Sunday, November 26, 2017

Korean Story-telling: Ancestral Memorial Rite for General Kim Bang Gyeong

Story-teller Seung Ah Kim and her extended family hosted a very unique trip to the Andong Kim family ancestor memorial rite ceremony for the Andong-Kim branch founder, General Kim Bang Gyeong. Ancestor General Kim dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty in the 13th century. The Andong Kim family gathers annually for the sije rite and this year opened the rite to the public.

Sije is the seasonal rites held for ancestors up to five generations past and is typically performed annually on the tenth lunar month, the best month of the year's harvest. To run smoothly, it needs financial support so the family prepares for three things: wito (money for the food and setting the table), seonsan (mountain for ancestral tombs), and jaesil (place for food preparation and rest). These three components do vary from family to family.
Sije for General Kim Bang Gyeong is held every October 9 (lunar calendar) in front of the tomb in Andong. If its rains it is held at Eumsujae, the main building, in Neungdongjaesa established only for General Kim. The day before sije the ritual team gets together to discuss the important agendas and select three eldest males for offering rice wine three times one after another with rituals assistants. 
Kangshinrye - greeting rituals to call the spirit down. Choheongwan (the first host) burns incense and pours rice wine over the burial mound three times and then bows twice.
Chamshinrye - all the participants bow twice 
Choheon - Choheongwan (the first host) offers the first rice wine and bows twice
Dokchuk - Chukgwan (reciter) recites an eulogy 
Aheon - Aheongwan (the second host) offers the second rice wine and bows twice 
Jongheon - Jeongheongwan (the final host) offers the final rice wine and bows twice 
Yusik - food offering rituals to the spirit. An assistant sticks a spoon into the center of the rice bowl facing eastward and puts a pair of chopsticks on top of the bowl also facing eastward 
Sashin - farewell ritual, bowing twice 
Eumbok (drink blessings) - participants share the ritual food and drinks as it symbolizes the receiving of the blessings bestowed upon the family 
Bunchuk - burn out all chukmun (eulogy)
I was very curious why such a private family ceremony would be opened to the public, and the answer is that "History needs to be shared!" Great answer! 

In particular, three of the elderly men of the clan have done extensive research on the family and published articles and books on the family history, specifically that of General Kim Bang Gyeong and his descendants. I commented that almost the entire clan that had gathered was over the age of 50 and was probably 80% male. Yes, I had identified a problem! But the elderly male who guided the tour in conjunction with Seung Ah Kim, the lead story-teller, said that when he was young he hadn't been interested in the family history but now he is, and so he believes that the younger generation will get interested later. He also added that his generation of people doing research have made it easy for subsequent generations. They just have to read the books published. The young generation now doesn't have much knowledge of complicated Chinese characters, the format used to write in older generations, so the published books not only compile the ancient family history, but translate it to modern Korean.

Sachon Village

Located in Sachon, Jeomgok-myeong, Uiseong-gun, Gyeongsannamdo, Sachon is the ancestral village of General Kim Bang Gyeong, and is named after the Sachon village near China, "Sajinchon". The village is surrounded by beautiful nature and the people have inherited the spirit of seonbi (virtuous scholars) of the Joseon Dynasty and led uibyeong (army raised in the cause of justice) against Japan. One of the most famous scholar-officials of the Joseon Dynasty, Ryu Seong-ryong, was born in Sachon in 1542; his mother was an Andong Kim.

Historic Sites in Andong
Manchuidang (Treasure No. 1825) is one of the oldest wooden buildings of a Joseon Dynasty private house. It is used as a living space for the head family and a gathering space for the Andong Kim family members. Manchidang was a pen name of Kim Sa-won, the old student of the prominent Korean Confucian scholar, Han Seok-bong, who composed calligraphy for the royal court. 
Seorim (West Forest) was planted by the Kim clan to fill an empty space to the west of the village. Originally 10 different species of trees were planted, and now it is a dense flourishing forest with 300-600 year-old trees. Seorim is the oldest forest of its kind in Korea. 
Jidang Pond is an artificial pond in the middle of the village. In olden days people believed in geomancy / feng shui, and according to it, with the character of "fire" in written Sachon, it was believed that by building a pond, the "fire" of Sachon would be neutralized.
The Andong Kim family clan village is located in Sachon, Andong, Gyeongsangnamdo.

the white spirit papers with ancestors names propitiously waving in the wind
the main gate to the ancestor's home, Manchuidang
story-teller Seung Ah Kim in her representative Goryeo Dynasty attire
representatives of the Andong Kim clan (note that most are men and over 50)
the main building strung with the ancestor's papers to the right;
the walkway up to the gi-filled tombsites seen between the buildings
climbing to the tomb site(s)
last-minute preparations for the ritual: arranging the spirit food correctly
during the ceremony everyone was to bow (but because it was so crowded, only the representative members in ritual white were obligated to bow; everyone else could from necessity remain standing)
as soon as the ceremony was over everyone descended on the ritually arranged food to eat (Eumbok)
Removing the food from the ancestor's altar.
It's now possible to see the multi-grave arrangements that extend up the hill.
NOTE: the picture in the lower left corner was actually off to the right of the tomb and is the food set out for the Sanshin (the mountain god), a practice that is rarely seen anymore!
A few representative families with the foreigners (15-20) who had accepted the invitation to attend the ceremony.
The tomb arrangement after the place cleared of people and ritual materials.
It's hard to believe that one hour earlier this place was crammed with people, 
ground sheets, photographers, tons of food, and a large speaker system!

a view from this highest tomb ... very propitious gi-filled site!

Other famous places related to the Andong Kim family heritage:

3 of the Most Famous Historical Descendants of Kim Bang Gyeong

Kim Sa-hyeong (1341-1407)
One of the founders of the Joseon Dynasty. In 1336, Korean official Kim Sa-hyeong led a campaign into Tsushima.

Sim Si-min (1554-1592)
Most famous for having defended Jinju Castle with untrained fighters against the Japanese invaders during the Seven Years' War. Since he was one of the greatest generals of Joseon Dynasty, he received the title "Chungmygong", Duke of Loyalty and Warfare like Naval Commander Yi Sun-shin.

Kim Gu (1876-1949)
Better known by his pen name "Baekbom", Kim Gu's autobiography "Baekbeomilji" has inspired many Korean people. He was a Korean nationalist politician, the sixth and later the last Premier of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, a leader of the Korean independence movement against the Japanese Empire, and a reunification activist after 1945.
"My Desire" 
At the end of his autobiography, Kim expressed his desire which he carried throughout his lifetime: 
"If God asked me what was my wish, I would reply unhesitatingly, "Korean independence." If He asked me what my second wish was, I would again answer, "My country's independence." If He asked me what was my third wish, I would reply in an even louder voice, "My wish is the complete independence of my country, Korea". 
"... I want our nation to be the most beautiful in the world. By this I do not mean the most powerful nation. Because I have felt the pain of being invaded by another nation, I do not want my nation to invade others. It is sufficient that our wealth makes our lives abundant; it is sufficient that our strength is able to prevent foreign invasions. The only thing that I desire in infinite quantity is the power of a noble culture. This is because the power of culture both makes us all happy and gives happiness to others."

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