Tags: cultural heritage administration

[ msn: it's cold ]

King Taejong's Rain

Saturday (12 June, 2010) not only marked the date of Korea's first match in the 2010 World Cup but also the transition between the fourth and fifth months of the East Asian lunisolar calendar (태음력 in Korea, 太陰曆 in Chinese characters). While the fifth solar month is packed full of special days covering a variety of occasions the same cannot be said of its agriculturally-based counterpart. However, what the fifth lunar month lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality -- with the festivities of Dano (단오) occupying a special place in the traditional calendar.

Dano takes place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (16 June this year) and is a subject I've written about in the past (here and here). Another event that is coming up falls on the tenth day of the fifth lunar month (21 June) -- King Taejong's Rain. (As an aside, 21 June is also noteworthy for marking the summer solstice within the system of lunisolar seasonal divisions.) Continuing with a description of King Taejong's Rain, from Choe Sang-su's Annual Customs of Korea:

Collapse )

Prior to starting this entry I decided to do a quick web search to see if there might be other information worth including and came across a somewhat surprising result. According to this page from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) there is a site near Busan named Taejongdae (태종대) which is "famous for the ritual of praying for rain, performed when there are droughts, and rain on the 10th of lunar May is called the 'Taejong Rain'." All well and good except for the fact that this site gets its name from the Silla Dynasty ruler King Taejong Mu-Yeol (604~661; 태종 무열왕) and not the similarly-named Joseon ruler mentioned in the above passages!


Photo of Taejongdae from Naver 포토갤러리

Collapse )

Finally, the transition between lunisolar months on Saturday was also heralded with a thunder and lightning storm in my current home of Uijeongbu. The city itself has a connection to King Taejo and his son Taejong but I'll save that for another update. In the meantime, here's a video I took of our local weather. A couple of flashes there that highlight the construction work going on at Uijeongbu Station, plus a decent strike at 40" in.



Funny, it just started down pouring rain outside ...
[ rice fields ]

Cultural Heritage Administration and Vultures


Andean Condor from the Seoul National Zoo


One of the stories that I missed during my month-long absence from blogging is the potential development of having a new Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) site in the northern province of Gyeonggi-do. As a brief introduction, the Cultural Heritage Administration is responsible for the identification and preservation of eight types of culturally-important aspects to Korean culture.

Collapse )

Probably the most recognizable category from the list is National Treasures, which includes names such as Namdaemun, Bangasayusang (a gilt-bronze meditating Maitreya Buddha at the Seoul National Museum), and the Tripitaka Koreana (a collection of 13th century wood blocks containing the Buddhist sutras). However, as you've probably gathered based on the title and image used at the top of this entry, one of the upcoming additions to the CHA register may end up being a Natural Monument.

On 4 April the JoongAng Daily published a story in their 'politics' section titled 'Migratory vultures find haven in disputed habitat'. The article offers a brief description of the situation outside Paju, located just south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), where vultures regularly congregate during the winter. Increasing development and tourism are interfering with the vulture's habitat and creating a conflict between those who want to create a protected zone for the birds and those in favor of continuing the region's growth. The connection to the CHA appears in the final paragraph, which concludes the article with:

“Since we think it is necessary to protect vultures, Paju, Gyeonggi and the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea jointly collected 700 million won ($612,500) at the end of last year and built a facility in Paju to take care of sick or injured vultures. It is in operation,” said Baek Chan-ho, an official at the Paju government.


Obviously a monetary donation isn't quite the same as designating the vulture's winter grounds as a protected area, but it may lead to other changes in the future. As an example, a part of Gyeonggi-do's Yeoncheon County was designated as Natural Monument 412 in 1999 due to its significance as a habitat for water spiders. (Here are some photos of the world's lone species of water spider, the diving bell spider Argyroneta aquatica, and its habitat.)


Since the JoongAng Daily deletes articles after they've been online for a while I've cut-and-paste it into an entry here for posterity.

[ hanbok papillon ]

Jeongneung: A Story of Queen Sindeok's Grave


Jeongneung


The site at Jeongneung contains the tomb of King Taejo's second wife, Queen Sindeok (?-1396). King Taejo (1335-1398) is the man responsible for dismantling the Goryeo Dynasty and founding the Joseon Dynasty in its stead. Taking advantage of a military confrontation with China's emerging Ming Dynasty over the Liaodong Peninsula, Taejo - serving as the general Yi Seonggye at the time - turned on the capital and initiated a coup d'état. King U was replaced by his son, King Chang, before both were killed by Taejo. Another member of the Goryeo royal family, King Gongyang, was then put on the throne before the dynasty was abolished altogether.

Adopting a custom from the Goryeo Dynasty, King Taejo had two wives -- one from his hometown in Jeonju (Queen Sinui), and one from the nation's capital, Seoul (Queen Sindeok). Queen Sinui died a year before Taejong took the throne but had six sons and two daughters during the time the two were married. A further policy from the Goryeo Dynasty was to have a son from the first queen named Crown Prince to take over the throne, but between his love for Queen Sindeok and some persuasion from Prime Minister Jeong Dojeon he had Queen Sindeok's second son named as Crown Prince.

Collapse )

[ hanulsaek ]

Jeongneung | 정릉

Jeongneung: Part One | Part Two

Three weekends ago I made a trip out to the royal tombs at Uireung, and the weekend after that I made another voyage south from Uijeongbu to visit the tomb at Jeongneung. However, between leaving home late and backtracking twice due to not having any decent signs to guide me to the tomb I arrived five minutes after admission to the tomb ends and wasn't sure if I'd even be allowed access that afternoon. Fortunately, upon explaining my situation to the man sitting at the visitor information booth he not only waved me through but also waived the admission fee. Protests that I was more than willing to pay only fell on deaf ears.



Uireung is unique among the Joseon royal tombs for having the tombs placed tandem to one another, while Jeongneung is the only tomb site to feature an approaching pathway positioned to the side rather than head-on to the memoral hall (전자각; jeonjagak) -- as seen in the photo above.

Collapse )

The next post ought to be one dealing a little more with the history of Jeongneung, but for now I'll just say that it's the burial site for Queen Sindeok, second wife to the Joseon Dynasty's founder, King Taejo.

[ hanbok papillon ]

Uireung - A Story of King Sukjong and King Gyeongjong

Uireung: Part One | Part Two

In my previous entry I wrote about the Joseon dynasty royal tombs located at Uireung and mentioned my desire to include information about the life of King Gyeongjong and his second lawful wife, Queen Seonhui. The main reason that kept me from doing this at the time is that so much of what happened during Gyeongjong's rule is the result of fighting between political factions -- with one of the groups involved splitting into two new factions during the same period. 아이고.

Collapse )

Collapse )

[ hanbok papillon ]

Uireung | 의릉

Uireung: Part One | Part Two

Two weekends ago I went out to Uireung (의릉) in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul. Uireung is one of the royal tombs that was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year and houses the tombs of King Gyeongjong (景宗, 1688-1724) - 20th king of the Joseon Dynasty - and his lawful second wife Queen Seonui (宣懿王后, 1705-1730).


Uireung with Cheongjangsan (Mt. Cheongjang) in the background


The greater Seoul area was struck by a large snowstorm on the Monday after Christmas - the heaviest snowfall on record since measurements were first taken back in the 1930s - but most of the snow was gone by the following week. Uireung, however, still had a large coating of white powder covering the ground; stepping off the walking trails submerged my feet up to the ankles and occasionally further. One of the nice things about going to the tomb on a cold afternoon was that there weren't many visitors around -- only five people came near the Jeongjagak memorial hall during my two hour visit and there weren't that many others who seemed to be out on the hillside's trails. While I originally wanted to write about some of the history surrounding King Gyeongjeong and Queen Seonui in this entry, it seems that will have to wait until I gain a better grasp on Joseon politics and the competing factions of the time. Maybe something to work on this weekend in addition to an entry on the roof tiles found on royal palaces and tombs. Instead, here are more photos:

Collapse )

[ eternal tao ]

Paldalmun and a Tale of Two Taeguks

I mentioned the Hwaseong Culture Festival at the start of last month but didn't write anything about the subject after that. I did make it to the second day of the festival, though a mix-up on the bus meant that I ended up at a mountain outside of town rather than attending the event that I had most wanted to see.

On my return to the subway station at the end of the evening I was able to take a decent photo of Paldalmun (팔달문), the southern gate to the old city walls of Suwon. According to Wikimapia the name means "open roads in every direction" and was wide enough to allow the king's procession to enter the city accompanied by horses and sedans. It took a fair bit of waiting to get a shot without cars in the foreground, but this is what I ended up with:


Collapse )

.
[ hanbok papillon ]

Taepyeongmu

The end of October saw a reenactment of King Gojong's enthronement as head of the Korean Empire at Unhyeongung in Jongno-gu, Seoul that was an interesting experience to attend. Admission fees were waived on account of the special event, though the light rain that afternoon seemed to keep many people from attending. It was also a little disappointing to have a group of high school students show up 10 minutes from the end and spend all their time gossiping and squeeling loudly. Guess this is more proof that I'm turning into a cranky old man.

Before the coronation ceremony took place there was a performance of Joseon-era music by a boy's middle school band and a sampling of traditional dances. One of the dances that I recognized is the Taepyeongmu (태평무; 太平舞), which sees participants dressed in court clothing and dancing to wish peace and prosperity upon the nation.



Collapse )

For those in Korea interested in seeing a performance of Taepyeongmu you're in luck -- weekly performances are held at the Taepyeongmu Initiation Hall in Anseong, Gyeonggi-do with contact information, hours, and directions available online in English here from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) site. And for those not in Korea, here are three videos of the Taepyeongmu dance:




Collapse )

[ eternal tao ]

Gansong Art Museum (간송미술관), III

I've written about the Gansong Art Museum a couple of times on my blog - here and here for those curious - and Sunday of last week was the autumn opening of the museum. A private collection located in Seongbuk-gu, the museum will be open to the public from 18 October to 1 November this year and the current focus is on Buddhist and Taoist paintings. There is also a selection of works from the Hyewon Pungsokdo (혜원풍속도) on display, which is an album of genre paintings from the famed Joseon Dynasty painter Shin Yun-bok (who used the pen name 'Hyewon'). I find it amazing that I've gone three times in the past year and have seen completely different paintings on each occasion.

Here are two pieces from the 혜원풍속도. Click on any of the images in this entry to see larger versions.


Left: "Biguni greeting a Gisaeng" (Korean: 이승영기; 尼僧迎妓), 1805.
Right: "Finding the Temple After Hearing a Bell Sound" (Korean: 문종심사; 聞鍾尋寺), 1805.

Other artists that were prominently featured include Kim Eunho (김은호), Jang Seung-eub (장승업), and Jo Seok-jeon (조석전). Similar to my first time visiting, many of my favorites don't show up under an internet search. However, here are a few that I could find:

Collapse )

Collapse )
[ hanbok papillon ]

On Chuseok -- Ganggangsullae

Having been busy over the past two days I missed the chance to write about a few Chuseok-related things that caught my interest. One of these is Ganggangsullae - 강강술래 (姜降戌來) or 강강수월래 (强羌水越來) in Korean* - a type of circular dance that is commonly associated with Chuseok and the region of Jeollanam-do. There are basically two stories of how the dance originated, but both of them involve women gathering together in hanbok - traditional Korean clothing - to dance under the light of the full moon.


Ganggang-sullae from 조선닷컴 - 뉴스플러스


Ganggangsullae was designated as Important Intangible Cultural Properties No. 8 by the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) on February 15, 1965 and was added to UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at the start of the month (October 1, 2009). There were four additional cultural properties from Korea that were included in the list, which I hope to discuss at a later time. They are: the Jeju Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut shaman ritual, Namsadang Nori mask dance, Yeongsanjae Buddhist ceremony, and Cheoyongmu Daoist ritual -- which I mention in this entry.

The more easily-verified origin to the Ganggangsullae dance traces back to the late sixteenth century. Quoting from my copy of Annual Customs of Korea, Choe Sang-su writes:

Collapse )