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2008 Baekje Cultural Festival: Celebrating the Glories of an Ancient Kingdom

With over 50 years of tradition, the Baekje Cultural Festival, which began in 1955, is one of Korea’s big three cultural festivals along with Gyeongju’s Silla Cultural Festival and Jinju’s Gaecheon Art Festival. Up until 2006, however, it was held biannually in the cities of Gongju and Buyeo as a comprehensive cultural festival. Now, however, to exalt the disappearing history and culture of the storied Baekje kingdom, to develop the festival’s tradition into a global celebration and to provide a basis for balanced development in Korea’s southwest, the festival is being hosted by the province of Chungcheongnam-do.

This year’s festival begins with a brilliant opening ceremony to be held on October 3rd in Buyeo’s Gudeurae Plaza and ends on October 12th. It will feature many new events that will differentiate this year’s festival from those held previously. To boost the production value of this year’s celebration, festival organizers have adopted a professional production team and supervision by an advisor committee.

The program will feature two religious ceremonies, 12 historical and cultural reenactments from the Baekje period, nine exhibits and 17 performances for a grand total of 40 events. Some new events include an international cultural exchange village, an equestrian performance and a B-boy performance. In order to encourage participants to stick around Buyeo, there will be 15 nighttime programs, including the Baekje Lantern Festival, a festival dedicated to the Baekje song “Seodong,” and a reenactment of the coronation of the Baekje monarch KingMuwang.

 

History of Baekje

The Baekje kingdom was one of the three great kingdoms that challenged for control of the Korean Peninsula during the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BC to 668 AD), Korea’s classical era. At its height, the kingdom controlled Korea’s southwest and much of the Hangang River valley, and thanks to its cultural sophistication and close ties with China, played an important role in the development of Korean culture. The kingdom also played the role of teacher in Japan, conveying to the island nation religious, philosophical and administrative concepts from the Asian mainland.

According to the ancient Korean history book, “Samguk Sagi,” the kingdom of Baekje was founded in 18 BC. The kingdom initially built its capital in the Seoul area, in the fertile Hangang River basin. Under King Geunchogo, who reigned from 346 to 375, the kingdom expanded to control most of western Korea. It was around this time that the kingdom adopted many aspects of Chinese culture. In 384, the kingdom adopted Buddhism, and built great temples throughout the realm.

Under pressure from the other two kingdoms, Goguryeo and Silla, Baekje began to retreat from its territorial height in the 5th century. The kingdom moved its capital to Gongju in 475, and again to Buyeo in 538. In 660, an allied force of Silla and Tang China invaded and conquered the capital, bringing the kingdom’s illustrious history to an end. Its culture would continue, however, through the many teachers and artisans it contributed to the development of culture in Silla and Japan. Even today, the cultural sophistication of the kingdom can be seen in the many splendid works of art found in Korea’s major museums and in relics such as Gongju’s royal tombs and the splendid stone pagoda of Iksan’s Mireuksa Temple Site.

Mireuksa Temple Site

 

Baekje Parade



The Baekje Parade, which gives visitors a chance to see the history of Baekje cultural exchange, features envoys from nations such as Japan, China, Cambodia, India and the Philippines with model boats, model animals, traditional dances and rare specialty goods.

 

Baekjehyang


The “Baekjehyang” consists of 19 events that allow visitors to experience and learn about Baekje’s brilliant culture. Held at the Gudeurae Riverside, it features programs like making gold crowns, making rubbing prints, wearing ceremonial clothing, mask making, making chroma-keys and making Baekje lotus blossoms. This part of the festival tends to be very popular with foreigners and family tourists alike.

 

Cultural Exchange Village


The Cultural Exchange Village will feature performing arts teams from six nations and participants from local multicultural families. Booths, set up in model traditional homes from China, Japan, Cambodia, India, Vietnam and the Philippines, will show off to visitors the nations’ traditional culture, including dance, music, clothing and masks. Traditional food will also be on sale.

 

Baekje Knight Procession

The Baekje Knight Procession, which began last year, is the most popular event of the festival. Some 185 horses carrying Baekje warriors guarded by 300 soldiers will march as they perform the amazing “Sword Dance.” Meanwhile, near the Baengma River, a Mongolian horse riding team will show off some impressive horse riding skills.

 

Reenactment of the Battle of Hwangsanbeol

This reenactment of one of the most important battles in Korean history features 800 professional historical actors and local citizens. It’s a major spectacle that brings to life the epic confrontation between the Silla army and the forces of Baekje’s legendary General Gyebaek, who sacrificed himself to preserve his personal integrity.

 

Buyeo, Baekje’s Ancient Capital

The small town of Buyeo has many relics left from its golden age as capital of the Baekje kingdom. These include Buso Fortress, where the Baekje palace once stood; Nakhwa-am Rock, where according to legend some 3,000 Baekje court ladies jumped to their death rather than face capture by the Silla and Tang Chinese army; and Gungnamji Pond, an idyllic royal pleasure pond. Many relics from the era can be found at the Buyeo National Museum as well.

 

Baekje Knight Procession

The Baekje Knight Procession, which began last year, is the most popular event of the festival. Some 185 horses carrying Baekje warriors guarded by 300 soldiers will march as they perform the amazing “Sword Dance.” Meanwhile, near the Baengma River, a Mongolian horse riding team will show off some impressive horse riding skills as well.
[Getting There]
Buses to Buyeo leave from Seoul’s Nambu and Dongseoul bus terminals. The trip takes about two and a half hours. Trains to Buyeo also depart from Seoul’s Yongsan Station. For more information about the festival,
call (041) 857-6955 or visit the festival homepage at www.baekje.org.

For more information on the festival, click here!

The article courtesy of Seoul magazine

Date 09/26/2008



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