Joseon era, tech fuse in festival

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Joseon era, tech fuse in festival

Want to know what royal life was like during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910)? Head to the palaces, Jongmyo Shrine, Seoul Fortress and Gwanghwamun Square between Sept. 20 and 28 to explore the period’s daily rituals, special parties, art, study, music and dance - all with a high-tech or modern twist.

If you thought the multi-venue Royal Culture Festival would feature the old, outdated lifestyles of people from long ago, you might want to think again. Uigwe books detailing the protocols of Joseon ceremonies in the latest 3-D technology, robots performing rites, a treasure hunt and a nighttime film screening at the palaces are just some of the highlights.

The nine-day event, sponsored by the Korea Tourism Organization and organized by the Cultural Heritage Administration and the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation, is a pilot project, but the government hopes to turn it into an annual festival that contributes to bringing foreign tourists into the country.

“This program will introduce a new kind of palace culture by combining our tangible and intangible cultural heritage with today’s advanced technologies and modern ideas,” Choi Yeong-ho of the CHA’s Heritage Promotion Bureau told reporters yesterday at a press briefing, held at the National Palace Museum of Korea in Jongno District, central Seoul.

What’s also interesting is how each royal building has been given a distinct characteristic for the event.

Traditional performances will be promoted at Gyeongbok, officially the main Joseon palace. These will feature intangible cultural heritages - people, performances or techniques that are designated as state treasures.

Changdeok Palace, a Unesco world heritage site known for its beautiful natural environment, will provide a scenic backdrop for artistic and cultural events, whereas the adjacent Changgyeong Palace will present the musical side of Joseon’s royal court with a host of concerts.

Deoksu Palace, which mostly functioned as the main palace in the final gloomy years of Joseon, will show how Joseon royalty celebrated. Historical records say that Joseon kings greeted foreign dignitaries, enjoyed coffee and accepted Western art and culture at Deoksu.

But the highlight at this venue will be the nighttime film screening.

Besides these palaces, another factor that makes this festival special is because Jongmyo Shrine will open to the public for the first time at night.

Jongmyo, also a Unesco World Heritage site, is a Confucian shrine dedicated to the deceased kings and queens of Joseon. The Jongmyo Jerye memorial ritual has been held every year since the 14th century and is the oldest Confucian ritual, according to Unesco. During Joseon, which stuck to Confucius rule, such a ritual was performed five times year. Today, Joseon royalty’s Yi clan descendants lead a nationwide festival incorporating the ritual every first Sunday of May.

“Originally, we planned this festival for spring, when the Jongmyo Jerye memorial ritual takes place,” said the CHA official. “However, as the country suffered a tragedy [the Sewol ferry disaster in April], we decided to postpone to fall instead.”

Organizers have also planned a tour of parts of the 18-kilometer (11-mile) Seoul Fortress, which is no longer whole but is being reconstructed part by part. There will also be various exhibitions and performances, including a media arts show, at Gwanghwamun Square.

For more information, visit Some of the program requires reservation online in advance.

BY kim hyung-eun []

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