The East Asian Mythology’s Chollima

North Korea

In the article I wrote on the Korean 1952 TB/Christmas seal, I briefly discussed Dr. Moon’s autobiography, “A Fly Stuck to the Tail of Chollima”. As noted in the article, the Chollima is a mythical winged horse originally from Chinese classic literature and is seen across East-Asian literature.

It is often seen on North Korean stamps because according to Wikipedia: “The word Chollima can be translated as “thousand li horse,” referring to its ability to travel 1,000 li (4000 kilometres) in a single day. It also was said that it could not be ridden by any person. It is known for accomplishing the most difficult tasks and to have led heroes to victory. This idea of Chollima was used by Kim Il-sung to energize the workers in North Korea to bring the country out of the rubble of the Korean War to obtain a better life and a more prosperous country in a short amount of time.” It has now become something of symbol for North Korea and has also been used by the tourism media to promote the Chollima statue in Pyongyang.

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11 thoughts on “The East Asian Mythology’s Chollima

  1. Our readers might find it interesting that all DPRK stamp images about Chollima are from the same statue in Pyongyang, which is probably the only statue in Pyongyang (or even in all North Korea?).
    I’m also very interested in knowing why Chollima becomes a symbol in North Korea. Maybe our Korean culture experts can provide more information?
    Chollima actually comes from 3 Hangul words, 천 jeon ( means 1000) 리 ri ( unit of distance ) 마 ma (horse), reads as jeon-ri-ma. It means a strong horse which can run 1000 ri a day. The origin of thousand-miles horse did come from China but now only used in Korea and rarely being mentioned in Chinese culture.
    I just finished a very interesting South Korean TV drama called ” very cheap, Chollima mart”, I’m not sure if the screenplayer wants to imply the situation of modern North Korea, but it is a very interesting drama indeed. The English translation of the title calls it “Pegasus market”, and the image of Chollima is a horse with wings, so maybe any relationship with Greek mythology?

  2. The original figure of Chollima (Qian Li ma in Chinese) was coming from the Chinese folk tales/legendary and it is used to describe a fast, strong and unique horse which can travel very fast and long distance. North Korea chose Choliima as their first 5 year plan’s name (Chollima Movement) from 1957 to 61 which is corresponding to the same movement happened in China. After that Chollima stays as the symbol for socialism political course in North Korea and was carried forward today. That is just based on my knowledge.

  3. I have found a few stamps in my small collection, featuring the Chollima statue, not shown above. SG N1668 (16 Dec 1977), SG MSN4090, marking the visit of Pres. Putin shows the statue in the border.
    There is also page in my Korea Stamp Corporation 2002 Yearbook which has the statue as a background to the New Year commemoration stamp of 1 Jan.
    Phil Le Page

    1. Hello Philip, thanks very much for pointing these out to us. What year is the the SG MSN4049 so I can look it up? Also, is it possible for you to scan the page in your Korea Stamp Corporation 2002 Yearbook and send the image to us? If you can do this, we can show this image on the website. Thanks again. Rober

  4. Some more from sixties:
    1967 Labour Day
    1967 The Revolutionary Surge Upwards (5 stamps with Chollima)
    1968 The 20th Anniversary of Korean People’s Democratic Republic (1 out of 8 stamps)
    1969 Public Health Service (1 out of 3)
    1965 The 10 Major Tasks of Seven-Year Plan
    1964 Asian Economic Seminar, Pyongyang – two
    1964 Kim Bong Han – 1 out 3
    1961 The 5th World Federation of Trade Unions Congress, Moscow

    1. Hi Maciej, that is excellent research. I found a few myself, but only one of those you listed had I known about. I will try to find images of these and, plus the ones that I and Ivo have found, will try to write another article on these before the end of the year. Bob

      1. Bob. Right now I’m in long process of scanning my DPRK collection. Right now I’m processing 1971 year and there is even more Chollimas: 1971 Tasks of Six-Year Plan (10 out 11) and 1971 Implementation of Decisions of Fifth Workers’ Party Conference (1), Lots of 1972 sets about various industries have Chollima as well. You can find all these thumbnail using stampworld or Collnect websites. If you are not in hurry I can send you all my Chollima scans when I finish scanning process of all my DPRK stamps. I guess it will be in about a month. Greetings from Poland

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