ti dispatched a massive invasion by land and  sea to Ko Choson in the estuary of the Liao River.  Ko Choson was defeated after two years and four Chinese provincial commands were set up in southern Manchuria and the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.  Not long after the establishment of the four commanderies, however, the Korean attacks became fierce and the last of the commanderies, Lolang (Korean: Nangnang) was destroyed by Koguryo in 313.

Korea History - The Three Kingdoms

The Three Kingdoms

In the last stages of the bronze culture of the Karasuk affinity, the impact of the iron culture was experienced by ancient Koreans as a consequence of the rise of Chinese state power.  The rise of Puyo was seen in Manchuria along with China's developing centralized power.  In the southern part of Korea, tribal leagues of the Three Han gradually developed to the stage of state building.  Paekche and Shilla were prominent in the south, Koguryo in the north.
By the first century, Koguryo was firmly established as a state power and destroyed the Chinese colony Lolang (Nangnang) in 313.  In 342, however, Koguryo's capital fell to the Chinese Yen.  Paekche amassed power while Koguryo was fighting against the Chinese, and came into conflict with Koguryo in the late fourth century.  Then came the growth of Shilla with a more fully organized state power.
Koguryo was the first to adopt Buddhism as the royal creed in 372; Paekche, the second in 384; and Shilla, the last in 528.  Buddhist scriptures in Chinese translation were also adopted.  Koguryo established an academy to educate the nobility and compiled a state history consisting of 100 volumes before the introduction of Buddhism..  Paekche also compiled its history in the early fourth century prior to 384.  Only Shilla undertood compilation of its history immediately following the adoption of Buddhism.
Thus, all Three Kingdoms developed highly sophisticated state organizations on the Korean Peninsula, adopting Confucian and Buddhist hierarchical structures with the king at the pinnacle.  State codes were promulgated to initiate a legal system to rule the people.  In this process, Koguryo annexed Puyo, and Shilla conquered Kaya.  The Three Kingdoms were competing with each other in strengthening Buddhist-Confucian state power, in effort toward serious territorial expansion.
At this juncture, Shilla developed its Hwarang (Flower of Youth Corps), a voluntary military organization.  The Hwarang members were trained as a group in the arts of war, literary taste and community life, partly through pilgrimages.  The educational objectives were: 1) loyalty to the monarch, 2) filial piety to parents, 3) amicability among friends, 4) no retreat in war,  and 5) aversion to unnecessary killing.  These objectives were postulated by the famous monk Won-gwang, who consolidated Buddhist-Confucian virtues in the education of Shilla youths.  This movement became popular and the corps contributed to the strength of the Shilla Kingdom.
With the youth corps, Shilla was able to amass state power in the cultural sphere as well.  With the aid of a Paekche architect, it erected a huge temple, Hwangnyongsa ("Temple of the Illustrious Dragon"), and a towering pagoda famous even in China.  The 70 meter high pagoda of Hwangnyongsa stood from 645 until the Mongol invasion of the 13th century.  Shilla was ready to learn from Koguryo and Paekche and also dispatched monks to China to learn about China's culture, especially Chinese Buddhist doctrine, architecture and Chinese classics.
While Shilla was building amicable relations with Tang China, Koguryo was in fierce conflict with Sui and Tang. Sui Emperor Yang-ti, after successful campaigns against the northern nomadic tribes, invaded Koguryo with more than one million troops.  In 612, Koguryo General Ulchi Mundok held the fortresses agains Tang0ti's army and navy for several months and destroyed the Sui troops in retreat.  An ambush at Salsu (Ch'oongch'don'gang) river allowed only 2,700 Sui troops out of 300,000 men to escape.  Sui fell from power partly as a result of the defeat by Koguryo.
After the rise of Tang, Tai-tsung contemplated revenge while protecting against invasion by building fortifications and walls along the Liao River.  In 644, 648 and 655, Tai-tsung attempted unsuccessful invasions.  Tang then turned to Shilla for assistance.
Shilla also persuaded Tang China to come to its aid in the conquest of Paekche and Koguryo.  Koguryo had earlier defeated Sui Yang-ti, and Tai-tsung's hostile relationship drove Tang Kao-tsung to ally itself with Shilla in the campaign against Paekche and then Koguryo.
A late-comer to statehood, Shilla was finally able to defeat the other two kingdoms, but was unable to control the whole territory of Koguryo which extended to Manchuria.  Tang's intention toward Shilla was made clear in the aftermath of the unification by Shilla.  The Paekche king and his family were taken to Tang in 660 and a Tang general appointed a military governor to rule the Paekche territory.  Koguryo's last king, his officials and 200,000 prisoners were also taken to China in 668 and Koguryo's territory was administered by Tang generals.  Tang Kao-tsung's desires were now evident, and Shilla was determined to fight against Tang.  The determination of Kim Yu-shin, Shilla's foremost general who led and marshaled Shilla's campaigns, counteracted the Chinese instigation of Paekche and Koguryo to rebel against Shilla.  Shilla commenced active resistance against Chinese domination in Tang-controlled territory.  In 671, Shilla started its own operations against Chinese rule and took the Chinese administrative headquarters, thereby retaking all of the Paekche territory.  China invaded again in 674 against Shilla, who had succeeded in quelling the Tang army at Maech'o Fortress near Yanggu and the Ch'ionsong fortress at the Yesonggang river near Kaesong.  Shilla's army also successfully drove out the Tang army from P'yongtang.  Nevertheless, the Chinese army persistently claimed the territories of Paekche and Koguryo until 676 when they gave in to Shilla's claim of territory south of the Taedonggang river.  Shilla became a unique state covering most of the Korean Peninsula and the majority of the people of the former three states.
One Koguryo warrior, Ko Sagye, who was taken by a Tang general, joined the Tang army.  His son Ko Son-ji had a successful military career in Tang and conquered Tashkent in the mid-eighth century, transmitting paper-making technology to the Arabian countries.  The Shilla monk Hyech'o in 727 visited India for pilgrimages to historic Buddhist sites in five Indian kingdoms, an account of which is preserved as an important historical record about eighth century India.