Bong Seon Hwa - The Korean Art of finger dye

Yesterday I met with one of my clients who is having a "fusion" wedding. She is Korean-American, and her fiance is of Indian descent. The bride is planning to have her hands decorated with a traditional Indian-style mehndi, and she was drawn to the solid colored fingertips of the Indian designs. That reminded me of the Korean tradition of coloring fingernails with the ground leaves of Impatiens Balsamina. Women color their fingernails in the Spring, and it is said that if the color lasts until the first snow, they will marry their true love. Interestingly, the dye molecule in that flower is the same exact chemical structure as the dye in henna (Lawsonia Inermis). That molecule is called "lawsone". While my client said that she has already found many unifying elements in her partnership with her fiance, it was a surprise for her to find out about this beautiful Korean tradition that overlaps with the Indian customs of her soon-to-be family.

Here are some interesting articles discussing how to use the flower to dye the nails, and more details and references to the Korean traditions. 

http://www.bookishgardener.com/2004/08/ibongsunghwai_n.html

http://jejulife.net/2008/10/24/bong-seon-hwa-dyeing-fingernails-a-yearly-traditional-korean-custom-by-sherrin-hibbard-jeju-south-korea/

http://mylinguistics.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/orange-colored-nails/

 

Impatiens Balsamina, photo Wikipedia

Impatiens Balsamina, photo Wikipedia

Bong Seon Hwa courtesy of TheBookishGardener.com

Bong Seon Hwa courtesy of TheBookishGardener.com

Nails covered in plant dye, photo courtesy JejuLife.com

Nails covered in plant dye, photo courtesy JejuLife.com