Symbols and icons play an important role in Korean culture. They are often used to represent different virtues, wishes, and values. When it comes to lucky symbols, Koreans have a diverse range to choose from. Some of the most popular and commonly used lucky Korean symbols include the taegeuk, baekho, and the bat. These symbols are rooted in Korean mythology, history, and folklore. Understanding the meaning and significance behind these lucky Korean symbols provides insight into Korean traditions and beliefs.
The taegeuk is one of the most ubiquitous and recognizable symbols in Korea. Seen on the national flag, it is a profound representation of Korean identity and ideals. The taegeuk refers to the yin-yang symbol of traditional Eastern philosophy. However, in Korea, it possesses deeper meaning related to Korean Taoist-Confucian cosmology.
The taegeuk resembles two comma shapes, one red and one blue, chasing each other in a continuous circle. The red half represents positive cosmic forces while the blue half represents negative cosmic forces. Together, they represent the interplay between opposing yet complementary forces in the universe. The taegeuk conveys the Korean ideal of achieving harmony and balance between dualities. It serves as a metaphor for reaching enlightenment through fusion of passion (red) and serenity (blue).
In Korean, the word “taegeuk” translates to “ultimate reality” or “great eternal.” It represents the source of all creation and phenomena in the universe. The taegeuk is commonly associated with longevity, prosperity, and good fortune. It offers guidance in overcoming life’s obstacles through inner wisdom and virtue. As such, the taegeuk is highly revered in Korean culture as a symbol of peace and order. It provides inspiration to move through life’s ups and downs with equanimity.
The taegeuk is frequently paired with other auspicious symbols in Korea. It may be depicted with the paekho or bat motif. In Korean artwork and crafts, placing the taegeuk prominently is believed to attract positive energy and luck. During Korean holidays such as Lunar New Year, taegeuk designs are ubiquitous. They deliver blessings of harmony, balance and favorable outcomes in the new year. For centuries, the profound philosophy embedded in the taegeuk has promoted well-being and prosperity in Korean society.
The baekho is a mythical Korean creature known for bringing good fortune. With origins in Chinese mythology, the baekho was wholeheartedly embraced by ancient Koreans and still remains highly popular today. In Korean, “baekho” translates literally to “white tiger.” It is considered Korea’s guardian animal and national symbol of protection.
In Korean legend, the baekho was a spiritual entity that appeared during times of turmoil to defend the kingdom from threats. It warded off adversaries with its sword while radiating a brilliant, white light. The light represented the baekho’s divine power and purity of spirit. Beyond physical protection, the baekho also safeguarded the moral integrity of the nation.
With its supreme wisdom and courage, the baekho became a cherished icon representing Korea’s sovereignty and resilience. During the Joseon dynasty, the king wore baekho insignia to symbolize his sacred duty to justly govern the Korean people. The baekho image continues to appear on traditional Korean garments, paintings, and architecture to this day.
Koreans believe the benevolent baekho blesses those who do good deeds and live righteously. It rewards kind-hearted and loyal citizens who embody the moral principles advocated in Confucianism. As a result, the baekho is closely tied to fortune, prosperity, and enlightenment in Korean culture. It represents the virtues of wisdom, courage, justice, and benevolence.
The baekho is most commonly depicted as a regal, white tiger with a magnificent fiery pearl or orb in its mouth. The pearl symbolizes wisdom, prosperity, and spiritual ascension. Sometimes the baekho is portrayed with wings, further indicating its supernatural protective powers. With both fierceness and benevolence, the mythical baekho continues to capture the Korean imagination today as an auspicious symbol.
The bat is a popular symbol of good luck and fortune in Korean culture. In Korean, the bat is called “bok” and its Chinese character means “blessing” or “fortune.” As a result, bats frequently appear in Korean art and handicrafts as symbols of wishes coming true.
The lucky meaning of bats stems from a Korean folk tale. Once upon a time, a bat earned great honor by saving the life of the son of the Jade Emperor in China. The son transformed into his original form, a white crane, and became trapped by a treacherous general. When the general set out to harm the crane, a bat used its wings to shield the crane from danger.
To express his gratitude, the Jade Emperor granted the bat eternal happiness and made its image a sign of good fortune. As the tale spread, the diligent, lucky bat became esteemed in Korean society. Koreans believed that bats brought blessings, wealth, and protection to those who treated them with compassion.
Images and figurines of bats are commonly displayed in Korean homes and shops. Their presence is believed to attract prosperity and ward off misfortune. Upside down bats are considered especially lucky, as the word for “upside down” in Korean also means “to come.” This signifies blessings coming your way.
During festivals such as Dano, Koreans often carry paper or cookies decorated with bat shapes. Parents also stick paper bats on their children’s clothing or bedrooms to invoke health, happiness, and safety. Cute bat stuffed animals and toys are also popular among young Koreans today.
In the Korean zodiac, individuals born in the year of the bat are believed to be optimistic, charitable, and enjoy good fortune in life. The positive symbolic meaning surrounding bats highlights the enduring influence of Korean mythology and folklore. For centuries, their presence has delivered good luck and divine blessings in Korean culture.
Usage in Modern Korean Culture
While traditional symbols like the taegeuk, baekho, and bat still hold cultural significance, modern Korean culture has also adopted new lucky icons and imagery. Contemporary Korean art, jewelry, and designs reveal creative reinterpretations of auspicious symbols.
Some common lucky images seen today include:
– The number 7 – In Korean, 7 is pronounced as “chil” which sounds similar to “chilhada” meaning “congratulatory.”
– Magpies – In Korean folklore, magpies are messengers that deliver good news and luck.
– Pigs – Pigs symbolize wealth and prosperity in Korean culture.
– Fish – Fish represent abundance and surplus.
– The color red – The vibrant red hue represents life force energy, success and good fortune.
– Clouds – Stylized auspicious clouds signify divinity and heavenly blessings.
Lucky symbols are widely embraced during Korean New Year celebrations. People decorate houses with fish and turtle motifs. Red lanterns and banners adorn streets and buildings, beckoning luck for the coming year. Elders give children lucky money pouches secured with red ribbon.
Fortune-inviting feng shui principles also influence modern Korean design. Auspicious symbols are strategically incorporated into architecture, office spaces and homes to attract positive energy. Objects like laughing Buddha statues, jade plants, and water features boost financial luck and prosperity.
In a fast-paced, technology-driven age, the prevalence of customary lucky symbols highlights the lasting significance of age-old traditions in Korea. They retain spiritual and emotional resonance while adapting meaning for modern life. Displaying time-honored lucky symbols continues to be an integral way for Koreans to usher in blessings, luck and renewal each new year.
Throughout its long history, Korean culture has accumulated a diverse range of meaningful lucky symbols. These symbols reflect Korea’s unique cosmology, mythology, and philosophical outlook that promote harmony, morality, and spiritual elevation.
While the taegeuk, baekho, and bat remain enduring classics, contemporary culture continues to reinterpret traditional symbols and adopt new iconography that resonates for the present day. Lucky symbols add color, vitality and powerful aspirational meaning during Korean holidays and daily life. They transmit wishes for peace, prosperity, and fulfillment through visible, tangible forms.
In Korean celebrations, design, and handicrafts, these auspicious symbols infuse good fortune and their profound, philosophical wisdom persists for generation after generation. The culture’s embrace of lucky symbols highlights the timeless human pursuit of hope, meaningful existence and moral excellence.