Author Archives: choirene

Korean Proverb

There is a proverb in Korea that is “티끌모아태산”

Original script: 티끌모아태산

Phonetic (Roman) script: Tikkeul moa tae-san

Transliteration: Dust collection becomes a mountain

Full translation: A penny saved is a penny earned (Though not a direct translation, it has a similar meaning of this English proverbial phrase)

Background:

My informant is a 20-year-old friend from Korea, identified as Y. She says it means that if you don’t give up and continue to work towards your goal, you will become successful and achieve your goals. She remembers this proverb because she thinks it’s applicable to her own life since she tends to give up very easily.

Thoughts:

I agree with Y about this proverb. I also tend to give up very easily when something doesn’t go the way that I planned. This proverb reminds us that we shouldn’t give up because every small effort will eventually accumulate to something bigger and through hardwork and effort, we will succeed. This applies to my own life because when I was a high school senior and applying to colleges, I didn’t get into a lot of schools that I wanted to. I had gone to a school that I didn’t really want to go to but found that it wasn’t for me. But I didn’t want to go through the college application process again and didn’t want to transfer. It was my mom who reminded me that I should at least put it the effort because it doesn’t hurt to try. The application process was a hard one, with many nights spent crying due to an existential crisis. I felt like giving up, but I pushed myself to write the best application I could and successfully transferred to USC.

Korean Proverb

There is a proverb in Korea that is “바늘도둑이 소도둑 된다”

Original script: 바늘도둑이 소도둑 된다

Phonetic (Roman) script: Baneul-dodook ee so-dodook dwaenda.

Transliteration: Needle thief cow thief becomes.

Full translation: Someone who steals small things will eventually steal bigger things.

Background:

My informant is a 20-year-old friend from Korea, identified as Y. She says it means that someone who starts stealing small things will eventually steal bigger things. So, if someone starts off shoplifting a pen, they will grow up to commit bigger crimes like robbing a bank. Y says she heard about this proverb a few years ago and remembers it because when she looks at crimes committed in Korea, she hopes that bigger crimes like murder can be prevented and fixed, by basing it on smaller crimes committed.

Thoughts:

I agree with this proverb and it reminded me of a criminal psychology class I took at USC a few years ago. In the class, we learned that someone who hurts animals will have a higher chance of committing murder and becoming a psychopath. I agree with Y’s thoughts about this piece because it is small crimes that we have to punish to prevent the criminal from committing bigger crimes in the future.

Korean Proverb

Main Piece:

There is a proverb in Korea that is “소잃고 외양간 고친다”

Original script: 소잃고 외양간 고친다

Phonetic (Roman) script: So illko waeyanggan gochinda.

Transliteration: After losing cow, fix cowshed

Full translation: No point mending the cowshed after the losing the cow

Background:

My informant is a 20-year-old friend from Korea, identified as Y. She says it means that you don’t look ahead to your problems and wait until the very last minute or sometimes after the problem has occurred to fix your problems. In other words, in times of crisis you don’t have plan and you only start preparing after the crisis has begun.

Y saw this proverb in a collection of Korean proverbs and it stood out to her because she thought it was very applicable to everyday life. She relates it to her own personal life by saying that when she studies or does something, she likes looking ahead to her problems to prevent that problem coming back to bite her later. She said that instead of regretting that she should have studied more on the day of an exam, she wants to compliment herself for working hard and that’s why she thinks of this proverb.

Thoughts:

I think this proverb is very relatable to myself as well. I have a habit of regretting my actions after I do them and I often go back and think about what I should have done. I constantly think about “what-ifs” and my dad always tells me to not dwell on the past and think about the future. As this proverb says, there’s no point fixing the cowshed after the cow has fled. In real life, there’s no point thinking about what should have been after what already happened.

The Maharaja and The Rice–An Indian Tale

Main Piece:

The story goes, a maharaja (a king) was bored and commissioned a lowly mathematician to create a new game for him. The mathematician presented the maharaja with the game of chess. The maharaja was impressed with the game and offered the inventor any reward he wanted. The mathematician requested a single grain of rice. The maharaja said that it was too small of a reward, so the mathematician asked that a single grain of rice be placed on the first square of the chessboard. Then, on the next square two grains of rice, on the third square four grains of rice, with each square having double the amount of the previous square. The maharaja, though still believing it to be a too small reward, agreed.

The maharaja ordered his treasurer to pay the agreed upon sum. A week later, the mathematician returned to ask the maharaja why he had not received his reward. The maharaja, outraged that the treasurer had disobeyed him, summoned the treasurer and demanded to know why the mathematician had not been paid. The treasurer explained that by the time you get even halfway through the chessboard, the amount of grain required was more than the entire kingdom possessed. (By the 41st square on the chessboard, the maharaja would owe more than a trillion grains of rice.) There are also multiple endings to this store as well.

  1. The maharaja kills the mathematician to avoid paying the reward.
  2. The mathematician reveals himself to a God and tells the king he does not have to provide the reward. Just remember the lesson.

Background:

This is a summary of what my roommate, B, told me when I asked her if there were any Indian stories that she knew. B think she read about it in a bookstore that was a part of the temple her parents went to when she was younger. Most of the books were about Indian stories, but she remembers this in particular because it is pretty famous not just in India, but in the math and finance world. She says it’s a great illustration of exponential, a concept that is hard to visualize/grasp.

Context:

B said this was a legend about the day before Holi. This was collected from a message exchange with B since we were both busy with assignments and couldn’t coordinate a time that worked for both of us. I asked her questions and she answered them and then I summarized what she told me to make it into a coherent story.

Thoughts:

I think I heard this story somewhere before. I don’t recall if it was the same Indian king, but I remember hearing the concept of the grain of rice expanding exponentially. Maybe it was from some kind of math problem, but just as B said, I think this is a great illustration of the exponential. I think it kind of tells a lesson that you should always think before you answer because the maharaja didn’t think about his options and could have almost starved his entire nation if the treasurer hadn’t caught his mistake.

Holika Dahan: The day before Holi

Main Piece:

The night before Holi, bonfires are lit in a ceremony known as Holika Dahan. The legend goes:

            The was once a young prince (he was a kid), the son of a tyrant king, who prayed to Rama (a deity in the Hinduism religion). The king thought himself to be a God and was furious that his son was worshipping another. The king told the young prince that unless he stopped worshipping Rama, he would punish him. The king’s sister, Holika, was blessed from birth as to never be harmed by fire. So, the king devised a punishment for his son for refusing to stop worshipping Rama. He would make the young prince burn in a fire.

As the king started a bonfire, he tauntingly asked his son, “Where is the god you worship? You will burn and no one will save you.” He started a bonfire and had his sister sit with the young prince in the fire to prevent him from escaping the flames. Then, something happened, the young prince wasn’t burning, the aunt was burning. (This is where the story diverges based on region).

  1. Rama stepped in to save the young prince and burn Holika
  2. Holika was blessed on the understanding that it can never be used to bring harm to anyone.
  3. Holika wore a shawl that would protect her from the fire. When she was sat down in the fire with the young prince on her lap, she prayed to Rama/Vishnu (gods are just reincarnations so technically same person but with different names and looks). Vishnu blew a gust of wind to knock the shawl off of Holika and on to the young prince, saving the kid and burning Holika.

Every year, the day before Holi, Indians light bonfires to celebrate Holika Dahan.

Background:

This is a summary of what my roommate, B, told me when I asked her about Indian traditions and festivals. She said her told her the story when she was kid and her family was in India during Holi. She saw the bonfires and asked them why they do it, so they told her that story. The ending they told her about was a combination of the one where Rama saves the prince and where the aunt dies because her blessing was not to be used to cause harm. From what she remembers, the story is supposed to be the age-old classic of good winning over evil with a bit of religion thrown in. 

Context:

B said this was a legend about the day before Holi. This was collected from a message exchange with B since we were both busy with assignments and couldn’t coordinate a time that worked for both of us. I asked her questions and she answered them and then I summarized what she told me to make it into a coherent story.

Thoughts:

I don’t know much about Indian traditions and I didn’t know about a tradition of the day before Holi. It was interesting to hear about a tradition that I didn’t know about. She said the message is good winning over evil, which is a broad concept and I think many different cultures have some kind of story with this basis. In fact, even the story of Cinderella or the Korean variation, Kong-Ji and Pat-Ji (refer to here) is about the good defeating evil.