Supplementary Entries and Texts for the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF KOREAN BUDDHISM by the Venerable Hyewon and Professor David A. Mason
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Sam-Taegeuk 삼태극 三太極 would have been on page 460 Triad Supreme Ultimate; 3-part symbol of universal dynamic oneness
A circular symbol with three equal-sized cashew-shaped or spiral-shaped parts dynamically swirling after one-another, in three primary colors of red, blue and yellow. It represents the Cheon-Ji-In (天地人, Heaven, Earth and Humanity) trinity, see that entry, and also a concept of ceaseless dynamic change and interaction among cosmic supreme universal principles. See also the Taegeuk entry. It is considered one official symbol of Korean Daoism and Neo-Confucianism, but is frequently employed in artworks and philosophies of Korean Buddhism, which over the centuries incorporated many Daoist ideas and motifs. The Sam-taegeuk can also be seen as a symbol or mandala of attaining consciousness of oneness or ultimate inter-connectedness and unity, as a result of Buddhist practices.
It has long appeared in many Korean Buddhist artworks, particularly in the dancheong (丹靑) multi-colored decorative painting of temple halls. Examples can be found from before Neo-Confucianism became Korea’s official ideology at the end of the 14th century. Sam-taegeuks became ever more common in temple artworks of the Joseon period, and still flourish today.