Monday, 31 October 2011

Korean National Flag 태극기

The national flag of South Korea is called 태극기 (tae-geuk-gi ; Hanja: 太極旗), where 태극 "the Great Absolute" is the red and blue symbol in the middle and 기 means "flag".

Source: wikipedia

The flag was designed in 1882 and became the official flag of the Republic of Korea in 1948. It has three parts:

  • a white background, which symbolises clarity, purity, and the peace-loving character of the Korean people
  • a red and blue lobed 태극 in the centre
    The upper red lobe stands for yang (양 ) and the bottom blue lobe stands for yin (음). The yin-yang symbolises the balance and harmony in nature of opposite forces and elements.
  • four black trigrams, one in each corner of the flag
    These trigrams are from the Eight Trigrams (Chinese: 八卦) of Chinese origins:
    • 건 (Hanja: 乾) - heaven, spring, east and humanity
    • 지 (Hanja: 地) - earth, summer, west and righteousness
    • 일 (Hanja: 日) - sun, autumn, south and courtesy
    • 감 (Hanja: 坎) - moon, winter, north and intelligence

The flag as a whole symbolises the ideal of Korean people developing forever in harmony with the universe.

In Chinese, 태극기 is 太极旗, which is very close to Korean Hanja 太極旗. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since Hanja means Chinese characters, just like Kanji in Japanese. However, what I never realised until I started learning Korean is how similar Korean Hanja is to Chinese, even more so than Japanese Kanji.

No comments: