Korea has a rich culture and history in religion, customs and art. Yellow has traditionally symbolised aspects of nature, pride, safety and accomplishment. Whomever you speak to, whether it be a tae kwon do Master or a local from Chongju, you will hear an interesting story of what the colour yellow means to the person.
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The Pujok is a traditional Korean amulet that symbolises good luck and protection. It was either in the form of a small charm that Koreans carried or as a banner hung above a home's doorway. Some believers would even burn a pujok scroll or page and eat the ashes for its protective properties. A pujok has a yellow background with red characters or symbols inscribed. The symbolism of yellow is vital as some Koreans believe evil spirits hated this colour and the colour made them stay away.
Traditional Buddhist temples are decorated in an art form called Danch'eong which symbolises enlightenment. The designs and colours (yellow, red, blue, white and black) stem from the ying-yang and the five element Eastern philosophies. Of the elements, yellow corresponds to earth. If you enter a Korean temple, you will observe Danch'eong design on the building's walls, roof and pillars.
A hanbok is Korea's traditional attire. These days, Koreans still wear the national costume for special events such as weddings and holidays. For both males and females the hanbok is made up of two parts. Historically, a single woman would wear a yellow blouse, called a chogori, to special events. While the king and queen of Korea wore red costumes, Koreans could identify the emperor and empress by their yellow hanboks. Yellow continues to be an important component of hanboks, as are green, blue and red, because of their eye-catching appearance.
Tae Kwon Do
Tae kwon do is a martial art that originated in Korea. There are 10 levels, the lowest being black belt. The highest level is white belt with a yellow stripe, the second highest is yellow belt and just below that is yellow belt with a green stripe. In Dartmouth College's dojang, students do not learn complex patterns or combination moves for sparring until they get their yellow belt. In tae kwon do, yellow, again, represents the earth.
Several provinces and cities in Korea have flags that have incorporated the colour yellow. For example, Chollabuk province's flag has a white background with green, red, blue and yellow markings. Yellow in this case symbolises peace. The flag for the city Chongju has a yellow character or symbol that means glory. Changhung city's flag has a yellow ring that symbolises a traditional game of tug of war that was played on nights when there was a full moon. Changwon's flag has a small yellow square which represents the city's citizens.
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