Sunday, June 21, 2009

hahoe village traditional mask dance

19 april 2009~ ANDONG MASK DANCE

im finally getting around to writing about this unique, colorfully-captivating event.
the location is 하회마을 (hahoe village); the time, around 4pm on sunday afternoons.
it is a traditional mask performance. in the past, the dance was performed only every few years and one the lunar new year. it is both a shaman ritual to please the local goddess and drive away evil spirits and a form of entertainment which all of the villagers would take part in, praying for good harvest, prosperity, and peace. i will do my best to give you a run-down of the story as it plays out in my pictures and, if i can, reveal some of the satirical irony behind the characters and scenes enveloping them.

[the arena; before the performance drums and a flute are played, and these continue throughout each scene - props to the flute player for his lung stamina]

[DANCE 1 - this is the opening dance (called 무동마당 - mudong madang); the woman being carried on the shoulders of another dancer is kakshi, representing the local goddess. she asks the people for offerings for which in return they will receive blessings and wealth]

[DANCE 2 - in this dance, 추지마당 (chuji madang), two chuji (lions) appear and begin dancing and play-fighting; the female wins, signifying an abundant harvest for the year. then 초랭이 (choraengi) - the meddler - comes in and chases them away, representing driving away demons and evil spirits]

[초랭이 (choraengi) - the meddler]

[DANCE 3 - 백종마당 (baekjong madang) - in this dance the butcher (baekjong) enters with a knife and axe and dances by himself for a while until he notices a big, brown bull lumber in. they dance together for a while, and then the butcher slams his axe into the bulls neck and cuts out the dead bull's heart and testicles which he then offers to sell to the spectators. (right before the axe falls, the bull starts urinating like mad, as you'll notice from the picture i took.) when no one buys them, he dances alone for a while until the sound of thunder frightens him off the stage. my guide pamphlet explained that the dance symbolizes the ruling class's authoritative attitude toward sexuality, removing the sexual taboo.]

[DANCE 4 - 할미마당 (halmi madang) - halmi, the old widow, comes in carrying a hand loom. she sits down and weaves for a while, then gets up and dances by herself for a while, bemoaning her tale of ill-fortune: she was widowed only three days after her wedding when she was fourteen. granny ambles about asking for donations; the dance represents the sufferings of the common people and the conflicts between classes. i was really struck by the grace of the performer. all of the dancers, in accordance with tradition, were men, and this one really captured the movements and body language of a laboring, old woman - the korean grandmother-age character is uniquely heart-warming and saddening at the same time. whenever ive gone out into the countryside and met with the older ladies, they have this endearing, sorrowful, but steadfast persona that strikes me deeply every time i encounter it.]

[kakshi comes in again, asking for more offerings with the old woman]

[DANCE 5 - 파계성마당 (pagyesung madang) - a young woman (부네 - bune) comes in and dances by herself for a while. she looks around to make sure nobody is around (above) and then squats down to take a leak. right then, a wandering monk notices her and becomes aroused (below). he dances with her and then runs away, carrying her on his back. choraengi (the meddler) sees them as they head off the stage.]

[the monk]
[the wandering monk examining and sniffing the patch of dirt where bune relieved herself. the dance criticizes the religious corruption of the time.]

[choraengi (right) runs into 이매 (imae - the fool, left) and tells him excitedly about what he saw. imae continues to grin stupidly and choraengi shrugs his shoulders saying, 'it's a funny world'. they dance together and exit.]

[DANCE 6 - 양반 & 손비 마당 (yangban & sonbi madang) - the aristocrat (yangban, right) and the scholar (sonbi, left) enter boasting to each other about their knowledge and status. choraengi (the meddler) mocks them and they lose face. then paekchong (the buther) comes in and offers to sell the bull testicles to them. at first they think it's indecent, but when paekchong tells them it will enhance their male vitality, they fight over buying them. halmi (the widow) comes in and laughs at them, then tries to reconcile between them. then everyone dances together joyfully. the purpose of this dance is to bring harmony to the social classes - the ruling class reconsiders its place, and the commoners are able to let off some steam.]

[afterwards all of the dancers come back in, taking their masks off, and everyone cheers as they prance around]

and there you have it!
that's pretty much it, though i'm sure i missed a lot of the subtleties. i think the dance, more than anything else i saw in hahoe village, shed light on a traditional korea.
really amazing stuff.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

andong - old buildings, mask dances, soju, phalic ring-toss

weeeellll.... it's been quite a long time, hasn't it?

although in the past, my absence from the blog-o-sphere has been entirely due to laziness, this time i have a good excuse

as you may or may not have been aware, my computer has been in dire straits recently; about a month ago it decided to quit on me completely. i had to replace the motherboard and so i have been without easy access to the internet ever since then. now things are mostly back to normal, but part of me misses the blessing in disguise it was to be freed from the distraction of owning a computer.

anyway, i have it back now, and im gunna put it to good use, and that means making up for lost time. our first stop is 안동 ('andong'), a city in central south korea about half-way between seoul and pusan, rich in traditional culture.

sometime in march i made some tentative plans with a couple of my students to visit there for a weekend once midterm exams were over. so on saturday, april 18, we met early in the morning at the express bus station in seoul, grabbed a quick breakfast of ramen, and got our trip underway. we stopped first in downtown andong from where we took another bus to 도산서원 ('dosan confucian academy'), a historic site about 40 minutes out of the city.

[hadi and david on the bus to 도산서원 ('dosan confucian academy') - established by Lee Hwang in the 16th century]

[walking down to the academy]

[view of the flooded river valley]

[really sweet-looking little island temple in the middle of the river; at first we thought we HAD to go over there and check it out, but later we decided to leave it alone (actually we were just feeling lazy but we rationalized it by saying that it would be better remembered as a mystery in our imagination - pretty good, eh?)]

[dosan confucian academy]

[froggies in a pond]

[david has trouble figuring out how to use the old fashioned toilet]
[little closer shot of the distant temple on the river]

after wandering around the academy complex for a while, we thought about our options for getting back. the next bus to the city wasn't going to be coming for about 2 hours and we also wanted to look around and see some other places too. so in the end we opted for climbing up over the hill and exploring what was beyond on foot. it was hot, and climbing over the ridge was not easy, but it was exciting to just go wandering down a road in an unknown area and see where it led.

[on the road]

[this is what we stumbled upon eventually: another little complex of traditional buildings]

[coming back over the hill]

we ended up missing the next bus as well, but while we were standing around like a bunch of fools, a ski-lift operator guy from the states who was working on a 2-year contract as a electrical engineer here offered to give us a ride in his truck. we got into town in no time flat and popped into lotteria (a fast food chain in korea) for a rice burger (instead of a bun, it has rice on the outside). it was pretty gross.

[downtown andong]

after walking around town a bit, we chose to take a walk on the 월영교 ('weoryounggyo' - a bridge along the river that runs through andong downtown)

[path up to the top of the ridge]

[view of the river from above]

[a natural refrigerator dug into the stone cliffside]

[some old grass and adobe huts]

[we find a park and take a break on this huge swing]

[david gets his ass handed to him at see-saw]

starting to get hungry again, a call is made for heading back into town in search of what had been on all our minds since we first caught a whiff of the downtown streets: 안동찜닭 (andong jjimdark - steamed chicken in a tasty sauce with potatoes, green onion, spinach, red peppers, sesame seeds, and bean noodles). it's a spicy, succulent dish that is just perfect with andong soju (totally different from the chemically-tasting, factory-made soju, this stuff is thrice distilled and is usually 30-40%).

[seaching the back streets for the right place]

[some ajummas playing street 윷놀이 'yutnori' - a traditional korean game played by tossing 4 sticks in the air and interpreting their landing]

[our delicious dinner]
fully satisfied with our mean, we decide to head to our hostel, a traditional house that david found on the internet (there are many such places for visitors to andong). when we arrived, we noticed some people gathered outside the main building, playing the 거문고 ('geomungo' - a traditional, black, stringed instrument with ridges and frets, plucked with a wooden stick and leather thimble)
[the instructor invited me inside and attempted to teach me 아리랑 'arirang' - an old, korean folk song representing the korean feeling of 'han' (an emotion that is not easily explained in english - a deep sorrow that is a result of many years of oppressive rule)]

아리랑, 아리랑, 아라리요...
아리랑 고개로 넘어간다.
나를 버리고 가시는 님은
십리도 못가서 발병난다.
Arirang, Arirang, Arariyo...
Crossing over Arirang Pass.
Dear who abandoned me [here]
Will not walk even ten li before his/her feet hurt.
[david gives it a try]

[go stop occupies the majority of the rest of the night - hadi looses by epic proportions]

[view of our hostel from outside the next morning]
after a tasty breakfast at 'mammoth bakery', hadi parts ways with david and i, having to return to seoul for some rediculously lame reason. david and i, having shed our cumbersome burden of a companion, jump on a bus for 하회마을 'hahoe village' (an entire town preseved in joseon-dynasty period architecture, folk tradition, and clan-based culture).

[view of the countryside as we walk from the bus to the village]

[old medicine cabinet]

[a church - obviously not from the preserved time period. it's here because of the people who actually live in the village]

[building style and community structure]

[an interesting traditional version of 'ring toss']

[wait a second... is that stick shaped like a...?]

[while we were chilling by the river, some strange guy was posing the whole time with his wooden sword for his parents]

[an old, outd00r stove]
we were lucky to have picked sunday to visit the village because sunday afternoon is the only time to view a mask dance performance. we headed over to the open-air auditorium early to secure a good seat. despite the apparent japanese high school excursion that seemed to have coincided with our visit, we were able to get a pretty good view of the performance.
[see andong mask dance post]