By Jeongnam Kim
(Former Senior Presidential Secretary for Education·Culture·Society, World Korean News advisor)
If we refer to a flower as the National Flower which represent a country or a nation and which draws the love of all people, Mugung-hwa is our national flower that has shared our national vicissitude and has naturally become our national flower.
The first record of the Rose of Sharon, which was abundant all over the Korean peninsula, appeared in the Book 9 of "San Hae Kyong (Mountain and Sea)" written in the age of the Spring and Autumn Warring States, in which it was stated, "in the country of men of honor, there is a flower, Hunhwa-cho, which blooms in the morning and falls in the evening."
The country of men of honor referred to our country, and Hwunhwa-cho is an old name for the Rose of Sharon. In a state letter written by Choi Chii-won, under the order of the state to be delivered to the state of Tang China in the years of Silla, the country was referred to as a country of the Rose of Sharon.
The Book of Mokguemju, with a quotation from the Reminiscences of Jibong, has a passage that says, "the country of men of honor is as big as 1000-li and the Mokgeun flowers are blooming all over the land."
Prior to this, in the years of King Yejong of the Koryo Dynasty, there was a record of this flower, called Geunhwa, and approximately 100 years later, a piece of writing by Lee Kyu-bo about the Keunhwa flower is handed down to now. It is not clear from when, but there is a reference to ourselves as Keun Yok, or Keun Region, and this very naturally extended to be called our national flower.
In early days, Hoahm Mun Il-pyong made mention of the Rose of Sharon, saying that "the flower blooming in the morning and falling in the evening is a telltale sign of our life's vicissitude and the flower blooming from summertime all the way to the fall season shows the ideal of men of honor seeking eternity.
He said, "The long period of blooming is a salient feature of this flower together with its elegance, and this is the reason this flower is praised so highly by the Korean people."
The English literature scholar and essayist Lee Yang-ha said, "the Rose of Sharon should be white to be a real Rose of Sharon. I am sure that our forefathers had taken the white Rose of Sharon as a real Rose of Sharon. There is a saying, 'white and only white.'
For the white color is what we take on as a cloth, and the floral heart is red. Our forefathers enjoyed red for the bright pictures with a variety of colors used. It was such a wondrous sight that we could hardly observe without exclamation. The flower was shy, quiet and modest."
Even though the Rose of Sharon is as beautiful as the Egyptian Goddess Hibis, it was not from Syria that this flower originated. The Rose of Sharon grows from northern India to the northern region of China, and abundantly on the Korean peninsula. The Korean title of this flower, Mugung-hwa, literally means an everlastingly blooming flower.
The scientific term of this flower is Hibiscus Syriacus Linnaeus. The Hibiscus means this flower is like Hibis, the Goddess of Egypt.
Generally, this flower blooms between July and September, and a medium-sized flowering tree blooms 20 to 30 flowers everyday. The flowers bloom constantly for approximately 100 days, totaling between 1,000 and 3,000 clusters.
The flower blooms at about 5 or6 am with the rising sun, and it gathers back into itself at around 5 or 6 pm and then falls down with the timing of the setting sun. Each Rose of Sharon tree blooms 20 to 30 flowers everyday for a period of approximately 100 days. No other flowering tree can bear that many flower. This is why it's called the Mugung-hwa, or the everlasting flower.