Korea’s Meteorological Culture


The Korean people have made effective use of the country’s meteorological conditions in their production activities and everyday life since old times. In the days of old when scientific and technological means were still unavailable to study atmospheric phenomena, they relied on observations and practical experiences to predict climate and weather. They handed down to posterity their ways of weather forecast in such sayings as Evening glow predicts fine weather and morning glow, rain.

In the period of the Three Kingdoms (Koguryo, Paekje and Silla) administrative organs of the state were established for astronomical and meteorological observation, and the astronomical observatories continued to record the results of their observations. This is clear from the fact that the part of Koguryo in Samguksagi (Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms) contains 29 data concerning astronomical and meteorological observations, and a lot of information about cloud, fog, frost and hail.

The Chomsongdae Observatory in Kyongju (the astrological observatory built in Silla in the first half of the 7th century) still remains to show how astronomical and meteorological observation was done in those days. Preserved in its original state, the observatory consists of over 360 granite blocks that indicate one year each. It is about nine metres high; on top of it were placed equipment for the observation of climate change and movement of celestial bodies.

In the period of Koryo (918–1392) meteorological observation developed further and became systematised on the basis of the achievements and experiences of the foregoing period. In its early years the feudal government of Koryo established Thaebokgam and Thaesaguk, special departments for astronomical and meteorological observation, and posted with specialists to carry on observations all over the country. To the west of Manwoltae (remains of the old-time palace) in Kaesong remain five buttresses of an astronomical observatory built in the period of Koryo. Little is known of the observation apparatuses installed there. However, Koryosa (History of Koryo) has detailed records of such meteorological and astronomical information as the sunspot, solar and lunar eclipses, and the movements of the moon and stars. This affords a glimpse of the rather advanced level of astronomical and meteorological observations for the period.

During the feudal Joson dynasty (1392–1910) regular meteorological observation began with the development of maths, physics and other scientific branches and the introduction of various observation tools. In August 1441 a rain gauge made of iron was invented and used to measure precipitation. Later, it was developed on several occasions. The world’s first scientific observation equipment, it had fine graduation on its tube. Such gauges were installed at the government offices in the capital city and provinces, and relevant data were reported to the central authority on a regular basis. This system continued to operate until the closing years of the dynasty.

Notable advances were made in the development of meteorological theory. Ri Ik (1681–1763), a scholar of the Silhak (practical learning) school, advanced a new theory on the crystal structure of snow, and others of the same school presented progressive theories on hail, ice, snow, rain, sea and temperature. In the latter half of the feudal Joson dynasty, valuable meteorological books such as Soungwanji and Phungungi were published.

All these achievements made by the Korean people in the past are now preserved as part of the country’s invaluable assets according to the policy ofthe Workers’ Party of Korea on preserving national cultural heritage.


A Chomsongdae observatory (model)



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