Thursday, December 17, 2009
Meditation on the Korean Flag
Is there any National flag that has as much to say as the Korean flag? It has the mysticism of the East and its philosophy in symbols, easily understood with little explanation.
The Korean Flag has the Yin Yang symbol in the Center. The red is the yang and the blue is the yin. A harmony of opposites making one circle. The Yang is the masculine the Yin the feminine, positive and negative, hot and cold, day and night, the harmony of opposites; the Sun seen on the sunny side of the mountain, the shade on the other side. You need both for the whole. They react with each other for harmony and wholeness.
The flag is called 'Tae Keuk Ki" the Tae Keuk means the ultimate, the cause of all things,the Great Absolute in Chinese Philosophy, the source of the yin and yang. The 'Ki' means flag. Christians have no difficulty in seeing this as God.
The trigram on the top left of the flag (3 unbroken lines) symbolize heaven- creativity, firmness. (6 lines on the opposite bottom right) earth- yielding,receptive. (4 lines bottom left) water -profound,meaningful. (5 lines top right ) fire-illumination, intelligence. These trigrams come from the Book of Change.
The white background of the flag is Korea's traditional color. In my first parish I decided to paint the upper part of the walls of the Church a red color that I thought would be a good attempt at inculturation ( becoming more like the Koreans). Well, after painting the Church a dark red I got a lot of bad feedback. They did not like the red it reminded them of a Buddhist temple. So I had to paint the upper wall a brown which they accepted but they would have been pleased if it stayed the plaster white that it was.
Red was not a color that Koreans were attracted to in the past. It is a Favorite of the Chinese and since the Koreans have taken the yin yang thinking from China and the Taoists, it was only right that they accepted their colors; however it was not the color that the Christians wanted on the wall of their church. My familiarity with what I thought was their culture was not that of my Christians.
Korea has a preference for white. In the old days you would see many in white clothes, men and woman, white rice paper for windows and white interiors. The Korean flag has the simple white clean background with which the Koreans can identify easily.