This traditional event combining a circle dance with singing and folk games was performed by women around the coastal areas of Jeollanamdo Province during traditional holidays such as Chuseok (Harvest Moon Festival/Thanksgiving) and the Daeboreum (the first full moon of the New Year on the lunar calendar) in particular. While today only the dance part is selected to be performed by professional dancers, the original performance included several different folk games such as Namsaengi nori (Namsadang vagabond clowns' play), deokseok mori (straw mat rolling), and gosari kkeokgi (bracken shoot picking). The performers sing the Song of Ganggangsullae as they dance, and the singing is done alternately by the lead singer and the rest with the tempo of the song and dance movements becoming faster and faster towards the end.
Pansori is a genre of musical storytelling performed by a vocalist and a single drummer in which he or she combines singing (sori) with gestures (ballim) and narrative (aniri) to present an epic drama conceived from popular folk tales and well known historic events. The art form was established during the 18th century and has generated enthusiastic performers and audiences ever since.
Samulnori (Namsadang Nori)
Namsadang nori, generally performed by an itinerant troupe of male performers, consisted of several distinct parts, including pungmul nori (music and dance), jultagi (tightrope walking), daejeop dolligi (plate spinning), gamyeongeuk (mask theater) and kkokdugaksi noreum (puppet theater). The performers also played instruments while they danced, such as the barrel buk (drum), janggu (hourglass-shaped drum), kkwaenggwari (small metal gong), jing (large metal gong), and two wind instruments called nabal and taepyeongso.
Painting and Calligraphy
Painting has always been a major genre of Korean art since ancient times. The art of ancient Korea is represented by the tomb murals of Goguryeo (37 BCE – 668), which contain valuable clues to the beliefs of the early Korean people about humanity and the universe as well as to their artistic sensibilities and techniques. The artists of Goryeo (918-1392) were interested in capturing Buddhist icons and bequeathed some great masterpieces, while the literati elite of Joseon was more attracted to the symbolism of plants and animals, such as the Four Noble Lords (Sagunja, namely, the orchid, chrysanthemum, bamboo, and plum tree) and the Ten Creatures of Longevity (Sipjangsaeng), as well as idealized landscapes.
Korea in the 18th century saw the arrival of two great artists, Kim Hong-do and Sin Yun-bok, both of whom developed a passionate interest in depicting the daily activities of ordinary people in their work. Kim Hongdo preferred depicting a kaleidoscope of people in various situations and scenes of everyday life, whereas Sin Yun-bok, for his part, devoted his efforts to capturing erotic moments in works that were surprisingly voyeuristic for the period.
Calligraphy, which developed in Korea under the influence of China, is the art of handwriting in which the beauty of the lines and forms of characters and the energy contained in brush strokes and subtle shades of ink are appreciated. While calligraphy is an independent genre of art, it has been closely related with ink and wash painting since these forms use similar techniques and the tools commonly called the "four friends of the study" (i.e., paper, brush, ink stick, and ink stone). Korea has produced an abundance of master calligraphers of whom Kim Jeong-hui (1786-1856) is particularly famous for developing his own style, which is known as Chusache or Chusa Style (Chusa was his pen name). His calligraphic works fascinated even the Chinese masters of his time and are still widely admired for their remarkably modern artistic beauty.
Korean pottery, which nowadays attracts the highest praise from international collectors, is typically divided into three groups: Cheongja (blue-green celadon), Buncheong (slip-coated stoneware), and Baekja (white porcelain). Celadon refers to Korean stoneware, which underwent major development in the hands of Goryeo potters some 700 to 1,000 years ago. Celadon pottery is marked by an attractive jade blue surface and the unique Korean inlay technique used to decorate it. Gangjin of Jeollanam-do and Buan of Jeollabuk-do Province were its two main producers during the Goryeo Period (918-1392).
White porcelain ware represents Korean ceramic art of around 100– 600 years ago. While some of these porcelain wares display a milky white surface, many are decorated with a great variety of designs painted in oxidized iron, copper, or the priceless cobalt blue pigment imported from Persia via China. The Royal Court of Joseon ran its own kilns in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do Province, producing products of the very highest quality. The advanced techniques used in the production of white porcelain wares were introduced to Japan by Joseon potters kidnapped during the Imjin Waeran (Japanese Invasion of Korea, 1592-1598).
The third main group of Korean pottery, Buncheong, was made by Goryeo potters after the fall of their Kingdom in 1392. This type of pottery is characterized by its slip-coated surface and delightfully simple decorative designs created using several different techniques.
In the past, Korean craftsmen and women developed a wide range of techniques to produce the items they needed at home. They made pieces of wooden furniture such as wardrobes, cabinets, and tables marked by a keen eye for balance and symmetry and wove beautiful baskets, boxes, and mats with bamboo, wisteria, or lespedeza. They used Korean mulberry paper to make masks, dolls, and ceremonial ornaments and decorated diverse household objects with black and red lacquer harvested from nature.
Later they developed the art of using beautifully dyed ox-horn strips and iridescent mother-of-pearl and abalone shell to decorate furniture. Embroidery, decorative knot making (maedeup), and natural dyeing were also important elements of traditional Korean arts and crafts, which were widely exploited to make attractive garments, household objects, and personal fashion ornaments.
Source: Korean Culture and Information Service 'Facts about Korea'
Image source: Korea Open Government License