Beginning with a prayer ritual on Jan. 3 at 5:30 p.m., Tamna Ipchun Gut Nori, a Jeju traditional shamanistic rite celebrating the beginning of spring, kicked off a two-day event. It was hosted by Jeju City and organized by The Korean People's Artist Federation in Jeju.
Following the lunar calendar, Feb. 4 marks the beginning of spring. This year it fell on a Saturday.
According to mythology, on this day some 18,000 gods and goddesses come back from their vacation, called Singugan, and resume work. The people take this opportunity not just to celebrate the coming of spring, but to also pray to the gods for a good harvest and for the safety of family and friends.
Traditionally, the eve of Feb. 4 begins with a prayer ritual and a street parade in which participants chase a life-size wooden cow called a nangswe that represents abundance through the streets. This is followed by daedongnori (farmers’ entertainment), which includes impromptu plays, poetry recitations, dancing, and singing.
For the opening street parade on the eve of the first day of spring, a total of 24 Korean traditional percussion bands, called pungmul, gathered to perform music through the streets of Jeju City.
“It was cool. I’ve seen samulnori [a form of Korean traditional music consisting of four percussion instruments] before and I like it. But I haven’t seen this many drummers at one place. It’s quite impressive,” said Ronald Buie, an English teacher in Jeju, who watched the street parade near Jeju City Hall.
Over the course of the two-day festival some 30 teams and 600 individuals performed. On Feb. 4 the main ceremonies began with a street ritual as well as a ritual commemorating spring, followed by Korean traditional performances and an exhibition near Gwandeokjeong, near Jungangro.
City organizers also provided spectators with the opportunity to make miniature nangswe and to play Korean traditional games.
Breaking from tradition this year, the symbolic cow was not the center of attention. Instead, there was a statue of a young agriculture goddess, called Jachungbi. According to city officials, to save money on the event this year it was decided to reuse parts of nangswe from previous years in the construction of the wooden cow.
The Ipchun Gut as a festival was halted in 1914 during the Japanese occupation of Korea, but the practise was passed down through the generations until it was restored as an official festival in 1999.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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