The Traditional Culture of Gyeonggi-do 600 Years - Part 3

Traditional Performing Arts, Intangible Cultural Heritage

By Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Performances held on sandae and yesandae shown in an early 18th century painting depicting the scene of a foreign envoy receptionGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Traditional Performing Arts 


Yangju Byeolsandae-nori (Mask Dance Drama of Yangju)

Aesadang Beopgo-nori segment of Byeolsandae-nori performed in the 1930’sGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Byeolsandae-nori of Yangju is a communal mask play performed in Yuyang-ri, Junae-myeon of Yangju, which was the seat of the town’s administration during the Joseon period. In around 1800, when a Seoul-based mask play troupe – Bonsandaepae - was invited to perform in Yangju, and the performance proved unsatisfactory, the townspeople turned to local performers, eventually making the Bosandaepae routine into the centerpiece of the town’s own communal performing arts repertory. This area is indeed a culturally receptive area, and its people have a great flair and interest for performing arts. In 1964, with the Bonsandaepae troupe no longer extant, the sandae-nori of Yangju was designated as Important Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 2 as the only surviving derivative of the Seoul troupe’s mask routine. The term ‘sandae’ designates a large outdoor stage or arena for performances such as a mountain slope. There are several types of sandae, including daesandae, hwasandae, yesandae, dajeongsandae and jusandae.

‘Dance of Sin-harabi and Miyal-halmi’Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Byeolsandae-nori of Yangju is therefore named after the outdoor arena in which it was originally performed. Bonsandae mask plays in the Seoul area (Aeogae, Sajikgol, Gupabal, Noryangjin, Nokbeon bonsandae) are currently completely extinct. Among the surviving mask plays, Byeolsandae-nori of Yangju is closest to the original bonsandae routines. In terms of themes and aesthetics, this play is about emancipation from the fetters of reality and the transformation of a tragic and unrewarding life into a more desirable form. It is cathartic in nature, as members of the community gathered for the mask play find in it an outlet for their suppressed emotions and frustrations and also an occasion to reaffirm the commonalities between them, in terms of their life aspirations. In other words, this mask play is designed to resolve conflicts and promote reconciliation and harmony between members of the community. Meanwhile, this mask routine also played a key role in keeping alive the traditions of various organizations like gilds of low-ranking government employees and merchants and ensuring continuity in hereditary family professions like shamans. Starting in the 1920’s, this play was increasingly performed outside holiday periods. Later, with the availability of external funding, the mask play troupe often traveled to perform in places outside this area as well as holding weekend performances throughout the year. With this accelerating trend toward delocalization in the late 20th century, Byeolsandae-nori of Yangju has mostly lost its original characteristic as a community performing art form.

Talgosa, the mask rite, during the annual performance of Byeolsandae-noriGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Toegyewon Sandae-nori is a mask play which used to be performed in the Toegyewon area of Namyangju. The mask play has been reconstructed based on records and witness accounts, in recent decades. In 2010, it was designated as Gyeonggi-do Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 52.

The Toegyewon area, an important center for trade in the mid-Hangang waterway network, used to provide passage from eastern Seoul to eastern Gyeonggi-do and Gangwon-do. Its location is therefore likely to have helped to ensure the transmission of this sandae mask routine to modern times.

‘Dance of the Old Man and the Maiden’ during the annual performance of Yangju Byeolsandae-nori, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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A singer performing Gyeonggi folk songsGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Gyeonggi Minyo (Folk Song of Gyeonggi Area) 

Im Jeong-ran, a holder of Gyeonggi folk song heritageGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Gyeonggi folk songs encompass folk songs originating in Gyeonggi-do and Seoul. In 1975, Gyeonggi folk songs were collectively designated as National Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 57. Two main types of folk songs have survived in Gyeonggi-do Province: popular songs sung by professional singers and native folk songs performed during traditional rituals and festivities. Particular efforts for transmission are being made for popular folk songs like Noraet-garak, Changbu-taryeong, Banga-taryeong, Yangsando, Obongsan-taryeong, Sabalga, Gunbam-taryeong, Heung-taryeong – Cheonan Samgeori and Gangwondo Arirang.
Gyeonggi folk songs may be also classified into two groups depending on whether they are performed by a seated or a standing singer. Compared to folk songs from southern provinces, Gyeonggi folk songs are considered richer in melodic variation. They are also characteristically soft, rhythmic and lyrical. Gutgeori-jangdan, taryeong-jangdan and semachi-jangdan are the most popularly used rhythmic patterns.

Since the Intangible Heritage designation of Gyeonggi folk songs in 1975, efforts for their preservation and transmission have been led successively by An Bi-chwi (1926-1997), Muk Gye-wol (b. 1921), Lee Eun-ju (b. 1922) and Im Jeong-ran (Gyeonggi-do Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 31).

Muk Gye-wol, a honorary holder of Gyeonggi folk song heritage, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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Three divas of Gyeonggi folk songs, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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Tightrope-walkingGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Nori (Itinerant Troupe Performance) of Anseong

During the Joseon period, Anseong was one of the main stages of activity by namsadang, the itinerant troupes of male performers. Drawing on this history, the City of Anseong launched a festival named the “Namsadang Baudeogi Festival” in 2001. The Namsadang Baudeogi Festival has grown today into one of the best-known regional festivals of Gyeonggi-do. As a matter of fact, Buldanggol, a village near Cheongnyong-ri, Seoun-myon in Anseong, is believed to have been the base for the Baudeogi troupe, an itinerant troupe of female performers as well as a troupe of male performers. Baudeogi was a talented and attractive young girl who garnered great popularity for her troupe. Of the many stories surrounding Baudeogi, one has it that she participated in the restoration project for Gyeongbokgung Palace and received from Prince Heungseon-daewongun jade headband buttons as a gift. Meanwhile, the namsadang troupe the male itinerant troupe, worked closely in cooperation with Cheongnyongsa, a Buddhist temple located nearby.

In around 1900, some forty namsadang troupes were active across the country. Their number, however, dropped rapidly thereafter. According to Sim U-seong, there were about ten bases for namsadang troupes, including Anseong and Jinwi in Gyeonggi-do, Dangjin and Hoedeok in Chungcheong-do, Gangjin and Gurye in Jeolla-do, Jinyang and Namhae in Gyeongsang-do and Songhwa and Eunyul in Hwanghae-do. Aside from namsadang, many other types of itinerant performing arts troupes existed, ranging from sadangpae to sotdaejaengipae, daegwangdaepae, choranipae, geollippae, jungmaegupae, gwangdaepae, gutjungpae, gakseoripae, yaegijangsa, punggakjangipae, kkokdunoreumpae, sandaenoripae and jaeingwangdaepae.

All performing arts troupes were essentially itinerant troupes. Even those troupes lucky enough to belong to government agencies and that were called upon to perform at special events in the royal palace or at local government headquarters, or in the celebratory processions for those who successfully passed the civil service examination, had to perform in various parts of the country the rest of the time, to make ends meet.

Troupes were usually made up of forty to fifty members and headed by a leader known as “kkokdusoe.” There were divisions dedicated to different categories of performance, each consisting of some fourteen members. The division head was known as “tteunsoe.” These troupes were highly disciplined and organized. In rigorous winter months, in times of famine or during the rainy season, they usually went on retreats to teach tricks to novices and apprentices. The royal government, apprehending that they may become a nuisance to society, encouraged them to settle for a sedentary life or integrate them into the peasantry. But, these attempts proved rather ineffective. Itinerant artists mostly disappeared since the early 20th century. The namsadang culture has currently survived only nominally through organizations like the Seoul Namsadang Conservation Society and the Anseong Association for the Preservation of Namsadang Nori. The Namsadang Baudeogi Festival of Anseong, however, earned a place among major regional festivals despite a relative short history.

Pungmul, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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Dish-spinning routine, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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Statue of Baudeogi at Cheongnyong-ri, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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Grave of Baudeogi at Cheongnyong-ri, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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Gate of Buldanggol, the base of the namsadang troupe of Cheongnyong-ri, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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Cheongnyongsa, the Buddhist temple that was closely linked with the local namsadang troupe, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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Gate of Cheongnyongsa Temple, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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Human pyramid performed by a modern-day Namsadang troupeGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Nongak (Farmers'

Pyeongtaek Nongak and Anseong Nongak

Pyeongtaek nongak refers to the tradition of famers’ music originating in the Pyeongtaek area which is one of the most representative native traditions of the Gyeonggi-do and Chungcheong-do regions. In 1985, Pyeongtaek nongak was designated as National Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 11-Na. Rice farming had long thrived in Pyeongtaek, a town with wide plains and fertile soils in the river basin of the Jinwicheon. The town therefore offered conditions necessary for flourishing community performing arts including farmers’ music. New Year’s customs like jisin-bapgi (treading on the earth god) or farming community’s cooperative work-related activities like dure-nori were also popular in Pyeongtaek.
Farmers’ music in Pyeongtaek is characterized by the use of the rhythmic pattern known as “gilgunak chilchae.” It is also noted for the balanced use of slow and fast tunes like gutgeori, deongdeokkungi and jajeungarak. Among pangut routines, group formation sequences like ‘dangsanbeollim-daehyeong’ and ‘mudong-nori’ stand out. Another detail that distinguishes farmers’ music of Pyeongtaek is that the cannoneer character in the group of actors that follows the band during the procession is replaced by mudong (a child dancer), sami (a young boy dressed in a monk’s attire) and yangban (a nobleman). Tactical formation-inspired sequences such as ‘sagakhaengjin-nori’ and ‘dangsanbeollim’ are also noteworthy.

The Pyeongtaek variety of farmers’ music, meanwhile, was mainly shaped by professional itinerant troupes of performers based in Gyeonggi-do and Chungcheong-do, rather than by local farming communities. The current holder of this performing arts heritage is Kim Yong-rae who succeeded to Choe Eun-chang (1914-2002) and Yi Dol-cheon (1919-1994).
Farmers’ music of Anseong, generally similar to that of Pyeongtaek, is designated as Intangible Cultural Heritage at the provincial level. Efforts for the preservation and transmission of this heritage are made chiefly through the Anseong Municipal Namsadang Baudeogi Pungmuldan Troupe led by Kim Gi-bok. Both the Pyeongtaek and Anseong variants are two highly-accomplished examples representing Gyeonggi-do’s rich tradition of farmers’ music.

Historical photograph of a namsadang troupe performing human pyramid, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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A traditional kiln in IcheonGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Handicrafts: Ceramics

Ceramics festivals are held in towns in Gyeonggi-do, having a long tradition of ceramics production, like Gwangju, Icheon and Yeoju.
Between September 28 and November 17, 2013, the Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale was also hosted in these three cities. The Ceramic Biennale was launched in 2001 with the goal of making the region’s rich ceramics tradition better known to the global community. In recent times, marrying practicality with artistic appeal has become the new paradigm for Gyeonggi-do’s local ceramics industry.

In Gwangju, a local festival named the “Royal Ceramic Festival” is hosted annually, with events taking place in the Gonjiam Ceramic Park and in the area near the Gwangju Ceramic Museum. The ceramics industry flourished since early on in this area thanks to the abundant availability of mineral resources needed for making ceramic glaze as well as firewood required to fuel the kilns. Thanks to its proximity to Seoul, a branch of Saongwon, the historical white porcelain kiln supplying to the royal palace was set up here.

A Ceramic Festival is held also in Yeoju, near the Yeoju Ceramic Museum, located at the entrance point of Silleuksa Temple. The ceramics exhibits at this festival are mostly everyday ware. Yeoju’s history in ceramics production goes back to early Goryeo, as evidenced by the site of a Goryeo white porcelain kiln discovered at Jungam-ri. In 1884 when the Gwangju branch of Saongwon was closed down, some of its potters moved to Yeoju. Currently, close to six hundred ceramics factories are in operation in the area, creatively re-inventing Yeoju’s traditional industry to suit today’s consumers’ tastes and needs.

In Icheon, a ceramic festival takes place annually at the World Ceramic Center inside Seolbong Park. The festival offers experiential programs coupling ceramic arts with calligraphy and painting. A plan to set up a ceramic art town is also in the making by the city.

Icheon World Ceramic Center, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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A traditional kiln in Icheon, From the collection of: Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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Kim Dae-gyun, a master artist in tightrope walkingGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Intangible Cultural Heritage

Byeolsandae-nori of
Yangju and eleven other performing art forms and crafts of Gyeonggi-do Province
have been included in the National Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Gyeonggi-do’s
Provincial Intangible Cultural Heritage list, meanwhile, comprises fifty-six
total items. 

Byeolsandae-nori of Yangju and eleven other performing art forms and crafts of Gyeonggi-do Province have been included in the National Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Gyeonggi-do’s Provincial Intangible Cultural Heritage list, meanwhile, comprises fifty-six total items.
Among art forms and rituals included in the National Intangible Cultural Heritage list are a mask play, a farmers’ music tradition, folk songs, a shamanistic rite and a shamanistic communal art form – namely, Byeolsandae-nori of Yangju, Pyeongtaek Nongak, Gyeonggi folk songs, Gyeonggi-do Dodang-gut (Tutelary Rite of Gyeonggi-do), and Yangju Sonori-gut (Shamanic Ox Performance of Yangju). As for handicrafts, Gyeonggi-do has National Intangible Cultural Heritage-designated master artisans in ornamental knife making, framing and mounting, mulberry paper-making, gold leaf imprinting and stone masonry. Otherwise, the local tradition of tightrope walking is continued by Kim Dae-gyun who performs in the Gwacheon area. The west-coast fishing rite is kept alive by Kim Geum-hwa and Kim Mae-mul, the two shamans who were originally experts in the Hwanghae-do variant of this rite, but were designated as heritage holders for the variant surviving in Mansindo Island of Incheon.

Folk songs of Geumsan-ri, PajuGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

The provincial Intangible Cultural Heritage list of Gyeonggi-do covers traditions in such areas as mask plays, communal village games/performances, farming community games/performances, farmers’ music, shamanistic rites, dances, music including folk songs, brewery techniques, architecture and construction, and handicrafts.
Currently, the bridge-treading custom of Mu-dong, Gwacheon is included in the category of communal village games/performances, and the sandae-nori of Toegyewon in the category of mask plays. Among Intangible Cultural Heritage-listed farming community games/performances which most often couple farm labor with performing art elements are the weeding routine (homi-geori (hoe-hanging)) of Songpo, Goyang and the farm cooperative (dure) routine of Tongcheon, Gimpo. In the category of farmers’ music, the namsadang pungmul performance of Anseong, farmers’ music of Gwangmyeong and farmers’ music of Yangju have been included in the list.

Monk’s danceGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

The only shamanistic rite currently on this list is Dodang-gut of Galmae-dong, Guri, while three dances including seungmu (monk’s dance), salpuri-chum (exorcist dance) and the hyangdangmu of Anseong have made the list. A large number of folk songs and musical repertories are included in this list, from the funeral procession and interment songs (sangyeo-hoedaji sori) of Yangju and Yangpyeong to folk songs from Geumsan-ri, Paju, Dongducheon folk songs, menari of Pocheon, hwimori-japga, gin-japga, Pyeongtaek folk songs, Gyeonggi-style songseo and yulchang and the reed pipe (pulpiri) repertory.
In the category of brewery, gyemyeongju, Dangjeong ongnoju of Gunpo and the soju of Namhansanseong have been selected for inclusion in this list. In the category of architecture and construction, daemokjang (carpenter) and dopyeonsu (head carpenter/constructor) have made the list.

Lacquerware craftGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Handicrafts represent the largest category in this list, including mother-of-pearl lacquerware crafts (two artisans) Seongnam, Yangju, embroidery (two artisans) royal palace embroidery and folk embroidery, ink stone making, decorative building painting, ox-horn inlaying, musical instrument making, drum making, bangjja brassware, shipbuilding, cabinet making (three artisans) general and wood furniture making, lacquer craft, jade craft, silver or gold inlaying, string instrument making, earthenware pottery, sculpture, calligraphy carving, porcelain making, white porcelains, celadons, buncheongsagi, stone masonry (two artisans) sculptures, stone structures, gold and silversmithing, metal casting, wood sculpture, brim making and metal molding (juseongjang).

Credits: Story

600 Years of Gyeonggi-do

Planning | Gyeonggi-do, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
Organization | The Center for Gyeonggi Studies, Gyeonggi-do Institute of Cultural Properties
Co-authors | Jingap Gang(professor at Gyeonggi University
Jonghyuk Kim(professor at Research Institute of Korean Studies, Korea University)
Sangdae Lee(head of Future Vision Department at Gyeonggi Research Institute)
Jihoon Lee(senior researcher at Gyeonggi-do Institute of Cultural Properties)
Hyungho Jung(cultural properties specialist at Cultural Heritage Administration)
Project support | Taeyong Kim, Seoyeon Choi, Youngdae Kim, Hakseong Lee, Sohyun Park, Hyungmo Seong, Hogyun Kim, Kyeongmin Kim, Sujin Jo(PR & Marketing Team, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation)

For the celebration of Gyeonggi's 600 years(1414-2014), this exhibition is organized based on 『Gyeonggi-do 600 years』 which was published to remind us of the valuable history of Gyeonggi-do and encourage us to work further towards Korean reunification.

ⒸGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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