Elwood 5566

Hanyeoreum Evenings (정자)

Posted in Quintesentially Korean, seasons by 노강호 on September 8, 2010

Waiting for winter...

Summer is drawing to a close and outside Daegu is on the edge of typhoon Kompasu. Last night, was the first in many weeks that my air-conditioning wasn’t active. The rain was constant and woke me several times and like most one-rooms, a view of the world beyond is limited, but the concrete walkway between my window and the next building isn’t flooded. Further north, the story is quite different.

an isolated chong-cha

And once the sun reigns in the sky, the humidity is going to soar. Hanyeoreum (한여름), the Korean term for midsummer which is the period between the chang-ma (장마) monsoon season and its brief reappearance in September when it returns from Manchuria, isn’t over and though it’s probably peaked, the afternoons are still hot and humid and the evenings balmy and uncomfortable. In the heat of the sun people amble rather than walk, always picking out a path via shaded areas. Only boys seems to run and hurry and in classes it is a regular sight to teach lads with sweat trickling down their faces and spiking their blue-black hair.  I can’t recall teaching a girl soaked in sweat! At road crossings people will stand in the shade, even that provided by a meager lamp-post. And all the time fans are fanning faces, parasols, only ever used by women, are open and school boys walk about with one trouser leg rolled up, sometimes both or  lift their shirts to cool their stomachs. In the city, hanyeoreum evenings take on a lazy, laid back atmosphere. Around the haggwons (private schools), mini bus drivers crouch in groups in doorways or sprawl over seats  in their buses, dozing in the sultry heat and outside cafes people sit chatting or watching the world float by.

summer chong-cha

In the small parks between apartment complexes and larger parks around the city, people exercise,  stroll or laze in the arbors (정자).   Arbors are as synonymous with Korea as are kimchi or taekwon-do and in the fierce sun they offer sanctuary and in the evenings a small enclave which traps even the slightest breeze. They are home to little groups of men playing traditional games, gaggles of gossiping women, student sweethearts, small children and those seeking solitude. In hanyeoreum evenings, when the air is still and stifling, they are a place to stretch out and take a nap – especially after a few glasses of soju or makgeolli.

Hanyorum evenings - sitting out the sultry weather

and after a makgeolli, chong-cha are great for a nap

Chong-cha are always made of wood and designs vary from simple, functional structures as found in small parks between apartments, to the more elaborate and traditional  ones, made without nails, with intricate inlaid art work and bowed roofs and with which Korea is associated. These are usually built in places of significance, on mountain summits, or isolated areas of natural beauty.

A great place to gossip

The majesty of a traditional chong-cha

Creative Commons License© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

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One Response

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  1. Hamish Nelson said, on September 8, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I’ve always wanted to go hang out on one of these arbors and have a quiet drink, but I feel like I would be imposing. There is a great one just down the street that over looks some rice fields. This weekend I’m going to see if it’s free, with the weather getting nicer it would be a perfect getaway from my matchbox apartment.


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