Korean Proverb 1

1) Original Performance: “개천에서 용 난다”

Romanization/Transliteration: Gae-cheon eh-suh yong nan-da

Full Translation (Literal / Dynamic): “A dragon is born from a stream” / “Great people come from humble beginnings”

2) The informant is my grandfather, a Korean who immigrated to the US in the 1970s. My grandfather learned this piece from my great grandmother, who told this proverb to him when he was a child in the Korean countryside with few resources (due to the destruction of the Korean War). He told me he likes this piece because he feels as if he has overcome his circumstances to emerge as a “dragon,” so to speak. 

3) This was performed along with a set of four Korean proverbs that I asked my grandfather to tell me while eating dinner at his house a month or so ago. I specifically asked him to tell me his four favorite or most inspirational proverbs that he could think of. 

4) In thinking about this performance, I was surprised by the text’s raw references to nature and mythical characters. Upon further thinking, I realized that Korea puts great emphasis on the Lunar Calendar, and that the symbols of luck, strength, and fortune that are associated with the dragon match with the idea of an individual’s journey towards prosperity.