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Hwanin represented at the Samseonggung.

Haneullim or Haneulnim (하늘님 "Heavenly King"), also spelled Hanunim (하느님), Hwanin (환인), also called Sangje (상제 "Highest Deity") also known simply as Haneul (하늘 "Heaven") or Cheon (천 "Heaven", in Sino-Korean), or Cheonsin (천신 "God of Heaven"),[1] is the concept of the sky God peculiar to Korean shamanism,[2] and religions rooted in Korean shamanism (including Cheondoism and Jeungsanism).[1] In some of these religions he is called Okhwang Sangje (옥황상제 "Highest Deity the Jade Emperor").

Dangun myth[edit]

Image of Dangun.

Dangun is traditionally considered to be the grandson of Hwanin, the "Heavenly King", and founder of the Korean nation.[3] Myths similar to that of Dangun are found in Ainu[4] and Siberian cultures.[5]

The myth starts with prince Hwanung ("Heavenly Prince"), son of Hwanin; the prince asked his father to grant him governance over Korea.[6] Hwanin accepted, and Hwanung was sent to Earth bearing three Heavenly Seals and accompanied by three thousand followers;[6] the prince arrived under the holy tree of sandalwood (Sintansu 신단수, 神檀樹)[7] on the holy mountain, where he founded his holy city.[6]

At the time of his reign, Ungnyeo or Ungnye (웅녀, 熊女)[7]—who was a bear—and a tiger were living in a cave near the holy city, praying earnestly that their wish to become part of humankind might be fulfilled.[6] Ungnyeo patiently endured weariness and hunger, and after twenty-one days she was transformed into a woman, while the tiger ran away for it could not tolerate the effort;[6] the woman Ungnyeo was overjoyed, and visiting the sandalwood city she prayed that she might become the mother of a child.[6]

Ungnye's wish was fulfilled, so that she became the queen and gave birth to a prince who was given the royal name of Dangun, the "Sandalwood King".[6] Dangun reigned as the first human king of Korea, giving to his kingdom the name of Joseon, "Land of the Morning Calm".[6]

According to some scholars, the name Dangun is related to the Siberian Tengri ("Heaven"),[8] while the bear is a symbol of the Big Dipper (i.e. Ursa Major), itself a symbol of the supreme God in many Eurasian cultures, including Chinese theological thought.[9] Later in the myth, Dangun becomes the Sansin, the "Mountain God" (metaphorically of civilising growth, prosperity).[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hong (2009), p. 39.
  2. ^ Lee (1981), p. 18.
  3. ^ Lee (1981), p. 13.
  4. ^ Lee (1981), p. 20.
  5. ^ Lee (1981), p. 21.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Lee (1981), p. 14.
  7. ^ a b Lee (2010s), pp. 10–13.
  8. ^ Lee (1981), pp. 17–18.
  9. ^ Didier (2009), passim but especially Vol. I, pp. 143, 154.
  10. ^ Lee (1981), pp. 16–18.


  • Didier, John C. (2009). "In and Outside the Square: The Sky and the Power of Belief in Ancient China and the World, c. 4500 BC – AD 200". Sino-Platonic Papers. Victor H. Mair (192). Volume I: The Ancient Eurasian World and the Celestial Pivot, Volume II: Representations and Identities of High Powers in Neolithic and Bronze China, Volume III: Terrestrial and Celestial Transformations in Zhou and Early-Imperial China.
  • Lee, Chi-ran (2010s). "The Emergence of National Religions in Korea" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 April 2014.
  • Lee, Jung Young (1981). Korean Shamanistic Rituals. Mouton De Gruyter. ISBN 9027933782.
  • Hong, Sung-wook (2009). Naming God in Korea. Wipf & Stock. ISBN 160608626X.