Sunday, October 17, 2010

Baekje Festival

Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, the Korean peninsula was divided into three Kingdoms: Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla. Although the Silla kingdom eventually came to dominate, each of the Kingdoms had its heyday. Daejeon seems to have been close to the border between Goguryeo and Baekje, but Gonju, which is about an hour south of us, was the capital of the Baekje kingdom. To celebrate their rich cultural past, the city of Gonju holds the Great Baekje World Festival, or the "Baekje Revival, Rebirth of a 1400-year-old legacy."

After class last Monday Katie, myself and our friend Seunghui bussed to Gonju to check out the festivities. The festival is quite large--it's in at least two cities with various locations within the city, and it goes on for a month or so. We started by seeing an exhibit on the great cities of the world, and visited places like Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Egypt and Germany.
This is me in garb from old Azerbaijan.

Then we walked around the grounds and tried out all the interactive activities. The funniest part was that every time we would put on a costume or be posing, we had random Koreans taking pitctures of us. Not discretely, but up close in our faces. It got a tad bit awkward, but was more humorous than anything.

Here I am playing (quite impressively I might add) a Korean drum.
Here Katie and I have donned the costume of Baekje warriors or soldiers. I think we look rather intimidating.
And here I must bear a heavy load (with an appropriately pained expression) because I am, obviously, an ancient Baekje peasant. Please notice the royalty in the background taking remarkably little interest in my endeavor to bear this heavy burden.
Can you tell which are the Baekje warriors and which is the American Young Adult Volunteer? I think not.
Finally, we posed in some traditional Korean dress, hanbok. I think they fit us quite well. These are still worn on special occassions.

After thoroughly indulging in ancient Baekje culture we went to another site in Gongju where we saw the burial mounds for the Baekje kings and other royalty. Although we couldn't enter the actual tombs due to preservation efforts, we were able to explore some replicas and see the mounds from the outside.

Here I am propping up some of the burial mounds.
In one of the replica tombs we found a replica king. Allow me to introduce King Muryeon, whose tomb is the most famous at this site. I question the dignity of his pose, but who am I to second-guess royalty?

At another site we found all of these blow up figures floating on water. It was stunningly beautiful, actually!
And then there was this giant fortress.
Oh, and masks.

We rode a kiddy train, we ate fried ginseng, we saw a rather unimpressive rendition of The Nutcracker (yes, in October), we tried the ancient torture devices. Then we went to eat kalkuksu, knife noodles, which are homemade. This particular dish had a whole cuttlefish and a whole octopus.

Then we walked past many many chestnut vendors. They were being roasted right there so were piping hot and so delicious!

It was a very interesting and entertaining (and informative) excursion! The Baekje culture influenced many other cultures around the world, and it was fun to take this trip back in time!

1 comment:

  1. Mmm, cuttlefish. Actually I've heard it's good. Sounds fun. Liked your comment about not questioning the royal pose. Miss you!