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Portrait of Dangun.jpg
Portrait of Dangun
Korean name
Revised RomanizationDangun Wanggeom
McCune–ReischauerTan'gun Wanggŏm
IPA[tan.ɡun waŋ.ɡʌm]

Dangun (단군; 檀君; [tan.ɡun]) or Dangun Wanggeom (단군왕검; 檀君王儉; [tan.ɡun waŋ.ɡʌm]) was the legendary founder and god-king of Gojoseon, the first Korean kingdom, around present-day Liaoning, Manchuria, and the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. He is said to be the "grandson of heaven"[1] and "son of a bear",[2] and to have founded the kingdom in 2333 BC. The earliest recorded version of the Dangun legend appears in the 13th-century Samguk Yusa, which cites China's Book of Wei and Korea's lost historical record Gogi (고기, 古記).[3]


Dangun's ancestry legend begins with his grandfather Hwanin (환인/桓因), the "Lord of Heaven". Hwanin had a son, Hwanung (환웅/ Hanja: 桓雄), who yearned to live on the earth among the valleys and the mountains. Hwanin permitted Hwanung and 3,000 followers to descend onto Baekdu Mountain, where Hwanung founded the Sinsi (신시/ Hanja: 神市, "City of God"). Along with his ministers of clouds, rain and wind, he instituted laws and moral codes and taught humans various arts, medicine, and agriculture.[4] Legend attributes the development of acupuncture and moxibustion to Dangun.[5]

A tiger and a bear prayed to Hwanung that they might become human. Upon hearing their prayers, Hwanung gave them twenty cloves of garlic and a bundle of mugwort, ordering them to eat only this sacred food and remain out of the sunlight for 100 days. The tiger gave up after about twenty days and left the cave. However, the bear persevered and was transformed into a woman. The bear and the tiger are said to represent two tribes that sought the favor of the heavenly prince.[6]

The bear-woman (Ungnyeo; 웅녀/ Hanja: 熊女) was grateful and made offerings to Hwanung. However, she lacked a husband, and soon became sad and prayed beneath a "divine birch" tree (Korean신단수; Hanja神檀樹; RRshindansu) to be blessed with a child. Hwanung, moved by her prayers, took her for his wife and soon she gave birth to a son named Dangun Wanggeom.[7]

Dangun ascended to the throne, built the walled city of Asadal situated near Pyongyang (the location is disputed) and called the kingdom Joseon—referred to today as Gojoseon "Old/Ancient Joseon" (고조선, Hanja: 古朝鮮) so as not to be confused with the later kingdom of Joseon (조선, Hanja: 朝鮮) that was established much later. He then moved his capital to Asadal on Mount Paegak or Mount Gunghol.[8]


Emperor Dangun's rule is usually calculated to begin in 2333 BCE, based on the description of the Dongguk Tonggam (1485) contrary to the 40th year of the reign of the legendary Chinese Emperor Yao.[9] Other sources vary somewhat, but also put it during Yao's reign (traditional dates: 2357 BC-2256 BC). The Samguk Yusa states Dangun ascended to the throne in the 50th year of Yao's reign, while Annals of the Joseon Dynasty says the first year and Dongguk Tonggam says the 25th year.[10]

A South Korean postage stamp in 1956 (Dangi 4289)

Until 1961, the official South Korean era (for numbering years) was called the Dangi (Korean단기; Hanja檀紀), which began in 2333 BC. Followers of Daejongism considered October 3 in the Korean calendar as Gaecheonjeol (Korean개천절; Hanja開天節 "Festival of the Opening of Heaven").[11] This day is now a public holiday in South Korea in the Gregorian calendar called "National Foundation Day". North Korea dates Dangun's founding of Gojoseon to the early 30th century BC.[12]

15 March in the year 4340 of the Dangun Era is called "Royal Day Festival" (hangul: 어천절 hanja: 御天節 romaja: eo-cheon-jeol), the day that the semi-legendary founder Dangun returned to the heavens.


The earliest recorded version of the Dangun legend appears in the 13th century Samguk Yusa (삼국유사/ Hanja: 三國遺事), which cites China's Book of Wei and Korea's lost history text Gogi (고기/ Hanja: 古記).[13] This is the best known and most studied version, but similar versions are recorded in the Jewang Un-gi (제왕운기/ Hanja: 帝王韻紀) by the late Goryeo scholar Yi Seunghyu (이승휴/ Hanja: 李承休, 1224-1300), as well as the Eungje Siju (응제시주/ Hanja: 應製詩註) and Sejong Sillok (세종실록; commonly known as "Annals of the Joseon Dynasty", Sejong Jang-heon Dae-wang Shil-lok 세종장헌대왕실록/ Hanja: 世宗莊憲大王實錄) of the early Joseon. Dangun is worshipped today as a deity by the followers of Cheondoism and Daejongism.[14]

In Taekwondo[edit]

Dangun is the second pattern or hyeong in the International Taekwon-Do Federation form of the Korean martial art taekwondo. Students learn that the hyeong represents "the holy legendary founder of Korea in the year 2333 BC."[15] Unusually for a hyeong, all the punches in Dan Gun are high section (eye level) symbolising Dangun scaling a mountain (see Dangun Hyeung).

Mausoleum of Dangun[edit]

North Korea's leader Kim Il-sung insisted that Dangun was not merely a legend but a real historical person. As consequence, North Korean archaeologists were compelled to locate the purported remains and grave of Dangun.[16]

According to a publication by North Korea, the Mausoleum of Dangun is the alleged burial site of the legendary Dangun.[17] The site occupies about 1.8 km² (0.70 mi²) on the slope of Taebaek Mountain in Kangdong, not to be confused with the Taebaek Mountain in South Korea. Dangun's grave is shaped like a pyramid, about 22 m (72 ft) high and 50 m (164 ft) on each side.

Many observers and historians outside of North Korea, including South Korea, consider the site controversial.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Melton, J. Gordon (2014). Faiths Across Time: 5,000 Years of Religious History. 1. ABC-Clio. pp. [1]. ISBN 1610690265.
  2. ^ Kang, Chae-ŏn (2006). The Land of Scholars: Two Thousand Years of Korean Confucianism. Homa & Sekey. pp. [2]. ISBN 1931907374.
  3. ^ 한국 브리태니커 온라인 ‘단군’ Encyclopædia Britannica online Korea ‘단군 Dangun’
  4. ^ The Story of Dan-gun Archived 2011-09-03 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Needham, J; Lu GD (2002). Celestial lancets: a history and rationale of acupuncture and moxa. Routledge. pp. 262. ISBN 0-7007-1458-8.
  6. ^ http://www.san-shin.org/Dan-gun_Myth.html
  7. ^ Tudor, Daniel (2013). Korea: The Impossible Country: The Impossible Country. Tuttle Publishing. pp. [3]. ISBN 146291022X.
  8. ^ Tudor, Daniel (2013). Korea: The Impossible Country: The Impossible Country. Tuttle Publishing. pp. [4]. ISBN 146291022X.
  9. ^ Richmond, Simon; Yu-Mei Balasingamchow (2010). Lonely Planet Korea. Lonely Planet. p. 25. ISBN 1742203566.
  10. ^ Hong, Sung-wook (2008). Naming God in Korea: The Case of Protestant Christianity. OCMS. p. 56. ISBN 1870345665.
  11. ^ Lim, SK (2011). Asia Civilizations: Ancient to 1800 AD. Asiapac Books Pte Ltd. p. 76. ISBN 9812295941.
  12. ^ KCNA
  13. ^ Hong, Sung-wook (2008). Naming God in Korea: The Case of Protestant Christianity. OCMS. pp. [5]. ISBN 1870345665.
  14. ^ Mason, David A. (1999). Spirit of the Mountains: Korea's San-Shin and Traditions of Mountain-worship. Hallim Publishing. pp. [6]. ISBN 1565911075.
  15. ^ Kemerly, Tony; Steve Snyder (2013). Taekwondo Grappling Techniques: Hone Your Competitive Edge for Mixed Martial Arts. Tuttle Publishing. pp. [7]. ISBN 1462909914.
  16. ^ Tertitskiy, Fyodor (6 June 2016). "The good things in North Korea". NK News. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  17. ^ G. John, Ikenberry; Chung-in Moon (2008). The United States and Northeast Asia: debates, issues, and new order Asia in world politics. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 204 [8]. ISBN 0742556395.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Dangun Wanggeom
Regnal titles
New creation King of Gojseon
c. 2333 BC – c. 2240 BC
Next known title holder: