Thursday, September 5, 2013

Color me O' Colour, what Color do you like : Significance of Korean Saekdong


                  Before mentioning anything I will tell you my favorite color is Yellow.You know the power of colors cannot be denied, more so, as it is the soul instance of life on earth. Although sight and the human brain has helped in identifying colors and their delights, it is interesting to note what colors mean to us in totality. Colors can define the mood of a person, they can also create a specific aura or energy in the atmosphere. So let's find out what lies in Korean Saekdong.

          These colors symbolise the five cardinal element

                              During my Kyunghee days at Seoul I used to learn "Chum or Dance" . It was fun indeed learning something apart form my main courses . When a teacher asked to get "Chima or skirt" to practice we were so excited . We went to Jongno to get skirt. Since or choiceswere different we got different different colors of skirt. I chose yellow as yellow is always my favourite colour.
Since we  were many to purchase skirt and shoes the owner was so delighted that she provided each of us a free gift and that gift was non other than the small pouch made by Korean traditional colours called "Saekdong" and said that this gift will bring luck and happiness moreover good mindset while in studying. Somehow it stike my heart as we Indian also loves color and very particular about the significance of the colors.

As Korean traditional art relied upon five cardinal colors, blue, red, yellow, white and black.  In Korean, even the rainbow is described as "five-colored."These colors were considered to be closely related to the five cardinal elements of um and yang.  Blue with wood, red with fire, yellow with earth, white with metal, and black with water.The arrangement of colors in traditional costumes also applied the concept of these five cosmic elements.

The five-color stripe on children's sleeves is a typical example, although colors may be added or excluded. It was hoped that the use of the cardinal elements would protect children from evil spirits. The five color stripe in the sleeves of the full court dress of queens and on the wedding garments of commoners throughout the Koryo and Choson dynasties is another example. Regardless of personal taste, the five cardinal elements played a significant role in traditional Korean culture and deeply penetrated peoples' lives and thoughts.

Korean kids were wearing stripe wrist Hanbok on the special ocassion

Saekdong refers to a stripe that features many colors, it began to be used for Hanbok since the Goryeo period (918-1392). Saekdong reminds one of the rainbow, which in turn evokes thoughts of children's dream. Saekdong patterns were commonly provided for children between the age of 1 to 7. The use of wide aray of colors found and in the children's saekdong was rooted in belief could drive the evil spirits away.

This bracelate is one of theprecious gift from my Korean Professor who gifted me , this signify korean five cardinal elements

"In this 21th century Saekdong come to be regarded as the symbol of Korean color patterns."
             According to professor Kim Ok-hyun, a digital crafts professor at Dongduk Women's University, her immense love about Saekdong, the multicolored stripe pattern found in traditional Korean clothes. Not surprisingly, she is an expert in the field, having spent 25 years searching for the original saekdong pattern and recreating its modern interpretations.

She majored in textiles at university and fell in love with saekdong when she was searching for something Korean to enter the Korea Industrial Design Competition in 1984. While doing a research in the origins of the patterns, Kim was fascinated by the fact that the colors reflected the principles of coexistence and extinction based on the yin and yang and the five elements of Chinese cosmogony -- metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. She traced the source of the saekdong colors from Chosun-era antiques, and with the original colors she rediscovered, Kim now makes wallets, bags, ties, scarves and other items.

"Saekdong can become a cultural icon representing Korea, just like kimchi,". But it needs to be protected as intellectual property. "Many people think it is okay to share a design or concept based on traditional culture," she said.


Beautifully arranged Kimchi with different taste and colour
Traditionally, Koreans incorporated five cardinal colors into many aspects of daily life and tradition. The cultural integration of color stems from principles of Eastern religions such as Confucianism and Buddhism. The cardinal colors are associated with the five directions and elements. They often appear in Korean clothing, celebrations, martial arts, architecture, art, food and symbols. A sixth color, green, has also grown to have cultural significance in Korea.
The five elements, though, are more than colors. They represent material elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, water. They represent emotions, from rage to fear to contemplation. They are also associated with organs in the body and with five essential flavors, sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, and salty.
No one element is best or right. What’s important is balance.

As Korean philosophy is deeply rooted in the Taoist concept of yin yang, or eum yang in Korean. (Hence, the prominent red and blue taegeuk in the middle of the South Korean flag.) Yin and yang are forces that are both opposing and complementary; together, they govern the universe. As yin and yang should ideally be balanced, the five elements should also be present and in balance with each other.
White is the most commonly used color in Korea. Koreans were sometimes referred to as "the white clad people." Historically, commoners wore white hanboks, a traditional Korean form of attire. Only royalty and the upper class were permitted to wear colorful hanboks. White is still worn for weddings, new years celebrations and funerals to celebrate the journey to the afterlife.

The color white symbolizes purity, innocence, peace and patriotism. Traditionally, white represents the element metal and the direction West

The color black is associated with mastery and the ending point of a cycle in Korea. Black represents the darkness after mastery has been achieved, the place beyond light. However, because Koreans believe that everything is based on a balance of opposites, darkness is also necessary as an origin for light. Black corresponds with the element of water and the direction North.

The color blue is associated with the element wood and the direction East. In the Korean flag, blue symbolizes eum or yin, which is cool, feminine energy. Eum energy is associated with the moon and is passive, yielding and receptive. Blue is balanced by red in the Korean flag. While red represents the passionate energy of life, blue represents its opposite, death.
Traditionally red is associated with fire and the southern direction. Red is symbolized by yin energy, which represents masculine energy, the sun and the life force. In the Korean flag, red is balanced by its opposite color, blue. The color red also symbolizes passion and, historically, it was inappropriate for Koreans to wear the color red. However, in modern Korea, red is associated with a passion for sports and it is common to wear red to sporting event to show support.
In India, China and Nepal, brides wear red traditionally, as it brings good luck too.
 The color yellow symbolizes earth and the center direction. Yellow represents the starting point for developing knowledge and expanding the mind. As one of the five cardinal colors, yellow was traditionally worn, along with the other four colors, as part of a stripe on Korean clothing. Wearing the five-color stripe was historically thought to give children and royalty protection from evil spirits.
Yellow is an auspicious color in Buddhism, and stands for wisdom. Yellow is sacred, and the color of celebration of spring in India. It is also related to farmers and merchants.
Blue and green were traditionally represented by a single word in Hangul, the Korean language. Western influence brought a change in the view that green and blue are variations of a single color and separate words for each color now exist in Hangul. Currently, the color green symbolizes prosperity, a fresh start and auspicious beginnings. Many Korean storefronts are green to draw prosperity and success to the business.
Since green defined fertility, it was often the preferred color for wedding gowns in the 1400s.
So, what color do you like ?

Colorful Korean Traditional Fan Dance 



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