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Portrait of Dangun.jpg
Hangul 단군왕검
Hanja 檀君王儉
Revised Romanization Dangun Wanggeom
McCune–Reischauer Tan'gun Wanggŏm
IPA [tan.ɡun waŋ.ɡʌm]

Dan'gun (Hangul/ Hanja: 단군; 檀君; [tan.ɡun]) or Dan'gun Wanggeom (Hangul/ Hanja: 단군왕검; 檀君王儉 [tan.ɡun waŋ.ɡʌm]) was known according to ancient Korean mythology - the absolute ancestor of the Korean people and legendary founder of Gojoseon (Hangul/ Hanja: 고조선/ 古朝鮮 - meaning "Older Joseon") - the first ever Korean kingdom, around present-day Liaoning, Manchuria, and the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, which explains the development of the Korean language from the Tungusic-speaking people of the region in ancient times bordering geographically from Mongolian, Russian, Manchurian and Chinese due to ancestry.

He is said to be the "grandson of heaven" and "son of a bear", and to have founded the kingdom in 2333 BC. The earliest recorded version of the Dangun legend appears in the 13th-century Samguk Yusa (Hangul/ Hanja: 삼국유사/三國遺事 - "Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms"), which cites China's Book of Wei (Korean Hangul/ Hanja: 위서/魏書 - wi-seo) and Korea's lost historical record Gogi (Hangul/ Hanja: 고기, 古記).[1]

Dan'gun is quite known and is perhaps associated in Mongolia during or possibly on/before the descent of Genghis Khan as Tengri, the "Heavenly Father" which Genghis devotedly worshipped.


Dangun's ancestry legend begins with his grandfather Hwan-in (Hangul/ Hanja: 환인/桓因), the "Lord of Heaven". Hwan-in had a son, Hwan-ung (Hangul/ Hanja: 환웅/桓雄), who yearned to live on the earth among the valleys and the mountains. Hwan-in permitted Hwan-ung and 3,000 followers to descend onto holy mountain revered by Koreans, Baekdu Mountain (Hangul/ Hanja: 백두산/白頭山, "White-head (capped) Mountain"), where Hwan-ung founded the Sinsi (Hangul/ Hanja: 신시/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.[2] Legend attributes the development of acupuncture and moxibustion to Dan'gun.[3]

A tiger and a bear prayed to Hwan-ung that they might become human. Upon hearing their prayers, Hwan-ung gave them 20 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, Ung-nyeo (Hangul/ Hanja: 웅녀/熊女 - "Bear-Woman") . The bear and the tiger are said to represent two tribes that sought the favor of the heavenly prince.[4]

The bear-woman (Hangul/ Hanja:: Ung-nyeo; 웅녀/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 (Hangul신단수; Hanja神檀樹; RRshindansu) to be blessed with a child. Hwan-ung, moved by her prayers, took her for his wife and soon she gave birth to a son named Dan'gun Wanggeom.[5]

Dan'gun ascended to the throne, built the mythical walled city of Asadal (Hangul/ Hanja:아사달/阿斯達) - similar to the Greek legend of the Iliad, "city of Troy" - situated near Pyongyang (the location is disputed and unverified by South Korean scholar as it is legendary) and called the kingdom Joseon (Hangul/ Hanja: 조선/ 朝鮮 - the "proper [ancient] name for the nation and kingdom of Korea") —referred to today as Gojoseon - "Old/Ancient Joseon", so as not to be confused with the Joseon that was established much later in modern times. He then moved his capital to Asadal on Mount Paeg'ak (Hangul/ Hanja: 백악산/白岳山), or Mount Gunghol (Hangul/ Hanja: 궁홀산/弓忽山) which the nation lasted for around 1,500 years in folklore.[6]


Emperor Dan'gun's rule is usually calculated to begin in 2333 BC, based on the description of the Dongguk Tonggam (1485) contrary to the 40th year of the reign of the legendary Chinese Emperor Yao.[7] Other sources vary somewhat, but also put it during Yao's reign (traditional dates: 2357 BC-2256 BC). The Samguk Yusa states Dan'gun 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.[8]

A South Korean postage stamp in 1956 (Dangi 4289)

Until 1961, the official South Korean era (for numbering years) was called the Dan-gi (Hangul단기; Hanja檀紀), which began in 2333 BC (D.G. year = any year plus + 2333; e.g. D.G. 4289 = Gregorian year 1956 + 2333 BC). Followers of Daejongism considered October 3 in the Korean calendar as Gae-ch'eonjeol (Hangul개천절; Hanja開天節 "Festival of the Opening of Heaven").[9] 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 early 30th century BC.[10]

15 March in the year D.G. 4340 (Gregorian year: 2007 AD) of the Dan'gun Era is called "Royal Day Festival" (hangul: 어천절 hanja: 御天節 romaja: eo-ch'eonjeol), the day that the semi-legendary founder Dan'gun returned to the heavens.


The earliest recorded version of the Dan'gun legend appears in the 13th century Samguk Yusa, which cites China's Book of Wei and Korea's lost history text Gogi (古記).[11] This is the best known and most studied version, but similar versions are recorded in the Jewang Un-gi by the late Goryeo scholar Yi Seung-hyu (이승휴/李承休, 1224-1300), as well as the Eungje Siju and Sejong Sillok of the early Joseon. Dan'gun is worshipped today as a deity by the followers of Cheondoism and Daejongism.[12]

In Taekwondo[edit]

Dan'gun 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."[13] Unusually for a hyeong, all the punches in Dan Gun are high section (eye level) symbolising Dan'gun scaling a mountain, see Dangun Hyeung.

Mausoleum of Dangun[edit]

North Korea's leader Kim Il-sung insisted that Dan'gun 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 Dan'gun.[14]

According to a publication by North Korea, the Mausoleum of Dan'gun (단군릉/檀君陵 - Dan'gun-reung, romanized: Dan'gul-leung) is the alleged burial site of the legendary Dan'gun.[15] The site occupies about 1.8 km² (0.70 mi²) on the slope of Taebaek Mountain (태백산 - T'aebaeksan) in Kangdong County (강동군 Kangdong-gun), outskirts of the capital Pyongyang in Pyongyang Province, North Korea. However, it is not to be confused with the Taebaek Mountain in South Korea. Dan'gun'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.

In popular culture[edit]

Dan'gun is a playable character in the computer game Empire Earth II in the first campaign, leading the Korean civilization. The Korean campaign is about early Korean history, from 2333 BC to 676 AD, divided into eight scenarios. The first two scenarios are about the founding of the state of Gojoseon and its first contacts with other Korean states and China, followed by scenarios about Korea's first wars with the Chinese and other Korean states.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 한국 브리태니커 온라인 ‘단군’ Encyclopædia Britannica online Korea ‘단군 Dangun’
  2. ^ The Story of Dan-gun
  3. ^ Needham, J; Lu GD (2002). Celestial lancets: a history and rationale of acupuncture and moxa. Routledge. pp. 262. ISBN 0-7007-1458-8. 
  4. ^ http://www.san-shin.org/Dan-gun_Myth.html
  5. ^ Tudor, Daniel (2013). Korea: The Impossible Country: The Impossible Country. Tuttle Publishing. pp. [1]. ISBN 146291022X. 
  6. ^ Tudor, Daniel (2013). Korea: The Impossible Country: The Impossible Country. Tuttle Publishing. pp. [2]. ISBN 146291022X. 
  7. ^ Richmond, Simon; Yu-Mei Balasingamchow (2010). Lonely Planet Korea. Lonely Planet. p. 25. ISBN 1742203566. 
  8. ^ Hong, Sung-wook (2008). Naming God in Korea: The Case of Protestant Christianity. OCMS. p. 56. ISBN 1870345665. 
  9. ^ Lim, SK (2011). Asia Civilizations: Ancient to 1800 AD. Asiapac Books Pte Ltd. p. 76. ISBN 9812295941. 
  10. ^ KCNA
  11. ^ Hong, Sung-wook (2008). Naming God in Korea: The Case of Protestant Christianity. OCMS. pp. [3]. ISBN 1870345665. 
  12. ^ Mason, David A. (1999). Spirit of the Mountains: Korea's San-Shin and Traditions of Mountain-worship. Hallim Publishing. pp. [4]. ISBN 1565911075. 
  13. ^ Kemerly, Tony; Steve Snyder (2013). Taekwondo Grappling Techniques: Hone Your Competitive Edge for Mixed Martial Arts. Tuttle Publishing. pp. [5]. ISBN 1462909914. 
  14. ^ Tertitskiy, Fyodor (6 June 2016). "The good things in North Korea". NK News. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  15. ^ 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 [6]. 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: