March 29, 2016

KDrama Word of the Day: Bison (Hand Rubbing)

Were you wondering what was up with Uee’s hand rubbing as she begged Kim Yong Geon to reconsider in Episode 7 of Marriage Contract? 저도요 (me, too). I researched and here’s what I found.

In episode 7 of Marriage Contract Uee kneels before Ji Hoon's father and rubs her hands together in prayer position as she begs him to allow the surgery

A photograph of an American Bison with the red slashed NOT circle overlaying it Rubbing hands up and down with palms pressed together in prayer position is characteristic of 비손, pronounced bee-sohn (not to be confused with the shaggy North American animal in the photo, which is pronounced by-sun). Bison is a Korean folk rite used to pray for a wish to come true, or for a cure for a disease.

It looks as though it may be a woman’s ritual, though that is not clear – check out this explanation from the Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Beliefs (click to enlarge):

A page from the Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Beliefs describing details of the bison hand rubbing rite, which also includes offerinsg of clear water and simple foods

As the article explains, the 비 in 비손 is the verb stem of 빌다 (to pray, beg, or imprecate), and 손 is the word for hand.

4 comments to KDrama Word of the Day: Bison (Hand Rubbing)

  • Kim G

    Hand rubbing is very common in dramas. Very Korean – like piggy back rides, back hugging and two – handed serving

    • Have you noticed whether men do this too, or it is only done by women?

      A review of the Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Beliefs, which I referenced in my post, says the English version (which is only available as an e-book) is abridged, to “facilitate comprehension.” That sounds to me suspiciously like one of those cases where unique Koreanness is downplayed to promote Korea’s modernity. If, so, it’s very misguided. All countries have folklore – it’s a human thing. Without thinking very hard, I came up with 3 American folk customs regarding wishing:

      1). If you blow out all the candles on your birthday cake with one breath, you supposedly will get your wish (but only if you don’t tell anyone what it is)

      2). If you break a turkey wishbone (breastbone) with another person, by each pulling on a side, the person who ends up with the biggest piece gets their wish.

      3). There is a rhyme children learn to get their wish if they say (or think) it when they see the first star that’s visible after the sun sets:

      Star light, star bright
      First star I see tonight
      I wish I may, I wish I might
      Have the wish I wish tonight.

      How about in T&T – is there anything like that?

  • Kim G

    Low status men do the hand rubbing too and the more religious version that mainly shamans do has a circular motion rather than mainly up and down

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