Monday, 3 July 2017

ACM: Korean Folk Performances

ACM: Korean Folk Performances | by Meheartseoul
Visitors of ACM can discover the unique and rich art through folk performances. Some of these traditional dances were designated as Korea's important intangible cultural assets.

In general, there are two types of folk dance in Korea: 'Shamanic' and 'Court' dances. Shamanic folk dances that were created and performed in the villages during festivals and religious holidays. Korean court dances is called 'Jae' (정재) which mean to display talent including dance and other performing arts. Jeongjae were used to perform for the royal family, court officials, and foreign envoys or for festive occasions.

 Korean Traditional Performances.
People rushed to the foyer once they heard the performance going to start soon. Although I rushed there, but people foyer were already crowded. Most of the people were standing because the seats were limited. The crowd was almost blocked the walking way to gallery.
 A troupe of male performers (Namsadang) entering with traditional music instruments.

Namsadangnori (남사당놀이) usually is like a circus. It's usually included six distinct performance: Pungmulnori (풍물놀이), Beona nori (버나놀이), salpan (살판), eoreum (어름), deotboegi (덧뵈기), and deolmi (덜미) involving various activities such as music, acrobatics, stunt, play, and dance. 

Samul reflects the number of four (사물 = Samul) percussion instruments  used for the performance. It said to be derived from four instruments in Korean Buddist Temple called 'Un-u-pung-roe (雲雨風雷)' which combining the sound between heaven and earth:
1. Barrel Drum (북 = Buk) resembling to blowing cloud.
2. Hourglass drum (장구 = Janggu) resonating the rain.
3. Large Gong (징 = Jing) echoing the wind.
4. Small Gong (꽹과리 = Ggwaenggwari) producing thundery sound.

If you noticed in the video, a man wearing white hanbok standing at the right corner blowing something like small trumpet. It's called Taepyeongso / Hojeok (태평소 / 호적) which is occasionally used as additional instrument.

The moment strong traditional music mixturing these four instruments started to play,
I somehow feel like being teleported back to the old Joseon Dynasty...

Sajamu (사자무 ) Lion Dance 

"Hey, is that lion?!" My daughter asked because it's our first time encountering Korean Lion dance. We watched so many time of Chinese Lion Dances, which is usually performed during Lunar New Year, but the lion appearance was cute and funny unlike those Chinese lions.

 Liar Lion acted as camel and snake.

This masked lion was a humourous performance especially when the lion suddenly has 2 humps popped up and walked around. Arabic music was played  to matched the performance. After that this liar lion turned to a long snake and started to slithering around and sticking out his red tounge and ended. The performance ended with the lion shaking hands with audiences with his 'snake' tongue ;P

Pungmulnori (풍물놀이) Spinning Hat Performance.

Pungmulnori was one of the oldest folk performance in Korea which originally played to wish for a good harvest. Deeply rooted from farming lifestyle and culture therefore it's known as farmer's music (nong'ak/농악). 

It's a great source of entertainment for the farmers to enjoy farming, gathering and sharing the joy and grief together. Feel the farmers' spirit through the unique and creative art of drumming and dancing. 

The terms samulnori and pungmul are often used interchangeably. Samulnori is sitting style (앉은반 = anjuban) and more emphasis on the music from four percussion while Pungmulnori is  standing style (선반 = seonban) involving music, dance and acrobatics.

Donned in traditional clothing with cloth ribbons. The bright color of ribbons representing Sky (blue), Earth (red) and Human (yellow).  Hats are another component of the costumes: Sangmo is a black round hat, which was army helmet during Goguryeo dynasty. A flowery pointed white hat ggoggal (풍물 꼬깔) is the most common head-dress, originated from hats worn by Buddhist monks.

Some advanced performers wear sangmo attached with long ribbon. The long riboon will flow in the air and draw patterns whenever the performers spinning and flipping their heads.

Bupochum (부포춤) Hat Performance.

There's another hat that looks like a flower called Bupochum. Kinda interesting and fun hat to wear because the white feathers will created different flower blooming illusions such as sunflower, lotus, daisy and so on when the performer move his head up, down, forward, backward or bending their knees. It's so amazing yo~!
Beonanori (버나놀이 ) Spinning Dish Dance.

Beona refers to a circular disc-shaped object made of leather. Beona is quite similar to spinning saucers or plates in Chinese circus. 

As part of the performance, they teased each others and show off their skills. Started with the basic spinning with stick, then tossing and exchange the objects. Then they change the stick to fan, swords and 2 items together.

The performers also invited few audiences to spin the disc with the stick. Hahaha... oh well it's not easy as you think ;P

Salpan (살판) Acrobatics Performance.

The word Salpan comes from the phrase “If you do well, you will be alive (salpan), and if you don't, you will be dead" (jookeulpan).” 

These salpan performance was ridicously incredible. I don't know how they managed to play the instrument, spin and flip their head and doing 'B-Boy' acrobatics stunts like flipping and flying?! Jinjja Daebak!!!

Energetic and lively choreography with all the performers showing their skills
and the strong music beats creating the excitement vibes. Cool! 멋지다~!!!

Hope to watch Pungmulnori, the  representative art performance of Korea
during opening ceremony for Pyeongchang Olympics 2018.

The original image of cute Soohorang credited to talented artist Magic Frog.

I don't know how to draw or paint, so these cartoonist Soohorang
performing Pungmulnori, Beonanori and Bupochum was by
painstakingly checking the videos to get the matching positions, 
then merging, deleting the unused parts and editing them.

Geommu (검무) Sword Dance.

Geommu, Korean Sword Dance is one of the important intangibles assets. It's originated during the twelfth century the later portion of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Geommu was rearranged by the Royal Court and recreated by the Gisaeng during Joseon Dynasty. 

Gisaeng 'Hwang Jin-Yi' performing sword dance. 

Geommu is performed with special costume, dance motions, and music. The dance is known for its grace in performance. Extra emphasis is placed on the movement of the costuming, notably the sleeves, in harmony with the movements of the dancer.
Jeonju Hanok Village Hotel 전주한옥빌리지호텔 |
Watching this live was like watching  K-drama 'Painter of the Wind' when Yun Bok and Danwon had to paint 'Fight' as the topic. He painted 'Dance with two swords' (쌍검대무) and Kim Hong Do painted 'Ssireum' (씨름). 

This 'fierce' dance was one of my favorite folk performances, therefore I purposely stayed in Jeonju Hanok Hotel which the hotel using some of Yun Bok's famous paintings including 'Scenery on Dano day' (단오풍정). If you're curious about these two painters, please check my previous post to read more about paintings exhibiting at ACM and particularly standing portrait of Seo Jik-su painted by Yi Myeong-gi and Kim Hong do.

 Jangguchum (장구춤) Hourglass Drum Dance.

Janggu Dance is combining beating hourglass drum which stripped between dancers' shoulder and waist with rhythmic and graceful dance.

Janggu class with KTO VIP Tour members at Jeongdong Theater
before watching traditional musical performance 'Miso.'

It's interesting and fun experience to learn how to beat janggu and holding 2 sticks (Gungchae and Yeolchae) properly. At the end of the class, we managed to play three sets of basic rhythms (장단 = Jangdan). Please check my pervious post if you're interested to know more about janggu.

Buchaechum (부채춤) Fan Dance.

Fans were widely used in dances and rituals as they're belived to bring prosperity and expel evil apart from their useful and decorative functions. This fan dance is said to be  one of the most beautiful and appealing folk dances of Korea.  

The dancers wearing bright hanbok gracefully manipulate their fans while syncronicing their dance movements according to the music. Billowy hanbok flowing when the dancers turning was extremely charming.

Seungmu (승무) Buddhist Dance

This dance based on ritual (Bubgo) dances  of Buddhist monks was once banned by the Joseon Court. Then it was transformed into a folk dance and developed mostly by gisaengs. Now it's preserved as one of the Cultural Properties of Korea.

The dancer wears a robe (jangsam) with long sleeve called gasa and white hood called gokkal. The drum (bubgo) is the most important part of Seungmu.  

The seungmu integrates the eight rhythmic cycles mixture of flowing movements and stillness. Every now and then, when one rhythm shifts to another, the dancer changes the mood by changing the steps.

It's a serene and soul-stiring dance contributed by flowing super long white sleeves, dignified movements and slow traditional rhythmic drum beats.

 My most favorite dance still remain the cool and stricking Ogomu  
(five drum dance) after watching 'Gu Family Book' and 'Miso'

Hope that Pyeongchang Olympics will be presenting the beauty of 
Korean culture and arts through these impressive folk dances.

Related Posts:
Korean Buddhist Temple |

Fantastick Live Gugak Performance in Seoul |
Fantastick Show
(Fusion Gukak Music Performance)

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Confucian: Calligraphy, Art and Culture

[Korea] - Confucian: Calligraphy, Art and Culture | by Meheartseoul
Addition to my previous post about Court Treasures and Culture,  this post will be more on how Confucianism influenced the culture, tradition, social life and art during Joseon Dynasty and modern Korea.

 'A Confucian, A Man of Letters'

From young age, a prince had to study Confucian classics, history, law and on top of those, a king had to practise calligraphy as well as composie prose and poetry. Calligraphy was regarded as a means of cultivating one's mind and personality.

 Ridiciously neat and nice calligraphy that looks like it's printed. 
I wish I could write as pretty as this!

 Yi Hwang wrote a guide in Hangul to King Seonjo on how to rule and help his people.

Although Hangul was invented in 1446, but King Hyojang
still wrote in Chinese characters, because Hangul was
intended for commoners who didn't have chance to 
learn Chinese characters (someone like me ;P).

 Told my Hubby that I knew how to read the text!
Although the pronounciation a bit different, but at least I can
read these Chinese characters with the help of printed Hangul.

Life as a Joseon bureacrat could be stressful. In historical drama, we often see victims of political purges or conflicts that arose between scholar-officials, which led some yangban to pursue alternative paths like calligraphy, painting, music and literature.

 Kim Jeonghui's rubbing calligraphy '真兴北狩古境' means 'The territory
where King Jinheung (in K-drama Hwarang) toured the north on hunting.'

Confucian Scholars emphazed the value of forests that led the conservation and development of temple gardens, restricted hunting areas and forests. Conservation efforts in Korea actually started when the reign of King Jinheung (Silla Dynasty) who promoted areas of scenic beauty.

Calligraphy of Song Siyeol.

Kim Jeonghu's Calligraphy for his chilhood friend, Kim Yugeun (penname: Mukso).

This is regarded as one of the most renowned works of Kim Jeong-hui (penname: Chusa), written in the regular script. The lines, meaning “One should know when to remain silent and when to laugh,” were inspired by the pen-name of his close friend, ‘Mukso Geosa’ (meaning, ‘a person with a silent smile’). One can see that it is written with earnestness, and the sharp brush strokes show the great calligrapher’s depth. (Source:

I thought the poster was Toegye Yi Hwang, Confucian scholars (선비 = Seonbi). Seonbi was idolized as the ideal man during the Joseon Dynasty.

There's another painting with ink on silk scroll hanging 
at the exhibition hall at the second floor.

Korea Treasure no. 1487 is an impressive portrait of Joseon scholar-official
Seo Jik-su with his critiqued on his own portrait – he thought 
the artist didn’t properly portray his mind. 

 Standing portraits like this one are quite rare in Korea,
because most of the portraits were in seated position.

Seo Jik-su is shown donned in a long overcoat, high hat and white socks. Traditionally, the painters emphasized the facial expressions and features of the face to the tiniest details and to portrait their personality, and intellect, as well as their appearance. 

The inscription, written by Seo stated that the court painter Yi Myeong-gi painted the face and to achieve the 3D effect for the face, Yi utilized a shading technique which involved a repetition of fine brush strokes. The rest of the figure was completed by Kim Hong-do with a different shading techniques to depict the heavy folds in Seo’s garment. |

If you watched sageuk drama 'Painter of the Wind (바람의 화원)' you must familiar with these two exceptional painters during Joseon era, Kim Hong do (pen name: Danwon / 단원) and Shin Yun bok (pen name: Hyewon / 혜원). 

In this historical fiction, Kim Hong-do was a fierce competitor to Yi Myeong-gi to be selected as the imperial painter for King's Portrait (어진화사).

Yun Bok marked Kim Hong do's face because Kim Hong Do asked him to define 
his Sam Jeong Wu Ak (3정 5악) after showing him the realistic portrait of Yun Du-seo.

 3정: Upper, Middle and Lower face.
5악: South (forehead), North (chin), East (left cheek), 
West (right cheek) and Central (nose). (Photo: Wikipedia)

Slanted eyes portrait drawn by Kim Hong Do and Yun Bok in the drama.
Actually, the real painter for Chae Je-gong's portrait was Yi Myeong-gi.

 Portrait of Seo Maesu - First State Councilor (left) and
Potraits of Successful Candidates of the Deungjunsi 
Military Examination (right).

The rank badge embroidery on the chest signify the rank.  Seo Maesu was holding the highest government post wore green robe with two cranes design. Tiger and leopards which symbolised courage were for military officials.

Portrait paintings were important in Confucian society because it was believed that the portrait enabled to bring out person's spirit and soul to allow that person to be resurrect alive. 

Sosu Seowon (Yeongju) & Munseongsa (Ojukheon, Gangneung)

Royal Portrait Museum, Seowon Confucian Academies, private memorial shrines are common places to enshrine the portraits and perform rites to pay respect to ancestors or historical figures.

Besides portraits, there're others aesthetics artworks recorded where you can witness a glimpse of culture and tradition and lifestyle of Joseon Dynasty that adopted Confucianism principles.

This colorful 45 metre long handscroll meticulously documented King Jeongjo's
procession to his father's tomb in year 1795 which involving 6000 people.

King Jeongjo pay respect to royal tomb of his father (Crown Prince Sadoseja) every year. His visit in year 1795 coincided with his mother's 60th birthday (환갑 = hwangap). Therefore, he held a feast was held at Hwaseong Haenggung Palace in Suwon because it's considered auspicious for a person to completed the first 60-year cycle. (Vera Lee)
 Bongsudang Hall means "to plead for a long enough life," for King Jeongjo's mother.  
 appears in scenes of K-drama 'Moonlight Drawn by Clouds
as the living quarters of the Crown Prince.

Reception of Japanese Envoy.

Ten-fold screen painting with ink and colors on paper from right to left 
starting with the procession and ended with welcoming banquet. 

 Celebrating the birth of Crown Prince Yi Cheok.

Another ten-fold screen painting, but this one on silk instead of paper. King Gojong was indicated by Sun, Moon and Five Peaks screen and the red throne in the main hall because it's forbidden to paint the king except for Royal Portrait. 

A pair of 2-panel folding screens were painting of 60th birthday banquet for 
Elder Queen Mother Sunwon (Wife of King Sunjo) 
in Changgyeonggung Palace.

Although both paintings look seemingly identical, the left captures the same banquet by night because lanterns were found only in the left painting of the pair. Please watch the video of the detailed explanation from the assistant curator.

'Shoeing A Horse' (left) and paintings of man prentended blind
to peek at a woman washing clothes with her skirt hiked up. 

Birds and Flowers Paintings by Nam Gyewoo.

 Painting from Album of Eight Views of Seoul and its vicinity.
Painting by Sim Sajeong & Art critic by Kang Sehwang
acknowledged the work as a masterpiece.


  Folk paintings portrayed the ordinary lives of people, 'true-view' landscape, animals,
flowers, plants were part of brush paintings that flourished during that era.

The Ninth King of Hell (left) with a scale to weight one's misdeeds & The Tenth King
of Hell (right) with Karma Mirror will decide the final judgement which one of the
six realms (bottom left) the person will be reborn in the next life.

 Portrait of Monk Ssangwoldang by Hyesandang Chugyeon.

The Chinese characters at the end of the scroll state that it was painted by a monastic painter named Hyesandang, one of the most famous Buddhist painters at the end of the Joseon Dynasty. 

The prayer beads represent his devotion to Buddha's teachings, while the book in the background symbolise his great learning.

Monks were rank after they passed the higher state examination (high to low): Great Virtue (daedeok), Great Master (daesa), Double Great Master (jung daesa), Triple Great Master (samjung daesa), Zen Master (seonsa), Great Zen Master (dae seonsa). 

Portrait of Choe Yeonhong by Chae Yongsin.

Unnangja (Choe Yeonhong) was a gisaeng and recognised for her patriotic acts during the Rebellion of Hong Gyeongrae in 1811. On the upper right, it stated that her age was 27 at the time of rebellion. The composition, reminiscent of Virgin and Child images of Christianity which reflect the influence of Western art. 

Portrait paintings was important for ceremonial rites to respect the ancestors and those contributed to the nation. Portrait of Choe Yeonhong with Gyewolhyang, another brave gisaeng who was bravely assisted in assassinate a Japanese commander during Imjin War were enshrined in Uiyeolsa Shrine.

Confucian was held as social ideology which emphasize 'yang' (male-related) dominant,  therefore portraits of women were rare that even queens and noblewomen couldn’t be painted. King Sukjong wanted to commission a portrait of Queen Inhyeon but there was uproar that the court male painters will be looking at her for too long! Ended he gave up and therefore there's no portrait of queen.

I like traditional paintings especially when they included lines of beautiful poem in calligraphy. Therefore, these few dramas such as 'Painter of the Wind,' 'Hwang Jin Yi,' and 'Saimdang: Light's Diary' showing their talents in arts.

Talking about painting, Saimdang was one of the great female artists during Joseon Dynasty, but her artworks either paintings or calligraphies were not displayed here.
Collection of Saimdang's Chochungdo painting of 
plants and insects and Calligraphy shown at Ojukheon Museum.

Despite her outstanding talents as an artist herself, in that that era she's recognised more as wise mother of seven children including Yulgok Yi I, the smart and famous Joseon Confucian Scholar.

Learned more about the history and culture during Joseon from this exhibition. Actually, there are more things, but 5 hours were not enough for me to look and read everything in details. Although, I was familiar with some of the names as they appeared in Sageuk dramas.

Really wish to know and learn more on Korean culture and tradition, language, correct etiquettes and manners so that I can relate when watching historical dramas or when visiting Korea.

Located near the venue of Pyeongchang Olympics, you might not want to miss these 2 beautiful traditional Hanok houses with rich history which often used as filming locations for historical dramas. Please click on the links for more details.


Related Posts:

Yeongju Seonbichon Village 선비촌 |

Yeongju Sosuseowon Confucian Academy 영주 소수서원 |