Korean Mask Dance – Talchum

In the blog post about Korean Dano Festival, I mentioned that one of the key events of the Gangneung Dano Festival is the Gangneung Gwanno Mask Dance Drama.  Actually, mask dance is a traditional Korean cultural symbol not restricted to Gangneung and there are many other places in Korea which have their own styles of mask dance.  Let’s discuss about talchum, Korean mask dance, in this blog post. Continue reading

Korean hand-made paper – Hanji

Hanji (한지) literally means “Korean paper”.  It is hand-made paper made from the inner bark of paper mulberry (which is also known as dak tree in Korea). When the Mugujeonggwang Daedaranigyeong (literally “Great Dharani Sutra of Immaculate and Pure Light”) hidden in a casket in the Bulguksa Temple for nearly 1,200 years was discovered, the hanji on which it was printed remained perfectly intact. Medicine made from the ashes of burnt hanji are said to be used as medicine to help stop bleeding.  In this blog post, let’s talk about this wonderful paper, hanji, which has a history of over 1,000 years. Continue reading

Korean traditional percussion music – Samulnori

If you have attended a Korean program offered by one of the language institutes in South Korea, during the cultural experience classes, you might have got the chance of learning samulnori (사물놀이) , the Korean traditional percussion music.  The well-known Korean show, NANTA, has also incorporated samulnori in its performance.  Let’s talk about samulnori in this blog post. Continue reading

Which song is regarded as the unofficial national anthem of Korea?

**Last updated on: 18 October 2020**

Q: Which song is regarded as the unofficial national anthem of Korea?

A: Arirang (아리랑).

Significance of Arirang to Koreans

Arirang is a very popular traditional folk song among Koreans – in fact, almost all Koreans, whether in South Korea, North Korea or abroad, can sing at least part of this song.  As a result, it has the power to unite all Koreans.  Throughout history, Koreans have sung it in both times of happiness and sorrow and this song is deeply rooted in the emotions of Koreans.   Continue reading

Eco-friendly architecture – Hanok (Korean traditional houses)

If you have watched the historical Korean TV dramas, you definitely have seen the traditional houses lived by the Koreans at that time.  These traditional houses are called “hanok” (한옥) and some which are over 500 years old still remain today.  You can look at some photos of different parts of a boutique hanok hotel, Rakkojae (락고재), to get an idea of how a hanok looks like.  Hanok is indeed a kind of living antique in South Korea. Let’s talk about hanok in this blog post. Continue reading

Korean martial arts culture – Taekwondo

Before talking about taekwondo, I wish you a happy White Day as tomorrow (14 March 2015) is White Day in South Korea. What is White Day? On Valentine’s Day (i.e. 14 February), the females give chocolate as gifts to their lovers and on White Day (i.e. 14 March), the males reciprocate by giving candies to their lovers.  Actually, to the South Koreans, there is always something to celebrate on the 14th of every month – for more detail, you may refer to my blog post dated 14 January 2015.

In this blog post, I will talk about one of Koreans’ national sports – taekwondo (태권도).  In fact, taekwondo has a long history and is a kind of sports which most, if not all, Korean males have learnt.  Koreans in their 30’s and 40’s may still remember a popular cartoon robot character called Taekwon V which was good at taekwondo. Nowadays, taekwondo is a form of martial arts practised by more than 70 million people in 188 countries.  Continue reading

Hanbok (Korean Traditional Clothing) – A familiar Korean culture symbol

Hanbok (한복 – Korean traditional clothing) should be familiar to Korean culture lovers since you can see people wearing it in Korean historical dramas and one of the “must-do” items for tourists in South Korea is trying on Hanbok and taking photos. Koreans wear them on formal ceremonial occasions and for important events. For example, the South Korean President, Park Geun-hye, sometimes wears Hanbok during diplomatic visits to other countries. Koreans wear Hanbok for Seollal (설날 – Lunar New Year), wedding ceremonies and funerals. I have also heard that in some Korean language institutes, students studying the regular Korean program wear Hanbok during the graduation ceremony. Continue reading

What do Korean Pansori and Homer’s Odyssey have in common?

Question: What do Korean Pansori and Homer’s Odyssey have in common?

Answer: Both of them originated as a form of storytelling oral literature.

Pansori (판소리) is a type of Korean storytelling traditional music performed by a singer and a drummer.  As Pansori began as a form of oral tradition, it is difficult to trace its origin.  However, it is believed that Pansori originated from narrative shaman songs in south-western Korea in the 17th century.  Continue reading