Hangeul: Harmonizing Yin Yang and Five Elements Theories

Boomco
3 min readNov 30, 2023

In the realm of written language, the Korean Alphabet, widely known as Hangeul, stands as a testament to the ingenuity of King Sejong, who introduced it to the world in 1443. As one delves deeper into the principles that underpin the creation of Hangeul, an intriguing connection emerges: a shared heritage with key tenets of East Asian thought, notably the Yin Yang theory and the Five Elements Theory. These ancient philosophies, with their profound influence on various aspects of life, have left an indelible mark on the very foundation of the Korean writing system. Exploring the intersection of language and philosophy, we unravel the fascinating story behind Hangeul and its ties to these timeless concepts.

Korean Vowels

Hangeul consists of 21 vowels: 14 single vowels and 7 diphthongs. Due to the influence of culture, countries in the Korean peninsula attach great importance to the theory of yin and yang of the five elements.

There are neutral vowel (ㅣ/i/), yin vowel and yang vowel based on the Yin Yang Theory.

The vowels ㅏ,ㅗ, ㅜ,ㅓ are all formed by adding a dotted stroke. This manifests itself in combining vowels. Vowels are called “yang vowels” when the dotted line is above and to the right following the yang + yang combination rule. So we have 8 yang vowels: ㅏ,ㅗ, ㅑ, ㅛ, ㅐ, ㅒ, ㅚ, ㅙ.

The vowels called “yin vowels” have the dotted line at the bottom and left following the yin + yin combination rule. And there are 10 yin vowels: ㅡ,ㅜ,ㅓ, ㅠ, ㅕ, ㅟ, ㅞ, ㅢ, ㅔ, ㅖ.

Korean consonants

Korean consonants are related to five integral elements based on the Five Elements Theory. Five elements: tree, fire, soil, metal and water. The principal five elements from the Eastern philosophy were applied to the consonant sounds and their position in the mouth.

In the order of mutual overcoming, they can also be arranged as wood, earth, and water, and fire, and metal. These five elements were used to signify five different positions of the tongue within the mouth when creating a consonant sound. The basic five are as follows; each consonant symbol was modified to give a different kind of sound.

To sum up

Boomco hopes this interesting knowledge will help you to remember the Korean pronunciation correctly and remember the alphabet for a longer time. And if you are learning Korean, you can see that the theory of Yin — Yang and the Five Elements affects many areas of life, such as food, architecture,…

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