Namyangju Dasan Cultural Festival

Even as my first cultural inclusion, there was so much to love about Dasan Cultural Festival (다산문화제). Dasan Cultural Festival is held around September and October every year in memory of the spirit of Dasan Jeong Yak-Yong (다산 정약용), a Confucius scholar of the late Joseon Dynasty (조선). This festival is held in Namyangju (남양주) for three days. Details of direction can be found on the link below. During the festival, various events are showcased: a memorial service for the soul of the deceased, Dasan literary contest, Dasan Hwiho competition, a drum parade, and various performances on Yeoyudang stage. Admission is free for all ages and visitors have the option of paid hands-on program.

I was part of the hands-on program and this was my experience.

My group and I were welcomed into Dasan ecological park by sounds from Dasan drum parade while we appreciated the beautiful ancient landscape. After which, we made our way uphill to the memorial of Dasan Jeong Yak-Yong and then proceeded downhill to tour the Silhak Museum (실학 박물관). Our facilitator later informed us that we would be taking Oebang Byeolsi (외방별시)—a civil state exam which was a gateway during the Joseon era for those who dreamt of becoming high-rank government officials. After a few minutes of murmuring because we had no knowledge of the exam neither did we prepare for it, we set out to change into durumagi (scholars’ hanbok) and gat (hat) before heading to the site of the exam. A few selfies later, we sat curiously in front of Yeoyudang stage on small cushions and waited our faith.

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However, we were given a spectacular interactive, entertaining, and engaging theatric performance by actors and an actress on King Joseon. Before we got too comfortable however, we were reminded of the state exam by the artists, who were also the proctors for the exam.

But the exam was not as scary as it sounded. It had three parts. The first was 5 multiple choice questions, the second was a painting of the beloved King on a fan, and third was a themed poem. Three of the scholars were honorably recognized for graduating with distinction (I was one of the threeJ) and all the scholars passed with flying colors and became noble men and women.

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After becoming civil servants, we had lotus flower tea and green tea like high-ranking officials—because that’s what they do. Our tea was prepared and served by an ajumma (elderly lady), who displayed such an eloquent elegance and grace with every cup she served. Not to long, we received an announcement that we cordially invited to witness the marriage ceremony between two of the newly ranked officials (actually they were volunteers).

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The two students were prepped by more ajummas for the ceremony. The bride looked gorgeous in a colorful hanbok wedding dress but her face was hidden throughout the ceremony. The ceremony ended with her lowering her hands to uncover her face and both bride and groom bowing their heads to the guests at the ceremony.

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In all, my participation in the Dasan Heritage festival was a ton of fun. It got to experience Korean history up-close and personal.

 

Article by Esther from the U.S.A.

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