Jordanian Inspiration, Joseon Incarnation

Jang Dan-bi and Queen Soheon placing a hanbok paper cut-out against the starry sky in 2015 Naver Korean web drama / MBC drama special Splish Splash Love / Splash Splash Love / Pongdang Pongdang Love

 詠半月 (영반월) – 황진이 (黃眞伊)

誰斷崑山玉 수단곤산옥
裁成織女梳 재성직녀소
牽牛離別後 견우이별후
謾擲壁空虛 만척벽공허


Half Moon Poem – Hwang Jin-yi (Joseon poet and gisaeng)

Who broke off jade from the mythical Kunlun mountains
and fashioned it into a comb for the weaver fairy?
After she and her cowherd lover separated,
it was thrown haphazardly on the blue sky.

It is not unusual to depict scenery through fashion. Clones of T-shirts emblazoned with images of palm-tree-dotted beaches or New York streetscapes have plagued subways and malls, after all. Even among high-end fashion labels, there are the Chanel hemline comprising of glittering motifs of the Dubai skyline, Christian Siriano’s evocation of ethereal vistas of sand and water through his pastelhued prints, Jason Wu’s reproduction of the starry heavens on his diaphanous gown, and more. Jordanian architect and fashion illustrator Shamekh Al-Bluwi, in contrast, is the rare breed who unimaginably accomplishes the reverse.

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Necessity and Sufficiency

Poster of Jang Dan-bi (Kim Seul-gi) and Lee Do / King Sejong (Yoon Doo-joon) in the rain 2015 Naver Korean web drama / MBC drama special Splish Splash Love / Splash Splash Love / Pongdang Pongdang Love

Even the most fervent critic of metaphysics must have pondered from time to time: what is the meaning of my existence to this world?

Feeling hopeless about her prospects in grades-obsessed South Korea on the day of the college entrance examination, mathematically challenged highschooler Jang Dan-bi jumps into a rain puddle transporting her to a drought-stricken Joseon, where Sejong the Great (King Sejong) and his ministers are praying for a timely, much-needed rain, also called “danbi” in Korean. Now in the 15th century, when modern multiplication tables are unheard of, her mediocre mathematics skills take on heightened importance as she teaches mathematics enthusiast King Sejong rudimentary arithmetic and science. Along the way, she befriends a man she identifies as Jang Yeong-sil, an actual historical figure credited for the invention of multiple meteorological and astronomical devices, and inadvertently takes the audience on a whirlwind tour of Joseon technological advances.

But the message Splish Splash Love conveyed to high school seniors, who received their examination results the week before the first broadcast, went deeper than that.  Continue reading