HwarangHwarang (화랑, 花郞; lit. flower boys) were groups of boys in Silla, an ancient Korean kingdom. They were educational institutions as well as social clubs where members gathered to sing and dance.
Samguk Sagi and Samguk Yusa record a half-fabulous story about the origin of Hwarang. According to them the first two groups, called Wonhwa, were female. They made trouble and were abolished. Later King Jinheung substituted lovely boys for female groups and made them decorated beautifully.
Samguk Yusa also says that they learned the Five Cardinal Confucian Virtues, the Six Arts, the Three Scholarly Occupations, and the Six Ways of Government Service (五常六藝 三師六正), but it sounds a set of cliches in Classical Chinese. What is sure is that Hwarang were greatly influenced by Chinese cultures such as Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. According to the Hwarang Segi, cited by Samguk Sagi, wise ministers and loyal subjects were chosen from them, and good generals and brave soldiers sprang from them.
Since 1945 Hwarang have been praised as a role model for youth in South Korea. Under the order of President Syngman Rhee, a historian Yi Seon-geun sought a model in history of Korea. He selected Hwarang and began to glorify them. In igniting rivalries against Japan, South Korea wanted something comparable to Japanese samurai.
Today Hwarang are generally believed to have been elite youth corps. There are, however, no records of military training or of Hwarang as warrior groups. Among about 30 recorded Hwarang members, only few were warriors. Furthermore, it is doubtful whether they remained Hwarang when they went off to war. The Five Precepts for the Secular World (Sesok Ogye; 세속 오계; 世俗五戒)--the fourth of which is "Face battle without retreat"--were promoted by the 7th-century Korean Buddhist monk Wongwang and are usually said to be one of the disciplines of Hwarang, but no records say so. It is difficult to reveal their true nature.
After the fall of Silla, Hwarang survived changing their characteristics. During the Joseon Dynasty Hwarang meant male shaman or prostitute, both of which were bottom in rank. Anthropological researches show that hwarang still refers to a male shaman in southeastern Korea.