The Traditional Culture of Gyeonggi-do 600 Years - Part 1

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation

 Lifestyle, Family Rites and Ceremonies

Lifestyle: Culinary Culture

Thanks to its proximity to Seoul, Gyeonggi-do boasts a well-developed culinary culture. This was certainly helped by abundantly available foodstuffs. Gyeonggi-do’s wide plains provided high-quality rice, its coastal sections a rich variety of seafood and its inland areas a plethora of vegetables and grains of all types. The culinary culture of Gyeonggi-do is characterized by simple, no-frills dishes that are not excessively spiced or salty. Rice produced in Icheon, Gimpo and Ganghwa was long renowned for its great taste and texture. Sorae and other harbors along the coastline used to be important sources of fermented fish nectars as well as fresh fish and seafood.
In recent decades, the increased leisure time and the resulting rise in dining demand among Seoul-area residents have led to further advancement in the culinary culture of Gyeonggi-do. New specialty dishes emerged, like Icheon yeongyang steamed rice, Pocheon beef ribs, Uijeongbu sausage stew, turnip and raw fish dishes of Ganghwa, Yeoncheon pheasant dumplings, Oido raw oysters on rice and Korean anchovy dishes of Haengju. Kalssakdugi noodles, olbanggae weed jelly and gegeolmu radish kimchi are also among Gyeonggi-do’s specialty dishes not found elsewhere in Korea.

Lifestyle: Housing
Gungjip of Namyangju 

Gungjip is a historic home (Important Folklore Material No. 130) located in Pyeongnae-dong, Namyangju. This house was built for Princess Hwagil (1754-1772; the 30th to 48th year of Yeongjo’s reign) who was the youngest daughter of Yeongjo, the twenty-first ruler of Joseon Dynasty, when she married Gu Min-hwa at the age of twelve, and left the royal palace. The name “Gungjip” – literally meaning ‘Palace House’- was given to it in reference to the fact that the lumber and the carpenter used for its construction were sent from the royal palace.
The date of construction is precisely known, as Princess Hwagil lived in this house from the age of twelve until her death at the age of nineteen (1765-1772). This home, as it was constructed by a palace carpenter, was built to the highest standard at that time and is considered of great historical significance.

Jeong Yong-chae's House, Hwaseong

The Jeong Yong-chae's house, located in Gungpyeong-ri, Seosin-myeon, Hwaseong, is designated as Important Folklore Material No. 124. This residential home, built in late Joseon Period, extends some fifty kan (a unit of measurement referring to the distance between two columns, one kan being roughly seven to eight feet) is comprised of four buildings – anchae (women’s quarters) sarangchae (men’s quarters), daemunchae (gate quarters) and haengnangchae (servants’ quarters). The overall distribution of buildings resembles the Chinese character for the moon‘月.’
There is a corridor that runs from the back of the two-kan south-side room of the sarangchae to the open foyer of the anchae. The two buildings are therefore connected all the while respecting the traditional requirement of separating the men’s and women’s quarters. Meanwhile, according to the inscription on the gates, the daemunkan, or gatehouse, was built in 1887.

Kim Yeong-gu's House, Yeoju 

The Kim Yeong-gu's house is a historic home (Important Folklore Material No. 126), located in Botong-ri, Daesin-myeon of Yeoju. This upper-class residential home, built in 1753 (the 29th year of Joseon Yeongjo’s reign), is perched on a slightly elevated knoll in the heart of the village, in a south-facing position. This house was once occupied by Jo Seok-u, a man who held a ministerial office during Gojong’s reign. The anchae building surrounds an inner yard on three sides. The overall shape is square, as the sarangchae building with a linear plan runs on the open side of the yard in a manner to completely enclose it. The enclosed balcony jutting out from the front of the sarangchae adds to the elegance of this stately home.
Other historic homes in Gyeonggi-do such as the Baek Su-hyeon's house in Yangju, birthplace of General Eo Jae-yeon in Icheon and the Yeo Gyeong-gu's house in Namyangju have also been designated as Important Folklore Materials.

Family Rites and Ceremonies 

Wedding customs in Gyeonggi-do were no different from those in other regions of Korea. The main ceremony was held at the bride’s family home, as was the standard practice at that time. Marriages were arranged and took place also mostly according to the customary practice. In other words, after the bride’s family and the groom’s family entered into the betrothal, the latter sent wedding presents to the former, along with the fortune reading of the groom. The bride’s family then chooses a propitious date for the wedding ceremony. The groom travelled to the bride’s family home for the nuptials. His arrival took place in the form of a ceremonial procession which was headed by a gireogabi, the carrier of the wooden geese, which were the symbol of conjugal bliss, then the hamjinabi, carrying the wedding chest. Finally, the groom arrived, accompanied by his family and friends. The first part of the ceremony is known as “jeonallye” during which the groom bows to an altar where the wooden geese brought by the gireogabi are placed. The chest brought by the hamjinabi was placed next to the altar, which usually contained the contract of marriage and various gifts to the bride’s family. Colorful threads and cotton seeds were also customarily placed inside a wedding chest.
During the main segment of the ceremony, known as “hapgeullye,” the bride and groom bow and offer a goblet of wine to each other.
After the ceremony, the newly-wed couple heads out to the groom’s family home either during the same day or the following day.
The proceedings, however, show minor variations depending on the area or the individual situation. For instance, at a wedding held at Mokhyeon-ri, Gwangju, in 1940, as part of the custom known as “sillang-darugi” (taming of the groom), young bachelors of the village emptied a sack filled with soot on the groom.

Burials and Funerals

In Gyeonggi-do, two parallel burial practices existed. The body of the deceased was either buried in the casket or coffin or was removed from the coffin before it was interred. Concerning burial sites, Yongin and its environs were considered to offer highly auspicious grave sites, as attested to by olden expressions like “Live in Jincheon and die in Yongin.”

The traditional burial custom involves several stages. The body of the deceased was laid on chilseongpan, a sheet of hemp fabric with seven holes symbolizing the seven stars of the Big Dipper, and the limbs were straightened before rigor mortis set in. The mourners then climbed to the roof of the house to call out to the soul of the deceased. The embalming process begins with the bathing of the body of the deceased which was then wrapped in hemp fabric. Finally, the mouth of the deceased was filled with rice grains. Wrapping the body of the deceased into a rectangular bundle is known as “soryeom,” and tying the strings around it and placing it inside a coffin “daeryeom.” The mourners then changed into mourning attire.

The next stage consisted of assembling and adorning the bier, breaking a gourd bowl which was believed to prevent injuries during the transportation of the bier and holding a rite ahead of the departure of the bier. Once the coffin was placed inside the bier, it was ready for the departure toward the burial site. The funeral procession was headed by a chief singer who sang a tune of lament which was repeated phrase-by-phrase by the porters as they marched on. At the burial site, a pit was dug, and the body of deceased was interred after being removed from the coffin. When the position of the grave was correctly aligned, the grave pit was filled with dirt. Finally, the earth mound was rammed to prevent settling, with workers singing a ramming song known as “Dalgu-sori.”

In recent decades, there have been considerable changes in funeral customs. Most ceremonial proceedings take place nowadays during the funeral itself, with community mutual aids contributing to the financing and organization of the event. The traditional mourning period of three years is almost never observed anymore. Also, mourning attire is today worn only by daughters or daughters-in-law of a deceased person.

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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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