Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Korean Rice Cake Metaphors

Korean rice cakes is one of Korean traditional food. Like many other countries, Korea has various kinds of traditional food. Among them, one that is always on the table is rice cakes (ddeok). Korean rice cakes is made from rice or cereal flour and is either steamed or boiled. It is prepared for all occasions whether happy or sad, for Korean birthdays, festive days, or funerals.

Korean rice cakes (fancy)

Korean birthday cake (baekseolgi)

Starting with baegil (a feast for a baby’s 100th day) followed bu dol (the first birthday), and every birthday thereafter, Koreans always prepare ddeok for birthdays and the most meaningful is baekseolgi (white rice cake) made of white rice flour. The white color of baekseolgi has the symbolic meaning of purity and wishes for the child to grow in purity and honesty.

Special rice cakes (ddeok) for special days

Korean rice cakes have long been an essential part of ritual ceremonies such as weddings and ancestor’s worship, a memorial service held on the anniversary of one’s ancestor’s death. In Korea, special rice cakes commemorate special days.

A table is set with rice cakes as an offering for ancestor memorial services on two other special Korean festival occasions — Ddeok soup (tteok guk is prepared on the lunar New Year’s Day (Seollal) and songpyeon on Full-moon’s Day (Chuseok, August 15th by the lunar calendar. After the ceremonies, ddeok is shared by families. It has been a custom to share ddeok with neighbors when they move or begin a new business.

Ddeok metaphor in Korean proverbs

The word, ddeok is easily found in Korean expressions, taking on as many different meanings as there are kinds of ddeok.
  • When something is very easy to do, you say 누워서 떡먹기, which literally means “That’s as easy as eating rice cake while lying down”, meaning the same as “It’s a piece of cake”.
  • 그림의 떡 is “You can see it, but you can’t eat it”, meaning “pie in the sky”.
Some proverbs hint at ill-hearted people in the world:
  • 떡 주고 뺨 맞는 다 - "You give him a rice cake but he slaps your cheek in return."
  • 떡 덜러는데 돌 준다 - "You ask for a rice cake but are given a stone."
Though ddeok has less impact in contemporary Korea than in days of old, ddeok still is buried as a metaphor in the Korean language.


The above information is taken from the article Korean Rice Cake.

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