Elwood 5566

Spider Season

Posted in Animals, Photo diary, seasons by 노강호 on November 10, 2012

Bu-gok (부곡) in late autumn with ‘Chinese’ cabbages growing in the forefront

Last Friday I travelled to Bu-gok (부곡), about 45 minutes drive outside Daegu, to practice straw cutting with my komdo teacher. The barn where we cut is on a farm and wandering around I discovered some enormous spider webs belonging to what is probably the most prolific spider in Korea, the Sorcerer or Shaman spider (mu-dang – 무당). In English it has several names including the Golden Banana Spider and Joro Spider.  Its Latin name is nephila clavata.

the farmer’s garden

The span between supports was over 2 meters

The numerous spiders on these webs were neither as large nor colourful, possibly as it is right at the end of their mating season and the end of autumn. Their webs however, were not just large, 3 meters across, but densely intertwined. The genes of the mu-dang have been used in genetically cloning silk worms in order to produce stronger silk. Only the female carries the red marking and apart from being larger than the male, she has cannibalistic tendencies after mating.

a female mu-dang (무당) spider

tightly intertwined webs

Creative Commons License
©Amongst Other Things –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

Further References

October 2010. The Shaman Spider

October 2010. Shaman Spider Webs

Advertisements

Andong and the Mask Dance

Posted in Photo diary, Regionalism, Travel by 노강호 on October 14, 2012

Totems standing close to the longest wooden bridge in Korea (Andong)

On September 22nd, I travelled to Andong with my komdo teacher’s family, some students and ‘LC.’ I last visited Andong in 2000 and it was a brief visit of only a few hours during which there was no time for sightseeing.

First, we visited the longest wooden bridge in Korea which spans the Nakdong River just outside Andong. Incidentally, the Nakdong meanders northwards to pass through Daegu. We walked across the bridge and visited a park where traditional games can be played, (these are always popular on holidays) and then visited a nearby cultural museum. We then ate Andong chicken stew in the city. In the afternoon we headed to Hahoe Village.

The traditional swing

Another traditional game rather like darts but the target is a pot.

This game consist of a spinning top which is whipped to keep the momentum.

The traditional hoop

Every Korean town and province is famous for something. In Ch’eonan it was the walnut cookies while in Daegu it is the apples, textiles and mak ch’ang. Andong is famous for its spicy chicken stew, mackerel, soju and of course, the mask dance. Back in 2000, I remember several Koreans proudly reminding me that Queen Elizabeth 2nd had watched a mask dance in Andong on her birthday in 1999. Indeed, a small building at the entrance to Hahoe Village houses various artifacts and photos from her visit and in the garden nearby, grows a pine tree she planted. At one time, one of the underpasses in Daegu was painted with a large mural commemorating her visit but I think it has since been painted over.

Masks have a long tradition in Korea and were used both by soldiers in war, in burial rituals and in shamanistic ceremonies. There are several types of mask dance, better described as mask dramas but the Hahoe version is probably the most famous. Typically, there are a number of characters including a monk, a scholar, a simpleton and some nobles (yangban). The Hahoe drama is an exorcist play dating back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The dance is performed regularly but the actual International Mask Festival is only once a year. I had no idea what the play was actually about but it was amusing and after a short while the masks begin to become quiet realistic.

The Andong Mask Dance.

I had no idea about the plot, but it was amusing

Close to the dance site is the traditional folk village of Hahoe where you can find a museum dedicated both to Korean masks and masks from around the world. The village is a working one with a small population who are engaged in traditional crafts which you can often watch. As in other folk villages, there are numerous guest houses, known as minbak, which give a taste of a former lifestyle.

In Hahoe Traditional Folk Village

Persimmon herald Autumn

Close to the entrance of the village is a ‘graveyard’ of abandoned totems (장승 – jang-seung). I love Korean totems and wrote about them in: Fascinating Physogs. Jan 2012.

A ‘graveyard’ of totems

Spot the rude embellishments!

I guess the Korean equivalent of Gothic

And even more!

One last shot from a different angle.

Creative Commons License
©Amongst Other Things –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

Buddha’s Birthday at Chang Su Temple

Posted in Art, Buddhism, Photo diary, video clips by 노강호 on June 17, 2012

On Buddha’s Birthday, May 28th, I traveled out of Daegu to the nearby town of Ok-Po. I was with a friend Jane, whose uncle is the senior monk in the Chang So temple (장수사) temple. As it transpired, almost every other person we met was one of her relatives.

With a monk in the temple forecourt. Note the curved roofs.

It was an interesting trip firstly because there were no mountains to climb (nothing spoils a trip more to a temple than an hour’s hike) and secondly, as the temple was small, it was quite calm and not teeming with visitors as a larger temple would be.

We looked around the temple complex, lit joss sticks in the main temple and poured water over a small statue of Buddha followed by the traditional temple bibimpap (mixed vegetables and rice) in the canteen. Then we sat sat in the monks rest room and drank coffee.

temple art is wonderfully exotic

a series of panels tell the story of the birth and life of Buddha

Temple buildings, traditionally built of wood and without nails, are always highly decorated and the narrative panels are exotic with their distinctive turquoise background. As there is a believe that evil travels in straight lines, the roofs of temples are curved to prevent evil entering them. Temple complexes house a main temple and then several smaller shrines dedicated to the various manifestations of  Buddha. Usually, there is always small shrine dedicated to the Mountain God (산신) who was revered in ‘Korea’ before Buddha was born but has since become a manifestation of Buddha.

The elongated ears signify enlightenment

One of the larger shrines, the largest after the main hall, was filled with small statues. It was an incredibly impressive hall where the mesmerizing effect of row upon row of miniature statues induced a sense of serenity.

a sense of serenity

and one statue naked

Children playing in the midst of Buddha

the small shrine to the Mountain God (산신)

the Mountain God (산신)

The beautiful and elaborate art work of the main hall

The main hall, a shrine to Ksitigarbha (지장 보살), the Bodhisattva. The hall contain depictions of heaven and hell and their associated judges. On the edges of the hall are small shrines to recently deceased people and hanging from the ceiling lanterns with attached wishes of devotees.

the wishes of devotees

the judges

part of the ornate ceiling of the main hall

Korean temples are wonderfully relaxing. Usually located in the mountains or countryside, they are a respite from the hussle and bussle of city life. All the elements of a temple, from the art and architecture to the hypnotic chanting of  a solitary monks, conspire to induce a sense of serenty and reflection.

I would liked to have added much more information about the temple and its features but I do not know enough about Korean temples and Buddhism. The subject is quite complex and intense. There are several sites which are useful sources of more in-depth, reliable information and extensive:

Dale’s Korean Temple Adventures

Buddhapia

Creative Commons License
©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

A Sunday Stroll in the Rose Park

Posted in Photo diary, plants and trees, seasons by 노강호 on May 29, 2012

Rose Parks are a regular feature in Korean cities and Daegu has several one of which is close to my one-room. From mid-spring right through until the brink of winter, the park is a mass of incredible colours and heady with the scent of roses and fresh wood-chippings.

with Warayoung Mountain as a backdrop

the strange thing held by the boy is a donut on a stick

looking towards the city

‘한빛마을’ is the apartment ‘village’ where my Kumdo school is located

wood-chip and roses

 

Creative Commons License
©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
Tagged with: , ,

Kam-Po Fishing ‘Village’

Posted in Photo diary, Travel by 노강호 on May 27, 2012

a ‘sweep’ of Kam-po’s the coast line

Kam-Po is a small fishing town on the east coast, equidistant between Ulsan and Po-hang. I actually travelled there from Kyong-ju, several weeks ago.

Pak Ji-won being reflective

fish being dried in the sun

plaice hanging to dry

playing on the beach

Pak Jun-hee and I

Creative Commons License
©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
Tagged with: ,

Magnolia – 2012

Posted in Nature, Photo diary, plants and trees, seasons by 노강호 on May 6, 2012

One of the first indicators that spring has arrived. I actually took these photos on April 11th but a bad flu delayed my posting them. The magnolia (목련) is one of my favourites and these examples were nestled against a traditional Korean house.

First signs of spring from the magnolia

a brief beauty – 24 hours later and the petals had fallen

Creative Commons License
©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
Tagged with: ,

Spring Blossom in Kyeong-ju

Posted in Nature, Photo diary, seasons by 노강호 on April 22, 2012

 

Kyeong-ju

 

purple crocuses with closed bloom Français : D...

purple crocuses with closed bloom Français : Des crocus violets, avec leurs fleurs fermées. Italiano: Infiorescenze chiuse di piante del genere Crocus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

‘Spring Festival’ in Cheonan, 2009

 

One of the most spectacular places for blossom is the old city of Kyeong-ju and nowhere is it more majestic than on the edges of the lake.

 

on the edge of the lake

 

the lake is home to several large hotels

 

through the blossom

 

towards Kyeong-ju city

 

close-up

 

they had the same design pleasure boats 12 years ago

 

the fountain

 

Jun-hee and Sun-hee

 

Creative Commons License

 

©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

 

Naganeupseong Traditional Folk Village – Suncheon

Posted in Photo diary by 노강호 on March 26, 2012

I visited the Naganeupseong Traditional Folk Village, Suncheon, Jeollanam-do,  in January. Here are a few of my photographs. Jeollanam-do is one of the southernmost provinces (Provinces of South Korea).

The village is enclosed within a ‘castle,’ though it probably closer to say a ‘fort’ as there really only remains a fortified wall.  The village has around a hundred residents and numerous small guest houses.The village had a fantastic collection of totem poles (장승) which were the subject of an earlier post (Fascinating Physogs).

an interesting valley on the way to Nagan village

quite an spectacular valley

landscaped scenery

Entrance

one of the models outside the Magistrate's Office building

another model

cabbage field

an alley within the village

the village pond

Bathhouse Ballads chronicles many aspects of my life in South Korea. Kimchi Gone Fusion focuses on ‘the way of the pickled cabbage’ while Mister Makgeolli is dedicated to Korean rice wine.

Creative Commons License

©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Further references

Fascinating Physogs – A Tour of some Korean Totem Poles (Bathhouse Ballads Jan 2012)

Doboks Galore – Photo Diary

Posted in Martial Arts, Photo diary, video clips by 노강호 on March 4, 2012

I feel quite at home among taekwondo and martial arts clothing. With twenty years experience of taekwon-do, I got to the stage I could go shopping in a supermarket in the UK or Germany, in a ‘dobok’ and not feel out-of-place. I find something quite ‘homely’ about the various uniforms you see on Korea streets and in schools and again this is probably because I was also fifteen years in the British army. Wherever you go in Korea, uniforms are part of the scenery and one of the most popular is the taekwondo ‘dobok.’

2001: Boys in summer komdo (kendo) uniforms with the baggy pants, playing an arcade game

2001: Two komdo boys in summer dress. One carries a bamboo 'shinai' (don't know the Korean term for this)

2001. Hapkido boys in summer uniform. This school is still training ten years later.

flying side kick

A couple of taekwondo boys resting. WTF 'dobok' are always blinged to the max!

one of my younger students demonstrates his front kick

Jay is a third degree black-belt (WTF). This is a fantastic side kick!

Some older taekwondo boys on a wet morning in the monsoon season

Jay performing a side kick

Creative Commons License
©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.

Fascinating Physogs – A Tour of Some Korean Totem Poles

Posted in Art, customs, Photo diary by 노강호 on January 29, 2012

an assembly of jangseung

I am always fascinated by the designs of Korean totem poles, known as jangseung (장승) and have previously written about their character in relation to the nature of Korean wood (Village Sentinels Nov, 2010). I recently visited Dong Nae Traditional Folk Village in Cheollanamdo, near Suncheon Bay, where there is a large collection of old and new jangseung. Some were functional village guardians performing their traditional role of protecting the village while others were either decorative or provided directions.

Jangseung are incredibly emotional and part of their allure lies in the relationship between the form of the wood and the manner in which it has been carved. The carving below, actually the sign for the toilets, is a good example of this synthesis. The nature of the wood, twisted and buckled has been enhanced by the knotted and gnarled face that so clearly conveys ‘agony, discomfort and urgency.’  ‘Bursting for the bathroom’ is expressed both by the face and the ‘buckled’ wood and though you can’t see the knees, you know they’re probably ‘knock-kneed.’ So successful is this synthesis you can feel the discomfort. The symbiotic relationship between wood and carving is so entwined they seem inseparable and even if the face were to be carved away the remaining form would still convey ‘urgency’ and ‘discomfort.’ Of course, there are other emotional expressions to which this one piece of wood could be adapted.

'bursting'

This example, a newly erected jangseung,  bore an inscription in hanja. Most jangseung are either inscribed in hangeul or hanja. The first four characters of this inscription are probably from the Thousand Character Classic (千字文) and basically means ‘good son, good father’ (휴자휴부) but the full meaning is more complex and is related to the concept of ‘filial piety’ (효도-효 -孝), one of the most fundamental principles of Confucian philosophy and still of importance in modern Korea. Among many other things, ‘piety’ involves taking care of one’s parents, being respectful to them and not being disobedient. The fifth character is that of village, so the inscription loosely means, ‘village of pious sons and fathers.’

'village of filial piety'

'dreams come true'

another hanja inscription - 'the place where you can fulfil your desire'

a rather amusing uninscribed jangseung

Jangseung often appear in male and female pairs and are distinguished by their head apparel; the male hat is more elaborate. Quite often, the inscriptions refer to ‘generals,’ major generals’ or male and female generals. Korean folklore has a special place for the mischievous ‘ghost,’ known as the dokkaebi (독깨비) who haunt mountains and forests. This ‘ghost’ is quite dissimilar to the European ghost and is actually a transformation of an inanimate object rather than a dead person. Dokkaebi tease and punish bad people and reward good deeds by way of a strange club, or ‘wand’ which when struck  ‘summons’ things. They also wear a spiky hat known as a ‘gamtu’ which can render them invisible.  Below are the ‘Female Ghost General’ and the ‘Ghost Major General.’

A pair of 'ghost' guardians

an uninscribed jangseung with a large 'burr' for a nose

Weathered jangseung. Note the phallic incorporation of the flanking poles

a female general, (protector of the ground?)

A typical male design. This is the Major General protector, for Suncheon, the town closest to Dongnae Village.

Grandmother protectors

Leaving the village with a newly purchased teacher's stick (actually on my birthday)

Creative Commons License
©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.

FURTHER REFERENCES

Village Sentinels – Totem Poles (Bathhouse Ballads November 2010)