[MAY] Exploring Baekje Historic Area : Ungjin and Sabi


Exploring Baekje Historic Area : Ungjin and Sabi

UNESCO World Heritage: Baekje Historic Area

Date: May 11(Sat) ~ May 12(Sun). 2018

Location: Buyeo County and Gongju City

– Contents:
UNESCO World Heritage: Baekje Historic Area
1) Baekje Historic Area
2) Buyeo: Sabi Baekje
3) Collections at Buyeo National Museum
4) Gongju: Ungjin Baekje
5) Collections at Gongju National Museum
Intangible Cultural Heritage of Korea
1) Namsadang Nori
2) Arirang, Lyrical Folk Song






08:40~09:00 ∙ Arrival at the National Museum of Korea


∙ Seoul National Museum of Korea→Buyeo


∙ Lunch at Baekjegung suratgan


∙ Baekjegung suratgan →Jeongnimsa Temple Site


∙ Jeongnimsa Temple Site


∙ Jeongnimsa Temple Site→Buyeo National Museum


∙ Tea time at Children’s Museum Buyeo National Museum


∙ Children’s Museum→Exhibition Gallery Buyeo National Museum


∙ Exhibition tour at Buyeo National Museum


∙ Exhibition gallery →Sabimaru


∙ ‘Namsadangnori and Arirang’ Sabimaru, Buyeo National Museum


∙ Sabimaru→Hwangtojeong


∙ Dinner at Hwangtojeong


∙ Hwangtojeong →Lotte Buyeo Resort


∙ Check in at Lotte Buyeo Resort




∙ Breakfast and Check-out


∙ Buyeo→Gongju


∙ Royal Tomb Sites of Songsanri


∙ Royal Tomb sites of Songsanri→ Gongju National Museum


∙ Gongju National Museum


∙ Gongju National Museum → Taehwagwan


∙ Lunch at Taehwagwan


∙ Taehwagwan→Gongsanseong Fortress


∙ Gongsanseong Fortress


∙ Gongju→Seoul National Museum of Korea



In an effort to provide diplomatic envoys to Korea an opportunity to have an in-depth experience of Korean history and culture, the National Museum of Korea and Korean Culture and Information Service planned a 2 day long field trip to Baekje Historic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and related national museums. This field trip is aimed at expanding the understanding on Korea’s cultural diversity and universality.

Baekje is the first state that flourished and expanded its territory among the Three Kingdoms Era(4-7th Century). The trip will take us to Gongju and Buyeo, which were then capital cities of Baekje with the old names of Ungjin and Sabi respectively. Preserving outstanding heritage sites of Baekje, these two cities form important parts of the Baekje Historic Areas which is the UNESCO World Heritage sites comprising of royal tombs, fortress and a palace.

In addition, there will be museum visits to the National Museums through which we will appreciate the collections excavated from the relevant sites along with the interpretation by curators and heritage experts. The trip will also give us a chance to experience Korean traditional music and dance, Namsadangnori and Arirang, which are designated as the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages.

Baekje Historic Area (백제역사유적지구)
Baekje was an ancient East Asian protokingdom and kingdom that existed for nearly 700 years from 18 BCE to 660 CE. People originating from Goguryeo established the Baekje Kingdom on the lower reaches of the Hangang River, occupying the southwestern part of the Korea. Baekje moved its capital city twice due to internal and external pressures: on the first occasion, the capital city was moved from Hanseong (Seoul) to Ungjin (Gongju) in 475 CE following the invasion by Goguryeo; while on the second occasion, an entirely new capital was built in Sabi (Buyeo) in 538 CE. The history of Baekje is generally divided into the Hanseong, Ungjin, and Sabi Periods, according to the location of its capital city. The Hanseong Period is regarded as the earlier period in Baekje’s history, while the Ungjin and Sabi Periods are regarded as the later Baekje Period.

Baekje Historic Areas constitutes a serial property comprising archaeological resources intimately associated with the later Baekje Period (475-660 CE).

This field trip focuses on the heritage sites located in Buyeo(Sabi) and Gongju(Ungjin) and the trip starts with the visit to Buyeo which is the latter capital of Baekje.

Buyeo: Sabi Baekje (부여: 사비백제)
At the time of the first relocation of the capital to Gongju, defensive capability was the primary factor in which most of the criteria for national defense were met, as shown in the records on the wars against Goguryeo during the 6th century. Based on this solid national security, King Muryeong (r. 501-523) succeeded in securing political stability and restoring Baekje’s economic strength. His successor King Seong (r. 523-554) decided to relocate the capital city to Buyeo in order to further develop his kingdom, to control the rising power of the nobility, and to strengthen the royal authority.

Gongju was rather small for a capital city, covering only 10km2, whereas Buyeo covered about 20km. The relatively open area of Buyeo had an advantage for supporting greater population compared to Gongju. Also, as Buyeo had direct access to the sea at high tide, it was much easier to accommodate large seagoing sailing boats. This played a significant role in enabling international trade and cultural exchanges. The Geumgang River, flowing around the northern, western, and southern areas of Buyeo, served as a natural protective barrier. Buyeo offered both economic and military advantages so that King Seong relocated the capital city to Buyeo in 538.

Excavations related to the capital city in Buyeo have been conducted over a period of 30 years since 1979. As a result, numerous discoveries at the large building site, Buddhist temple sites, the royal tombs and a city wall have provided many valuable clues for estimating the original appearance of the capital city of Baekje about 1,400 years ago.

Jeongnimsa Temple Site (정림사지)
Jeongnimsa Temple Site is located in flat land of the center of Buyeo. Geumseongsan Mountain stands to the east and Busosan Mountain stands to the north of the temple site. Jeongnimsa Temple was constructed in the central part of the capital city during the Sabi Period. The surface of the stone pagoda is engraved with Chinese characters celebrating the victory of the Tang Dynasty over Baekje, indicating the symbolic importance of its location for Baekje.

An archaeological investigation of Jeongnimsa Temple Site confirmed the existence of the central gate site, prayer hall site, lecture hall site, and the sites of the monks’ dormitories in the north, east, and west, as well as the linking corridor sites. In particular, the layout of the monks’ dormitories attached to the corridors was a unique feature found only in Baekje temples.

Jeongnimsa Temple was a typical example that belonged to ‘one pagoda and one prayer hall’ style in which a pagoda and a prayer hall were placed in a line and surrounded by a lecture hall, the monks’ dormitories, and excavations have revealed that the buildings that once stood on this site were wooden buildings constructed on tiled platforms.

The temple site also has an 8.3m high fivestory stone pagoda. This stone pagoda is well proportioned with a low platform and a high main body on its first story. In addition, the height and width of the main body on its second and higher stories were drastically reduced in order to direct one’s visual focus to the first story. On the first story of the main body, stone pillars were placed at the corners and each space between the pillars was filled with stone slabs, making it look like a gate with two doors. There is a thin roof stone on each story that is slightly sloped and raised at the end in order to maximize its artistic beauty. The original appearance of the pagoda has remained nearly intact from the platform to the roofstone on the fifth story, but most of its ornamental finial at the upper extremity of the pagoda was lost, except for part of the base of the finial. A hole for the finial pole holding the ornamental finial was drilled into the roofstone on the fifth story.

Buyeo National Museum (국립부여박물관)
The museum traces its roots back to a small exhibition space under Buyeo Historic Site Preservation Society. The society was founded in 1929 to make sure that historic relics found in Buyeo are well preserved. The museum became part of the National Museum of Korea in 1945 and it was entitled the Buyeo National Museum in 1975. It houses 13,000 pieces of objects, 1000 of which are exhibited to the public.
Holding national treasures such as Gilt-bronze Incense Burner while exhibiting Baekje’s Buddhist statues of outstanding quality, the museum serves as a key museum for the visitors to comprehend the sophisticated ancient life and superlative art of Sabi Baekje.

Tiger-shaped Chamber Pot (호자: 부여 군수리 출토)
   This unique ceramic vessel is shaped like a tiger, with its front legs fiercely raised, head turned to the left, and mouth opened. It is recorded in ancient Chinese texts that during processions, the emperor would be followed by a servant holding such a tiger-shaped pot. This tiger-shaped vessel is therefore likely to have been a chamber pot used by the elite males of Sabi.


Baekje Gilt-bronze Incense Burner (백제 금동대향로)
   National Traesure No. 287 This incense burner, which was discovered at the Neungsan-ri temple site in Buyeo consists of a lid, body, and base. Measuring 61.8 cm in height and 11.8 km in weight, it is a large-scale incense burner and its overall shape is that of an ascending dragon supported by a lotus bud. Located at the top of the lid, which depicts the world of the immortal sages with its layers of gentle mountain peaks, is a divine phoenix with spread wings. The lid is decorated with musicians, animals, and imaginary beasts, and located in between the mountain peaks are holes through which incense smoke could escape. The body of the incense burner is shaped like a lotus bud consisting of three layers of petals, and is decorated with various human figures, fish, birds, and beasts. The base features an ascending dragon with a dramatically twisted body. The Baekje gilt-bronze incense burner is regarded as a masterpiece that illustrates the distinguished achievements of Baekje art and philosophy.

Stone Sarira Shrine with Inscription (부여 능산리사지 석조사리감)
  National Treasure No. 288 This stone sarira casket featuring an inscription mentioning King Chang was recovered from the foundation of a wooden pagoda at the Neungsan-ri temple site in Buyeo. The sarira casket features niches where sarira reliquaries would have been placed. An inscription that reads “The sister of the king makes this sarira offering in the Jeonghye year, the 13th year of King Chang of Baekje’s reign” can be found on the front and left and right sides of the stone casket. King Chang was the son of King Seong, who relocated Baekje’s capital to Sabi, and “the 13th year of King Chang’s reign” dates to 567 CE. The Neungsan-ri temple site is believed to have been closely associated with the Neungsan-ri burial ground, and it is likely that the temple that once stood at the site was reserved for the commemoration of King Seong, who had fallen in battle, and for the management of the Neungsan-ri royal tombs.

Buyeo Sataek Jijeok Stele (부여 사택지적비)
  Treasure No.1845 This stele, measuring 109 cm in height, was discovered at Gwanbuk-ri in Buyeo. It was erected in 654 CE by the Baekje aristocrat Sataekjijeok. Regularly spaced columns with inscriptions can be seen on the front side of the stele. At present, the stele features a total of 56 characters evenly distributed throughout four columns (14 characters per column). A phoenix with spread wings located within a circle was carved into the right side of the stele. The inscription reads that Sataekjijeok, who was the highest official in the Baekje Kingdom, had embraced Buddhism and erected a pagoda upon recognizing that all of life was in vain.


Gilt-Bronze Standing Bodhisattva (금동보살입상)
  Treasure No. 330 Unearthed at the temple site in Gunsu-ri, Buyeo, this gilt-bronze standing bodhisattva wears a headdress decorated with triangular design from which ribbons hang loose, intertwined with hair. Carved on a flat panel on the front side only, the peacefully smiling bodhisattva is depicted with a plump face and half-closed eyes. The fluttering robe covers the entire body with the hems of this heavenly cloak crisscrossing at the knees. The bodhisattva wears a necklace with a sharp, pointed end, which is common in bodhisattva statues from mid-sixth century Baekje.


Gilt-Bronze Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (금동관음보살입상)
   National Treasure No. 293 This gilt-bronze statuette of Avalokitesvara discovered at a temple site in Gyuam-myeon, Buyeo, features a bejeweled headdress with a miniature Buddha carved at the front center. The right arm is raised to shoulder height, holding a treasure pearl. The left arm is down by the left leg, holding the cloak gently. A long beaded ornament drapes down, crisscrossing at the center. The round plump face is faintly smiling with half-closed eyes. The statuette is also characterized by its slender body shape, which was rendered with balanced proportions.


Mandorla (금동광배)
  This circular mandorla, or halo, with openwork design was discovered at Busosanseong Fortress in Buyeo. Made of two thin layers of copper plate, it is suspected that the mandorla was once attached to the head of a Buddha statue, fastened by thin nails along the edge. The front plate is decorated with a lotus flower in full bloom at the center, where small and large petals alternate with their cut-out tips bent upwards to add dimensionality. Elaborately cut-out vine patterns surround this central lotus and the surface is evenly gilt with gold, emanating an elegant gleam. On the back of the mandorla is a six-character engraving that reads “Dharma Master Hada Lijiang,” which is believed to be the name of the priest who commissioned the Buddhist statue to which this halo belonged. This gilt-bronze mandorla reflects the refined technique and aesthetic sensibility of Baekje artisans.

Tile with Landscape in Relief (산수풍경무늬)
  Treasure No.343 This ornamental tile decorated with landscape detail was discovered at a Sabi-period temple located in Gyuam-myeon, Buyeo. At this site, eight other decorative tiles with landscape and other patterns were unearthed. On this particular tile, the landscape scenery features auspicious clouds floating over triple-peak mountains with streams flowing between them. There are grooves on all four corners of the tile that enabled it to be connected and attached to other tiles. The painterly relief shows a distinct Baekje style of landscape art and serves as an important resource for understanding the history of Korean landscape art.

Silver Flower-shaped Crown Ornament (은관꾸미개)
  This silver flower-shaped crown ornament was recovered from Neungangol Tomb No. 36 at Neungsan-ri, Buyeo. It is recorded in the Samguk Sagi that “officials above the sixth rank ‘nasol’ wore purple robes and crowns adorned with silver flower-shaped decorations.” This crown ornament was made by cutting a symmetrical openwork flower pattern, consisting of a stem and buds, from a folded sheet of silver. The base of this crown ornament features a section that was slotted into the headband of the crown.



Tile with Lotus in Relief (연꽃무늬 수막새)
  This tile with lotus design in relief was found at a Sabi-period temple site from the Baekje Kingdom located in Oi-ri, Gyuam-myeon, Buyeo. Inside a bead-patterned circular ring sits a large lotus flower in full bloom. Lotus leaves are placed in between each of the ten flower petals. The flower petals that curl up slightly are characteristic of lotus flowers depicted during the Sabi period. On each of the ten petals are reliefs of veins, and the center of the blossom protrudes outward. The four corners of the tile feature leaf motifs that connect with other tiles on all four sides to form flower patterns.


Gongju: Ungjin Baekje (공주: 웅진백제)
When the first capital Hanseong was conquered by Goguryeo, Baekje abandoned the ruined city and moved its capital to Ungjin, which is located about 130km south of Seoul. The key aspect of the new capital city in Gongju was its defensive capability which was the foremost priority against the threat of future Goguryeo invasions. The area of Gongju located near the middle of Geumgang River is in the shape of a diamond. Gongju basin is surrounded by both mountains and river, playing a role as a natural barrier. These natural defensive features of Gongju were the main reason for choosing this location as the new capital. However, the advantages of defensive position did not satisfy the economic advantages for import and export for commodities which were the main reason the capital city was later relocated to Sabi.

Jemincheon Stream divides Gongju into east and west. Jemincheon Stream and Geumgang River meet at a lower flooded area limiting the usable land in Gongju. The size of the capital city has led many historians and archaeologists to debate whether or not Gongju once had a city wall. However, extensive archeaological excavations conducted over a long period of time have proven that no city wall ever existed in the area. The royal tombs can be used to estimate the size of the capital city at the time. Royal tombs were built just outside the capital city in both the Sabi and Ungjin Period. Groups of royal tombs have been discovered near Gongju, in Geumhak-dong to the east, and in Songsan-ri to the west. Therefore, the size of a capital city can be estimated by researching the distribution of its royal tombs.

Gongsanseong Fortress (공산성)
Gongsanseong Fortress was called Ungjinseong, serving as the royal palace of the Baekje Kingdom for sixty-four years in the Ungjin Period (475-538 CE). This mountain fortress occupies 20ha across the administrative district of Geumseong-dong and Sanseong-dong of Gongju. Gongsan Mountain is connected with downtown Gongju to the south and the Geumgang River to the north. Outer side of Gongsan Mountain, form cliffs, except in the southeastern part, providing optimal geographical conditions for natural fortification. Gongsanseong Fortress was built for a royal palace and a defensive facility in utilizing the natural topography and mountain peaks connected to each other across valleys. Important facilities, including the royal palace were built within the fortress.

Gongsanseong Fortress consists of both earthen wall sections and stone wall sections, although most parts are stone walls. The total length of the fortress amounts for 2,660m (stone walls: 1,925m; earthen walls: 735m). Earthen ramparts are found in outer and inner walls to the east section, and the outer wall area has kept its original appearance of the Baekje Period. Most of the stone walls were built during the Joseon Dynasty (1392- 1910), the lower parts of the stone walls were partially constructed during the Baekje Period. The current state of the fortress shows both the earthen ramparts built during the Baekje Period and stone ramparts partially reconstructed afterward. After the downfall of Baekje, the fortress ramparts of Gongsanseong Fortress were reconstructed and rebuilt as stone walls.

Royal Tombs in Songsan-ri (송산리 고분군)
The Royal Tombs in Songsan-ri are widely known as the Royal Tombs of Baekje or the Tomb of King Muryeong. They are located on the upper southeast ridgeline of a small hill (75m high), standing in the south of the Geumgang River and extending to a southeast direction.

The types of Baekje tombs discovered include the “stone chamber tomb with a corridor” and the “brick chamber tomb.” Tombs No.1 to No.5 are stone chamber tombs with a corridor and domed ceiling, which are the traditional type of Baekje tombs. Tomb No. 6 and the Tomb of King Muryeong are brick chamber tombs with a vaulted ceiling – a type of tomb that was popular in China during that period. These tombs were built after 475, the year of the capital’s relocation to Ungjin. The fact that all the tombs except for two were stone chamber tombs with a corridor suggests that the style and structure of a stone chamber tomb was well organized and established as an exclusive type of tomb for the royal family of Baekje during the Ungjin Period.

The two brick chamber tombs in Songsan-ri – Tomb No. 6 and the Tomb of King Muryeong– have arched ceilings, rectangular burial chambers, and peach-shaped lamp niches installed in the east, west, and north walls.

Tomb No. 6 contains murals of the Four Deities. It is the only case that such figures have been found in a brick chamber tomb. After plastering mud or mortar on the spots in the four sides where the murals were to be drawn, the murals were painted with whitewash; the figures of sun and moon were also painted on the south wall.

The Tomb of King Muryeong has never been disturbed by grave robbery. It is the rare case among all the ancient royal tombs of East Asia for which the identity of its occupant has been confirmed and has been found intact. Therefore, the Tomb of King Muryeong plays a central role in research on East Asian royal tombs. The discovery of the buried tomb stone has revealed that King Muryeong and his queen were buried inside the tomb, and the exact dates of their deaths and burial have been explicitly confirmed as well. The Tomb of King Muryeong constitutes a tomb in determining the construction period of historic sites and findings as well as in estimating the status of the buried person for research on ancient tombs in China, Korea, and Japan.

Gongju National Museum (국립공주박물관)
In an effort to investigate and preserve the relics of Baekje found in Gongju, Gongju Historic Site Preservation Society was established in 1934. Later on, this expanded to exhibit the objects of Baekje excavated in Gongju. Upon the discovery and excavation of the Tomb of King Muryeong in 1971, the museum was newly constructed and was entitled national museum in 1975.

The museum houses 11,000 artifacts of Baekje including the 2,906 pieces of objects found at the Royal Tomb of King Muryeong. With the display of not only the relics found at the tomb but also Baekje’s Buddhist artefacts of outstanding quality, the museum encourages visitors to understand the Baekje’s sophisticated culture.


Lidded Silver Cup on Bronze Saucer (동탁은잔)
This silver cup with a bronze stand (銅托銀盞) was discovered near the head of the queen. Once used as a container for liquid, the artifact consists of a bronze saucer, a silver cup, and a silver lid. The center of the saucer is indented to secure the cup, and the cup has a stem that fits in the indentation. The bronze saucer is carved with an immortal, a dragon, a deer, a bird with a human face against the lotus flower motif and a jagged pattern. The silver cup, on the other hand, is inscribed with lotus flowers, mountain tops, a phoenix, a dragon, a deer, trees, and other objects. Likewise, the lid features mountains, trees, a deer, a bird, and other creatures, and has a handle shaped like a lotus flower and bud. As such, this artifact depicts the land of the immortals from the saucer at the bottom to the lid at the top with Taoist imagery such as lotus flowers, a dragon, and a bird with a human face, which suggests how Baekje people imagined their utopia. The carved images are in fact very similar to those inscribed on the Great Gilt-bronze Incense Burner of Baekje (National Treasure No. 287) discovered at the Temple Site in Neungsan-ri, Buyeo.

Stone Guardian Animal (진묘수)
This stone animal was found in the corridor of the burial chamber in the Tomb of King Muryeong. First appearing during the Later Han Period, stone animal statues are imaginary animals with horns and wings that protect tombs and transport the spirit of the deceased into heaven. The animal statue found in the Tomb of King Muryeong has horns on its head, wings on its body, and part of its mouth and body are painted red to fend off evil spirits.


Gilt-bronze Shops (금동신발)
These Gilt-bronze decorated shoes were found near the feet of the queen. Unlike the king’s shoes, the queen’s shoes are made using giltbronze plates for both the inside and outside. The inner plate has no patterns, but the outer plate is in openwork with a hexagonal pattern, which symbolizes heaven, with each hexagon filled with a phoenix. The two plates are fixed using copper thread, and ornaments are attached all around the shoes. Round spikes are attached to the bottom of the shoes, and in between these spikes are circular ornaments.

Silver Bracelets with Inscription (다리작 은제팔찌)
A pair of bracelets was found on the queen’s left wrist. The two dragons featured on the bracelet were created using a technique that involves beating the inside against an outside mold. Then, chiseling was performed to depict the scales of the dragon, adding threedimensionality and vividness. On the interior silver plate of the bracelet is an inscription that states that an artisan called Dari (多利) made the bracelets in 520 C.E., six years before the queen’s demise and that it required 230 ju-ee (主耳). Here, ju-ee is thought to refer to a weight measuring unit.

Gold Diadem Ornaments(King) (관꾸미개-왕)
A pair of these gold crown ornaments(金花 冠飾) were found near the head of the king. The gold plates used for these ornaments are thinner than those used for the queen. Unlike the queen’s crown ornaments, those of the king’s have holes where gold thread was inserted to attach dangling ornaments(步搖). These gold crown ornaments provide evidence for the record in the section on King Goi within the Annals of Baekje in Samguksagi (History of the Three Kingdoms) that states: “The king wore a purple robe with wide open sleeves . . . and a black silk cap decorated with gold flowers (王服紫大袖袍 . . . 金花飾烏羅冠).”

Gold Diadem Ornaments(Queen) (관꾸미개-왕비)
A pair of these gold crown ornaments was found near the head of the queen. They are made by carving approximately 2mm thin gold plates, and attaching a flower piece made of bronze. Symmetrical like a mirror image, these pieces depict honeysuckle flowers and a lotus flower blooming out of a jar, symbolizing the Buddhist idea that all things are born again from a lotus flower in heaven (蓮花化生). The lotus flower openwork is produced in a way to maintain only the outline of the flower with empty spaces inside, whereas the honeysuckle flower is depicted in the opposite way, with empty spaces used only as a background.

Belt Ornament (허리띠와 드리개)
This gold and silver belt was discovered around the waist of King Muryeong, and consists of a belt and ornaments. Between heart-shaped end pieces, elliptical silver beads, both large and small, are connected in alternation. As for the ornament, between a piece engraved with a toad and a piece engraved with a ghost, small elliptical ornaments in varying sizes are placed alternately, just as in the belt. The piece with the ghost motif is connected down below with a rectangular silver piece inscribed with a dragon and a deer, both of which symbolize auspiciousness.

Stone Epitaph (무령왕 지석)
Baekje King Sama passed away on the 7th day of the 5th month in the year of Gyemyo(i.e.523) at the age of 62. We make this record as we enshrine his body at the Great Tomb on the 12th day of the 8th month in the year of Eulsa(i.e.525)


Buddha Triad Stele (계유명 천불비상)
This Buddha sculpture was carved on stone like a stele, and this kind of Buddha sculpture prevailed from the Northern and Southern Dynasties to the Tang China. This kind of Buddha sculpture prevailed in Yeongi region in the early Unified Silla period, and it has been called a Yeongi style Buddha statue. There is an inscription on the statue that in April 15 of 673(the year of Gyeyu), 250 Buddhists erected this statue for the king and the minister, ancestors up to seven generations, and people of the Buddhist world. It shows that the tradition of Buddhism and the art of Baekje continued in the old territory of Baekje even during the early Unified Silla.


Avalokitesvara (금동관음보살입상)
This is one of the most beautiful Baekje Buddhist statues. Its grarceful and perfect beauty is seen in the smiling face and the balanced body, neatly braided hair on both sides, an elegantly crossing celestial garment, a pendant with spangles, and a low but stable lotus-flower pedestal. In particular, the celestial garment crossing the body is a characteristic of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva of Baekje.



Namsadang Nori (남사당놀이)
Namsadang Nori, literally the ‘all-male vagabond clown theatre’, is a multifaceted folk performance tradition originally practised widely by travelling entertainers and now kept alive by professional troupes in the Republic of Korea. The performance is made up of six components: a segment of ‘farmers’ music’ emphasizes the percussive sounds of metal gongs and animal-hide drums; a mask dance presents four comic scenes depicting people from different social classes; a tightrope walking act sees an acrobat on a high-wire engaged in witty exchanges with a clown below; in a puppet play, more than fifty puppets act out seven scenes together with a narrator and musicians; an acrobatic segment combines physical feats performed on the ground with comic dialogue and music; and an intricate display of hoop spinning with a wooden stick rounds out the performance. In addition to entertaining rural audiences that would surround the performers in outdoor arenas, Namsadang Nori carried an important social message. The mask dance and puppet plays in particular enacted the oppression of the lower classes as well as women in a male-dominated society. Through satire, these performances raised issues on behalf of those with no political voice and manifested ideals of equality and freedom, sustaining and inspiring the poor.

Arirang, Lyrical folk Song (아리랑)
Arirang is a popular form of Korean folk song and the outcome of collective contributions made by ordinary Koreans throughout generations. Essentially a simple song, it consists of the refrain ‘Arirang, arirang, arariyo’ and two simple lines, which differ from region to region. While dealing with diverse universal themes, the simple musical and literary composition invites improvisation, imitation and singing in unison, encouraging its acceptance by different musical genres. Experts estimate the total number of folk songs carrying the title ‘Arirang’ at some 3,600 variations belonging to about sixty versions. A great virtue of Arirang is its respect for human creativity, freedom of expression and empathy. Everyone can create new lyrics, adding to the song’s regional, historical and genre variations, and cultural diversity. Arirang is universally sung and enjoyed by the Korean nation. At the same time, an array of practitioners of regional versions, including local communities, private groups and individuals, actively lead efforts for its popularization and transmission, highlighting the general and local characteristics of individual versions. Arirang is also a popular subject and motif in diverse arts and media, including cinema, musicals, drama, dance and literature. It is an evocative hymn with the power to enhance communication and unity among the Korean people, whether at home or abroad.