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Travis AFB, California
June 1, 2006
From journal Kansa Hamnida
December 18, 2005
The National Folk Museum is a grand facility that has massive amounts of information for its visitors. Located within walking distance of two subway lines (lines 3 and 5), it is an easily managed tourist destination that is well worth your time. The museum and grounds are impeccably kept and the exhibits are visually stunning. Most exhibits have English translations, but some have piecemeal information provided; regardless, the presentations are many times self-explanatory.
The exhibitions are broken up into three Exhibition Halls that depict the (1) The History of the Korean People, (2) The Lifestyle of the Korean People, and (3) The Lifecycle of a Korean from Birth to Death. I found the second exhibition of the lifestyle to be the most interesting, but they all had very detailed models and displays. Of special interest was the fully realized model of the ancient capital of Gyeongju. It was extremely well done, and having visited the city earlier in my trip, it was a great reminder of my previous days trip.
Much is also displayed of the traditional dress and how it has evolved in Korea. The textiles and clothing of Korea are well presented and provide a splash of color that is one of the great surprises and joys of the exhibit. As in most museums, at the end is the gift shop, but in this museum they sell more than just your trinkets and touristy souvenirs. Beautiful celadon pottery, tapestries, and metal chopsticks are all available.
In addition to the exhibits in the museum, outside of the exhibit halls there are other things to see and do. A plaza for photos, a water mill, millstones, a vegetable garden, and a display of tomb guardians are all within eye shot of the museum doors.
I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours at the National Folk Museum. Admission was a reasonable 700 won for adults and they open at 9am (closed on Tuesdays).
All in all, I found the museum to be a gem in Seoul!
From journal In the heart of Seoul
by E. B.
September 18, 2005
There were diagrams of the Korean floor heating system called ondol. Instead of heating air and circulating it out from a Western-style air duct, Koreans heat up water to steam the underside of the floor. Since heat rises, the heated floor warms the air in the room. It’s a pretty effective way to keep warm during frosty winters.
There were also the rites of passage that people go through: weddings, funerals, and birthdays. You celebrate baek-il (100 days) when a baby is 100 days old. Due to high infant mortality, people celebrated the event when a baby made it to its 100th day. The sixtieth birthday is called hwangap. In Chinese astrology, there are twelve signs for each year—rat, cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Each animal has five different elements—fire, water, earth, wood, and metal. With the combination of the twelve animal signs and the five elements, it takes 60 years for the exact same combination to cycle around again. In the traditional wedding ritual called pye-baek, the parents of the couple throw dates and chestnuts to wish the couple many children. The bride catches them in her skirt. The number caught signifies how many children she is fated to have. There was the shamanic kut ritual that a mu-dahng (Korean shaman) performs when people die to make sure the spirit of the departed does not haunt the family of the deceased.
What particularly interested me was the intricate table setting for Chuseok. My sister and I were visiting Korea for the first time during Chuseok. There is a particular order of the traditional foods served during Chuseok. I happened to visit Palm Springs right before my trip to Korea, so I bought dried dates for my family since I was seeking items that were particularly Californian—such as Napa wines, dates from Cabazon, and Ghirardelli chocolate from San Francisco. As it turned out, dates are actually one of the traditional dishes for Chuseok.
When you celebrate Chuseok, you give thanks and prayers to your dead family members. You perform rites that are Buddhist in origin by offering food and pouring a drink to your ancestors. The idea of "pouring one for your homies" is not an original idea that belongs to African Americans but is religious in origin that goes back even to the Greeks who poured out some wine to the Greek gods.
So it is in examining the clothing, foods, and customs that are particular to a specific country that I continue to remember that people are universally the same.
From journal Hanguk Minsokchon (The Korean Folk Village)
November 25, 2003
Look out for the phallic Earth God that guards the way leading to the museum. Newlywed brides hoping to start a family are encouraged to rub the nose. Of particular interest also is the detailed description of the making of kimchi (preserved spicy vegetables).
For further information, click here.
Hours: 9am-6pm (Mar.-Oct.),
closed every Tuesday and New Year's Day.
Admission: W700 (adults),
How to get there: Take the Seoul line 3 (orange line) and alight at the Gyeongbokgung station.
From journal Winter Sonata
March 27, 2001
From journal Seoul - A Cultural Immersion