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South Korea’s Culture and Chinese Culture linked by tug-of-war


The Tug of War is popular around the world with a long history. However, there is no explicit records on the birthplace of Tug of War till now.

On the article named Research on the Origin of South Korea’s Culture and Chinese Chu Culture, I once put forward that Jinhan was the descendants of migrants from Chinese Chu State and later they developed and build Silla, the first country to unify Korean Peninsula. Silla culture is mainstream culture of South Korea and there is a deep original relation between Korean culture and Chinese Chu culture. I discovered that the prevailing Tug of War in South Korea was an ancient form which originated from Chu State.

It is reported by Global Time that people at some areas of southern Han River will hold traditional Tug of War on the first full moon of Lunar year. The rope that twisted by rice-straw ropes was 200 meters long, 1 meter in diameter and 40 tons in weight. Numerous small ropes were attached to one main rope which is connected by two 100-meter ropes. The game of juldarigi traditionally pits two teams (2500 people each team) against each other pulling tremendous rice-straw ropes connected by a large peg. At the end of competiion, the rope will be cut and divided into ten of thousands parts and then be distributed to participants and spectators. It is said that people who have the rope will have a good luck. In fact, the form of Tug of War was also popular in Japan Okinawa etc.

The form of Tug of War has a long history in South Korea. According to the record of one Korean ancient book, Korean folks will hold Tug of War to pray for good harvests and divine rain when they suffered from severe drought.

In Korean peninsula, traditional Tug of War prevailed in south of the Han River but not popular in the north of Han River.

Hanjiang River catchment is not only the main source of Korean culture but also the watershed to make regional differences between the South and the North. In the north of S Korea, millet is main crop and its customs and cultures were similar to those in North China. While in the south of S Korea, folks grow rice with the same culture as South China.

Jinhan was the main residents in the south of Han River and gradually developed to silla. The primary aim of Tug of War is to pray for good harvests, so the event mainly existed in the south of Han River. Most scholars in S Korea hold a belief that the birthplace of Tug of War was in the areas of Southeast Asia which mainly planted rice, including Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar etc.

Where the Tug of War originated from? The earliest record of World Tug of War competition is the mural in a 2500-year-old tomb Egypt depicting teams of men pitted against each other in the ropeless version of tug-of-war. The form of Tug of War, different from the prevailing rope version of Tug of War in the world, is still popular in the countryside of Egypt.

The history of Tug of in Western Europe can be traced back to 1000 A.D. In the 15th century, Tug of War tournaments were frequently held in Scandanavia and later in the remainder of Western Europe. It was one of events in France and Great Britain’s Championships. It was also listed as an event in Olympic Games held from 1900 to 1920. However, Tug of War in Europe must not the origin of the event for its short history.

So far, the earliest writing records of Tug of War was found in Chinese historical book. It recorded that "hook pulling", was primarily used by the military commander of the State of Chu during the Spring and Autumn period (8th century BC to 5th century BC) to train warriors. Later, it became the game of hook pulling and was popular in State of Chu. And then the game evoluted to nowadays Tug of War.

In China, The activity was originated in the State of Chu during Spring- Autumn Period 2400 years ago. The Chu State bestrides south and north of Yangtze River with numerous watercourses spreading freely. Besides its land army, it also trained a mighty navy and invented a weapon called "Gou Ju" (literally hook and reject) specially designed for water battle. When an enemy force was about to retreat, the soldiers would use the weapon to hook the enemy boats and pull back with all strength to prevent escape. Later, "Gou Ju" spread from the army to the folk people and gradually evolved to the tug-of-war contest.

Various historical books show that the game of “hook pulling” was originated from the state of Chu and then spreaded to other places. And folks held the game of hook pulling in Lantern Festival (the fifteenth day of the first month of lunar year) to pray for good harvests. The coincidence of the same aim of the game between China and S Korea is not by chance.

Most scholars believe that the name change from “hook pulling” to “Tug of War” firstly appeared in Tang Dynasty. According to a Tang Dynasty book, The Notes of Feng, Tug of War, under the name "hook pulling", was used by the military commander of the State of Chu during the Spring and Autumn period (8th century BC to 5th century BC) to train warriors. During the Tang dynasty, Emperor Xuanzong of Tang promoted large-scale Tug of War games, using ropes of up to 167 metres (548 ft) with shorter ropes attached, and more than 500 people on each end of the rope. Each side also had its own team of drummers to encourage the participants. The competition rule is to set a flag at the center of rope as a boundary. The team who pulled out of the boundary wins the game. The version of Tug of War in China is also in line with that in S Korea.

Tug of War in Sui and Tang Dynasties was not only the competitive game but has the meaning of praying for good harvests and showing off state power.

During the years of 712 to 756, the reign period of xuanzong Emperor of Tang Dynasty, folks thought that Tug of War can contribute to good harvest and happy atmosphere of Lantern Festival, so the game was very popular at that time. Folks often held Tug of War in spring with direct aim to pray for raining.

Xuanzong Emperor once held a tug-of-war contest attended by a thousand people. Not only the ordinary people of the time, but also those in royal palace also enjoyed the sport a lot. He also invited foreign guests and ambassadors to watch the game in order to show Tang’s strong army and powerful dynasty.

Compared with version of Tug of War between China and S Korea, it is apparent for the similarity, so we can have a conclusion that the ancient game originated from Chinese Chu State. In late Qin dynasty and early Han dynasty, most Chu people immigrated to the south of Korea and their descedants were called Jinhan. The culture of S Korea nowadays is still similar with that of Chu State in many aspects, including the Tug of War.