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This weekend marks the final two days of the Jinju Namgang Lantern Festival (진주남강유등축제) in Gyeongsangnam Province. However, after attending two other festivals in as many weeks the thought of spending six hours on a bus to reach Jinju from Uijeongbu seems a little daunting. In addition to that, the photos I've seen of the festival make it look a bit like an aquatic version of the Lotus Lantern Festival parade that I caught in Seoul over the Children's Day holiday last May.

[Left: Lotus Lantern Parade - my gallery | Right: Jinju Lantern Festival - Oceans des Étoiles)]

While it sounds like one of the two main festivals that people attend in Korea - the Andong Mask Festival being the other - there are so many other things going on this weekend that it's hard to choose just one to check out. Heck, while down in Andong I didn't even make the time to try out the local specialties, salted mackerel (간고등어, gangodengeo) and jjim dalk (찜닭, a chicken dish), which both Roboseyo (link) and FatManSeoul (link) describe as being best in Andong. Then again, there were enough free cups of Andong soju (안동소주) handed my way during the festival to partially make up for that. Drinking something with a 45% alcohol content on an empty stomach is certainly one way to make sure you're awake in the morning!

The festival itself was interesting, and meeting with dedalusj provided an opportunity to hear about all the changes that have been made to the grounds in recent years. A variety of masks were on display across the festival area, while other features included juggling, traditional Korean paper-making (한지; hanji?), puppet shows, bubble wands, numerous booths, an international mask museum, and international dancing. The nations represented for that last category were Australia, Buryatia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Russia, and Yakutia. (A name in italics indicates performances I attended.) My pictures from the festival are located in a four page gallery starting here for anyone who wants to get an idea of what the festival was like.

[carving a village totem | dancers from buryatia | a very photogenic figure | mask painted to resemble the greek flag]

I went on the opening night of the festival and there was a fireworks display scheduled at the Hahoe Folk Village (하회마을) that turned out to be a major surprise. Hahoe is located next to the banks of the Nakdong River (洛東江), which has a sandy beach on one side facing a cliff face on the other side of that stretch of the river. It was possible to see the brightly colored, booming fireworks common at events in North America, but what was so amazing about the fireworks at Hahoe were the seonyu julbulnori (선유줄불놀이) that were strung across the river. Trust me when I tell you that my photos can't do them any justice.

And if two very different kinds of fireworks weren't enough there is also the Andong tradition of gathering together bundles of foliage, lighting them on fire, and throwing them off the cliff to screams of "낙화야" from the crowd on the beach. This is what my camera recorded:

Meanwhile, some research from Roboseyo has turned up a set of amazing pictures posted here and here from Korean bloggers. And if that wasn't enough, he made an exceptionally phenomenal video of the 선유줄불놀이 fireworks that you can see here. I highly encourage everyone to go and watch it and, if you're like me, you'll end up playing it several times.

In addition to the fireworks and cliff fireballs there was also a boat out in the Nakdong River carrying two figures dressed as a gisaeng (기생) and a member of the yangban (양반) dancing together. A spotlight on shore projected their shadows onto the cliff wall for everyone to see and added to the magical experience of the night.

After the fireworks ended our group went to Hahoe Folk Village itself. Like the Nakan Folk Village (낙안읍성 민속마을) in Jeollanam-do, Hahoe is a fully-inhabited traditional village that includes houses made with thatched straw roofs - an architectural design that President Park Chung-hee tried to abolish during his modernization of Korea in the 1960s and 1970s. With the crowds dispersed and very little in the way of outside lights - a candle and cellphone light were our only way to navigate the village alleys at times - it was a complete contrast to the Seoul metropolitan area. Think of walking along this path, from Hahoe, but in darkness.

In Uijeongbu I can only see one or two stars in the sky; in Hahoe it felt possible to see them all, and some of the Milky Way to boot. Making the trip out to Andong was worth it just for the evening at Hahoe Folk Village. To wrap things up I have two videos from the international dances to share. The first features dancers from Buryatia while the second features dancers from Russia.



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Oct. 10th, 2008 10:48 pm (UTC)
I love all your pictures. :)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )