Namhansanseong Image

Jong-dae Kim, professor at the Department of Folkloric Studies of Chung-Ang University
Major religious rites that have been transmitted by those living in or around Namhansanseong are Jangseungje and Haedonghwanori. These beliefs are closely related to the location of the fortress. In normal times, Namhansanseong didn't serve as a military place so many people used to pass through this fortress to go to the capital. This fact greatly influenced the belief of those who lived in this region and Jangseungje and Haedonghwanori would be good examples of their belief.

Jangseungje in Geombok Village

This village is also known as "Geombuk" because it is located in the north ("Buk" means "north" in Korean) of Mt. Geomdan. However, all the documents of the Joseon Dynasty calls it "Geombok." This is the first village to be seen when going out of the east gate of Namhansanseong. It is located about 2 kilometers from the gate.

The Process of the Rite

1. Production and Shape of Jangseungs

Transmission of Namhansanseong's

Geombok village had two places for Jangseungs, Korean traditional totem poles. Go through the road in front of the village hall and walk 2 kilometers from Namhansanseong and you'll see a Jangseung called Cheonhadaejanggun (great general of the world) on the left side of the road. About 2 kilometers across from it is another Jangseung called Jihayeojanggun (female general in charge of all on and below the earth). Their locations have never been changed.

Jangseungs were made of a kind of dogwoods and alder trees in the past but today, pine trees are used instead of dogwoods. When cutting the trees to make Jangseungs, a simple ceremony is held with makgeolli (a Korean traditional alcoholic drink) and dried pollack on the table. The production of Jangseungs starts at nine o'clock in the morning. The work is done in a plaza called Jangseung-teo and all the village residents participate. In the past, ink sticks were used to write on Jangseungs but today, markers are used instead. The number of Jangseungs isn't limited and old ones are replaced with new ones. In the past, Jangseungs served as road signs as well but not any more. A sacred pole believed to help people communicate with heaven was also put up along with Jangseungs until 2007.

2. The Process of the Rite

Jangseungs are made only in even-numbered years and religious rites are held every year. In 2009, the Jangseungje rite took place on March 5. It is the head of the village who chooses the date for the rite, considering the given year's weather or other conditions, generally between March 1 and 10. Currently, a majority of the village residents run restaurants so the rite isn't held on weekend. On the rite day, a person in charge of the rite is also designated and a reward of 100,000 won is given to this person. The residents collect money to pay the cost for the rite and what is lacking is supplemented by the village fund. The head of the village buys what is needed in the morning of the rite day and the family of the person in charge of the rite prepares food. The food used for the rite includes steamed white rice cake, Korean kebab and raw tofu. The rite starts around five o'clock in the afternoon. The rite staff including the person in charge of the rite and the village residents participate in the rite. The rite food is arranged on the table and the person in charge and other staff members bow down and white paper believed to help people eliminate any impurity and make a wish to a deity is put on the table. The rite is held only in Jangseung-teo, a small plaza located in front of Jihayeojanggun.

Haedonghwanori in Gwangjiwon Village

Gwangjiwon is a village on the way from Hanyang to Chungcheong Province and to Gyeongsang Province. This village surrounded by high mountains is located near a three-way intersection from which the access to Namhansanseong is the easiest. It is said that the village was created at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty. Long time ago, a scholar who was going to the capital to take a test recruiting government officials was taking a rest in a pavilion. Fire seemed to break out so he hurriedly opened the door. However, it was the moonlight reflected on the lake that looked like a pillar of fire. That is why this place began to be called Gwangjiwon. ('Gwang' means 'fire', 'ji' means 'lake' and 'won' means 'pavilion.')

The Process of the Rite

1. Production and Shape of the Pole

Battle Scene of Mongolian Soldiers

In Gwangjiwon Village, a pole is called hae and it is put up in the empty plaza near the Cheongryong bridge. However, in the past, three poles were put up in Anmal, Bakatmal and Seommal. With the village population decreasing, the rite is held only in Seommal. Instead, the scale of the rite has become larger.1) This year, about 40 residents of the village participated in putting up a hae. In the past, each household prepared three piles of wood to make hae. Today, starting from New Year's Day, the village's elderly people gather wood on the nearest low mountain and dry it so that it can be burnt well. Bush clover is the most suitable for a hae because it is light so it is easy to be put up and it isn't broken well. However, bush clover has become rare recently so azalea and royal azalea trees are also used. Meanwhile, each family makes a stick called dalnimdae which means "moon stick." This stick is used by children aged 15 years or less when they enjoy the moon. Mugwort sticks whose number is equal to a child's age are bound with kudzu vines. After the rite is finished in front of the hae, a fire is lit on dalnimdae and the child makes his wishes, saying, "moon, moon." After the stick is completely burnt down, the child puts the ashes on the ground and jumps over them and the number of jumps is equal to the child's age. It is believed that doing this makes the child's wishes come true and helps him or her grow up healthy, free from illnesses.

1) Informant: Byeong-hak Gang (head of the village, male, 50 years old, address: 103-7 Gwangjiwon

2. Process of the Rite

It has been 500 years since Haedonghwanori started in this village. During the 37th year of King Seonjo of the Joseon Dynasty (1604), this whole village began to suffer from a contagious disease and the harvest was also bad so everyone was greatly concerned. Under these circumstances, a deity appeared in the dream of three brothers whose family name was Eun and told them how to deal with the plight. According to the deity, each household must gather three piles of wood to make one big pile. A fire is then lit on it under the first full moon of the lunar year and a meal is prepared with great care.
village, Jungbu-myeon, Gwangju City, Gyeonggi Province, Korea), information provided on February 1, 2009.
The village's disasters will then disappear. The whole village exactly followed the deity's advice under the first full moon of the lunar year and it became free from the disease while enjoying a good harvest, leading to the village's steady growth. That is why this rite has been held every year since then. The chief of the rite must be a virtuous and healthy adult living in a house where no baby was born. When there are several adults meeting these criteria, one of them is chosen by counting the sexagenary cycle. A steward is also selected among healthy, active and diligent people. The person who lights a fire on the hae should be a healthy person who live with both of his parents and who got married in the previous year or whose wife had a baby boy recently. About 20 years ago, the selected person climbed on the top of the hae to light a fire but since 2007, a crane has been used for safety reasons. The hae lighter must take a bath once a day, starting from three days before the day of the first full moon of the lunar year. In addition, he must avoid going to dirty places and keep his body clean. This person used to take a bath in the village brook in the past but they do it at home today. Those who had a baby born in their house or those who had a bereavement in that year are considered unclean so they can't participate in Haedonghwanori. The day before the rite, the head of the village and the chairman of the village women's association go to the nearest market to buy what is needed for the rite and the members of the women's association prepare the table together. The meal includes jerky, beef, tofu, pork head, steamed rice cake, yellow corvina, chestnuts, pears, bananas, yakgwa (Korean cookies), sanja (Korean cookies), okchun (Korean tradtional candies), sweet persimmons, watermelons, apples, jujubes and jeon (Korean pancake). In the past, makgeolli used for the rite was made in the village but today, it is purchased in Gwangju City.

Battle Scene of Mongolian Soldiers
The rite starts as soon as a fire is lit on the hae. After the chief of the rite wearing a pale blue-green robe and a traditional hat bows three times, the head of the village in a dark blue traditional overcoat reads the written prayer. At that time, the chief of the rite prostrates himself before the rite table and the head of the village reads the prayer using the microphone stand located beside the table. After he finishes reading, the chief of the rite bows three times again. Public servants of the region and village residents then bow. Tourists may also bow if they want. There is no official prayer transmitted in the village and its content is as follows:
Battle Scene of Mongolian Soldiers
Battle Scene of Mongolian Soldiers
After the rite, a farmers' band of the village walks around the burning hae and plays music until it is completely burnt down. The band then visits every house and hopes that the residents' wishes come true. It is called Somorinori which means a parade with an ox. The residents who believed that the ox symbolizes wealth gave this name to the parade which wasn't actually taking along an ox but which looked as if it were taking one. They thought that this parade wishing peace in houses and the village as a whole brought wealth and luck.2) This parade no longer exists today.

The folk beliefs transmitted in villages in Jungbu-myeon, Gwangju City are characterized by exorcising. The rites were particularly focused on exorcising smallpox that would have spread easily in this area where many people passed through to go to the capital (today's Songpa) during the Joseon Dynasty. The fact that rites were held to exorcise smallpox demonstrates again that while Namahansanseong served as an important military fortress during wars, it was passed by many people who were going to the capital in normal times.

2) Informant: Byeong-hak Gang, February 9, 2009.

#563 Sanseong-ri, Jungbu-myeon, Gwanju-si, Gyeonggi-do, 464-816, Republic of Korea. Namhansanseong Tel.+82-31-777-7514 Fax.+82-31-748-2801 Copyright(c) 2010 namhansansung . all rights reserved.