Andong Folk Village (안동 하회마을) – Queen Elizabeth II was here!

June 5, 2012

A few weeks ago (I know, I got a bit behind), I visited Andong Hahoe Ma-eul (Ahndong Hahway Maw-eul), a traditional folk village. Yes, there are still people who live there, and yes, I peeked into a home and saw a nice LCD TV. It looks old from the outside, but their not lacking modern amenities on the inside.

Andong Village was founded in the 16th century during the Choseon Dynasty, and it remains a single clan village to this day. They work hard to preserve the typical Confucian style of architecture, but I’m sure they follow a more modern form of actual living (given the TVs and such). I’m also not quite sure how the single clan part works out. I’m guessing their children attend college, meet nice boys and girls outside the clan, etc.

The folk village is famous for many things. The first famous bit we encountered were the wood carvings. Different face carvings symbolize different things and create a nice place to pose for a picture!

They are also quite proud that Queen Elizabeth II visited here in 1999. (We nicknamed the nearby bathroom, Queen Elizabeth’s Toilet.)

Andong is also famous for its traditionally made soju. Since the war when rice desperately needed only as a food source, most soju has been made from other starches (wheat, barley, sweet potatoes). Andong has kept the rice soju tradition, brewing their version at about 3 times the alcohol content (40%) typically served and selling it at about 30 times the typical cost.

These trees (I believe the English is Paulownia) were planted when a family had a daughter. When she wed, the father would cut the tree down and make furniture as a dowry. By the looks of the tree, I’m guessing they got about a headboard? Maybe an end table?

Notice the small wall in front of the door? This was the woman’s wing of the house. Confucian style architecture dictated that a wall should be built to hide any woman from the possible view of a man, in case the door was opened unexpectedly. Given the strictness of separating women and men, we wondered how they produced offspring. Apparently, many homes had secret passages.

The goddess Samsin is believed to inhabit this tree. It’s a 600 year old zelkova tree that is supposed to be in charge of pregnancy and prosperity. You can make a wish by writing it on the paper, and then when the paper is burned on January 15th, your wish comes true. I won’t be able to verify as I didn’t make a wish.

One of the main attractions is the traditional masked dance performance. The picture below shows a part of the story where a woman is pretty much kidnapped, but it’s okay because she was indecent to start with. Mostly, this performance was traditionally a chance for the lower class to make fun of the upper educated elite. As they wore masks, they were forgiven for making criticisms because they were just acting. The masked man in the white represents one of the educated elite Yangban.

It’s a interesting village, but I couldn’t help but think how strange it would be to have so many tourists traipsing around through my backyard.

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