[FOUNTAIN]Prayers for Rain Unanswered

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[FOUNTAIN]Prayers for Rain Unanswered

In mythology, Hwanung, the father of Tan-gun, the mythical first king of the Koreans, came down to a holy tree in Mount Taebaek with three gods. They were the god of wind, the god of rain and the god of clouds.

All three gods are related to rain. Since history began, rain was an absolute concern of kings. In the "History of Three Kingdoms" a book of the history of the Korean peninsula, it is written, "In an old custom of kingdom of Buyeo, if it rains too much or too little and crops fail, people blame the king."

In ancient China, the king assumed the responsibility as a god of rain or rainmaker. When drought started, the king had to be punished and even to resign.

During the Choson Dynasty, it was a custom for the king to be prudent. People thought that drought occurred because the king's lack of virtue and ill governance had angered the sky. The government was expected to make sure that nobody received punishment unfairly, and it tried to help the poor. It also prohibited the slaughtering of animals and entertainment such as drinking and playing music. It disallowed wearing hats and using parasols and fans. The parasol was considered to block rain and the fan was thought capable of waving away clouds.

Praying for rain was an annual event in the royal palaces. In Choson's royal history book, King Taejong, the second king, prayed for rain every year except in 1403 during his 18-year rein. The king prayed two or three times a year - one year he prayed nine times.

According to folklorists, there are 150 ways of praying for rain. The most common way was to produce smoke by burning wood at night in the mountain, but there were ways to profane the gods. Throwing the blood or the head of a dog into a pond or river will pollute the water, and the god will start rain to wash away the blood. Similarly, people would place a statue of Buddha under the hot sun in Thailand and put statue of Jesus in the water in France.

As drought continued with less than 30 percent of average rainfall for two months, reservoirs showed their bottoms and farm lands were cracked like the back of a turtle. Not only South Korea, but North Korea is also experiencing severe drought and worrying about running out of food. The government is drilling wells and installing water pumps, but this has not been enough. People are holding prayer sessions for rain nationwide. But the sky is still dry and hot, and it looks like the prayers have not touched the heavens yet. Is the sky really angry?

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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