KBS World Radio
The poet left a detailed record of how he came to write this poem. One winter night a grand Buddhist ceremony was held at Yongjusa용주사 Temple in Hwaseong화성 and he was inspired by the Buddhist monks’ dance he saw for the first time in his life. He was so awestruck that he stood under a persimmon tree in the temple ground late into the night, long after the ceremony was over. But that experience did not immediately produce a poem. The following spring, he was again inspired by a painting of the Buddhist dance, which eventually led to his iconic poem “The Dance of the Buddhist Nun.” The Buddhist dance is called “seungmu승무” in Korean. This dance embodies a feeling of sincere penance for past wrongdoings and a strong yearning to seek eternal truth.
Music 1: Dance of the Buddhist Nun/ Composed by Hwang Eui-jong, performed by Gyeonggi Provincial Traditional Music Orchestra
The piece you heard, inspired by Cho Chi-hun’s poem “Dance of the Buddhist Nun,” was composed and sung by Hwang Eui-jong and accompanied by the Gyeonggi Provincial Traditional Music Orchestra. The dance that Buddhist monks perform during a Buddhist ritual is called “jakbeop작법,” which means establishing the law. In Buddhism, the law really means the truth. Jakbeop is not performed to hide human emotions, but to bring the truth to light. The folk version of Buddhist dance is much bigger and more intricate in its movement than jakbeop and is marked by an energetic drum playing at the end of the dance. One of the characteristics of Korean traditional dances is described as “movement within stillness, stillness within movement.” And seungmu승무 and salpuri살풀이 are two Korean dances that best demonstrate this feature. Salpuri is a dance that repels evil spirits and was probably influenced by the dance performed by shaman priestess during exorcism. Dance enthusiasts are amazed by the light footwork required in salpuri and the arching line created in the air when a long cloth is thrown, which represents the futility of life. Coming up next is the salpuri accompaniment performed by the Lee Seng-gang Traditional Folk Music Orchestra.
Music 2: Salpuri Accompaniment/ Lee Seng-gang Traditional Folk Music Orchestra
Many people may have heard of salpuri or seungmu dances before, but few have seen the actual performances of those dances in theaters. Almost all Koreans are familiar with Korea’s most iconic traditional dance – the fan dance. The fan dance performed by female students dressed up in hanbok was an essential part of autumn intramural sports competitions around the country. Foreigners even consider the fan dance the most famous Korean traditional dance because they’ve seen it in just about every international event hosted by Korea. But the fan dance was actually made by Kim Baek-bong in the 1950s. Exciting and cheerful Gyeonggi provincial folk songs are often played to accompany fan dances and the most sought-after accompaniment song was “Changbutaryeong창부타령.” Let’s conclude today’s Sounds of Korea with “Changbutaryeong” sung by Ji Yeon-hwa.
Music 3: Changbutaryeong/ Sung by Ji Yeon-hwa