All creations serve heavens. Thus the principle of ‘heavens eat heavens’ is only natural,” said Choi Si-hyeong, the second generation religious leader of Donghak.
I pondered on which quote to select, with several quotes from novels, poems, and even academic papers, coming to my mind. Eventually I chose “heavens eat heavens,” a quote by Donghak leader Choi Si-hyeong, which essentially means “food (rice) is heaven”.
This saying shows that the Donghak revolution started from starvation and that food was the driver for the people of the revolution. For starving people, food was indeed heaven. People deprived of food inevitably started the revolution. Food, or literally referred to as “rice,” was important to us, as we can infer in our everyday sayings by “have you eaten?” meaning “how are you,” “rice gives strength” and longing for a warm bowl of rice.
The quote “Food (rice) is heaven” is still valid today, when rice is no longer scarce but abundant, as rice is the basis for Korean cuisine. How would we enjoy kimchi, soy marinated crab, seasoned vegetables and bean paste stew without rice? Rice is the foundation for Korean food. I became fascinated with Korean food in my early 30s and began to study Korean cuisine, which turned out to be my career. I was able to write on various Korean cuisine on vegetables, meat, seafood, and fermented food because rice was the basis for Korean food. I get anxious when I hear that Koreans are eating less rice as their palates become more accustomed to flour-based foods, for fear that Korean cuisine may decline when rice is no longer eaten.
I believe that the Korean identity will be lost if rice is no longer consumed. Indeed, rice is heaven.