Sabi Heritage Night and Dances at Buyeo

by - July 07, 2017

In an earlier post, I mentioned about the capital of the Baekje empire, Buyeo, in Chungjeongnam-do. Well, I wanted to highlight a particular aspect of Buyeo, and that is the Sabi Heritage Festival.
Sabi is another name for current day Buyeo, and this festival marks the place's history. The festival includes a parade in the main city area, followed by a concert at the Jeongnimsa Temple as well as a light show.

I happened to see a parade with people dressed in wooden masks.The mask dances are called talchum and are a a form of drama featuring the wearing of masks, singing and dancing.

The Talchum was originally a regional term only applied to mask dances traditional to Hwanghae Province. It eventually became a general term referring to all forms of the art after the Hwanghae Province style of mask dance received extensive publicity. At Buyeo, the masks were really well done, and the dancers and paraders even posed with us.

The performances began with a fan dance performed by ladies in Hanbok. This kind of dance is called Buchaechum’. Buchae means folding fan in Korean, which is very colorful with many different paintings. Buchaechum is famous for using these folding fans in each hand while dancing. Buchaechum is a traditional form of Korean dance, usually performed by groups of female dancers. The dance appears to have evolved under influence of both shamanic dance and traditional Joseon Dynasty court performance. It reminded me of the Whirling Dervishes in Turkey. See if you note the similarity too.

After this was a hip-hop K pop dance which was just wow! It seemed more like break dancing and all the dancers were super athletic. There were a number of movements they did including top rock and down rock and a bunch of freezes.  As you can see from the video below,  they did a great  job!

After this was a Taekwondo performance. Taekwondo is one of the most famous martial arts to have been developed in Korea, though it has been referred to by different names throughout the country's history, as it combines a variety of Korean martial art forms. Originally, it was a defense and combat technique used by the armies of dynastic Korea to develop strength and speed and continued to be used as an unarmed military technique up until the Korean war. The fighting technique uses all parts of the body, but focuses on the feet and the fists, as its translated name suggests.

Then, from the kicks came the wood. Breaking has always been the aspect of martial arts that stands out in my mind as the most impressive.  How a human being can physically break piles of blocks with a single chop of the feet or hand is beyond my understanding, but I always loved watching the professionals do it in the movies.  I was suddenly super stoked to watch the performers give us a kick-butt demonstration.

After all these dance performances, we had the entire procession go walk to the Jeongsin Palace.

Following this, we walked over to the temple where we saw two dances. One was the Talchum dance that comprised of the masked dancers I spoke about. This was followed by a lion dance. This dance began in China, and in Korea, may have been recorded as early as the King Jinheung's reign in the 6th century during which a tune titled "The Lion's Talent" was composed that could be a reference to a lion dance.Two main traditions of lion dance survive in Korea, the saja-noreum, which is performed as an exorcism drama; and the sajach'um which is performed in association with masked dramas. We of course saw the Saja ch'um accompanied with the mask dance.

In many of the traditional masked dance dramas, the lion dance appears as one part of a number of acts. Lion dance as an exorcism ritual began to be performed in the New Year in Korea during the Goryeo dynasty.

Thus ended the performances for the day! I can certainly say we had a great time posing with our stars.

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