The evolution of calligraphy on the peninsula

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The evolution of calligraphy on the peninsula

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“Songha Bingaek Guiwol” by Kim Saeng (711-791) of the Unified Silla period


With children overstimulated with computer games and television shows, it can be difficult for the traditional arts to catch their attention. But a puppet performance at the National Theater of Korea hasn’t given up, using old-fashioned means to bring to life the timeless Korean fable “Byeoljubujun.”

The tale about a rabbit and terrapin has been a classic bed-time story in Korea passed down since the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The story has been adapted into a puppet play for children that will be performed until Feb. 12 for families and friends to enjoy.

Director Lee Myeong-suk, who studied puppeteering in Russia for several years, wanted children to enjoy the slow and sentimental story through a classic medium.

All of the puppets in the play are handmade. “It took me over a month to make a single puppet,” Lee said.

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“Chusa Dopan” by Kim Jeong-hee (1786-1856), who is better known by his pen name Chusa, are on display as part of the “From Kim Saeng to Chusa, Korea’s Top Calligraphy” exhibit at the Seoul Arts Center. Provided by the SAC

There are three characters in the 65-minute play. The Dragon King, who lives deep under the sea, is terribly sick. The only medicine able to cure his illness is a rabbit’s liver. The terrapin volunteers to get the rabbit’s liver and tempts the rabbit to follow him into the sea. The rabbit has always been a trickster to the other animals on land, and, ever true to his wily nature, he cooks up a scheme to con the Dragon King. On their way to the Kingdom, the honest terrapin tells the rabbit the truth. By telling the terrapin that he left his liver safely on land, the rabbit cleverly escapes.

The stage continuously changes from land to sea as the story develops. “The main theme of the play is ‘transformation’ since the children will experience unexpected stage changes,” Lee said.

The color schemes on stage also change according to the three characters’ emotions. “Whenever the three characters lie or tell the truth, the color of the stage changes and I hope children will notice the deep meaning,” Lee said.

“I hope children can learn that being honest is being true with others and even to themselves.”

There is also another life lesson the story has for children: By seeing how wisdom helped the rabbit get through a difficult situation, children can learn that wisdom is another important aspect of life.

The play will be performed at the National Theater of Korea until Feb. 12. Tickets cost 20,000 won ($17.90). Go to Chungmuro Station, line Nos. 3 or 4, exit 2. For more information, visit www.ntok.go.kr or call (02) 2280-4115.


By Shin Ji-ye Contributing writer [estyle@joongang.co.kr ]
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