Korean Folklore: Moon Rabbit

Rabbit_in_the_moon_standing_by_pot

One of the biggest holiday in Korea is Chuseok, a mid-autumn festival that is celebrated on the 15th of August on the lunar calendar. In Korea, you cannot celebrate the mid-autumn festival without thinking about the Moon Rabbit. The Moon Rabbit has become a symbol for this special holiday. The folklore of the Moon Rabbit is not only a story in Korea but also a popular story all across Asia. Although most parts of Asia know of the story of the Moon Rabbit, each part region has their own version of the story but today, i’ll only go over the Korean version of the story.

The Moon Rabbit is also called the “Jade Rabbit” and is said to live on the moon, pounding something in the mortar. In Korea, the Rabbit is suppose to be pounding rice in the mortar in order to make rice cakes. This Legend/story comes from the fact that the markings on the moon looks like a rabbit is standing over a mortar, similar to the “man on the moon” in the west. You are probably asking yourself, “How did the rabbit end up on the moon?”. The story goes that the Rabbit once lived in a village along side a Fox and a Monkey. The three of them devoted themselves to Buddhism and spent most of their time studying and practicing. The Emperor of the Heavens asked them to bring him food to test their faith. The Fox decided to catch a fish and the Monkey decided to bring him fruits. The Rabbit on the other hand, could not find anything but grass so the Rabbit decided to jump into a fire to offer himself up. The Emperor was touched by this act of commitment so he appoint the Rabbit as the guardian of the moon. Although different cultures have a different variations of the story, the actions of the Rabbit remains consistent.

In the Korean version of the story, the Rabbit is always seen standing underneath a gyesu tree also known as the Korean laurel/cinnamon tree, pounding away at his mortar. Other folktales and legends also mentions the tree quite often, as it is known as a study, long living tree and it’s bark has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It is not surprising that the tree is often paired up with the rabbit who signifies fercundit and the tree signifying a long, bountiful, and happy life. The Rabbit and tree is so steadfast in Korea that it shows up in famous children’s song such as “Half’Moon”, a song written in 1924 by Yoon Geuk-young. The lyrics are as followed:

High above the deep blue sky, down the Milky Way,
Rides a ship without a sail, with no oars they say,
Ship of white, its only crew, is a rabbit white,
Westward it floats along, silently through the night

Originally, there was only one Rabbit that would appear in the story and the people thought the rabbit was lonely so a modern day version of the story has two rabbits on the moon, happily making rice cakes which makes it even more significant during the mid-autumn festival where the friends and family come together.

Sources:

http://blog.korea.net/?p=13278

https://www.cheng-tsui.com/blog/whats-the-moon-rabbit-doing-on-the-moon

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South Korea, U.S. to discuss missile defense; South cuts power to Kaesong Park

South Korea and the U.S. are talking about setting up an advanced U.S. missile defense system in response to North Korea’s recent nuclear testing and rocket launch. Meanwhile, Seoul is cutting off power to Kaesong factory park that is run jointly with North Korea. For those who do not know, South Korea has tons of businesses set up in the factory park but as of recently, have evacuated from the site. This was an order from Seoul in response to the nuclear testing and rocket launching North Korea has done. North Korea declared that the park site would be occupied by their military and that Seoul’s decision to evacuate is a “dangerous declaration of war”.¬†North Korea also claimed that the rocket launch was for peaceful purposes but Seoul and Washington have said that it violates the United Nations Security Council resolutions because it used ballistic missile technology. The Nuclear bomb test last month was also banned by the U.N. resolutions.

I think that Seoul’s decision to evacuate the site was a smart idea because of safety reasons. The actions of North Korea seems too dangerous to be involved with and given their history, might be planning something. Also, North Korea describing the evacuation of the site as a “dangerous declaration of war” is just an excuse to actually start a war with the south.

Basic information

Country’s Location: East Asia

Capital: Seoul

Official/Recognized Language: Korean

Ethnic Composition: 96.5% Korean, 1.8% Chinese, 1.7% Others

Literacy Rates: Not reported by UNESCO

Major/Official Religions: Buddhism, Won Buddhism, Christianity, Mormonism

Type of Government: Constitutional Republic

Geographical Area: 37 N, 30 E

Population: 51,529,338

GDP: $1.849 Trillion

Why I chose South Korea: To be honest, my first choice when picking countries was Japan but was taken so South Korea is my second choice. Although I do not know much about South Korea, I am still interested in their culture. One of the things that I like is the food that they have. That is why whenever I go out eat, I would not mind eating at a Korean restaurant. Another thing that I like is their music pop culture. I feel like their pop groups over there is more interesting than over her in America. Since I am a pc gamer, I like to play a lot of MMORPGs and a lot of them are made by Korean companies. I think a lot of what I said contributed to why I picked South Korea.