Janggeum’s Dream and the The Four Classes

It would have been nice if I knew the meanings of the “levels” in Janggeum’s Dream before episode 15. The subtitles in this episode used translations such as “orchid” rather than original Korean words like “nancho” for the levels, as seen in episode three.

The girls begin as court ladies at level “매화 반” (maehwa ban), which is (Japanese) Apricot Class. The next level up is “난초 반” (nancho ban), meaning Orchid Class. Sadly, as close as it sounds to “nacho”, it really does have nothing to do with cheese-covered tortilla chips, after all. Following is “국화 반” (gukhwa ban), or Mum Class. (Note: Mum is short for Chrysanthemum.) Reading up a little on these classes in Korean tradition and culture, there seems to also be a “대나무 반” (daenamu ban), meaning Bamboo Class. While the Bamboo Class was not mentioned in Janggeum’s Dream, the court ladies preparing the noodles in the first episode have a bamboo print on the corner of their apron. As a side-note, the “hwa” I believe were written as “wha” in the subtitles, as that’s what I wrote back in my episode three commentary.

Apricot, Orchid, and Mum are a touch easier to remember than Maehwa, Nancho, and Gukhwa, I must admit. It’s the English-speaker in me.

The Wikipedia Chrysanthemum page states:

The chrysanthemum is one of the “Four Junzi Flowers” (四君子) of China (the others being [Japanese apricot], orchid, and bamboo), known in Chinese as jú (菊). The jú is said to have been favored by Tao Qian, an influential Chinese poet, and is symbolic of nobleness.

This is a good show of the link between these four flowering plants. (Who knew bamboo could have flowers? I know I didn’t.)

From the Wikipedia bamboo page:

In Chinese culture, the bamboo (zhú 竹), [Japanese apricot] blossom (méi 梅), orchid (lán 蘭), and chrysanthemum (jú 菊) (usually, méi lán zhú jú 梅蘭竹菊) are collectively referred to as the Four Noble Ones (四君子). These four plants also represent the four seasons and, in Confucian ideology, four aspects of the junzi (君子 “prince” or “noble one”).

Good to know.

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