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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5 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.

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