The Symbols of Longevity in Korean Art and Culture

The Symbols of Longevity in Korean Art and Culture

In Korea, there are 10 symbols that are commonly used to express the wish for longevity, immortality, and harmony. These symbols reflect the natural and cultural values of Korea. They are often depicted in paintings, embroidery, pottery, and architecture. These symbols are: the sun, clouds, mountains, water, pine trees, turtles, deer, cranes, bamboo, and the herb of eternal youth.

**The Sun**
The Eternal Light and Life

The sun is a symbol of longevity and immortality because it never fails to rise every day and give light and life to all living things. It also nourishes the plants and animals. The sun has renewable energy that can be harnessed for solar power or thermal energy. The sun is a constant and dependable presence that does not change.

The Harmony of Yin and Yang

Clouds are a symbol of harmony and balance because they represent the combination of the dual principle of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang are the opposite forces that make up everything in the universe. They complement each other and create harmony when they are in balance. Clouds also resemble the shape of the herb of eternal youth, which is another symbol of longevity.

The Unchanging and Immovable

Mountains are a symbol of endurance and immortality because they are unchanging and immovable. They can withstand the passage of time and the elements. Mountains are also linked to Daoist immortals, who are said to dwell in the mountains or seek the herb of eternal youth there.

The Life-Giving and Powerful

Water is a symbol of life and longevity because it is essential for all living things. It can also symbolize harmony or power depending on how it flows. Water can be calm and peaceful like a lake or a river, or it can be fierce and unstoppable like a waterfall or a flood. Water is also versatile and adaptable as it can take different shapes or states in different environments.

**Pine Trees**
The Evergreen and Resistant

Pine trees are a symbol of immortality and resilience because they are evergreen, meaning they stay green throughout the seasons. They can also live up to 1,000 years, which is very long for a tree. Pine trees are resistant as they can bend under pressure rather than break. Pine trees are considered to be the national tree of Korea and are mentioned in their national anthem.

The Wise and World-Carrying

Turtles are a symbol of longevity and wisdom because they have a long lifespan and a slow but steady pace. They also have a curvy shell that resembles the shape of heaven, while their flat body resembles the shape of earth. In Taoist philosophy, turtles are supposed to carry the world on their back. In Buddhism, turtles are also an important symbol as they were used for divination in ancient times.

The Peaceful and Youthful

Deer are a symbol of harmony and happiness because they live peacefully in the forest with other animals. They also have a long lifespan and can find the herb of eternal youth with their keen sense of smell. Deer are graceful and gentle creatures that symbolize beauty and elegance.

The Faithful and Heavenly

Cranes are a symbol of eternal youth and fidelity because they have a long lifespan and choose a mate for life. They also have white feathers that signify purity and grace. Cranes can fly high in the sky, which makes them closer to heaven. Cranes are often depicted with peaches or the herb of eternal youth in their beaks.

The Strong and Flexible

Bamboo is a symbol of resilience and strength because it is strong and flexible at the same time. It can bend without breaking under pressure or wind. It can also grow fast and tall with little water or soil. Bamboo is a common symbol for scholars who value learning and perseverance.

**The Herb of Eternal Youth**
The Legendary Mushroom

The herb of eternal youth is a legendary mushroom that grants immortality to those who eat it. It is also known as Yeongji in Korean. It is said to grow only in remote mountains or islands where only deer or cranes can find it.

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