| Ancient Koreans once believed that dates of the lunar calendar with two uneven numbers were auspicious days. For this reason, the first day of the first month (New Year), the fifth day of the fifth month (Dano, 단오), and the seventh day of the seventh month (Chilseok, 칠석) according to the lunar calendar have long since been celebrated as major holidays and were occasions for people to share food, fellowship, and folk games. The day of Dano on May 5th, in particular, was considered to be full of yang energy and, as such, was as significant a holiday as Seol (설, the New Year) and Chuseok (추석). On this day, people made surichwi tteok rice cakes, gave or received fans in preparation of the coming summer season, and enjoyed folk games like swinging and ssireum. |
Today, Dano is not listed as an official holiday and is celebrated on a much smaller scale than it has been in the past. However, people in Gangneung (강릉), Jeonju (전주), and Daegu (대구) still organize Danoje Festivals in celebration of this precious cultural heritage. Of all these, the Danoje Festival in Gangneung has remained truest to the celebration’s original form, capturing the very essence of this ancient festival. Following its designation as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005, the festival has become an international festival representative of the Korean shamanistic culture.
This year, representatives from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) decided to join in the fun at the Gangneung Danoje Festival, in order to capture the main highlights of the festival to pass on to our readers: the spiritual rites offered to mountain gods, the danogut shaman rite, folk games, and the important cultural asset, the Gwanno Mask Drama! In order to attend high-profile events like Danogut and Gwanno Mask Drama, its practically must to check the schedule at the Information Center well in advance.
In anticipation of the big day, the entire city of Gangneung was charged with energy and bustling with out-of-towners who had come in from other regions to take part in the Danoje Festival. White tents set up along the waterfront area of Namdaecheon, a stream that runs through the heart of Gangneung, served a gigantic open-air market, selling produce, crafts, and a variety of local foods. There were even a number of recreational facilities and a small circus hidden beneath the canopies. Across from the main stage, various hands-on programs were in full-swing, with people drawing dano fans or sampling surichwi tteok.
|Major events designated as Cultural Assets|
The gut shaman rituals performed during the Danoje Festival are one of the key attractions of the Gangneung Danoje Festival. These clanging, boisterous rituals are performed to ensure the health and happiness of the entire community and drive away evil spirits, which is why the ritual is sometimes referred to as an “exorcism.” Among the performances is the “Gunung Jangsugut” ritual, which is performed the morning of Dano and is a rite that solicits the spirits of past military leaders to ward off misfortune in the coming year. The gut performances (held free of charge, of course!) featuring female shamans, colorful costumes, and energetic dancing, music, and rhythms are a sight not to be missed!
Gwanno Mask Drama (관노가면극)
The Gwanno Mask Drama, which is only performed at the Gangneung Danoje Festival, is Korea’s only remaining nonverbal traditional mask drama. In the past, the drama was performed by lower class servants (nobi) wearing masks. The drama is about the love of an upper class nobleman and the forces that interfere with his love. Instead of dialogue, the story is told in a series of dance movements and gestures. This easy-to-follow comedic drama runs for roughly 50 minutes and is a free performance sure to put a smile on your face.
|Major folk games|
An integral part of the Danoje Festival, “ssireum” is traditional Korean wrestling that take place on sand. The most entertaining ssireum matches are between two wrestlers with equal strength and skill, making for amazing demonstration of the techniques used in this time-honored sport. In years past, the winner was awarded a cow, a custom that reflects Korea’s agricultural history.
Historically, the swinging contest was one of the most popular folk games enjoyed by ladies during the Danoje Festival. A swing is hung on a tree and whoever can swing the highest is declared the winner of the competition. Interested parties can signup at the swinging site. The contest is also open to male participants and some there is even a doubles portion of the contest, where two people swing together face to face.
|Dano experience programs|
|Dano fan decorating|
In order to prepare for the hot summer, people used to make fans during Dano and give them to their loved ones, wishing them health and well-being. Partake in this local gift-giving custom by painting or drawing designs on a traditional hanji fan and giving it to someone you care about. Another program (particular popular among children) is the decorating of a Gwanno mask. (There is a participation fee of 3,000 won for each of these activities).
| Visitor Information|
Period: Sat., June 12 – Sat., June 19, 2010
Venue: Danojang and other venues in Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
Seoul → Gangneung
* Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (Subway Line 2, Gangbyeon Station) → Gangneung Intercity Bus Terminal (first bus at 06:30, last bus at 23:00; bus every 30 minutes; approx. 3 hours)
* Seoul Express Bus Terminal (Subway Line 3 and 7, Gangnam Express Bus Terminal Station, Gyeongbuseon Line) → Gangneung Express Bus Terminal (first bus at 06:00, last bus at 23:30; bus every 20 to 30 minutes; approx. 2.5 hours)
Gangneung → Danojang festival venue
* By taxi, it takes 10 to 15 minutes from the Gangneung Intercity / Express Bus Terminal to the venue
Korea Travel Phone: +82-33-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Official Site of Danoje Festival http://www.danojefestival.or.kr/ (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Official Site of Gangneung Tourism http://www.gntour.go.kr/ (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
List of accommodations in Gangneung: http://www.gntour.go.kr/ (English)
Go to Gangneung Danoje Festival
Related Sites: UNESCO World Intangible Heritage, Gangneung Danoje UNESCO, The Gangneung Danoje Festival