Posterity of Heaven

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Posterity of Heaven
Hangul 천손
Hanja 天孫
Revised Romanization Cheonson
McCune–Reischauer Ch'ǒnson

Posterity of Heaven or Cheonson (천손, 天孫) designates the Korean people because they are considered the descendants of Heaven or the heavenly god. Based on historical records, the ancient Koreans generally worshiped the heavens and the sun, liked brightness, and considered their states governed by Heaven.[1]

Because the thought about the Posterity of Heaven, an archaic word says that the people's mind is equal to the Heaven's mind, which warns rulers of the significance of the people. The Korean national anthem, Aegukga supports this concept. The lyrics of Aegukga say "May our nation be eternal by the protection and help of Heaven." In addition, the National Foundation Day, Gaecheonjeol literally means the day when the sky was opened. It is natural that the sky should be opened for the Posterity of Heaven to found a nation.[2]

Title of rulers[edit]

In very ancient times, there were a divine regent who had supervised and taught the people as a representative of the Heavenly God. These divine regents were called Hwanin, Hwanung and Dangun, based on the period.

  • The Hwanin (환인, 桓因 or 桓仁) was a supervisory ruler at legendary Hwanguk. The word "hwan" in Hwanin is the radical of the Korean word that corresponds to "bright" in English, and it is believed that Hwan is originally used to represent the heavens. Because the Koreans think of themselves as the descendants of the Heavenly God, the ancient Koreans called themselves Hwan. The word "In" of Hwanin means a providential supervisor as a representative of the Heavenly God such that the benefits of the Heavenly God should be maximally served to the entire people, and the whole nation should be enlightened by the teaching of the Heavenly. Thus, Hwanin can be translated as Divine Regent.
  • The Hwanung (환웅, 桓雄) was a supervisory ruler at legendary Baedal, and the power of Hwanun seems to be stronger than Hwanin. Because the word "woong" of Hwanwoong means a preeminent person, and it seems that "In" is just replaced with "woong" to make the word. This implies that Hwanun was likely to be elected among the eminent people in nations. Korean legendary history books say that the ruler of Baedal nation was selected to be a ruler because he is so wise and brilliant. thus, Hwanun can be translated into Supreme Divine Regent.
  • The Dangun (단군, 檀君) was a ruler's title of Gojoseon, and it is said to a theocracy state. It is said that Gojoseon was founded at the place where many birch trees existed. At that time, people roughly called the Gojoseon as the Birchen Nation because hanja for "Dan" means a birch tree. At this time, the power of a ruler was stronger than Baedal nation so that the word "Gun" was used ("Gun" means a king). Thus, Dangun can be translated into Heavenly Regent King. Someone say that the pronunciation of Korean translation for Dan(檀) is similar with the pronunciation of the Korean word "bright." So, Dangun means the king of "Bright Nation."
  • The Taewang (태왕, 太王) was a ruler's title of Goguryeo. The "Tae" in Taewang means literally great. The people of Goguryeo also had the consciousness of the Posterity of Heaven, but the power of a ruler seemed to be more powerful than Gojoseon. Based on national religion, the whole universe is composed of three things such as the Heaven, the Earth and the Great. It is said that the Great is the noblest among them, and the Great connect and mediate the Heaven and the Earth. So, Taewang can be translated into Supreme King.

Korean kingdoms had used both titles of kings and emperors as the title of rulers because they thought that the highest rulers was Heaven, and all rulers must be a representative of Heaven. This concept of the Posterity of Heaven is somewhat different from the Chinese concept of the Son of Heaven. It is believed that the Chinese emperor governs the Chinese as the son of Heaven. But, the Koreans believe that they themselves are the descendants of Heaven, the Heavenly God governs them by himself, and a ruler of a nation is nothing but the supervisor as a representative of Heaven.

Anniversary sacrifice to Heaven[edit]

Because of the Koreans' thought about Heavenly offspring, they have had an anniversary sacrifice (month is as lunar calendar). Scholars say that dolmen in Manchuria and Korean Peninsula was an altar to sacrifice to Heaven.

  • Gojoseon: Sangdalje (상달제, 上月祭) at October.
  • Buyeo: Yeonggo (영고, 迎鼓) at November.
  • Dongye: Mucheon (무천, 舞天) at October.
  • Samhan: Gipungje (기풍제, 祈豊祭) at May, and Chusugamsaje (추수감사제, 秋收感謝祭, Harvest festival) at October.
  • Goguryeo: Dongmaeng (동맹, 東盟) at October.
  • Silla: Palgwanhoe (팔관회, 八關會). This sacrifice seems to be mixed with Buddhism.
  • Goryeo: Palgwanhoe (팔관회, 八關會), Choje (초제, 醮祭).
  • Joseon: Sajik Daeje (사직대제, 社稷大祭). Joseon was used to perform the national soil and grain ceremonies mixed with Korean Confucian traditions.


  1. ^ 단군학회 편저(1999), 한국종교와 단군 인식, 단군학회 (Editor: Dangun Institute, Korean National Religion and Understand of Dangun, Published by Dangun Institute)
  2. ^ 박인택, 한창수, 국경일에는 어떤 의미가 담겨있을까?-손에잡히는옛사람들의지혜13, 채우리 출간 (Author:Park Intaek, Han Changsu, The Meaning of National Hollidays, Published by Chaewoori)