Traditional Culture

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What is traditional culture?

Traditional Korean culture can be categorized into intangible culture, tangible culture, and living culture. Intangible culture includes folk play, seasonal customs, thought of filial piety, and Korean medicine. Tangible culture includes structures, books, old documents, sculpture, and crafts. Living culture includes food such as doenjang (soybean paste), kimchi, and traditional teas, as well as household goods such as hanbok (Korean traditional clothes), hanji (Korean traditional paper), red clay houses, ceramics, and potteries. 

24 Seasonal Divisions

Korea divides its seasons into 24 seasonal divisions depending on the location of the sun.

24 Seasonal Divisions

 

See Details of 24 Seasonal Divisions
Seasonal divisions Date Content Major seasonal customs
Ipchun Feb 4 or 5 Starting of spring New Year’s dress, ancestral ritual, visit ancestors’ graves, New year’s bow, bokjori (rice strainer that brings blessing), exorcism, jwibullori (burning grass and weeds), fortune telling, neolttwigi (Korean jumping game), yutnori (Korean traditional board game), yeonnalligi (kite flying), eating five grain rice, dalburi (fortune telling), antaekgosa (shamanistic ritual to appease the household god), eating nuts, ear-quickening wine (served on the first full moon day of the lunar new year), selling heat, dragon egg harvesting, not giving food to dogs on the 115th day of lunar January, viewing the first moon, tug-of-war, seokjeon (ritual), bridge walking, stacking up rice straw
Usu Feb  18 or 19 Spring rain and sprouting
Gyeongchip Mar 5 or 6 Frogs awakened from hibernation yeongdeung Grandmother, unstacking rice straw, festival of servants, stir-frying corns, watching Pleiades
Chunbun Mar 20 or 21 Lengthening of daytime
Cheongmyeong Apr 4 or 5 Preparation of spring farming hansik memorial service, the third day of the third lunar month, making pan-fried sweet rice cake with flower petals, making sauces
Gogu Apr  20 or 21 Farming rain falls
Ipha May 5 or 6 Beginning of summer Buddha’s Birthday , floating lotus lanterns, jwibullori (burning grass and weeds)
Soman May 21 or 22 Beginning of farming
Mangjong Jun 5 or 6 Beginning of sawing sanmaegi dano, dano fans, mugwort tiger, cheonjung talisman, dano adornment, sweet flag, neolttwigi (Korean jumping game), ssireum (Korean wrestling), Dyeing finger nails with garden balsams
Haji Jun 21 or 22 Longest dayttime
Soseo Jul 7 or 8 Beginning of summer heat yudu Cheonsin (offering the first harvest of the season to gods), sambok, stream fishing
Daeseo Jul  22 or 23 Hottest day
Ipchu Aug  7 or 8 Beginning of fall chilseok gosa (ritual), baekjungnal (the Buddhist All Souls’ Day, mid July by the lunar calendar), baekjung nori, hoe washing, uranbunjae (Buddhist ceremony), duregilssam (farmer’ cooperative work)
Cheoseo Aug  23 or 24 Heat cools off; big day and night difference
Baengno Sep 7 or 8 Dew starts to fall cutting weeds, chuseok ritual, turtoise play, somegi nori, geunchin, Ganggang Sulrae (song and circle dance)
Chubun Sep 23 or 24 Nighttime getting longer
Hallo Oct  8 or 9 Cold dew falls Jungangjeol, Jungang ritual
Sanggang Oct  23 or 24 Appearance of frost
Ipdong Nov  7 or 8 Beginning of winter malnal, sije (ancestral ritual), seongju gosa
Soseol Nov  22 or 23 Ice starts to form
Daeseol Dec  7 or 8 Heavy snow dongji, dongji gosa , Dongji ritual
Dongji Dec  21 or 22 The longest night
Sohan Jan  5 or 6 Coldest days nabil, jeseok, New year’s eve greetings bidding the old year out, narye, Suse
Daehan Jan  20 or 21 Coldest days of winter


Traditional Plays

Traditional Korean plays are mostly based on ancient religion, and they were formed and transmitted through common people’s living. Such traditional plays have local, historical, social, and artistic characteristics.

Yutnori

Yutnori  (Korean board game)

people of all ages play yutnori between January 1st and the 15th day of lunar calendar. People can play this game anywhere if they have yut  sticks, yut board, and yut mal. After throwing the yut sticks, move the yut mal according to the score. People who arrive the last point first win the game.

 

Neolttwigi

Neolttwigi (Korean jumping game)

On the first day of January according to the lunar calendar, women are divided into two teams. They place a bundle of straw underneath a narrow long wooden board. Two women stand on each end of the board, and take turns jumping. If one woman falls from the board due to losing her balance, she loses, and another person takes over. This game can be played individually or in teams. 

 

Jegichagi

Jegichagi (Korean shuttlecock)

Jegi is a shuttlecock that is made by wrapping a coin or a round metal plate with thin, strong paper or cloth, and tearing the paper or cloth into thinner strands. The game of kicking a jegi up in the air with your foot is called jegichagi. There are different ways to play jegichagi: using side of the foot, using both feet, using one foot, and using the top lateral side of the foot. Jegichagi can be played as a one-on-one game or as a group game.

 

Yeonnalligi

Yeonnalligi (Kite flying)

Yeonnalligi is a folk game where a kite is flown in the sky by maneuvering a reel. A traditional Korean kite is made by attaching thin strips of bamboo to paper. There are two kinds of kite flying games: flying the kite high and cutting the kite’s string. Cutting the kite’s string is also called a kite battle. This game uses a special string, which is made by applying a mixture of glue and glass or porcelain powder to the string, to cut off the opponent’s string.

 

Ssireum

Ssireum (Korean wrestling)

Ssireum is a game that requires two contestants. They lock onto each other’s belt and achieve victory by bringing their opponent to the ground. This game used to be a ritualistic event for agricultural Korean society. It was a popular men’s activity on the Korean holiday of Dano, which is the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. The game was played on sand or grass field. 

 

Tuho

Tuho (arrow throwing game)

Tuho is a game of throwing arrows into a bottle, which is placed at a distance from players.
Two contestants or teams throw blue and red arrows into a jar, and the winner is decided by the number of arrows that have been thrown into the jar.
Various types and sizes of bottles were used in the game of tuho, and the sizes of the arrows varied as well. The rule of the game is throwing arrows into a jar. Scores were determined by the number of arrows thrown into the jar. 

 

Ganggang Sullae

Ganggang Sullae (song and circle dance)

Ganggang Sullae is Korea’s representative women’s play that consists of singing and dancing. It is a folk dance and song, which is very beautiful and dynamic.
The dance is usually performed on Chuseok (August 15th on the lunar calendar) and Daeboreum (Jan. 15th on the lunar calendar).
Women dance in a circle, the leader singer sings a line, and the rest of the women sing the refrain Ganggang Sullae.


Traditional clothes

The hanbok, which symbolizes traditional Korean beauty, reflects the style and spirit of things such as ideology, customs, behaviors, form, and skills that have been transmitted since olden times. It consists of a skirt, jeogori (top), baji (pants), durumagi (outer), vest, and magoja (outer coat worn by men).

The skirt and jeogori, which have a splendid and graceful shape that is created by straight and curved lines, are Korea’s unique clothing.

hanbok

hanbok


Traditional musical instruments

Traditional Korean musical instruments are called gugakgi. Representative Korean string instruments include gayageum (twelve-stringed zither), geomungo (six-stringed zither), haegeum (two-stringed zither).  Representative Korean wind instruments, which create a sound by blowing wind through holes that have been bored into metal or bamboo, include Korean flute, daegeum and sogeum. Percussion instruments, which make a sound by striking hands or sticks on an instrument, include janggu and bak.

Gayageum

Gayageum (twelve-stringed zither)

A stringed instrument with twelve strings. The instrument is played via finger movements of plucking or shaking the strings.

Geomungo

Geomungo (six-stringed zither)

Geomungo means a Goguryeo musical instrument. This six-stringed zither was made by applying a Chinese seven-string  instrument.

 

Haegeum

Haegeum (two-stringed zither)

Haegeum is a two-stringed Zither, and it is also called a kkangkkangi or angeum. It is one of the most widely used instruments in Korean music, ranging from court music to folk music.

Daegeum

Daegeum (Korean flute)

The daegeum is Korea’s representative wind instrument. Depending on size, it is classified as a daegeum (large flute), sogeum (small flute), or junggeum (mid-size flute).

 

Janggu

Janggu (double-headed drum)

The janggu is made of two drums that have been attached together. It is played by using a bamboo stick in the right hand and the bare left hand.

Janggu

Bak

The bak is an idiophone that is made of several pieces of birch wood with one side bound together with a string. It is made into a fan shape. It makes “ddak” sound as it folds.
Traditional Korean musical instruments are called gugakgi. Representative Korean string instruments include gayageum (twelve-stringed zither), geomungo (six-stringed zither), haegeum (two-stringed zither).  Representative Korean wind instruments, which create a sound by blowing wind through holes that have been bored into metal or bamboo, include Korean flute, daegeum and sogeum. Percussion instruments, which make a sound by striking hands or sticks on an instrument, include janggu and bak.

Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Best Palace from the Joseon Dynasty

Gyeongbokgung Palace is the best palace from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), and it is the first palace to have been built from among the five major palaces from that dynasty.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

  • It was burnt down during the imjin waeran (hideyoshi’s invasions of Korea), but was rebuilt under the supervision of Regent Heungseon Daewongun during the period of King Gojong’s reign
  • The central area, which connects Gwanghwamun Gate– Heungnyemun Gate– Geunjeongmun Gate– Sajeongjeon  Hall– Gangnyeongjeon Hall – Gyotaejeon Hall, is the core area of the palace, and it was built symmetrically according to geometrical order.
  • Visitors can see the essence of a refined royal palace at Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Changdeokgung Palace, Which Shows Ancestors’ View about Nature

Changdeokgung Palace was the second palace to be built after the construction of Gyeongbokgung Palace, which was the official royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Changdeokgung Palace

  • It was built as a igung (a temporary palace that was used in case the official royal palace cannot be used due to wars or disasters).
  • It became a central place during the Joseon Dynasty as many kings conducted their governance of the dynasty when they stayed at this palace.
  • It boasts beautiful natural beauty as its buildings were arranged in harmony with the natural topology.
  • It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1997.

Changgyeonggung Palace, a Palace with Elegance

Changgyeonggung Palace was built by King Sejong in 1418 to honor the former King Taejong.

Changgyeonggung Palace

  • It is the only palace among Joseon’s palaces that faces the east. This was done in order to emphasize independence. 
  • The space of Naejeon Hall, which is a living quarter in the royal palace, is well developed.
  • It was used as a auxiliary residential area in Changdeokgung Palace

Deoksugung Palace, Where Visitors Can Feel the Beauty of Korea

The original name of Deoksugung was Gyeongungung, but it was changed to Deoksugung after King Gojong abdicated the crown to King Sunjong in 1907.

Deoksugung Palace

  • Unlike other palaces of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), this palace does not have a mountain in the back and is located on flat land.
  • The location of the palace played an important role in reorganizing the road network of the Hanyang City Wall around Deoksugung Palace in order to protect the palace from the great external powers at that time.

Gyeonghuigung Palace, a Site Where the Footsteps of Kings Can be Sensed

Gyeonghuigung Palace is not well known even though it is one of 5 major palaces of the Joseon Dynasty.

Gyeonghuigung Palace

  • It was completely destroyed during the Japanese Occupation period (1910-1945).
  • Even though part of the palace was excavated and restored, it is still in a relatively shabby condition compared to its original state.
  • Since its opening to the general public in 2002, its old splendor is being restored by descendants in the 21st century.

Looking Back on Korea’s History of 5,000 Years  – Namsangol Hanok Village

NamsangolHanok Village is located in Pil-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul. It used to have a valley and Cheonugak Pavilion during the Joseon Dynasty, so it was used as a summer vacation site. The project for restoring NamsangolHanok Village began in 1989, and the village was opened in 1998.

Namsangol Hanok Village

  • The traditional houses in this area offer various experience programs such as learning Korean traditional etiquettes and holding lectures on literature and traditional culture. Some operate traditional tea houses.
  • The Traditional Crafts Center exhibits artworks by artisans who have been designated as an intangible cultural heritage.
  • The village offers various programs through which visitors can personally experience Korean seasonal customs.
  • Location :

    28, Toegye-ro 34-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul

  • Tel :

    +82-2-2264-4412


Appreciation of the Beauty of hanoks – Bukchon Hanok Village

Buckchon Hanok Village was formed as the nobility of the Joseon Dynasty started to settle in the area between the Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces. Visitors can see old alleys, waterway remains, and many hanok (Korean traditional houses).

Namsangol Hanok Village

  • There are eight representative tour spots where visitors can appreciate the scenery of the village. These spots are called the Bukchon 8 viewpoint. 
  • As the workshops and galleries of traditional heritage holders, artists, and architects started to move into the area, the area has become a new cultural arts area.
  • Location :

    37, Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (105, Gye-dong) 

  • Tel :

    +82-2-2133-1371

Royal Palace Changing of the Guards

Royal Palace Changing of the Guards

In the Joseon Dynasty (1392~1910), the royal place gates were protected by units of gate guards whose duty was to guard the palace entrances and to open and close them according to a prearranged schedule. The Seoul Metropolitan Government restored the changing of the gate guard ceremony in 1996. This was done on the basis of research conducted by a group of experts, and since then the ceremony has been conducted on a daily basis. The changing of the gate guard ceremony is a spectacular event that is often compared to the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.

Royal Palace Changing of the Guards
Ceremony process Time Details
Gaesik tago 2 mins A ceremonial announcement of the Changing of the palace gate guards
Gunhohabu Ceremony 2 mins The Ministry of Military Affairs reports the day’s military password to the king and with the king’s consent sends it to the Royal Secretariat who, in turn, informs the gate guards of it.
Sulli Ceremony at Seoul Plaza 6 mins The palace guards patrol the palace grounds (i.e., from Daehanmun Gate at Deoksugung Palace to the Gwanghwamun Square (Bosingak (Belfry)))

  • Location :100-120 Deoksugung Palace, 99, Sejong-daero, Jeong-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul

Jongmyo Jerye (Ritual Conservation)

Jongmyo Jerye

Jongmyo Jerye

 

  • Jongmyo Jerye :
    Jongmyo is a shrine that enshrines the mortuary tablets of former kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty and that holds ancestral rituals. Jerye are the rituals that are held at Jongmyo shrine.
  • Jongmyo Jeryeak :
    These are the music and dances that are performed during the Jongmyo Jerye.
  • Rituals used to be held five times a year. Currently, a ritual is held on the 1st Sunday in May every year according to the solar calendar.
  • A ceremonial rite is divided into a preparation process before the ritual, as well as the king’s procession leading to Jongmyo Shrine and the holding of a ritual.
  • It was designated as Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 56 in 1975, and listed as a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001.
  • Since its designation as an international cultural event in 2006, the ritual is held the 1st Sunday in May every year.

Daily Ringing of the Bosingak Bell

Bosingak Bell

  • Bosingak (Belfry) :
    Bosingak is a belfry where a large bell, which has been designated as Treasure No. 2, had once been hung. It was rung 33 times in the morning (at about 4 am) to signal the end of the night curfew and that it was time to open the fortress gate and 28 times at night (at about 10 pm) to signal the closing of all the entrances into the capital.
  • Bosingak Bell :
    The original Bosingak Bell was made in 1468, which was the 14th year of King Sejo’s reign. It was to be hung in Wongaksa Temple bu itt was moved to Bosingak in 1619, which was the 11th year of King Gwanghaegun’s reign, after the temple had closed.

  • The turbulent history of the late Joseon Dynasty inflicted a lot of damage to the bell, eventually degrading it into a museum item in the National Museum of Korea. 
  • The bell that is currently hung in the belfry is one that was recently made via donations by citizens. 
  • It was hung in the bell house on August 14, 1985, and was first rung the following day in celebration of the 40th anniversary of National Liberation Day. 

 

Daily Ringing of the Bosingak Bell
Application Period year round
Eligibility no restriction
Bell Striking Participation 4 people daily (group reservation available, prior inquiries)
Selection Method first-come first-served
Application Method Internet application

Visit the Hall of Royal Court Culture – Unhyeongung Palace

Unhyeongung Palace has been designated as Seoul Historic Site No. 257, and it was the base of Regent Heungseon Daewongun’s political activities in the modern history of Korea.

Unhyeongung Palace

  • It exhibits various artifacts related to Regent Heungseon Daewongun’s use of Unhyeongung Palace.
  • It exhibits costumes that were used when King Gojong and Empress Myeongseong held auspicious ceremonies.
  • Location :464, Samil-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
  • Tel :+82-2-766-9090

Experience Korean Food Culture – Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine

The Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine is Korea’s representative research institute that studies traditional Korean food culture and teaches how to make all kinds of traditional Korean food, including the royal court food of the Joseon Dynasty, which is important intangible cultural heritage. 

Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine

  • Offers lectures on royal court food for the general public.
  • Royal court food course, traditional food course, hotel Korean set menu course
  • Location :16, Changdeokgung 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
  • Tel :+82-2-744-9092

Make Various Kinds of Kimchi – Seoul Kimchi Culture Experience Center

Citizens can learn about Korean history and culture through kimchi, and they can make their own kimchi and topokki under the teaching of a kimchi expert.

Seoul Kimchi Culture Experience Center

  • Experience of making kimchi and topokki.
  • Participants can take the kimchi that they made home with them.
  • Location :4F Gyeongdo Bldg., 21-7, Myeong-dong 8-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
  • Tel :+82-2-318-7051

Cultural Space of Hanok (Korean Traditional House)  - Samcheonggak

Samcheonggak is a cultural and art complex where citizens can learn, enjoy, and experience traditional culture and art. Visitors can view performance art shows by famous artists at the outdoor courtyard.

Samcheonggak

  • Various events, such as art performances, experience-oriented activities, education, exhibition, international conferences, and traditional weddings, can be held here. 
  • Location :3, Daesagwan-ro, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul
  • Tel :+82-2-765-3700

Traditional Cultural Space in Seoul – the Korea Cultural House (KOUS)

The Korean Cultural House (KOUS) is an institution that is committed to the introduction and promotion of the traditional Korean lifestyle for both Koreans and overseas tourists who are interested in Korean culture.

– the Korea Cultural House (KOUS

  • It
    operates an art performance venue for visitors to appreciate traditional
    performances.
  • It
    operates a cultural heritage educational institute to teach traditional crafts.
  • It offers
    various programs for tourists and foreigners to learn about Korean culture in
    an interesting way.

  • Location :12-9, Teheran-ro, 92-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (944-22, Daechi-dong)
  • Tel :+82-2-3011-1788

Let the World Know about Korean Etiquettes– Yejiwon

Yejiwon was the first place that taught Korean etiquettes in the 1970s when people’s awareness of culture was low due to economic difficulties.

Yejiwon

  • It offers education on Korean etiquettes for invited foreign guests by planning a two-day one-night program. 
  • It offers the experiences of a tea ceremony, traditional wedding, and making kimchi
  • Location :2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
  • Tel :+82-2-2234-3325