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Blog Reboot Summer 2013

Gyo-dong Folk Village, Gyeongju

Gyo-dong Folk Village, Gyeongju

To start off my first post in almost a year, I’d like to apologize to all those folks who’ve posted comments and questions to this blog over the last several months.  I’ve basically been busy as hell this last year, so I hope to breath a second wind into the blog here over the next few months (time willing).  Over this last year, I’ve written the first draft of my thesis for my Masters in Buddhist Studies which, incidentally, involves research into the Silla  Kings Beopheung and Jinheung.  Also, I’ve coauthored a three part series on Gyeognju’s Mt. Namsan (click here to read part 2 and part 3) for the Jogye Order’s English language quarterly, Buddhism and Culture, plus an academic article surveying the life and work of the famed Silla monk, Ven. Wonhyo.  As of last February I changed both my job and  MA program.  Most importantly, however, this last March our second son was born, so everything non-essential has gotten pushed to the side since then.  I hope all the commentors that I’m just now getting back to would be so kind as to forgive this weary grad student, teacher and father for the late reply. read more »

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Wierd Gyeongju: The Teddy Bear Museum (테디베어박물관) and Teseum (테지움) of Bomun Resort

Entrance to the Teddy Bear Museum, Bomun Resort, Gyeongju

Entrance to the Teddy Bear Museum, Bomun Resort, Gyeongju

After spending an afternoon at Bomun Resort recently, I had an epiphany: teddy bear museums are to Korea what wax museums are to the U.S.  Both are cheesy as hell, prey on bored tourists and are not places you’d want to accidentally get locked in overnight.  Not to mention, both spring up around resorts and tourist traps like mushrooms in a Virginia cow pasture after the rain.   From Jeju Island to Mt. Seoraksan, teddy bear museums are currently the rage at all the major tourist destinations in South Korea. Of course Gyeongju’s Bomun Resort, being possibly the biggest tourist trap in the whole country, is blessed with not one, but two teddy bear museums, and they so happen to be just down the block from each other. read more »

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Video: Buddha’s Birthday at Bulguksa, Tongdosa and Sinseonsa Temples


Since we’ve been on the topic of Buddha’s Birthday lately, I thought I’d post a few HD videos shot at a few of the Buddhist temples around Gyeongju this year on Buddha’s Birthday, aka Seokga Tansinil (석가탄신일). Rob Fioretta, my coworker at Gyeongju University, was kind enough to share with me the video he took of the lantern parade at Gyeongju’s famous and historical Bulguksa (불국사) Temple that night. The lantern parade on Buddha’s Birthday is my favorite time to visit Bulguksa (in fact, it’s one of the few times it’s not filled with hoards of screaming school kids and bus tours) and the atmosphere there is very magical. I’ve been three times since I moved to Gyeongju, though I haven’t shot any new video since 2008. The quality of that old video is pretty lo-fi, so thanks Rob for the update ;-) read more »

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More Dangsan Namu (당산나무): KTV Documentary in 4 Parts

Since we’ve been on the subject of Dangsan Namu (당산나무) lately, I posting a KTV documentary I found on Youtube about Korean Dangsan Namu.  The documentary is in 4 parts, though unfortunately only the first and second seconds have English subs.  Even so, parts 1 and 2 are enough to a give a sense of the rich variety of legends surrounding the Dangsan Namu in Korean folklore.  Part 2 even includes details on the traditional village ceremonies honoring the Dangsan Namu on Daeboreum (대보름), which I talked about a few weeks ago.   Unfortunately my Korean’s not good enough to make much sense of the Korean narration in parts 3 and 4, but I’m including them below anyways.  If any Korean speakers would like to chime in with a summary in the comments section, I’d definitely appreciate it ;-) read more »

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Gyeongju Videos on the Korean Heritage Channel


The other day I was rummaging around on Youtube for videos to fill out a playlist on Gyeongjublog’s fledgling Youtube Channel and I stumbled across some amazing videos on something called the Korean Heritage Channel.  I know I use far too many superlatives on this blog already, but this channel features some of the best promotional videos I’ve seen produced on Korea.   Some might say that’s wouldn’t be too difficult considering the schmaltzy overdubbed travel schlock typically broadcast on Arirang.  However these videos are of a different class entirely.  They’re each brief 2 to 3 minute long vignettes of rich HD footage tastefully edited together with traditional music and subtitled commentary.  read more »

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Top 10 YouTube Videos on Gyeongju and the Shilla Dynasty

It’s been a while since I’ve done any “Top 10″ and since I’ve been busy with final exams and grades, I don’t have any proper articles ready to go this week.  Instead, I figured I’d post on the 10 best YouTube videos I could find about Gyeongju. Believe me, it was a lot harder than it sounds. For all the time I spent fast forwarding through dozens vacation slideshows of Bulguksa and boring A.P. History projects, I might as well have written an article. In any case, I did in fact find 10 YouTube videos that are well worth watching (in spite of their occasional flaws). So, in no particular order, first up is the official UNESCO World Heritage promotional video on Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto. It’s pretty:

read more »

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Video: Traditional Fireworks at the Andong Mask Dance Festival

This is probably a bit random, but it’s been ages since I’ve posted any videos here.  On the evening of the opening and closing Saturday of the Andong Mask Dance Festival, Hahoe Folk Village hosts a traditional firework performance.  They string ropes from the village, across the river, to the top of the cliff.  The ropes are covered with some sort of sap or dried pine needles and set on fire.  Various performers read poetry and sing songs while sparks are raining down and floating candles drift past on the river.  Meanwhile, actors dressed in traditional garb begin performing a play on a barge in the middle of the river, their shadows cast on the cliff face with a spot light.   Finally, at several points throughout the evening, the audience cheers and flaming hay bales are thrown from the top of the cliff into the river.  The effect of the whole experience is pretty magical.  Unfortunately this last year, the event was dampened a bit by rain and my video camera’s not the greatest.  Even so, I hope this video gives you a taste of how cool the Hahoe Traditional Fireworks actually are.  It’s a little bit of a hassle to get out to Hahoe village, but check ‘em out if you can next Fall when the Mask Dance Festival comes around again.

Festivals history Music & dance Outside Gyeongju Stories, legends & people videos

Video: Chajeon Nori (차전놀이)- The Juggernaut Game of Andong

To ring in the New Year I thought I’d share some video I shot at last year’s Andong Mask Dance Festival.  On its last Sunday the festival hosts a traditional folk game from Andong called Chajeon Nori (차전놀이) which literally means “Combat Carriage Game.”  It sometimes goes by the more impressive moniker “Juggernaut Battle Game” and it’s one of the cooler things I’ve seen in Korea. read more »

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Fall Concert under the Ginkgo Trees

The other week I posted on an upcoming concert at the Gyeongju Cultural Center (경주문화원) in honor of the changing leaves of  the 500 year old ginkgo tree (은행 나무) on the premises.  As it’s just a short stroll from my house, I manage to pop down there for about half an hour before running to class.  The atmosphere was a little somber as the event seemed somewhere between a cultural performance and religious ritual honoring this ancient dang namu  (당나무),  or tutelary tree spirit.  I actually felt slightly voyeuristic being the only foreigner there.  In fact, aside from the photographers, I didn’t see a single person in the audience that looked younger than 50. read more »

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Video: Zen Action Painting (초대선묵전)

I was sorting through my video archives a while back and discovered some great footage from one of my first visits to Gyeongju back in the Spring of 2003.   I had stumbled into a Korea-Japan Buddhist Culture Festival in Tumuli Park and was lucky enough to catch the performance of the famed Korean Zen Master Beomju Sunim (법주스님), painting a spontaneous portrait of the Dalma (달마), or Bodhidharma, on a 10′ by 15’ sheet on the ground.  The video’s a bit shaky as I was shooting over people’s heads, so I’ve edited from 10 minutes video down to a more watchable 3 and 1/2.  I hope you enjoy it and if you’d like to check out more of the work of Beomju Sunim, you can visit the art and video galleries on his website.  He’s also got an English page with his biography and philosophy of Zen painting. read more »

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