Posted by: rbbadger | May 7, 2009

Korean Folk Village — Homes of Commoners

In Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, there is a huge Korean folk village.  Traditional homes were moved from all over the country to this place back in 1973.  During that time, the lifestyles of the Korean people were undergoing rapid change.  The regime of Park Chung-hee, which seemed bent on either industrialisation or death, transformed the lives of many people.  Apartment blocks began rising all over the country and many factories were built.  So the idea of a folk village, a place where the past could be preserved, was presented. 

It also enables today’s urbanised children a change to encounter some of the sounds, as yes, the smells of rural Korean life.  There are livestock there and farming does take place.  There are also people skilled in traditional crafts who work there.  So there are homes of noblemen, homes of commoners, a Buddhist temple (with a monk in residence), a Confucian academy, and shaman shrines.  (Interestingly enough, shrines to certain of the deities of Korean shamanism are often found on the grounds of Buddhist temples, though the monks themselves tend not to worship in them.  For their part, certain Buddhist deities are worshipped by followers of shamanism.)  As for the temple, when I climbed up the mountain where it is located, I was the only person there apart from the monk who was engaged in doing his laundry.

During the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), only the homes of noblemen and royalty were allowed to have tiled roofs.  Everyone else had to make do with thatched roofs.  Towards the end of the dynasty, it was not uncommon to see starving noblemen and rich farmers.  The noblemen, far too noble to actually work, sometimes starved.  The farmers were often quite prosperous.  The Empress Myeongseong, the second to the last of Korea’s queens and empresses, came from one of these impoverished noble families.  Nevertheless, the farmers no matter how rich they were, were not allowed to put tile on their roofs.  And of course the colour of tile mattered a great deal.  Only the kings were allowed to tile their homes with blue tile.  It is why the presidential residence in Seoul, the Cheong Wa Dae, sports an enormous blue tile roof. 

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