Author Archives: choirene

The Story of Princess Kaguya–A Japanese Tale

Main Piece

This is a Japanese tale my friend, identified as AI, told me about. I am identified as IC.

AI: There was an old bamboo cutter. One day, when he was gathering bamboo in the mountains, he came across a bamboo stalk that was shining very brightly. Wondering what it was, the old man cut the bamboo, and found a cute little girl inside. He thought it was a gift from the gods and took the little girl home. He showed the girl to his wife and she instantly fell in love with her. They named her Princess Kaguya and raised her with tender loving care. Kaguya grew up to become a very beautiful lady.

However, rumors about Princess Kaguya’s beauty spread throughout the country, and soon, five great young men came to ask her for her hand in marriage. Princess Kaguya just wanted to live a quiet life, so she came up with an idea. She said, “I will marry the one who can find what I want.”

Things she asked for were very difficult to find: a stone pot of Buddha, a cowry shell from the nest of a swallow, leather clothes made from the skins of the legendary mice, a branch from a jewel tree, and the five-colored jewels from the dragon neck. No man could find these things, and they all gave up.

As the day of the full moon approached, Princess Kaguya started crying as she looked at the moon.

“Why are you crying?” asked the old man and woman. “I am not of this land. I am from the moon. Escorts from the moon will come and take me back on the night of the full moon in August. I must return where I am from,” said Princess Kaguya. She told the old man and woman that she would miss them very much.

The old man and woman decided to protect Princess Kaguya from the moon escorts by placing warriors around the house. However, the warriors couldn’t move when they saw the escorts from the moon There was a blinding light and the warriors could not drive them away. Princess Kaguya thanked the old couple for their care and returned to the moon.

IC: What do you think this story means?

AI: I’m not sure but I think it’s more magical and beautiful compared to Momotaro. This story is also more popular to girls.

IC: Why is that?

AI: I’m not really sure but bamboos are always close to temples, which are beautiful places in Japan and that a beautiful girl was born from the bamboo is magical. Also, the story is so old but Princess Kaguya wants to find love of her own, not marriage that is a kind of arranged marriage. I think it shows that people will always look for love, even traditionally and now.


My informant is a 25-year-old Japanese woman who grew up mostly in Hong Kong and Korea. She currently works in Japan. She remembers hearing about this story when she was in Hong Kong and went to a Japanese cram school and the teachers told her this was crucial story she had to know as a Japanese.


I think this story talks about how you must always return to where you belong, which can be interpreted as you shouldn’t try to be someone you’re not. Kaguya eventually returns to the moon because that is where she belongs. Even if she wanted to stay, she couldn’t. Although in real life, there aren’t celestial beings from the moon, I think it can be applied to friendships and peer pressure. Growing up, children are often influenced by the opinions of their peers and it can drastically impact their future path. The wrong group of friends will send them down the wrong path. With the right group of friends, you will be on the good path and become someone who will have their own opinions and understand when you should stand up for your own beliefs.

The Story of Pan Gu–A Chinese Creation Story

This is a transcription of an interview with a friend from high school, identified as A. In this piece, I am identified as IC.

A: There is this one popular creation story in Chinese mythology that centers around a deity called 盤古 (pan gu). At first, he wasn’t really he wasn’t regarded as a deity. The world was in this free existence stage where nothing really existed yet. All of this nothing, like condensed into an egg which broke open and pan gu emerged. He pushed the sky out while he kept the earth down with his legs, so that’s where we get sky and earth.

Then, after like 18,000 years of us holding it like this he finally died, and his body decomposed to become different things. His breath became the wind; voice became thunder; left eye became the sun and his right eye, the moon.

His head became the mountains and his blood became like rivers another liquid stuff. His facial hair became the stars and he also had fur, so its fur became bushes and forests. The fleas on his fur were carried by the wind and became animals.

IC:  So, before he died there was nothing on the earth except for the sky and the earth?

A: Yeah, and the creation of man is that many years after pan gu had died a god came around earth and thought, “wow, it’s so lonely here” and because she was a God, you know she just created clay figures and animated them with life and thus man was born.

IC: Wow, okay. That’s strange. I don’t think I’ve heard this before.


My informant is 23 years old and she is my friend from high school, which was in Hong Kong. She went to New York for college and graduated last year. She is currently working in Hong Kong.


She said she read about this story in a book somewhere and she brought this story to my attention when I was having a casual conversation about traditions and myths that she knew about. She says she doesn’t particularly believe this was how the world was created but it’s just a form that exists since different cultures have their own creation stories.


I hadn’t heard this before but hearing it was interesting, since different religions and cultures have their own way of explaining how the world came to be. For Christians, God created the world in seven days, and there’s the theory of Big Bang. I know that there is a creation myth in Korean culture, which I’m not very familiar with. I remember vaguely reading about it when I was younger. Seeing different creation stories for cultures show how they interpret something as simple yet prominent as the creation of the world.

Annotation: For another version of this myth, refer to

“Pan Gu: Chinese Tale of Creation .” Shen Yun Performing Arts,

Kong-Ji and Pat-Ji, A Korean Cinderella Story

This is a story of Kong-Ji and Pat-Ji. It is a Korean version of Cinderella.

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Kong-Ji was a younger living with her dad in a small village. When she was young, her mother died and his dad brought in a new mother. The stepmother had a daughter called Pat-Ji. Whenever Kong-Ji’s dad wasn’t present, her stepmother and Pat-Ji treated her horribly and forced her to chores.

One day, there was a feast held in the village to celebrate the governor’s son’s birthday and everyone was invited. Kong-Ji wanted to go but her stepmother and Pat-Ji told her that she had to finish all her chores if she wanted to go. The job was to fill a broken jar full of water, pull the grass in the fields with insufficient tools. After she finished these chores, if she could weave her own clothing, then she could go to the feast.

Kong-Ji started filling the jar but noticed that it was impossible because it kept spilling out. Then, a toad appeared and filled the crack in the jar with his body to help her fill the jar.

Next, she had to plow the field and pull grass, but her hoe was made from wood instead of metal. Whenever she tried to use it, it would break, and Kong-Ji’s hands were full of cuts. A bull appeared and helped her plow the field. With the bull’s help, she was able to plow through the whole field.

Her next task was to weave clothing. A fairy appeared and helped her weave the clothing and Kong-Ji was able to get the work done a lot faster. The fairy made a beautiful garment and Kong-Ji was able to wear it to the feast and meet the governor’s son.

The governor’s son fell in love with Kong-Ji but she had to instantly leave when she spotted her stepmother and Pat-Ji who wanted to know the mysterious woman the governor’s son was taken by. While fleeing, she shed a pair of her shoes and the governor’s son wandered all around the village looking for the owner of the shoe until she found Kong-Ji.

Kong-Ji and the governor’s son got married and punished the stepmother and Pat-Ji.


This story is a popular children’s story in Korea. I had heard about it when I was younger, but this particular collection was translation of a version my friend told me about. She said she knew about this piece from hearing it from her own parents when she was younger. She doesn’t know if there are any meaning behind the story or if she learned anything from it. She says it’s just a story that she heard when she was younger.


This was collected from a casual conversation with a friend form Korea, who I asked about Korean children’s stories she heard about when she was younger.


Just like there’s Cinderella in Western cultures, Korea has their own variation of the story of an evil stepmother and her daughter who treats the adopted daughter horribly. I think this just shows that different cultures and countries have their own folk stories they tell children. Just as there are differences in the German and French version of Cinderella, Korea has their own version of Cinderella in the form of Kong-Ji and Pat-Ji. While the name isn’t the same, the premise is the same and it is a testament to the common folklore tropes in many cultures.

Annotation: For another version of this tale, refer to

Kang, Sungsook. “Kongjwi and Patjwi.” Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture, National Folk Museum of Korea,

산후조리 (sanhujori), Korean Postpartum care

Main Piece:

This is a translation of a conversation with my mom about “Sanhu-jori” which can vaguely be translated to postpartum care. My mom is identified as M, and I am identified as IC.

IC: Can you tell me about sanhujori? What is it?

M: After you give birth, your body is weak and tired so it is a traditional custom that new mothers should rest and recover. You should be careful and take care of yourself for about three weeks to a month.

IC: What do you have to do to take care of yourself? Are there any precautions you need to take?

M: Yes, typically you don’t eat hard, spicy or cold foods. You also have to stay warm with the baby so it’s harder in the summer since it’s hot. I think the precautions have become laxer now but when I had you and your brother, I wore socks to keep my feet warm and didn’t do any physical labour.

IC: If you can’t have hard, spicy or cold foods, what are you supposed to eat?

M: Traditionally you have mi-yeok-gook, which is Korean traditional seaweed soup. It’s warm, nutritious and easy to eat and I had it for all three meals, every day for three weeks.

IC: Wait, in Korea we eat seaweed soup on our birthday, does this tradition of sanhujori have anything to do with that?

M: Yes, it’s because the mother had it when the baby was born so it just keeps that tradition.

IC: Why is taking care of yourself after birth so important in Korea?

M: It is believed that if you didn’t take care of yourself, you have a higher risk of getting sick later. Like your bones would be weaker so you would have more pain in those areas.

IC: You had me in the US. What do you think are the differences between post-birth procedures and traditions in Korea and the US?

M: It’s very different. I don’t think the US has specific procedures of postpartum care. After you were born, I wasn’t feeling very well, and the nurse came in and asked if I wanted ice cubes to suck on. This was very surprising to me and I didn’t understand why. The first meal they gave me was like bread, orange juice and yogurt and it was very hard for me to stomach it. So, I asked your dad to make seaweed soup at home and bring it for me.

IC: Why do you think it’s so different?

M: I think it has to do with strength, bone structure and physique. When we were bringing you home, we had to put you in a car-seat and bring that to the car. It was very heavy for me and I had to ask your dad to help me but there was this woman who gave birth around the same time I did, and she lifted up the car-seat without any problems.

IC: So, how did you take care of yourself after I was born, since you had to rest?

M: When I was in Korea and had your brother, there was a sanhujori helper we hired to help around the house. And when you were born, my mother—so your grandmother—contacted her and asked if she could go to the US to help care for her daughter who had just given birth. She agreed, and my grandmother paid for the travel expenses and she came and helped me.


I vaguely knew about sanhujori but didn’t know the details of it since I’ve never experienced it myself. I thought it would be interesting to ask my mom about it and knew that she would have a unique insight into the differences of Asian and Western cultures and traditions since she had me in the US and my brother in Korea.


This was collected in an interview with my mom in a casual setting. I asked her about specific procedures that a new mom has to follow to take care of her body.


As this is something, I haven’t experienced myself, I thought it was interesting to hear about the traditions of Korea. It was also fascinating to hear the diffrences between Asian and Western cultures from my mom who has experienced both cultures. The difference really shows the variation of tradition, which is something we’ve talked about in this class. Just as fairytales and myths have variation from country to country and sometimes household to household, even something as simple as post-birth procedures are different. I think if I decide to have kids in the future, I will also try to do sanhujori if I can.

Tae-mong, Korean Conception Dreams

Main Piece:

The following is translation of a conversation with my mom, identified here as M, in Korean about “tae-mong”, Korean conception dreams. I am identified as IC.

IC: Can you tell me about tae-mong?

M: Tae-mong is a dream that you have either when you’re pregnant or about to be pregnant. Usually it’s the pregnant woman that has the dream but sometimes it’s people around you. When you have this dream, you usually know that it’s tae-mong

IC: How do you know?

M: It just feels a little different. The dream is clearer and something big either comes at you or you pick up something nice.

IC: Is there a specific time frame for when you have tae-mong?

M: There isn’t a specific time, but generally it’s in early or mid-pregnancy. But I had mine before, for both you and your brother.

IC: What was the dream for my brother?

M: I went to my in-law’s place where your dad’s grandmother lived. So, She and I were walking when a huge pig came towards me, bit my hand and didn’t let go. I screamed and screamed and woke up. So, I thought, this is either a tae-mong or a dream telling me to buy lottery. I wasn’t pregnant so I but the lottery which I didn’t win. But two months later, I became pregnant. Also, what’s fascinating about tae-mong is that when people hear it they guess the gender.

IC:  How do they know?

M: Normally if it’s a big or fierce animal, people say it’s a boy

IC: Is this guess usually correct?

M: It was right for me, but for some people it’s wrong. For girls it’s something small and pretty like flowers.

IC: What was the dream for me?

M: One day, I went up a mountain and there was a small, spring pool that was filled with clean and sparkly water. Inside, there were two small fish playing and I picked one up and kept it.

Also, after I was pregnant with your brother, my mother said that I would have two kids, one year apart. I asked why and my mother said that she had a dream and there were two puppies, similar in size—one little smaller than the other—ran to me.

IC: I see, that’s cool. My brother and I are one year apart.

M: Right. And in Korea, when you’re pregnant, people generally ask if you had a dream. When they ask this, they’re referring to tae-mong. And typically, you just know that it’s a tae-mong because you’re the center focus of the dream.


It is common for pregnant Korean women to have conception dreams that relate to the gender of their baby. My mom experienced this when she had me and my brother.


TThis was collected in an interview with my mom in a casual setting.  I had remembered about my mom telling me about conception dreams before and I thought it would be interesting to ask her about it for this project.


Although the idea of conception dreams to predict gender is interesting, I can’t help but think that the basis for differentiating gender is a little outdated and somewhat sexist. For boys, it’s a big and fierce animal like pigs, lions et cetera. But for girls, it’s something small and sparkly, like small animals or jewels. Whether it’s food, animals or flowers it’s always small for girls. I don’t know if this is something in Western cultures or even other Asian cultures, but I think it’s a unique tradition that Koreans have.