Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nogo Maul: Traditional Tea House with Music

The 노고마을 -- Nogo Maeul (village) tea house -- is located on the outskirts of Gurye and has full view of the Nogodan Peak of Jiri Mountain from where it takes it name. Nogodan Peak is the second highest peak in Jirisan and overlooks the valley where Gurye is nestled, and it is famous for its spectacular view of a sea of clouds, and the fog which shrouds its vegetation-clothed heights. 

The name 'Nogodan' itself means "altar of the old woman" and is an honorific of the word "Halmidang" meaning Grandmother Shrine. In Taoism, the "Grandmother" is a reference to the national goddess 'Seosul Seongmo' or sometimes 'Seondo Seongmo'. The cone-shaped rock-structured shrine pagoda still is on top of Nogodan and rituals to the grandmother goddess may still be held here (not clear on this point).

In any regard, the Nogo Maeul tea house takes its name from the famous peak overlooking the fields and valleys and the little two-story tea house with its large windows for drinking while gazing in reflection at the sea of clouds rolling over the Nogodan peak. The tea house is upstairs, with thick wooden tables and shelving for many hand-fashioned tea sets, tea bowls and other tea serving accessories. The wife of the establishment runs the tea house (and also a mountain vegetable restaurant nearby) and the husband makes and teaches pottery on the first floor. 

My photographer friend and I were taken as guests of the Gurye government to traditional sites to display the quaintness of Gurye, to promote Gurye and especially to promote pansori in Gurye. I will be returning to this tea house but only when I have more time to enjoy a leisurely sipped pot or two while contemplating the mountains. A rainy day would definitely be best as mist makes a spectacular shroud to the surrounding mountains.
This is not a traditional tea ceremony. Those are highly ritualized and time-consuming. This was more a time of reflection over a few kinds of tea and a break to our busy Gurye schedule of seeing and reporting on the Pansori Festival currently being held by the government.

we were served several teas
different teas for different moods, complementary to different foods, for different environments
While we were there, the teen-aged daughter also came in and played the haegum, a traditional 4-version medley of the famous "Arirang". Each version comes from a different region and has different tone qualities. I was so interested in seeing someone play the bamboo haegum close-up because I could more minutely observe the fingering placement and the draw and pull of the bow. Basically, the thumb is used for vibrato and the bow is sawed back and forth, pushed and pulled. In one direction the bow is pulled against one of the two thick silk strands and in the other direction it is pushed against the other thick strand. One strand makes a deep throaty tone; the other is higher-pitched. As for the horsehair bow bound with a leather strap, it is unlike the violin bow that needs tight tension on the horse hairs, the haegum bow requires the horse hairs to be quite loose. The tightness and firmness of how the hairs interact with the silk strands is determined by the tightening of the hand itself. I asked to give it a try, but wow, keeping the bow properly taut really takes a lot of concentration. The sounds I made would be an embarrassment to mention.

I was fascinated by the hand positions and the push and pull of the horsehair bow. Beautiful and mellow in sound!

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