Mandarin ducks and cranes along the Namcheon river and learning about Pansori traditional Korean music, Jirisan Mountains, South Korea

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I am feeling a bit lazy at the end of our trip, so instead of recounting our last day of hiking in the countryside of Jirisan, I am posting here what Jules wrote in his notes.

He is describing our hike from Dongcheon-ri in Unbong-eup towards Inwol-ri.

We skirted Baraebong Peak and Goribong Peak, following the Namcheon River that irrigates many rice paddies.

We reached the birthplace of the master of Pansori (a Korean musical style), Song Heung-rok, and our visit to the Museum of Korean Classical Traditional Music.

So here it is:

“This is our final day in Jirisan – early tomorrow morning, we will check out of our hotel and drive 4-5 hours to Seoul, where we will return our rental car and check into our hotel in Insadong, a funky hotel that is very well located in a great walking district of the city.
Our trip has nearly ended – just three more days in Seoul, and then we will be flying back to Auckland!

We wanted to spend our last day here walking once again in the countryside, enjoying the peace and calm of the natural surroundings of this area.

We picked a walk from the many that are signposted throughout Jirisan, one following the path of a river that irrigates the rice paddies that border it, and that provides a refuge for wildlife and birds.

This walk passes by the carefully reconstructed thatch-roofed home of a great Korean classical folksinger named Song Heung-rok, and then through the village that is home to the Museum of Classical Korean Traditional Music, including the very well known performance style called “Pansori.”

Pansori is one of the types of folk music that is native to Namwon, Korea, that has spread throughout the rest of the country.
Although its exact beginnings are unknown, it is at least four hundred years old.

Pansori features a charismatic interaction between a singer and his drummer that sounds very improvisational, very heartfelt, and modern.

The drummer not only provides a driving rhythm through his drums, he also shouts words or syllables of encouragement or emphasis to the singer throughout his performance.

The audience also chimes in with encouragement as it sees fit!
There were originally twelve different Pansori pieces, each based on a well-known Korean folk story, but only five have survived to the present day.
Each story has numerous chapters, so a complete performance of a Pansori piece can take between two and twelve hours; it’s common to hear a performance of just the most popular chapters of a particular story as a result.

After an early lunch, we drove about a half hour from Namwon to Dongcheon-ri, on the same road that we traveled yesterday, when we visited two beautiful Buddhist temples that are farther up in the mountains, more remote than we are today.

We easily located the path that began in a small park by the river, where a Korean family was getting ready to have a picnic.

The walk today was along a flat path, sometimes paved but most of the time dirt, following the river.
With the sun making beautiful reflections on the waters that stand on the rice paddies, it was a gorgeous walk.

We knew that we had reached the birthplace of Korean Pansori singer Song Heung-rok before we actually arrived, because his recorded singing with drum accompaniment is played, well-amplified, from loudspeakers placed around his home.

The music, playing at very high fidelity to my ears, was exciting to listen to.
It sounded wild and heartfelt, with the singer and the drummer spurring each other on to greater heights.
Even without understanding the words, I was moved by the emotions being expressed.

When we continued a bit further, to the Museum, which is also a conservatory for the teaching and performance of Pansori and other forms of traditional classical Korean music, I enjoyed seeing the musical instruments displayed, but wished that more of the displays were in English as well as Korean.

After we wandered through the museum, we began our walk back to the car – the total distance we covered today was about 12 km, a good end to our driving and walking tour of South Korea!”

By Jules Landsman

My thanks for Jules for summing our last day in Jirisan!
I would like to add that the images of the stone or wood totem figures that I posted in my last posts, were traditionally used by villagers in this area, as guardians against evil spirits.
Nobody knows when they originated exactly, but they are a famous folk totems in this area.

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