Festival to Reenact Baekje's Propagation of Civilization to Japan

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Festival to Reenact Baekje's Propagation of Civilization to Japan


SEOUL, March 25, 2005


Next month a great scholar of the ancient Baekje Kingdom will prepare his passage to neighboring Japan, taking with him texts of classical Chinese literature and cutting-edge craftsmen in the form of potters, smiths and weavers, as he sets out to transmit advanced civilization to the island country.

Of course this is to be a reenactment, performed some 1,600 years after the fact.

The Wangin Culture Festival early next month will reenact the historical event of centuries ago when Dr. Wangin of Baekje crossed the Korean Straight to Japan at the invitation of Japanese Emperor Ojin.

The festival will be held from April 2-5 among the fragrant cherry blossoms of Yeongam, a town in South Jeolla Province, surrounded by Mount Weolchul National Park and Youngsan River, where the great scholar was born.

The Wangin Culture Festival will start with a memorial service called "Dr. Wangin Chunhyangdaeje" at the Wangin Shrine on April 2. About 500 descendants of the scholar from Korea and Japan will attend the service to commemorate their revered ancestor.

An official opening ceremony with the theme of "The Wind from Gurim to Asuka" will follow the ritual. Gurim, which literally means forest of doves, is the birthplace of Wangin while Asuka, meaning flying bird, is the name of the Japanese town where Buddhist culture, beautiful poetry, stone products and ancient tombs, flourished. Asuka is also the name of the civilization.

The highlight of the four-day festival is "Wangin's Visit to Japan," a two-hour parade which will reenact Wangin's departure from Yeongam for Japan. About one thousand staff members and tourists clad in Baekje costumes will participate in the performance, which will begin with a performance reenacting Japanese emissaries conveying the invitation of Wangin to Japan by Japanese Emperor Ojin to Baekje authorities. A dance wishing for his safe journey will follow. The parade is designed to symbolize Doctor Wangin's achievement and the cultural exchange between Baekje and the Asuka Civilization. It will start at the birthplace of Doctor Wangin and end at Sangdaepo, a trading port of Baekje where he left for Japan. The parade will be held once each on April 3 and April 5.

Performances
During the festival, various traditional music and dances from Korea and China will be performed. These will include a congratulatory show commemorating the festival and an open-air drama titled "Yeongam Arirang."
On the evening of April 5, "Weolchul San Moon Greeting Ceremony" will be held as a closing performance.

Exhibitions
There will be a special exhibition of Yeongam pottery at the Pottery Cultural Center. In addition, a Korean Paper Handicrafts Exhibition will be held in honor of Doctor Wangin's introduction of traditional Korean paper to Japan. It is said that Wangin was the first to teach the way of making and using paper to the Japanese 1,600 years ago and this greatly contributed to the further development of paper culture in Japan.

The works of famous artists will also be exhibited and workshops will provide tourists a chance to experience making traditional kites, fans, Japanese dolls, paper dolls and the paper rose of Sharon as well as natural dyeing and traditional paper dyeing techniques.

Wangin was born in the small town of Seonggidong in Yeongam-gun in 373 A.D. during the reigning years of King Geungusu, the 14th monarch of the Baekje Kingdom.

When he was 8, he studied Confucianism and Confucian scriptures at Munsanje (local school), and was appointed as Ogyeongbaksa (master of Confucianism) at the age of 18.

He was invited to Japan during the reign of King Asin of the Baekje period, and historians believe he embarked from Sangdaepo (port) when he was 32.

Sangdaepo was the international port used by another scholar, Choe Chi-won of the Silla period, when he headed for China.

Wangin took 10 books of the Analects of Confucius and Cheonjamun, or one Thousand-Character Text, with him, as well as an entourage that included potters and some craftsmen.

After entering Japan, he established an academic and moral base there by teaching Confucianism and language classes.

Wangin, who is accredited with creating Japanese popular songs and instructing their arts and crafts, introduced the Japanese people to the Asuka and Nara cultures, which are still highly regarded today.

His tomb is situated in Hirakata City, Osaka, Japan, and was designated as Historic Site No. 13 of Osaka on May 1938.

An annual memorial ceremony is held in his honor on April 9 at his birthplace, where his portrait and tablet are enshrined.

Yeongam is an ancient town that existed prior to the Three Kingdoms' Period. It is 413 kilometers south of Seoul and can be reached in five hours via express bus.

For more information, visit www.wangin.org or telephone 061-470-2350.

 

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