Barley Rice (보리쌀/ Bo-ri Ssal)



Bo-ri Ssal, meaning barley and rice, is a traditional game that is physical, which can be played with two players using their hands. The player on the offense clenches a fist, while the player on the defense brings their hands together to make a cup with the palms. The first player puts the fist in the palm and either says Bo-ri (Barley) or Ssal (Rice) and then takes the fist out. The defending player must attempt to grab the fist as the attacking player says Ssal. If they say Bo-ri and the defending player catches it, it does not count and the attacking player keeps playing. The attacking player can always choose either Bo-ri or Ssal, and if they lose by getting caught when they say Ssal, the attacking and defending sides switch.




I collected this from my high school friend who lives in Shanghai, China. Despite living abroad. This game is significant to him because while going on public transport such as the bus or the subway, he would insist that we play this game because he is “on another level” and every time I lose he would tell me “don’t reach”. Although my encounter with him is frustrating, the game itself is fun as it is taught to South Korean children since a very young age.





Bo-ri Ssal widespread and well known in South Korea due to the game only requiring hands to play and therefore being able to be performed anywhere one desires. Unlike other folk entertainment such as dancing and singing, Bo-ri Ssal is a game that tests and teaches reaction time to its players. It can be analyzed that the two hands of the defending player symbolize the mouth and the mouth wants to eat the soft white rice rather than the inferior course and rough barley.