In the year 914 (during the Later Three Kingdoms period of Korea), a general named Wang Geon was on his way to strike the kingdom of Later Baekje. He noticed a strange, colourful cloud in the sky and when he went there to investigate, he found a maiden washing clothes by a well. He approached her and asked for some water. The maiden politely accepted and went to fetch a gourd of water, placed a willow tree leaf in it then handed it to Wang Geon. Curiously, he asked:
“What is the reason for putting a leaf in the water?”
“You appeared to be very thirsty so I was worried that you would gulp down the water too quickly and upset your stomach.”
He was touched by her consideration and wisdom and fell in love with her, so he asked her hand in marriage before leaving the town.
In 918, Wang Geon became the first king of Goryeo after successfully unifying the three kingdoms of the Korean peninsula. The maiden is now known as Empress Janghwa; that is the story of how a girl became an empress from a simple act of kindness and tenderness.