Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hahoe - A South Korean Folk Village Enveloped by Water

Yi Seonggye, the main figure behind overthrowing of the Goryeo Dynasty of Korea founded the Kingdom of Joseon in 1392. He was a son of a minor Mongol official from Korea and a Chinese mother. The span of the reign ship of the kingdom established by him lasted for over five centuries when it ended in 1897 when it was officially renamed as the Korean Empire. When the kingdom was growing, a small clan titling themselves as Ryu established their base in one of the sites near the present day bigger city of Andong and named it as Hahoe - 'Ha' is a shorter version for river and 'hoe' means to 'turn around, return & come back’ and the name was kept in the legacy of its geographical position amidst one of the meanders formed by the Nakdong River which also led to its identity in the form of a Village Enveloped by Water. The location is said to be strategically chosen by its founders to provide their community both physical and spiritual nourishment from the surrounding beauty of the landscape and the forest which has also inspired some of the best Poets of the 17th and the 18th century. 

Hahoe has been traditionally a single clan village and they have preserved their ancestral art, architecture and other forms of expressions and hence it acts as a hotspot for studying and knowing about the structure & nature of the times when the Kingdom of Joseon was in power. The perimeter of the village is formed by the Nakdong River and it is located in the foothills of Hwasan Mountains which is an offshoot of the larger range of Taebaek. The centre of the settlement consists of large tile-roofed houses belonging to the original inhabitants of the clan and their preceding generations and the periphery beholds in itself the charming thatched roofs though its not per any geometrical division. Alongside, community pavilions, study halls, learning centres, mud-walled houses for the commoners were also built to thrive in as a community and not as an individual identity. The economy is majorly agricultural with paddy crop being one of the significant ones.
There are various festivals which are organised by the local community of which one of the most famous is Hahoe Mask Dance Drama locally known as Byeonlsin-gut which is said to be a group performance performed for the supreme power & is said to be a part of the Korean Shamanism - it is also listed as one of South Korea’s National Intangible Cultural Properties. Many of the cultural aspects and the quality of their preservation led the village of Hahoe to be listed in the World Heritage List of UNESCO alongside the village of Gyeongju under the title of Historic Villages of Korea in 2010. The human settlement of Hahoe presents an example of a human community which developed independently on its own terms as a clan village, failing and learning itself while cherishing the presence of the natural system around & celebrating their own historicity.

Images from wikimediaytimgonedaykoreatraintokitezhodkbohemiantravelerviatorphotobuckettripsite (top to bottom)


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