The Legend of Dan-gun Wanggeom
Samguk Yusa: Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea (Pages 17
Written by 일연 (一然) (iryeon), translated
by Ha Tae-hung and Grafton K. Mintz
In the old book it is written that in ancient times the heavenly king
환인 (桓因) (hwanin) had a young son whose
name was Hwanung . The boy wished to descend from heaven and live in the human world.
His father, after examining three great mountains, chose 태백산
(太白山) (taebaeksan) as a suitable place for his heavenly
son to bring happiness to human beings. He gave Hwanung three heavenly treasures,
and commanded him to rule over his people.
With three thousand of his loyal subjects Hwanung descended from heaven and appeared
under a sandalwood tree on Taebaeksan. He named the place 신시
(神市) (sinsi) and assumed the title of Hwanung Cheonwang,
also meaning heavenly king. He led his ministers of wind, rain and clouds in teaching
the people more than three-hundred and sixty useful arts, including agriculture
and medicine, inculcated moral principles and imposed a code of law.
In those days there lived a bear and a tiger. They asked of Hwanung to be blessed
with incarnation as human beings. The king took pity on them and gave them each
a bunch of mugwort and twenty cloves of garlic, saying “If you eat this sacred
food and do not see the sunlight for one hundred days, you will become human beings.”.
The bear and the tiger took the food and ate it, and retired into a cave. After
twenty-one days the bear, who had faithfully observed the king’s instructions,
became a woman. But the tiger, who had disobeyed, remained in its original form.
But the woman could find no husband, so she prayed under the sandalwood tree to
be blessed with a child. Hwanung heard her prayers and married her. She conceived
and bore a son who was called Dan-gun Wanggeom, the King of Sandalwood.
In the fiftieth year of the reign of Yao, Dan-gun went to Pyeongyang, set up his
royal residence there and bestowed the name Joseon upon his kingdom.
Later Dan-gun moved his capital to Asadal on Taebaeksan and ruled 1500 years. Dan-gun
became a mountain god at the age of 1,908.