Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cotton Bushes at the Temple

Seoul doesn't get a large amount of snowfall. Dry, cold winter days tend to be more the norm. On days that it does snow, the photographic urge wins over the desire to stay in the warmth of my ondol-heated apartment. With just enough packing power, the snow clumped on the bushes by the Bongwonsa temple, appearing like cotton. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Faded, but not Forlorn

Although I love the brilliantly painted temples and palaces of Korea, I am also drawn to that which is faded or peeling. New color combinations appear, textures become more pronounced. Decorative elements become more organic and unified with the wooden surface. A sense of mystery exists. What parts of the stories and symbols on the murals are hidden or altered? How long ago was it when the last craftsman put his/her brush to these wooden panels? Are there others who can replicate its original beauty? What are the reasons for their present condition?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter - for Today

Winter morning, Czech Republic
As I write this, I sit at my desk in Seoul, warmed by the radiator next to me and the ondol-heated flooring below. Outside, the brisk winds make the temps even chillier. How different things will be for me tomorrow, for I head to Malaysia for Christmas break. The temperature difference will be vast - from 18°F (-7°C) in Seoul with a wind chill of 7°F (-13°C), to around 85° (29°C ) in Kuala Lumpur with sudden tropical showers. That six-hour flight will transport me to a whole new world.

I have booked hotels that include free internet in their offerings. What kind of service that will actually mean, I'll have to see. So perhaps I'll post some photos while still in Malaysia, but otherwise be looking for some tropical Christmas scenes in the future. Off to new adventures!

Monday, December 15, 2014

A "Sifty" Christmas Display

Seoul Station has a rather unique Christmasy sculptural display on its plaza. These columnar sculptures looked more substantial until I walked closer. To my surprise, they were constructed out of layered colanders. The plastic red and green utilitarian objects were plastic tied together. I presume the columns were weighted down and otherwise stabilized to prevent tipping by wind or vandals. 
Note the large LCD screens in the background, so typical of Seoul.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Funeral Procession - Goseong Ogwandae

At the end of the Goseong Ogwandae, a funeral procession occurs. The coffin of the wife is being carried out, accompanied by percussionists and some chanters.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gosung Ogwangdae - Scene 5

Second wife and husband at the ceremonial table. Note the downward gaze of the woman.
The fifth scene of the Gosung Ogwandae is also known as the Dance of Jaemilju, the Concubine. The wife searches to find her husband, only to discover that he has mistress. 

Concubine and husband dancing
Halmi, spinning.
The mistress delivers a baby in a rather quick birth. She regain consciousness, only to discover that the older wife has the baby in her arms. In a bit of tug-of-war with the baby son, the two jealous women end up dropping the baby, which dies. I found it interesting that the baby was very primitive looking - like a stiff, simple doll.
Descriptors from some websites then describe the concubine as attacking the wife, with the wife falling and also dying. The fifth scene is a satire of the relationship between a wife and a concubine.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Goseong Ogwandae - Scene Four: Monk's Dance

The fourth scene of the Goseong Ogwandae masked dance focuses on on an old monk who had led an ascetic life at a Buddhist monastery in the mountains. When he sees a barmaid who begins flirting, the monk loses self-control and begins to seduce her.  
While the mockery of the yangban noblemen was rather severe in the Goseong Ogwandae play, the satire towards the monk was more mild, due to the stronger prominence of Buddhism in the originating region.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Goseong Ogwangdae - Scene Three: Bibi Dance

My favorite scene of the Goseong Ogwandae is also known as the Bibi Masked Dance. In it, Bibi, a rather playful creature who loves to eat anything, taunts the noblemen. Bibi loves to leap at and jump from behind, scaring the wealthy scholar. In between, Bibi stops to play with and wag his tail between his legs.

I did not see the character Bibi appear in the masked dance at Andong.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Goseong Ogwangdae - Scene Two

In the second scene of the Goseong Ogwandae masked dance, Malttugi (servant) enters on stage, dancing with the noblemen and poking fun at them.
The Hahoe masked performance also featured a yangban aristocratic nobleman.
Yangban aristrocratic mask from Andong

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Goseong Ogwangdae Masked Dance

When it was still warm out, I attended a free masked performance in downtown Seoul. Having already attended a Hahoe mask performance down in Andong, I had some idea of the basic structure of Korean masked dances. A brochure was provided, but unfortunately was only in Korean and Japanese. I would have to be a careful observer to try and figure things out. As in the Hahoe mask performance, the Goseong Ogwandae (from the southern coast of Korea) masked dance is broken up into distinct scenes - five in total. Ogwandae indicates that five clowns appear in the play. Like the Hahoe mask performance, Goseong Ogwandae is rather satirical and pokes fun at certain people in society. Goseong indicates the region of Korea where it originated, located by the southern coast. Originally, the Goseong Ogwandae was performed on the first lunar month of the year, but later it was danced in the spring and summer.  
Unlike the masks of the Hahoe in Andong which were constructed out of wood, these masks were papier mâché. The Goseong masks appeared to me to be less refined and simpler.

The first scene is known as the Mundung clown dance, so named as the noble descendant the was suffering from mundung disease (leoprosy). Both angry and sad for not being able to succeed in life, the nobleman complains that his disease is the result of his ancestors' sins.

Read more about the Goseong Ogwandae and other masked dances of Korea at

Monday, December 01, 2014

Relic and Timeless Beauty

Yes, even in the highly modernized society in Seoul, these relics still exist. I don't recall ever seeing a Korean inside utilizing a phone booth. Not possessing a cell phone is virtually unheard of, with most citizens (even the older generations) sporting a smartphone. Soon our kids won't even know what these glass booths are for.