Korea''s Traditional Culture Featured at the APEC-WLN
Korea''s Traditional Culture Featured at the APEC-WLN
  • 여성신문
  • 승인 2005.08.20 00:00
  • 수정 2013-07-12 16:27
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The 10th APEC-WLN to be held in Daegu from August 24 to 27 will have programs featuring Korea's traditional culture. Korea's female artists will have exhibitions at Hotel Inter-Burgo, the main venue of the meeting. Meanwhile, on August 26, participants of the meeting will visit Yeongju, where the artifacts of ancient Korean scholars are kept.

Participants will be able to have a first-hand encounter with Korea's traditional culture and Confucianism



Home of Mediaeval Scholarship

The “Seonbi-chon,” located in Yeongju, Gyeongbuk is a recreation of a medieval Korean village. “Seonbi” is a term that means “scholar” and refers to a person who had the necessary learning but was not selected as a government official. Seonbi-chon (scholars village) was opened in 2004 to preserve scholarship from the past as well as the lifestyle of seonbi. Not only does Seonbi-chon feature glimpses of how scholars once lived, but it also provides opportunities to experience such traditional games such as “tuho,” “jaegi,” and “neol”.

The biggest house in Seonbi-chon is the traditional home of “Dooam” Kim Woo-ik, who once was the administrator of Yeongweon and Haemi. Originally built in 1590, the house is furnished with old-fashioned luxurious furniture. In contrast, the house of Lee Hoo-nam, is a typical farmer's house complete with farming tools and shows the hard life of the common people of that era. Meanwhile, those interested in scholarship must visit Ganghakdang, a small lecture hall for scholars. Seonbi usually taught their pupils at nearby schools, or Seowon. The Ganghakdang, the lecture hall of a Seowon, is still furnished with the tools for calligraphy (brushes, Chinese ink, paper and ink stones). Visitors can try their hand at calligraphy, too.

Sosu Seowon

Prestigious Private School of Joseon

Sosu Seowon was the first “Seowon,” a private school dedicated to teaching of young scholars and a place to memorialize the great scholars of the past. Sosu Seowon originated from the Baekwoondong Seowon, a private school established in 1543 by Joo Se-boong, the then administrator of Poongi.

Later, when Lee Whang, a great scholar of the Joseon Dynasty, was administrator of Poongi, he entreated the King to recognize the school as a legal entity. King Myeong-jong, obliged and awarded the royal insignia “Sosu Seowon” to the school, thereby making it the first Seowon and officially recognized private school.

Not only was Sosu Seowon offered the royal insignia, but it also was awarded books, farmland, and even servants in addition to such privileges as exemption from taxes and the draft. “Sosu” is a term that means the school should be a place where the decaying standards of scholarship should be reinvigorated. Sosu Seowon would later become the home of many leaders and scholars and a model for other private schools.

Sosu Museum

Treasure Trove of Local Culture

Opened in 2004, the Sosu Museum is an ideal place to experience Korea's cultural heritage. Built on a14,424 square meter site and totaling 2,197 square meters of building space, the museum has four exhibition rooms, each of which has over 20,000 pieces of art, documents, and cultural artifacts.

The museum also houses precious documents donated by Kim Jong-guk, the direct descendent of “Geoheon” Kim Yeong, a government official during the reign of King Jeong-jo. He preserved documents for eight generations, or over 250 years. The exhibition rooms feature local culture and historic heritage starting from prehistoric time such as “Goindol” and “Seondol,” both large stones, and stonewall paintings that show the daily lives of prehistoric people.

The museum also has replicas of “Seunheung-eup Naeri Mural Paintings” the only Goguryeo mural paintings in South Korea, which feature depictions of people, fish, and trees. The history of “Sosu Seowon” is also documented in detail, including the founder Ju Se-boong's achievements and the schools notable graduates.


An Extraordinary Buddhist Temple

One of the most beautiful historical artifacts in Korea, Buseoksa is arguably also one of the most popular tourist attractions. The Buddhist temple is home of the Whaeum order of Korea's Buddhism and dates back to 676 AD, when the famous monk Eusang Daesa built it under orders from Silla's King Moonmu.

The name “Buseoksa” itself came from the big boulder to the left of the main hall Muryangsujeon. The boulder is separated from the stones below it and looks as if it were floating, thereby giving the name the temple its name “Buseok,” which literally means “floating stone.” Muryangsujeon, meanwhile, is the second oldest wooden artifact in Korea.

A unique characteristic of Muryangsujeong is that it has the Buddha not in front of the hall but at one side of it. It is also famous for its asymmetric pillars, which are the widest at one third of its length and have narrower upper ends. The aesthetics of these pillars is the same as the Entasys style of the western architecture, which is found in Greek temples.

The most compelling attraction of Buseoksa, though, is none other than the view commanded by Muryangsujeon. The entire Taebaek Mountain range looks as if it is within reach.

The founder, Eusang Daesa, is the monk who made the Whaeum sect popular in Korea. After building Naksansa in Yangyang, he toured the whole country looking for a permanent home for Whaeum, which culminated in the construction of Buseoksa in Yeongju. He had as many as 3000 disciples and made a long lasting impact on the Whaeum sect.

Traditional Wedding

Celebrated by Entire Town

Wedding ceremonies of the communal past were a cause for celebration by an entire town. In contrast to the modern wedding ceremony, a traditional wedding started with “Poongmul” (popular music) and was all about celebration.

The ceremony started with the opening declared by the master of ceremonies and was followed by a performance of traditional music symbolizing the wish for a sumptuous wedding. The main event started when the bridegroom entered and red and blue candles were lit. The bridegroom bowed to the goose on top of the table as it was believed that the goose symbolized fertility and lifelong partnership. (It was also believed that geese do not look for other mates even after their spouses die, so in fact they mate for life.) At that point, the bride enters and the most important part of the ceremony begins.

The couple washed their hands and bowed to each other, after which they pledged to the gods of heaven and earth that they have become one and drink rice wine from the same cup. After the marriage is declared, the mothers-in-law each gave their respective geese to the bride and bridegroom, who in turn bowed in thanks to their parents. The newlywed couple then bowed to the guests, who all danced at the ensuing party.

Finally, cocks and hens were thrown at the couple amid the cries of “many, many children for thousands and tens of thousands of years”. The couple then exited which marked the end of the ceremony.


The Common People's Entertainment

”Namsadang” or “Namsadang Pae” are terms that refer to a group of migrant musician/actors that were active from the late Joseon Dynasty to the 1920's. They typically performed in front of common people at places like open markets or in rural areas. As the class hierarchy was quite strict during Joseon, one of the few forms of public entertainment was the Namsadang, which were heavily regulated by the ruling upper classes.

A Namsandang Pae was typically composed of from 40 to 50 men, who were led by a man called the “Kokdushoe.” The group also had a promoter “Huaju,” a director “Tunshoe,” actors “Gayeol,” newcomers “Piri,” the elderly “Jeoseung-pae” and porters.

A Namsadang performance usually started at 9:00 p.m. as lasted for 6 to 7 hours until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. The play featured “Poongmul,” “Burna,” “Salpan,” “Eorum deotboegi,” and “Deolmi”. “Poongmul” is exciting percussion music intended to signal the start of the evening's entertainment and to attract the audience. “Burna” is similar to the Chinese dish juggling where plates are rotated on top of rods. “Salpan” corresponds to modern acrobatics. The name “Salpan” itself means “life is at stake.” “Eorum” is tightrope walking, the term literally meaning that it is as difficult as walking on thin ice. “Deotboegi” is a masked dance drama in which various social classes are mocked.

Namsadang originated among the common people and the performances of this troupe were for the general public. The content of the performances allowed the audience to express indirectly their sufferings and also served to awaken them to the realities of life. Namsadang has been designated as an intangible cultural asset and its contents are now carefully preserved.

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