Saturday, June 2, 2012

Haeundae Sand Festival

Every year there's a sand and beach festival at Haeundae Beach in Pusan. People travel from throughout Korea to play in the sand and have fun on Korea's most famous beach. The main theme of this festival is sand sculptures by professionals, but amateurs are certainly invited to try their hand as the shifting art.

Immediately below is an interesting sand "castle" representation. It's interesting because it reflects the Korean cultural perception of "castle", which is very different than the sheer walls of the European style castle or the sand castles in Cambodia looking very much like Angkor Wat. This large area to the south of the professional carved sand sculptures were for friends and families to play and design their own sand construction.

The Dragon & the Phoenix (용가 불사조)
... This represents an old legend of the twinkling pearl lake located at the foot of the Mountain of the Dragon and the Phoenix. In Chinese culture, "Dragon and Phoenix" are historical and traditional ways of talking of the King and Queen via means of auspicious symbols representative of long-standing peace and prosperity for the people and its country. Maybe this is why the young couple stands in front of the one of the symbols to get a 'couple shot', or maybe they just want a commemorative background for their couple shot to probably post in redundancy on their Smart Phones.

I don't know the story behind this, but the people walking past give an idea of the size of the mounds of sand which the artists were sculpting. BTW, this is one of the smallest mounds. As the line up of sculptures progressed, the mounds increased in size.

Love Story of Dalmaji Hill (달맞이 언덕의 사랑 이야기)
... A legend concerning Dalmaji Hill (Mtn Wawoo) where a single young man found both his lost cow and a young woman out collecting herbs. As all tales seem to go, the young people were married, and now it said that if single young men and ladies go to the hill and make wishes while gazing upon a full moon, their wish will be realized.

Queen Jinseong of Silla (진성여왕)
... The 51st queen of Silla is one of the three queens of the Silla Dynasty who reigned as governing regent (from 887-897). According to legendary history, Queen Jinseon suffered from smallpox as a child but was completely cured after bathing in Haeundae Gunam Hot Springs. The hot springs are located nearby but are not open-aired springs but totally in doors and enclosed. No matter. They are very, very famous and people traveling to Pusan often feel the need to bathe in them. My first year here in Korea, I bathed there too. I didn't know the legend at the time, so no placebo effect for me, but then nothing was wrong, and likewise, nothing got healed.

Dongbaek-seom & the Wife of a Fisherman (동백꽃으로 한생한 어부)
... Dongbaek-seom (Camellia Flower Island) got its name from the wife of a fisherman who perished at sea. Every day the wife would stand on the island waiting for her husband who was attacked by wind and the waves of the sea, and every day after his disappearance she continued to do so never knowing if we were alive or not. Eventually she died, and around the grave of the wife bloomed camellia flowers and camellia woods ... and so with the passing of time, the island was named by the flower representing the faithful fisherman's wife.

General Lee Sun Sin & the Turtle Ship (거북선 진투)
... General Lee Sun Sin designed the turtle ship, an iron-clad compact ship designed much like a turtle in both shape and armored appearance. With the turtle warship, in the Koryo Dynasty General Lee was able to give a fatal blow to the invading Japanese fleet. Although he died defending his country, his name has been immortalized by his invention and warring finesse, and so now he is regarded as one of the most significant heroes in Korean history. Many of his soldiers heralded from Haeundae area, thus the related significance of incorporating the turtle ship in this year's sand festival.

The Scenery of Returning Vessels (오륙귀범)
... Just a piece of mundane behavior, but in the past when returning fishing vessels approached land with the setting of the sun, the fishermen threw pieces of fish to the seagulls. Evidently this had some kind of cultural significance, but that has somehow been lost in the explanations of the sand art.

King Shi of the Jin Dynasty (진시황)
... (Not a Korean nor connected to Korea ... so why is he represented at this themed beach festival? Not sure.) King Shi was the king in the Jin Dynasty who united China for the first time, eliminated the feudal system and proclaimed himself emperor. His connection to Korea seems rather tenuous, only that of a ruler who supposedly sent his son to Cheju Island in search of an elixir plant, but which one is unclear.

Alexander the Great!
... Now why oh why is Alexander here? His representative sand sculpture strikes me as a huge anomaly, but anyway, he was also a king, the king of Macedonia and who had good understanding of the Greek culture. (My opinion - this sand sculpture bespeaks strength, skill and movement and is definitely the most powerful one on the beach!)

Sungnyemun (숭례문) or Namdaemun (The South Gate)
... Here is a strong cultural representation of Korea, albeit not of Pusan but of the capitol. Sungnyemun, more commonly known to foreigners as Namdaemun (The South Gate) was designated as National Heritage (or Treasure?) No. 1 in 1962. However, about five years ago the cultural heritage was burned by a disillusioned old man who was angry at not getting some kind of insurance benefit. Restoration work has been ongoing since the fire and the gate will be completed sometime this year, 2012.

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