The traditional Korean calendar or Dangun calendar (Korean단군; Hanja檀君) is a lunisolar calendar. Dates are calculated from Korea's meridian (135th meridian east in modern time for South Korea), and observances and festivals are based in Korean culture.

Koreans mostly use the Gregorian calendar, which was officially adopted in 1896. However, traditional holidays and age-reckoning for older generations are still based on the old calendar.[1] The biggest festivals in Korea today, which are also national holidays, are Seollal, the first day of the traditional calendar, and Chuseok, the harvest moon festival. Other important festivals include Daeboreum also referred to as Boreumdal (the first full moon), Dano (spring festival) and Samjinnal (spring-opening festival). Other minor festivals include Yudu (summer festival), and Chilseok (monsoon festival).

History edit

Similar to most traditional calendars of other East Asian countries, the Korean Calendar is derived from the Chinese calendar.[2][3] The traditional calendar designated its years via Korean era names from 270 to 963, then Chinese era names with Korean era names at a few times until 1894. In 1894 and 1895, the lunar calendar was used with years numbered from the foundation of the Joseon Dynasty in 1392.

The Gregorian calendar was adopted on 1 January 1896, with the Korean era name Geon-yang (건양; 建陽; lit. adopting solar calendar).

The gravestone of Kim Ku's wife, Ch'oe Chun-rye, uses the Dangun calendar written using hangul numerals (=1, =2, etc) for her birth year ("ㄹㄴㄴㄴ해" = 4222 = 1889 CE). For her death year, it uses hangul numerals to indicate the number of years after the founding of the Korean Provisional Government ("ㅂ해" = 6 = 1924 CE).

From 1945 until 1961 in South Korea, Gregorian calendar years were counted from the foundation of Gojoseon in 2333 BC (regarded as year one), the date of the legendary founding of Korea by Dangun, hence these Dangi (단기; 檀紀) years were 4278 to 4294. This numbering was informally used with the Korean lunar calendar before 1945 but has only been occasionally used since 1961, and mostly in North Korea prior to 1997.

Although not being an official calendar, in South Korea, the traditional Korean calendar is still maintained by the government. The current version is based on East Asia's Shixian calendar (Korean: 시헌력; Hanja: 時憲暦; RRshi-heon-nyeok), which was in turn revised by Jesuit scholars.

In North Korea, the Juche calendar has been used since 1997 to number its years, based on the birth of the state's founder Kim Il Sung.

Features edit

  • The Chinese zodiac of 12 Earthly Branches (animals), which were used for counting hours and years;
  • Ten Heavenly Stems, which were combined with the 12 Earthly Branches to form a sixty-year cycle;
  • Twenty-four solar terms (Korean: 절기; Hanja: 節氣; RRjeolgi) in the year, spaced roughly 15 days apart;
  • Lunar months including leap months added every two or three years.

Weekdays edit

Note that traditional Korean calendar has no concept of weekdays: the following are names of weekdays in the modern (Western) calendar.

English Hangul Hanja Transliteration Heavenly body 5 Elements

(Hanja/ Hanzi: 五行 = Korean: 오행; Chinese: Wuxing)

Sunday 일요일 日曜日 iryoil Sun
Monday 월요일 月曜日 wŏ woryoil Moon
Tuesday 화요일 火曜日 hwayoil Mars Fire
Wednesday 수요일 水曜日 suyoil Mercury Water
Thursday 목요일 木曜日 mogyoil Jupiter Wood
Friday 금요일 金曜日 kŭ geumyoil Venus Metal
Saturday 토요일 土曜日 toyoil Saturn Earth

Months edit

In modern Korean language, the months of both the traditional lunisolar and Western calendars are named by prefixing Sino-Korean numerals to wol, the Sino-Korean word for "month". Traditionally, when speaking of individuals' birth months, the months of the lunisolar calendar were named by prefixing the native Korean name of the animal associated with each Earthly Branch in the Chinese zodiac to dal, the native Korean word for "month". Additionally, the first, eleventh, and twelfth months have other Korean names which are similar to traditional Chinese month names.[4] However, the other traditional Chinese month names, such as Xìngyuè ("apricot month") for the second month, are not used in Korean.

Modern name Traditional name Notes Chinese Equivalent
Translation Hangul RR Translation Hangul RR Month number Earthly Branch name Modern name Starts on Gregorian date

(annually the dates shifts due to the lunar cycle)

Month 1 1월 (일월) Il-wol Tiger Month 호랑이달 Ho-rang-i-dal 1 寅月; yínyuè; 'tiger month' 正月; zhēngyuè; 'first month' between 21 January – 20 February
Primary Month 정월 (正月) Jeong-wol A loanword from Chinese Zhēngyuè
Month 2 2월 (이월) I-wol Rabbit Month 토끼달 To-kki-dal 2 卯月; mǎoyuè; 'rabbit month' 二月; èryuè; 'second month' between 20 February – 21 March
Month 3 3월 (삼월) Sam-wol Dragon Month 용달 Yong-dal 3 辰月; chényuè; 'dragon month' 三月; sānyuè; 'third month' between 21 March – 20 April
Month 4 4월 (사월) Sa-wol Snake Month 뱀달 Baem-dal 4 巳月; sìyuè; 'snake month' 四月; sìyuè; 'fourth month' between 20 April – 21 May
Month 5 5월 (오월) O-wol Horse Month 말달 Mal-dal 5 午月; wǔyuè; 'horse month' 五月; wǔyuè; 'fifth month' between 21 May – 21 June
Month 6 6월 (유월) Yu-wol Sheep Month 양달 Yang-dal 6 未月; wèiyuè; 'goat month' 六月; liùyuè; 'sixth month' between 21 June – 23 July
Month 7 7월 (칠월) Chir-wol Monkey Month 원숭이달 Won-sung-i-dal 7 申月; shēnyuè; 'monkey month' 七月; qīyuè; 'seventh month' between 23 July – 23 August
Month 8 8월 (팔월) Par-wol Rooster Month 닭달 Dak-dal 8 酉月; yǒuyuè; 'rooster month' 八月; bāyuè; 'eighth month' between 23 August – 23 September
Month 9 9월 (구월) Gu-wol Dog Month 개달 Gae-dal 9 戌月; xūyuè; 'dog month' 九月; jiǔyuè; 'ninth month' between 23 September – 23 October
Month 10 10월 (시월) Shi-wol/ Si-wol Pig Month 돼지달 Dwae-ji-dal 10 亥月; hàiyuè; 'pig month' 十月; shíyuè; 'tenth month' between 23 October – 22 November
Month 11 11월 (십일월) Shi-bir-wol/ Shib-ir-wol Rat Month 쥐달 Jwi-dal 11 子月; zǐyuè; 'rat month' 十一月; shíyīyuè; 'eleventh month' between 22 November – 22 December
Winter Solstice Month 동짓달 Dong-jit-dal Compare Chinese Dōngyuè, "Winter Month"
Month 12 12월 (십이월) Shib-i-wol Ox Month 소달 So-dal 12 丑月; chǒuyuè; 'ox month' 臘月; 腊月; làyuè; 'end-of-year month' between 22 December – 21 January
섣달 Seot-dal Compare Chinese Làyuè, "preservation month"

Festivals edit

The lunar calendar is used for the observation of traditional festivals, such as Seollal, Chuseok, and Buddha's Birthday. It is also used for jesa memorial services for ancestors and the marking of birthdays by older Koreans.

Traditional holidays edit

Festival Significance Events Date (Lunar) Food
Seollal (설날) Lunar New Year's Day An ancestral service is offered before the grave of the ancestors, New Year's greetings are exchanged with family, relatives and neighbors; bows to elders (sebae, 세배, Hanja: 歲拜), yut nori (윷놀이). Day 1 of Month 1 rice cake soup (tteokguk, 떡국), honey cakes (yakgwa, 약과, Hanja: 藥果).
Daeboreum (대보름, 大보름) First full moon Greeting of the moon (dalmaji, 달맞이), kite-flying, burning talismans to ward off evil spirits (aengmagi taeugi, 액막이 태우기), bonfires (daljip taeugi, 달집 태우기). Day 15 of Month 1 rice boiled with five grains (o-gok-bap, 오곡밥, Hanja: 五穀飯), eating nuts, e.g. walnuts, pine nuts, peanuts, chestnuts (bureom, 부럼), wine drinking (gwibalgisul)
Meoseumnal (머슴날) Festival for servants Housecleaning, coming of age ceremony, fishermen's shaman rite (yeongdeunggut, 영등굿) Day 1 of Month 2 stuffed pine-flavored rice cakes (songpyeon, 송편)
Samjinnal (삼짇날) Migrant swallows return Leg fighting, fortune telling. Day 3 of Month 3 azalea wine (dugyeonju, 두견주, Hanja: 杜鵑酒), azalea rice cake (dugyeon hwajeon, 두견화전, Hanja: 杜鵑花煎)
Hansik/ Hanshik

(한식, Hanja: 寒食)

Beginning of farming season Visit to ancestral grave for offering rite, and cleaning and maintenance. Day 105 after winter solstice cold food only: mugwort cake (ssuktteok, 쑥떡), mugwort dumplings (ssukdanja, 쑥단자), mugwort soup (ssuktang, 쑥탕)
Chopail (Cho-pa-il)

(초파일, Hanja: 初八日)

or Seok-ga Tan-shin-il

(석가탄신일; Hanja: 釋迦誕生日)

Buddha's Birthday Yeondeunghoe (Lotus Lantern festival) Day 8 of Month 4 rice cake (jjintteok, 찐떡), flower rice cake (hwajeon, 화전, Hanja: 花煎)

(단오, Hanja: 端午) or Surit-nal (수릿날)

Spring festival Washing hair with iris water, wrestling (ssireum, 씨름), swinging, giving fans as gifts Day 5 of Month 5 rice cake with herbs (surichwitteok, 수리취떡), herring soup (junchiguk, 준치국)

(유두, Hanja: 流頭)

Water greeting Water greeting, washing hair to wash away bad luck Day 15 of Month 6 Five coloured noodles (yudumyeon, 유두면), cooked rice cake (sudan, 수단, Hanja: 水團)

(칠석, Hanja: 七夕)

Meeting day of Gyeonwu and Jiknyeo, in Korean folk tale Fabric weaving Day 7 of Month 7 wheat pancake (miljeonbyeong, 밀전병), steamed rice cake with red beans (sirutteok, 시루떡)

(백중, Hanja: 百中)

Worship to Buddha Worship to Buddha. Day 15 of Month 7 mixed rice cake (seoktanbyeong, 석탄병, Hanja: 惜呑餠)

(추석, Hanja: 秋夕)

Harvest festival Visit to ancestral grave, ssireum, offering earliest rice grain (olbyeosinmi, 올벼신미, --新味), circle dance (ganggang sullae, 강강술래) Day 15 of Month 8 pine-flavored rice cake stuffed with chestnuts, sesame or beans (songpyeon, 송편), taro soup (torantang, 토란탕)

(중양절, Hanja: 重陽節)

Migrant sparrows leave Celebrating autumn with poetry and painting, composing poetry, enjoying nature Day 9 of Month 9 chrysanthemum pancake (gukhwajeon, 국화전, 菊花煎), fish roe (eo-ran, 어란, Hanja: 魚卵), honey citron tea (yuja-cheong, 유자청, Hanja: 柚子淸)

(동지, Hanja: 冬至)

Winter Solstice Rites to dispel bad spirits. Around December 22 in the solar calendar red bean porridge with rice dumplings (patjuk, 팥죽)
Seot-dal Geum-eum


New Year's Eve Staying up all night long with all doors open to receive ancestral spirits Last day of Month 12 mixed rice with vegetables (bibimbap, 비빔밥), bean powder rice cakes (injeolmi, 인절미), traditional biscuits (han-gwa, 한과, Hanja: 韓菓)

There are also many regional festivals celebrated according to the lunar calendar.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Korean Holidays". Life in Korea. Archived from the original on 2012-07-13.
  2. ^ Sohn, Ho-min (2006). Korean Language in Culture and Society. University of Hawaii Press. 86. ISBN 9780824826949. ...Korean calendars Calendars were adopted from China...
  3. ^ Reingold, Edward (2008). Calendrical Calculations. Cambridge University Press. 269. ISBN 9780521885409. ... Korea used the Chinese calendar for ...
  4. ^ Sohn, Ho-min (2006). "Korean Terms for Calendar and Horary Signs, Holidays and Seasons". Korean Language and Culture in Society. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 91–92. ISBN 9780824826949.
  • Pyeon, Prof. M. Y. The Folkloric Study of Chopail (Buddha's Birthday). Seoul: Minsokwon, 2002.