Out And About In Korea
Andong Soju Museum and Hahoe Villiage Korean Mask Dancing
Andong, a city of 168,000 located on the Nakdong River in the central part of South Korea, and cultural significance throughout Korean History. During the Joseon Dynasty it because the center of Conucianism, and today is home to the great Dosan Seowon Confucian academy.
The region is also famous for its Andong Soju, which is made from natural ingredients made during the Silla Dynasty for medicinal purposes. Andong Soju is about 84 proof (42% alcohol), compared to 20$ (40 Proof) found in commercial soju found in convenience stores. Mi Jung and I went to the Andong Sojo museum, where we learned the traditional distillation methods used for centuries.
A mash is made from a malt made from wheat, and left to ferment for about 30 days, once the mash has fermented it is places in a still and placed over a wood burning fire to make the finished product.
Below are the milling stones used to grind the wheat into flour used to make the mash.
An Andong still.
I tried the Andong soju and was surprised to discover that it tasted more like a traditional whiskey, than the sweet vodka taste that I am used to, The soju was served with a sugar cookie, which made for an interesting combination.
Our next stop was the famous Andong Mural Village (안동 벽화 마을), I did not know this place existed, but the owner of the hotel we stayed at informed Mi Jung that this would be a great place to go take photographs. He was not mistaken!
Here is a restaurant delivery man, delivering food on a moped.
To give you a little bit of perspective of the depth of the murals. The paintings continue up the street all the way to the top of the hill.
This part of the street focused on Koreas rich musical heritage and busking.
This was a great place to use my 16-35mm f2.8L lens, at least until Mi Jung decided she did not want to use the EF-S 10-22mm which is a 16-35mm equivalent on the 1.6x crop sensor of the 7D. So she took my lens, and I started using my EF 50mm f1.2L ( I would have preferred my 35mm prime lens but to save weight I left it at the hotel. I was not expecting to have my wide angle zoom commandeered.
Mi Jung with my EF 16-35 F2.8L on the EOS 7D
Former South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun
I was really impressed by the artistic composition and the color depth of some of the paintings. Here are two of my favorite. The honey bee, and this turtle that actually looks like it is flying through water.
This however is my personal favorite of the day, because of the illusion I was able to create. In order to photograph this mural with the 50mm lens, I had to step down onto the road that parallels it, and shoot through a hand railing. At first I thought I should try and use the handrailing to frame the faces of the subjects in the painting, but found that shooting through railing produced an almost perfect paving stone pattern!
Mi Jung was quick to make friends with the elderly residents of the village and always excited to learn more about the history of the area.
The next day we took a bus to the Korean historical village of Hahoe (pronounced (Ha – hey) or (Ha- hey – mol), Hahoe today is a representative historical village originally founded by the Ryu family in the Joseon dynasty. The village is a UNESCO world heritage site and famous for its traditional style Korean houses and the Andong Mask Performance.
Here are some traditional style Korean houses in Andong.
I really like old-fashioned Korean doors for some reason.
Maybe because they make for such good portrait backdrops!
The main reason we chose Andong, is that I have always wanted to watch a traditional Korean Mask Dance performance, Which is performed every weekend at Hahoe. Korean Mask Dancing otherwise known as Talchum, is traditional a dance performance using music, miming, speaking, or singing while wearing (you guessed it), Korean traditional masks. The Andong mask dance contains several stories, mostly satirical about the relationship the bhudist priests and the nobility.
The opening scene of a newly married bride being carried on another performers shoulders let’s those assembled that the dance routine is about to get underway.
The second scene showed 2 bird link creatures that seemed to be fighting, Mi Jung was not really sure what this scene symbolized as we were not able to find this character depicted in any of the mask dancing web sites.
The next scene is called the Butchers episode. This is one of the traditional scenes depicted in the talchum, and shows the butcher successfully fight and kill a wild bull. This was the funniest scene of the dance as the bull walks around and “urinates” on the crowd.
The butcher and the bull then square off and the butcher succeeds in killing the bull and removing it’s heart and testicles, which he then struts around the arena asking to audience to buy the butchered parts.
We then see a Korean grandmother working a traditional loom.
The final scene depicts an older Korean woman being chased by the monk for his affection, the monk is willing to throw away his ‘rosary’ beads for the woman, but remains chaste in the end.
My favorite scene was the Fan dancing.
The dancing was well choreographed, and the traditional masks simple, yet elegant. It was cool that it started snowing pretty good during the performance, and the weather sealing on my new 5D MKIV got a good test. With as wet as the camera got during performance, I was wondering how the other dslrs that I saw that I know were not sealed held up. If you are in An Dong I highly recommend Hahoe and the Mask performance. If you are really interested in the Korean traditional mask dances there is an annual Andong Mask Dance Festival held in late September through early October.
Finally we went to the Woryeonggyo lighted bridge. Where I got to try my low light photography, this would be a nice spot to take some pictures during the golden hour, go out to eat for some traditional Korean food, then come back for some long exposure shots.