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For the taekwondo poomsae, see Taegeuk (taekwondo).
The taegeuk found on the flag of South Korea.
Korean name
Hangul 태극
Hanja 太極
Revised Romanization Taegeuk
McCune–Reischauer T'aegŭk

Taegeuk (Hangul태극; hanja太極, Korean pronunciation: [tʰɛgɯk̚]) refers to the universe from which all things and values are derived.[1][2] It is also the symbol that makes up the center of the flag of South Korea and the source for its name, taegeukgi (hangul: 태극기, where gi means "flag").[3] The taegeuk is commonly associated with Korean Taoism philosophical values[4] as well as Korean shamanism.[5]


The Pal Gwae (Bagua) from Daoism
(palgwae = "eight trigrams", Hangul: 팔괘 , hanja: 八卦 )

The origins of the taegeuk design in the Korean peninsula had been believed to date back to the seventh century,[3] but recent excavations show that the existence goes back much further. A precious sword decorated with this design, was dated back in the 5th and 6th century during the Silla period.[6][7] In the compound of Gameunsa,[3] a temple built in 628 during the reign of King Jinpyeong of Silla, a stone object, perhaps the foundation of a pagoda, is carved with the taegeuk design.[8] Traces of taegeuk designs have also been found in the remains of the ancient cultures of Korea; in a Goguryeo tomb and in Silla remains.

In 2008, a 1400-year-old artifact with the taegeuk pattern was found in the Bogam-ri tombs of Baekje at Naju, South Jeolla Province, making it the oldest taegeuk found in Korea, predating by 682 years the taegeuk at Gameunsa.[9][10]

The taegeuk has been in use for the majority of written history[11] and also in the indigenous religions of Korea.[5] In Goryeo and Joseon, the design was later used to represent Daoism in Korea and to express the hope for harmony of yin and yang[3] to enable the people to live happy lives with good government.[12] The blue and red swirling semicircles of the Taegeuk pattern have existed since ancient times.[11]

South Korean flag[edit]

The taegeuk symbol is most prominently displayed on South Korea's national flag, called the taegeukgi (along with four of the eight trigrams used in divination). Because of the taegeuk's association with the national flag, it is often used as a patriotic symbol, as are the colors red, blue, and black. The “geon” trigram (☰) represents the heaven, spring, east, and justice. The “gon” trigram (☷) symbolizes the earth, summer, west, and vitality, the “gam” trigram (☵) the moon, winter, north, and wisdom, and the “ri” trigram (☲) the sun, autumn, south, and fruition. The four trigrams supposedly move in an endless cycle from “geon” to “ri” to “gon” to “gam” and back to “geon” in their pursuit of perfection.[13] The white background symbolizes the homogeneity, integrity and peace-loving nature of the Korean people. Traditionally, Koreans often wore white clothing, earning the nickname “white-clothed people” and therefore the color white epitomizes the Korean people.[11][13]

Paralympic usage[edit]

The official paralympic symbol for the Paralympic Games used by the International Paralympic Committee had three taegeuk-like swirls in its logo prior to the end of the 2004 Summer Paralympics, when it was replaced with three Agitos. The usage of the swirls started at the 1988 Summer Paralympics in Seoul, using five Taegeuk designs arranged similarly to the Olympic Rings, with the same set of five colors.

Tricolored Taegeuk[edit]

A popular variant in Korea is the tricolored taegeuk (Hangul: 삼색의태극 or 삼태극), which adds a yellow lobe or "pa" (hanja: Hangul: ), representing humanity, to the red and blue pa which represent heaven & earth. The samsaeg-ui taegeuk is frequently seen as a design on the face of hand fans. A rendition of the tricolored taegeuk also appeared in the official logo of the 1988 Summer Olympics accompanied by the five Olympic rings.[14] A similar symbol is used by the Miss Asia Pacific World Beauty Pageant, which was hosted in South Korea from its inception in 2011 until 2014, and most recently hosted in Thailand in 2015.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gukgiwon (국기원) (2005). Taekwondo textbook. Seoul: 오성출판사. p. 303. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  2. ^ Rogers, William Elford (1994). Interpreting Interpretation: Textual Hermeneutics as an Ascetic Discipline. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 303. ISBN 9780271010618. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d Korean overseas information service (2003). Handbook of Korea. (11. ed.). Seoul: Korean Overseas Information Service. p. 568. ISBN 9788973750054. Retrieved 3 March 2016. 
  4. ^ Kim, Sang Yil; Ro, Young Chan (1984). Hanism as Korean mind : interpretation of Han philosophy. Los Angeles, Calif.: Eastern Academy of Human Sciences. p. 66. ISBN 0932713009. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Korea's Sam-Taegeuk Symbol. san-shin.org, dedicated to the sacred mountains of Korea.
  6. ^ Proceedings of the International Symposium on Cultivation and Utilization of Asian, Sub-tropical, and Underutilized Horticultural Crops: Seoul, Korea, August 13-19, 2006
  7. ^ 한국학 의 과제 와 전망: 제 5회 국제 학술 회의 세계 한국학 대회 논문집
  8. ^ 경주감은사지 Encyclopedia of Korea
  9. ^ 국내 最古 태극무늬, 1400년 만에 햇빛 Dong-A Science, Yoon wan-jun, 2009-06-04
  10. ^ "Oldest Taegeuk Pattern Found in Naju". Koreatimes.co.kr. 2009-06-03. Retrieved 2013-01-12. 
  11. ^ a b c Islam, M. Rafiqul (2014). Unconventional Gas Reservoirs: Evaluation, Appraisal, and Development. Elsevier. p. 352. ISBN 9780128005941. Retrieved 3 March 2016. 
  12. ^ An Illustrated Guide to Korean Culture - 233 traditional key words by The National Academy of the Korean Language
  13. ^ a b Ludden, Ken (2010). Mystic Apprentice Volume 3: Meditative Skills with Symbols and Glyphs Supplemental. p. 131. ISBN 9780557728503. Retrieved 3 March 2016. 
  14. ^ http://www.aldaver.com/Images/Os/lg1988sm.gif

External links[edit]