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Seogwipo celebrates its longevity at Chilshimni FestivalDisease-free city of longevity welcomes all in its long tradition of harboring elixir of life
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승인 2015.09.10  17:14:37
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▲ The festivities in full swing at the Chilsimni Festival. Photo courtesy Seogwipo City

He is arguably China’s most legendary ruler who unified China for the first time during the Warring States period (475-221 BC).

Ying Zheng, who became King of Qin in 246 BC, took two decades to bring all the states to heel in 221 BC and his kingdom gave China its English name. It is perhaps not surprising that it all went to his head, and he styled himself Qin Shi Huang, First August and Divine Emperor of Qin.

He began to fear his only adversary left, death, and took longevity potions and sent out his court alchemist, Xu Fu, in search of magical herbs to mythical immortal islands.

Jeju, the home of Mt. Yeongju, among the three most sacred mountains of the Sinosphere, was among the islands visited and as the alchemist traveled along the south coast he was struck by the beauty of Jeongbang Falls. He thus carved “Xu Fu passed by here,” giving Seogwipo (“westward departure point”) its name.

Despite scaling the mountain with local virgins, he never did find the elixir and Qin Shi Huang reluctantly departed for the afterlife, making his extravagant booby-trapped tomb to protect him. (Even in death, emperors are rarely a popular bunch.)

From its very naming, therefore, Seogwipo has been a place of longevity and health, and the locals continue to celebrate the association to this day. It is no clearer than at the city’s foremost festival, the Chilsimni Festival, which is in its 21st incarnation this year and has the slogan “the disease-free city of longevity.”
Translating as 70-li, the archaic measure of distance between Seogwipo Port and Jeonghihyeon in Seongeup, Chilsimni also symbolizes the distance to locals’ hopes and dreams.

▲ The festivities in full swing at the Chilsimni Festival. Photo courtesy Seogwipo City

Rather than the fear of death which spurred on Qin Shi Huang, this festival is much more a celebration of life.
Nothing makes us feel more alive than good food and drink and fear not, plenty will pass your lips including local mandarins, green teas, abalone porridge, sea urchin soup and buckwheat pancakes.

The three-day celebration also includes many activities and games that hark back to yesteryear with traditional music performances and folk traditions on show. Festivalgoers can also try their hand at making rice cake, before doling it out to the crowds, or making pottery in local kilns.

Thirsty? Then imbibe the local rice wine, or makgeolli, which although not the elixir of life so desired by Qin Shi Huang, will make you feel invincible — at least until the morning.

21st Seogwipo Chilsimni Festival
Oct 2 (Fri) to 4 (Sun)
Throughout Jagu-ri Park, Seogwipo-si

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