Ganggangsullae Public Event, a Play under the Moonlight

Ganggangsullae © Daejeon Metropolitan City, Korea Open Government License Type 1, Source

The Ganggangsullae public event was held on the morning of May 22 at Unrimsanbang Square in Jindo-gun. Ganggangsullae, a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and Korea’s National ICH, presents performances to the general public every year, sponsored by the National Intangible Heritage Center and the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation. Ganggangsullae bearers and the members of the preservation committee performed at the event.

Ganggangsullae is a song, a dance, and a game. The basic composition of the song is that the lead singer sings the chant, followed by a group of people singing ‘ganggangsullae’. It was important to sing with good lyrics. Sometimes the singers quoted lyrics from pansori and folk songs, but also wrote lyrics about what he/she saw and experienced in his/her daily life. A good lead singer was so important that he/she was called from various villages during the Ganggangsullae season.

The basic dance with singing is to go round and round in a circle. Start by holding hands with the people on either side and skipping counterclockwise in a circle. Sometimes a person enters a circle and dances, forming several small circles, straight lines, and curves.

Ganggangsullae of Haeundae Daeboreum © Busan Metropolitan City, Korea Open Government License Type 1. Source

The exciting dance soon leads to play. The formation is moved between the round ganggangsullae, which is called sullaenori. Ganggangsullae and sullaenori together are called ganggangsullae.1. The game encourages the spectators to make a louder sound, and the yard is filled with people’s excitement through the round circles made by joining hands.

Therefore, Ganggangsullae can be called a festival in name and reality. A big festival was held on the full moon in January, Baekjung in July and Chuseok in August, centering on the Southwest Sea coast, and a crowd of young people from the village led the game of Ganggangsullae. It was mainly led by women, but men and women performed together.

People gathered in the yard of the wealthy noble men, the sandy beach, and the riverside sand. The villages were officially united to play, and there were people who climbed the mountain and crossed over to visit other villages. Ganggangsullae was a festival that excited young people to the point where they went on an expedition by hiking at night.

Play induces improvisation. In the past, there was no set order, nor formation, and people played however they wanted to play. Every little thing that they saw and experienced in their daily life became the lyrics of a song, and it became a song by adding melodies. The lyrics to sing along were different for each region. In this village, it was called ‘Ganggangsullae’, while in other villages it was called ‘Ugwangganggangsullae’, ‘ganggangdosullae’, ‘sullaeyaha’, and ‘gwanggwangsullae’.

Holding hands can only be accomplished with someone else. The same goes for dancing and playing to the beat. In Ganggangsullae, a person can experience becoming a member of a community. Because we played together between people, generations, and villages, the things that were there and those that didn’t exist flowed and mixed with ease. It can be inferred that ‘Ganggangsullae’, which everyone sings together, has the power to give diversity and a sense of belonging.

Notes   [ + ]

1. The order of Ganggangsullae, which is currently designated as ICH, is as follows. In order from slowest to fastest;
‘Ginganggangsullae’, ‘Jungganggangsullae’, and ‘Jajinganggangsullae’. Walk slowly in a counter-clockwise direction and then the speed gradually increases.
The following are the games that follow. ‘Turtle Play’, ‘Herring Weaving’, ‘Untie the Herring’, ‘Herb Picking’, ‘Deokseok-molgi and Deokseok-pulgi’, ‘Tap on the ground’, ‘Open the door’, ‘Play with mice’, ‘Other games’, and the ‘last scene’. Each region has a slightly different way of playing.