Reading Time: 5 minutes

by: Hugo J. Smal

In the first episode of the Korean television drama The Arthdal ​​Chronicles, it becomes clear that the myth of Dangun is being reinterpreted. Arthdal ​​is a corruption of Asadal, the capital of Go-Joseon. Dangun, a shaman probably from Siberia established this state in 2333 BC. According to the myth. Dangun is still very popular in Korea because of this.

First episode Arthdal Chronicles.

The tribal leader of the Arthdal ​​federation is Sanung. He has a bearskin for a cloak. It shows that the Arthdal ​​tribe worship bears have the animal as a totem. Negotiations are taking place between Neuanthal and the Asdal. The Neuanthals are, of course, Neaderthalers. They appear with tiger bone hats and tiger skins around their shoulders. They worship tigers. Sanung van Arthdal ​​shows the Neuanthalers beans, barley, sorghum, mugwort and garlic and proposes to build an agricultural society together. However, the Neuanthal refuse to become farmers. They don’t eat mugwort and garlic. Hunters want meat. They leave the negotiations and return to their part of the federation. Here they are nearly wiped out by the Arth Valley.

You can see all this in the first episode, but the story develops further. Go and see because it is an integrating story. Exciting and beautifully presented. This is about the union of Arthdal ​​Chronicles and Dangun.

Storyline Arthdal Chronicles.

Eun Som (Song Joong-ki) Tan Ya (Kim Ji-Won) Ta Gon (Jang Dong-Gun)

Set in the fictional land of Arthdal during ancient times. Eun Som was born with a fate to bring disaster to Arthdal. Due to his mother’s struggles to save him, he goes through hardships and grows up. He appears again in Arthdal. Ta Gon is a war hero of Arthdal. He has paved the way for Arthdal to become a prosperous city nation. He is the most powerful person in Arthdal. Ta gon dreams of becoming the first king of Arthdal. Tan Ya was born with the same fate as Eun Som. She is the successor of the Wahan Tribe. Going through hardships, she realized her mission. She lives under the highest honour. Her ambition is to become a politician.—AsianWiki

Arthdal Chronicles and Dangun.

The Dangun myth tells of the founding of Korea. It serves as the origin of the national identity and collective self-esteem of the Korean people.

Arthdal ChroniclesHongikingan is central. This political philosophy is the first to advocate the well-being of humanity. It is a system of government that, hundreds of years before modern Western constitutional governments, conferred human rights and dignity on the people themselves.
Even during the most gruelling historical experiences, one strives for an ideal nation. The people have a high level of spiritual orientation. There is religious freedom. People regard each other as members of a large family. Together they are progressive. This is still manifested in the entrepreneurial spirit of the Korean people.

In the Samkuk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) we read:

A long time ago, Hwanin, the God of Heaven, saw that his son Hwanung was interested in the human world. As Hwanin gazed at the area around Mount Taebaek, he saw that it was an ideal place for a kingdom. The people deserved his extra attention. He sent Hwanung down to rule the land and gave him the Three Seals of Heaven (Cheonbuiin). These are a sword, a bell, and a mirror. The bell still plays a major role in later episodes.

Arthdal Chronicles
With thanks.

Hwanung descended with three thousand men under the trees around the altar on the top of Mount Taebaek. Hwanung built Asadal on the slopes beneath a sandalwood tree, hence his other name of ‘Lord of the Pakdal tree’ or Sandalwood Prince. There he oversaw some three hundred and sixty human affairs. He planted grain, helped people in their lives and illnesses. The ruler punished where necessary and supervised good and evil. He brought civilization and regulated nature. Also the Earl of Wind (pungbaek), Master of Rain (ubaek), and Master of Clouds (unsa). were under his command. These are his war gods.

Become human.

A bear and a tiger lived in a cave. They begged Hwanung to let them become human. Hwanung gave them divine mugwort and twenty garlic bulbs with the following order: “If you live from this and avoid sunlight for a hundred days, you will acquire the appearance of humans. The bear turned into a woman after twenty-one days of observance of the taboos. The tiger did not adhere to it and therefore did not receive a human body. Every day Ungnyeo (Bear Woman) prayed under the Sindansu (Divine Altar Tree) for a child. But there was no one she could marry. Hwanung, therefore, turned into a man and married Ungnyeo. She gave birth to a son named Dangun Wanggeom.

Fortress Pyeongyang.

Dangun made the fortress of Pyeongyang his capital and called his kingdom Joseon or The Land of the Morning Calm. One thousand and five hundred years into Dangun’s rule moved to Jangdanggyeong and then to Asadal, where at the age of 1908, he became Sansin, the still worshipped Mountain God. According to tradition, he now has a contemplative life at the Heavenly Lake on Mt. Paektu.

Later inheritance.

The Dangun legend has cropped up several times over the centuries. She is still a powerful myth even today. During the Goryeo Dynasty ((892 – 936), Pyongyang was chosen as the capital. After all, it was the traditional first capital of Dangun and the Korean people. In the art of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910 CE), the shaman mountain god Sanshin is often depicted in the guise of Dangun wearing a crown. During the Japanese occupation of Korea, Dangun was worshipped by the Taejong-gyo sect as a possible returning saviour of the nation.

The tomb of Dangun.

During the Empire period (1895-1910 CE) and again during the Republic of Korea from 1948 to 1961 CE, the calendar counted from Go-Joseon’s founding date in 2333 BCE.
In modern South Korea, October 3 is recognized as Dangun’s birthday. It is celebrated as National Foundation Day (Kaechonjol). Finally, there is evidence that the myth still has political resonance in North Korea’s claim that it discovered the tomb of this legendary figure near Pyongyang in 1993 CE. North Korea, therefore, sees itself as the heir to Korea’s first cultural hero.

My thoughts about Dangun and the Arthdal Chronicles

I think the Dangun Myth and The Artdhal Chronicles both have as their main subject is the settlement of the Bronze Age. Homo Sapiens take over from the Neanderthals. A Shamanistically controlled Kingdom replaces the federation of different tribes.
It is suspected that Dangun represents a tribe from Siberia. They took bronze and established the first peasant settlements in Korea. The tribe had a Shaman as its leader and professed an animistic faith.
Shamanism still plays a role in Korea. A Mudang is regularly consulted during events. Dangun, or the mountain god, has its altar in every Buddhist temple.

After watching Arthdal Chronicles 1.

After season 1 of the Artdhal Chronicles, we know that Eun Som is on his way to Arthdal. He is probably Dangun. Tan Ya is the most powerful Shaman but is under the strong rule of Tagon. He is the personification of evil. Eun Som and Tanya will probably launch the attack together. But we’ll see all that in season 2. I hope!