Festival Celebrates Birth of Renowned Scholar From the Baekje Dynasty

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Festival Celebrates Birth of Renowned Scholar From the Baekje Dynasty

During the spring when cherry trees are in full bloom a festival to commemorate the birth of Wang-in, a renowned fourth-century scholar of the Baekje dynasty, is held in his hometown of Yeongam-gun in South Cholla province. Wang-in introduced papermaking and the Chinese writing system to Japan, contributing immensely to that country's Aska culture of the period.

The center of attention at this year's Wang-in Culture Festival, which will be held from Saturday through Tuesday, is Mount Wolchul, which Wang-in visited frequently. It was there that the scholar studied and instructed his students. Mount Wolchul is home to several well-preserved historical sites of Wang-in and boasts beautiful scenery.

The Wang-in Culture Festival will open with the chunhyang, a religious ceremony. Held at a shrine on Mount Wolchul, the ceremony will be followed by gija gut, an exorcism dance, to celebrate the anniversary of Wang-in's birth. A variety of performances are scheduled throughout the festival. A performance of samulnori, the traditional Korean percussion band, will delight visitors with exciting rhythms. Festivities continue with concerts featuring the gayageum, a traditional Korean string instrument; the chojeok, a reed instrument; singing and a Korean classical orchestra. Traditional dance performances and traditional costume shows will lift visitors back into the Baekje dynasty, which spanned from 18 B.C. to A.D. 660.

The highlight of the festival will be a procession of 250 people clad in Baekje costumes along a cherry blossom-lined path. The parade, which will be held daily, represents Wang-in's contacts with Japan. The last night of the festival features the "Thousand Lanterns Parade of a Thousand Characters," celebrating the revered scholar's academic contributions to Japan. This final tribute will include a train of 1,000 people carrying lighted lanterns.

Visitors to the festival can also enjoy playing various games from the Baekje dynasty. Ssangryuknori is similar to rolling dice, and tuhonori involves throwing thin, long rods resembling arrows into pots placed at equal intervals. If your interests are limited to being a spectator, you can sit back and watch local women race carrying pots of water on their heads.

An exhibition of ong-gi, traditional Korean earthenware, will be on display at a kiln site on Mount Wolchul. A market will also exhibit and sell traditional food served at jong-ga, the head house of a Korean family. For more information, contact the festival's Web site at www.wangin.org (English service available).

by Kim Sae-joon

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