▲ Tewoo boat performers at the 2009 Yeongyeon Revival Festival captivate audiences beneath the lights of Yeongyeon Bridge. Photo by Rachel Berman
The majestic bridge and its colorful lights reflect on the waters of the pool where fish jump and bats flitter; making Yeongyeon, or Dragon’s Pool, an alluring sight on even the most ordinary of evenings. This area, located just a few hundred meters from Yeongduam or Dragon Head Rock, at the western edge of Jeju City is home to an ancient Jeju legend that has, for years, inspired local artists and musicians.
The Legend of Yeongyeon tells of dragons that visited Jeju from the East Sea, attracted to the area because of its great rocky beauty. Also drawn to the beautiful area, was a Jeju governor from the Joseon dynasty. This governor enjoyed boating and feasting under Yeongyeon’s starry night skies. These elaborate shows, created for the governor, were called Yeongyeon-yabeom. Yeongyeon’s history and beauty, has lead to its designation as one of Jeju's twelve best places to sightsee.
The 2009 Revival Festival of Yongyeon-yabeom, which ran Sept. 4 –5, celebrated elements from Jeju culture dating back as far as the days of Joseon dynasty. These included singing from a boat, poetry parties, and drinking parties. This year’s annual celebration turned charming Yeongyeon into a regal event for all to enjoy; Koreans, foreigners, families, the young and the old alike.
The festival, bursting with a variety of entertainment, was a marriage of traditional and modern Jeju. Saturday night’s performances included various dances, songs, and chants; each using a traditional Jeju boat known as a tewoo. Two boatmen, one at the front and one at the back, sailed the raft through the colorful reflections on the water as the artists sung to the audience watching from the rocks above.
The evening’s entertainment began with Buddhist monks, dressed in white robes and red and yellow scarves, spread across the bridge. They danced to the chanting and drumming of a few more solemn monks sitting on the tewoo below the bridge. The slow, melancholy chanting also accompanied the dances of women dressed in elegant traditional han-bok .
The evening’s second act highlighted a young female singer, dressed in a bright yellow, more modern-looking han-bok. From a second tewoo she sang upbeat Korean songs with fast rhythms, accompanied by an orchestra playing traditional instruments which gave the songs an old, timeless feeling.
Continuing the evening’s lively entertainment was Kim, Tae-gon, a famous Korean singer, well-known for his songs in the late 80s. Kim also sailed on the tewoo boat while he sang his catchy Korean songs, as the audience clapped along, and a green laser show lit up the rocks behind him.
The final act of the evening was arguably the most memorable. Renowned Korean tenor, Hyun Haeng-bok, was majestic in his long white robes; although they paled in comparison with the power and richness of his voice. As he drifted elegantly across the pool, his voice reaching as high as the treetops above him, it was easy to believe he might be singing to one of the mythical dragons, that legend tells lived in the pool many hundreds of years ago.
Each of these acts was accompanied by the Jeju Symphony Orchestra, which was spread across the rocks around the water. The members of one section of the orchestra played modern symphony instruments from violin to flute; while the other section played unique, Korean traditional instruments. These included large percussion instruments like the Taak and 12-stringed harps known as Gaya-keum. For many performances the orchestra was accompanied by the Jeju Choir.
The Yongyeon-yabeom Festival was a timeless night celebrating song, dance, art, poetry, and friendship. It is certain to impress crowds, future governors, and possibly even dragons, for many more starry nights to come.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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