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The Grand Assembly of the Moonhwa Ryu Clan

The Grand Assembly of the Moonhwa Ryu Clan (GAMRC) is the one and only representative institution of the Moonhwa Ryu clan.

Historically, the Moonhwa Ryu clan began when its progenitor Cha-Dal Ryu raised the family in a town called Moonhwa located at the southern foot of Mt. Goowol, which is one of the most famous five mountains in Korea. That happened during the transition period that ranged from the end of the Unified Silla Dynasty to the establishment of the Koryo Dynasty. As you might know, the current English name of our nation "Korea" has its etymology in Koryo.

When the Silla Dynasty became weak, several kingdoms had risen to take over the country. One of them was Koryo, which was opened by King Wang-Gun (actually Wang is his last name). Our progenitor Cha-Dal Ryu helped the king during his war against the other kingdoms. The story goes like that, in one of the final wars on the road to a unified nation, the king suffered from severe shortage of military provisions, mainly food. In Korea, when you talk about food, it is readily translated into the talk of rice. Suddenly, a god-like figure appeared before the king in great worry of his predicament. Then this god-like figure introduced himself humbly as a hermit dwelling in Mt. Goowol, and offered a help. Within a moment, there suddenly appeared a thousand carriages, each loaded with a huge amount of rice. The king was very delighted and with that kind of holy provisions, it was a piece of cake to win the hearts of the people and finally vanquish all of his antagonists.

There's no need to mention that the god-like figure was Cha-Dal Ryu. In fact, his given name "Cha-Dal" reflects this story well. "Cha" means "a carriage" in its meaning of the chinese character, while "Dal" means "proficiency" or "skill". So "Cha-Dal" may mean a person who has done something great with carriages.

The great Cha-Dal Ryu was given a title of "Vassal of Merit at the Founding of the Kingdom", and out of sincere gratitude, the king had his portrait drawn on the wall of a Memorial Temple, so that the nation won't forget his great wonders for ever. Also he was appointed as Dae-Seung which was one of the prestigious ranks. So we, his descendants, always refer to him as "His Highness Dae-Seung", not daring to call his name out of reverence.

It is said that Cha-Dal Ryu was a man of great wealth and the patriarch of a powerful family in the province. When he died, he was buried in the heart of Mt. Goowol. His grave has been called the Ryu Mausoleum or Ryu's Royal Tomb among the people. It even used to appear on the maps drawn during the Chosun Dynasty.

History often tells of a person in terms of his deeds, hiding his personal backgrounds. This is the case for Cha-Dal Ryu, and as a result everything we know for certain stops here -- except one thing: his only begotten son, Hyo-Geum Ryu. We can get a glimpse of him in a book published by the Chosun's royal palace. According to an interesting story there, it was on his way back from a ritual at a Buddhist temple when he suddenly met a giant tiger. However, strangely enough, he noticed that the tiger was weeping. On close inspection, Hyo-Geum could see a white and glittering thing stuck in the throat of the tiger. He mustered up his courage to pull it out, and found out it was a big silver hair stick, one of those worn by married women. The tiger bowed down to the ground many times before he left.

That night in dream, the tiger appeared to Hyo-Geum, and revealed that he is the mountain god and thanked him again and again. He told Hyo-Geum that he was suffering from the hair stick which was stuck in his throat when he devoured a woman in a village called Seong-Dang. In appreciation of the great benevolence of Hyo-Geum that he showed risking his life, the mountain god offered his sincere blessing that his descendants will always be among the most highest ranks in office from generation to generation.

Next day, the bewildered Hyo-Geum felt the urge to confirm what the tiger-god told him in his dream. So he visited the Seong-Dang village and heard people crying in a house. When he asked the head of the house about the reason of the crying, the latter explained that, three days ago, his wife was taken by a tiger while sleeping on the floor. Hyo-Geum asked him again what she was wearing on her hair, and learned that it was none other than the silver hair stick. Now he fully realized that his dream was as real as it got, and told the details of his wondrous experience to the head of the house.

This story about Hyo-Geum's ultimate altruistic act toward the sacred tiger is even inscribed on a tombstone built during the days of the Koryo Dynasty. So we know that it is truly what happened, and that the tiger-god is always with the descendants of Hyo-Geum that comprises the Moonhwa Ryu clan, blessing and guarding them for ever. And this blessing is only justified not by just being the descendants of Hyo-Geum Ryu and his great father Cha-Dal Ryu, but by the presence of goodwill in their blood and truly turning the benevolence into action for the benefit of people, the society, the nation, and the world.

Indeed, the Moonhwa Ryu clan flourished very much during the Koryo period, starting from Gong-Gwon Ryu, who was a great scholar and loyal subject to the king. Also his grandson Gyeong Ryu was called a savior of the kingdom when he defeated a military regime that was tyrannizing her. That greatness of the clan was fully extended to the Chosun Dynasty which followed the Koryo Dynasty. This is clearly evidenced by the fact that it was none other than the Ryu clan that compiled and published the first formal family pedigree book in Korea during the King Sejong's reign. As you might know, Sejong is the great king who created the Korean alphabet Hangeul. Although that pedigree book is not extant, we know that it was historically proven to have existed because its preface is well preserved in the second family pedigree book of the Ryu clan.

Though there have been numerous great families that served the country at this or that moment throughout the history of Korea, the Moonhwa Ryu clan has always been among the first and foremost to save and serve its mother country in war and in peace. The spirit of service and benevolence is our inheritance beyond price from the progenitor Cha-Dal Ryu, his only son Hyo-Geum Ryu, and a myriad of our great ancestors after them.

On the other hand, from late 16th century, a claim was raised saying that the Moonhwa Ryu and another clan called the Yeon An Cha's Family share the same blood line. This claim was so convincing that even many prominent scholars had believed it, even until quite recently. However, by rigorous studies of historians and other individuals, it was proven that the claim was forged by a few men or a man from the Cha family. Also one of the leading history institutions in Korea, the Academy of Korean Studies(http://www.aks.ac.kr/), officially confirmed this (in an official letter to the author). The forgery had its background in the mere fact that the chinese characters "Cha" in the Cha family and in the name of our progenitor Cha-Dal Ryu happen to coincide. We now know that the Moonhwa Ryu clan and some other Ryu clans are the only descendants of Cha-Dal Ryu and his only son Hyo-Geum Ryu.

Now there are 14 sectors or branches in the lineage of the Moonhwa Ryu clan. The Grand Assembly of the Moonhwa Ryu Clan (GAMRC) is an organization repesenting all the 14 sectors. Its headquarters and office building is currently located in Daejeon which is geographically located at the center of South Korea.

GAMRC hosts two times of grand assembly sessions in a year, once in Spring and once in Fall. During those sessions, many important discussions and decisions are made on the impending issues. In fact, the disquiet raised by the Cha family was evidently one of the most difficult issues to resolve because the belief that the Ryu clan and the Cha family share the same blood line had been so deeply rooted into the hearts of many members. Through the GAMRC's great effort over several years, along with the help of the works of historians and others, this issue is now deemed completely cleared up.

Another example of accomplishment by GAMRC concerns the Korean spelling of the surname Ryu. For some nonsensical reasons, it had been legally forbidden to spell it as Ryu in Korean and only the spelling of "Yu" had been allowed. The Ryu clans, not only the Moonhwa Ryu clan but also all the other Ryu clans, believe that our ancesters have always pronounced their names "Ryu". One of the evidences is that, in all the chinese character dictionaries published till as late as mid 20th century, the Korean spelling for the chinese character Ryu has always been only Ryu in Korean. Many years of troublesome litigations followed but GAMRC and its members persisted, and finally in 2007, it became legally and officially possible to spell our surname as Ryu in Korean. Then people lauded the accomplishment as the "Victory of the Family".

GAMRC also publishes journals and books including family pedigree books. The latter works often involve many hundreds of thousands of the members and are obviously quite demanding tasks. In 2008, the most recent genealogy publication was successfully carried out after several years of toils and labors. It is consisted of 23 volumes and a CD-ROM and covers about half of the current members of the Moonhwa Ryu clan and almost all of the the ancestors.

Also GAMRC continually pays a kin attention to the younger generation. Because our future is only in them, to raise them to become indispensable people to the society as valuable and proud as their ancestors is one of the most important tasks of the Grand Assembly. In this regard, GAMRC is doing its best to raise scholarship funds and distribute them to those talented and deserving young members in need of scholarships.

There are many yearly rituals, hosted by the GAMRC, for the remembrance of the ancestors, especially those who are located around the root and trunk of the family tree. These rituals are generally held at the individual grave sites and memorial shrines at different dates.

As time goes, the family system tends to develop further toward one centered on modern nuclear families and the economic and monetary values of daily life gain more impetus. So it is natural that there always lingers a cloud of doubt about the role and necessity of a family assembly which is sometimes felt to be attached to old and out-dated values. However, in Korea, the surname of a person is surely an extension of his or her identity. As a family assembly is the collective superset of individual families sharing the same surname, an organization like GAMRC can effectively play an important role as the bridge between every single member and the society.

Whether you are a member of the Moonhwa Ryu clan or not, please join us in exchanging and sharing the ideas and efforts to serve for the well-being of the individuals and for the betterment of the society through the extension of the identities of the separate individuals and families.

(Written by Juwhan Ryu, a 35th descendant of the great Cha-Dal Ryu and 36th generation in the Moonhwa Ryu clan, 2008. 11. 22.)

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