Jeju shamanistic ritual to be designated as intangible cultural heritage

Asia's Tech News Daily

Jeju shamanistic ritual to be designated as intangible cultural heritage

Jeju Keungut / Courtesy of Cultural Heritage Administration

By Park Ji-won

Jeju’s biggest shamanistic ritual for wellbeing will be designated as national intangible cultural heritage, according to the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA).

The CHA said it decided to designate heritage status for “Jeju Keungut,” (a big shamanic ritual performed on Jeju Island) after a month of review.

The ritual has been passed down on Jeju Island for centuries. It is a full set of traditional rituals, or “gut,” covering a variety of traditional art forms, such as traditional music, dance and game as well as other local island culture. It is normally carried out by more than five people, including the simbang, or lead shaman, and continues for about seven to 14 days.

Jeju shamanistic ritual to be designated as intangible cultural heritage

Jeju Keungut / Courtesy of Cultural Heritage Administration

The CHA said that Jeju Keungut retains the original format of Korean shamanic rituals. It is valuable in that it preserves Jeju islanders’ worldviews on the creation of the Earth, life and death in a shamanic narrative folk song, which includes Jeju’s unique dialect.

CHA’s designation of the ritual as intangible cultural heritage comes over four decades after the same status was granted for Jeju Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut in November 1980. Jeju Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut was also inscribed on UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009. Jeju Keungut has been designated as Jeju’s intangible heritage since 2001.

Jeju shamanistic ritual to be designated as intangible cultural heritage

Neungga Temple’s wooden Sakyamuni Buddha triad in South Jeolla Province / Courtesy of Cultural Heritage Administration

Meanwhile, four Buddha statues created by famous artisan monk named Saeknan in the 17th and 18th centuries and Korean flags made before or during the 1910-45 Japanese colonial period have been designated as national treasures.

Based on historical records, Saeknan seemed to be born around 1640 and trained in the 1660s. He became the leading artisan monk in the 1680s and worked more than 40 years as an artisan in the Jeolla and Gyeongsang provinces.

An artisan monk normally creates up to 10 statues on average during their lifetime, but Saeknan made more than 20 sorts of statues when he was alive. The four designated heritages include wooden Buddha triads at Deokrim Temple in Gwangju, Neungga Temple in South Jeolla Province, Eunha Temple in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province, and Hwaeom Temple in Gurye, South Jeolla Province, as well as standing statues.

Three Korean flags called the “Denny Taegeukgi,” “Taegeukgi with independent fighter Kim Gu’s signature” and “Taegeukgi found in Jingwan Temple” were also designated as national treasures upon the rising demand for the designation of modern-era cultural heritage artifacts, the CHA added.

The “Denny Taegeukgi” was owned by Owen Nickerson Denny (1838-1900), an adviser of King Gojong (1852-1919), and is the oldest and the largest surviving version of the Korean national flag. The flag containing the handwritten note by freedom fighter Kim was given to Belgian priest Charles Meeus in 1941. The flag of Jingwan Temple in Eunpyeong District in northwestern Seoul was found during the reconstruction process of the temple in 2009 and is presumed to have been made around 1919.

Jeju shamanistic ritual to be designated as intangible cultural heritage

Denny Taegeukgi / Courtesy of Cultural Heritage Administration

Jeju shamanistic ritual to be designated as intangible cultural heritage

Taegeukgi found in Jingwan Temple / Courtesy of Cultural Heritage Administration

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