When do you feel happiest and most relaxed in winter? Many people will probably like to watch TV while sitting on a hot floor eating tangerines or sweet potatoes. Don't you wonder what the origin of the hot floor is? Let's find out about ondol, the Korean traditional heating system.
1. How Much Do You Know about Ondol?
The word “ondol” means heated stone. Another name for ondol is “Kudul” which means “baked stone” in pure Korean words. In the literal sense of the word, ondol is a Korean traditional heating system in which heated stone makes the floor of the room hot. People can cook and heat up the room at the same time. The smoke, yet the ashes do not stay inside of the room. Therefore, people can enjoy a pleasant life. The ashes also can be recycled into compost. Moreover, ondol is relatively safe for fire because people do not warm up the room by making fire inside the room directly. Besides, Korean people have long intestines compared to many meat-eating Westerners so the blood is usually pushed into the upper body. Therefore, it is better to keep the head cool and feet warm. Ondol warms up the floor equally. That is why ondol is a suitable heating system for the characteristics of Korean.
2. Let's See How It Works
Ondol has slightly different structures according to period and region. However, the basic structures are similar. First, make a fire in the agung-i. Then the heat from the agung-i goes through the gorae and makes the kuduljang hot. It makes the room warm, and the smoke goes out through the chimney. Let's see the detailed information of the basic structure.
① First, make a fire in the agung-i. An agung-i is a hole which is made to build a fire in a kiln or a sot*. People also could cook with the heat.
*sot : Korean traditional caldron made of cast iron
② The blaze from the agung-i goes over a small hill. This point is called buneomgi.
③ A gorae is kind of a passage where the heat and smoke go by. The heat from the agung-i goes through here.
④ The kuduljang is thin, flat stone. The heat that came through the gorae makes the kuduljang hot, and this makes the room warm.
⑤ The smoke goes up the chimney.
3. Heaters in the World
Western people used to heat up the room by burning wood in the fireplace or using radiators. It is very warm in front of the fireplace or radiator, but it cannot make whole room and body warm equally. In addition, the air gets dry often. Similarly, Japanese use a kotatsu. A kotatsu is a table with an electric heater on the bottom. Japanese have many wooden buildings. Therefore, wind from the outside comes in easily and it makes the inside cold. That is why they use kotatsu to heat up a certain space where people are gathered. It is very economical. Compared to these heating systems, Korean a ondol room has little temperature difference at the top and bottom and the humidity remains appropriate. Moreover, it stimulates blood circulation in that the whole body makes contact with the hot floor. Therefore, ondol used to be considered as the most ideal heating system.
4. Ondol Spreads Branches to the World
Ondol rooms are being constructed in many countries such as Germany and France. In addition, jjimjilbangs, which are the Korean dry saunas that originated from ondol, are attracting foreigners and expanding to overseas markets. Besides, floor heating systems with hot water are being developed and used nowadays. This is an application of ondol, too. Likewise, ondol is being applied in accordance with local climates and lifestyles and spreading widely. Moreover, the word “ondol” was entered into the Oxford English Dictionary as a proper noun, along with “kimchi.” This shows that many people in the world are paying attention to ondol.
Ondol was made by our ancestors' wisdom. It is the most ideal heating system which is suitable for our body and natural environment. It is good for our health and economical. The basic principle of ondol is often used to develop better heating systems. Many other countries also recognize the excellence of ondol. Without a doubt, it is considered as the “hottest stone” in the world, so let's be proud of it. Enjoy a warm and peaceful winter vacation, everyone!