Saturday, November 11, 2017

Arirang Stele Forest Park, Mungyeong Saejae

On the approach to the Mungyeong Saejae Provincial Park, Gyeongsangbukdo, is the Arirang Stele Forest Park. Calling it a forest is a bit much, but this pass at Mungyeong is where scholars and yangban traveled from the southeast areas of Korea to Seoul, often on governmental business but also for taking the state-administered exams. Legend has it that one of the Arirang songs was composed in this pass. For this reason, the Arirang-Stele Forest Park was built here. 

monument for Mungyeong Saejae Provincial Park
Two placards amidst the steles explain the conceptual creation of the park (2015):
All kinds of lyrics of Arirang, one of the representative folk songs of Korea, which reflects the joys and sorrows of the Korean people, were searched for and investigated. Among them, approximately 10,000 pieces were selected and finally recorded on hanji, the traditional Korean handmade paper, made in Mungyreong, by 120 calligraphers in 2013. The aim was to preserve the lyrics of Arirang which are nearly forgotten and to further honor the spirit of the song to wish for the reunification of South and North Korea to move forward into the future together by erecting steles. Moreover, to commemorate approximately 10,000 pieces of Arirang here and make this place the birthplace of the Arirang-Stele Forest, Arirang songs that are enjoyably sung by all Koreans were engraved on those steles. Calligraphers born in Mungyeong such as Hwang Gyu-uk, Jo Yong-cheol, Chae Sun-hong, Kim Ho-sik, and Kim Yeong-bae wrote the lyrics in calligraphy.
The traditional song known as "Mugyeongsaejae Arirang" contains local sentiment in its melodies and rhythms. During the reign of King Gojong (1863-1907), American missionary Homer Bezaleel Hulbert (1863-1949) recorded it as a typical folk song of Joseon Dynasty. The refrain "Mun-gyung sai-chai pak-tala-n mu hong-do-kai pang-maing-i ta na kan da" led to the creation of other versions of Arirang across the country. The local Arirang song was gradually falling into oblivion with the passage of time. However, as luck would have it, a local singer named Song Yeong-cheol revived the song, preserving it for future generations. Today we are erected this monument in the fervent hope that this song will fill the Korean people with hope and promote a spirit of reconciliation, while helping us to find a new path based on the old traditions. Now we sing a line from the song that embodies all the joys and sorrows of our ancestors while traveling over the pass.
Varying lyrics of Arirang are inscribed on granite -- steles to the music of Arirang!

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