You know when your parents casually let you know via text message that you have royal blood? Yeah, me too. It happened yesterday.
I learned yesterday that I'm a Cheongju Han which is a Korean royal clan. It's also called House of Han, or Han clan of Cheongju.
This is from Wikipedia: "The Cheongju Han clan is considered one of the most royal clans since the Gojoseon period. In the Silla Dynasty, all of the Cheongju Hans were considered seonggol, or "sacred bone", the highest rank, received the most generals of the prominent Joseon Dynasty and were considered the highest of the yangban class next to the Jeonju Lee clan."
This is insane.
Furthermore, Han Seok-bong is a Cheongju Han. He was a master calligrapher, and is one of the most well known Koreans. Every Korean child learns the story of "Han Seok-bong and his mother". It's a story that teaches humility and the value of hard work and discipline.
The story basically goes like this... Han Seok-bong goes to study calligraphy at a temple, and comes back after three years because he felt he learned everything he needed to. The mother was cutting rice cakes and challenged him to a contest to test his skill.
They each got to work, and then she blew out the lamp so the room was dark. After a while of working in darkness, she re-lit the lamp.
Her rice cakes were all cut perfectly uniform, while Han Seok-bong's writing was crooked and inconsistent. He gathered his materials, bowed to his mother and returned to the temple to study for seven more years. When Han Seok-bong returned, his skill as a calligrapher became known far and wide.
If you've been following my writing for a little while, you may remember that calligraphy is a great source of inspiration for my artwork. Learning that one of the greatest Korean calligraphers of all time was an ancestor blows my mind. Learning that I am of "sacred bone" which is royal blood, is crazy.
I know that for Koreans it's important to have kids and continue the family name, but I didn't really get the gravity of it until now. For my family has a history of over a thousand years and was of the highest rank.
I don't want to become obsessed with the idea of being royal, but as I dig deeper into my Korean heritage, and learn about my family history, I can only image how much more important continuing my family name will be. It's pretty unique for people to be able to trace back their lineage so clearly, and for it to be of one ethnicity, let alone royal heritage.
For much of my life I've been ashamed of being Korean. I've hated being different, and never wanted to stick out. But I've always stuck out.
In the past few months I've started to embrace who I am as a Korean-Detroiter, and have wanted to be proud of being different. I've been working to build my self confidence, so that I would not be ashamed of looking or being different than the people around me.
I learned yesterday that not only am I different, but my family history is quite special. I feel now, more than ever, a responsibility to make my family proud and honor my family name. I aspire to become like Han Seok-bong, but in my country as an American. I aspire to become so successful as an artist that I influence how people feel about Asians and their American-ness.
I hope my work can help the next generation of Korean-Americans because I didn't have a Korean hero growing up. The closest thing to a hero was Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, because some white people thought they were cool. But even they weren't true heroes, because I didn't want to be like them.
In fact, I was offended every time someone would call me Jackie Chan! or "you look like Bruce Lee", "do you know kung fu?"
I'm excited for the next generation of Korean-Americans, because in the past 5 years or so, Koreans have become known in America. We have BTS, David Chang, David Choe, Bong Joon-Ho, and Black Pink. It's my goal to have Americans know and respect the Han name in the way Koreans respect and admire Han Seok-bong.
I founded The House of Han LLC before I knew the House of Han was the Cheongju Han clan. I "created it" before I knew the name came from nobility. But now that I know, I need to live up to it, and to do that, I will be prolific, I will be kind, I will be humble, and I will be generous.