Sunday, September 14, 2014

Chuseok 2014 (Korean Thanksgiving)

This year I spend Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) in Suwon at my in-laws house. We didn't visit the graves of their ancestors like last year (you can read about it here) because it was too far away and traffic was so horrible. It would have taken at least 4 hours to drive there, then another 4 hours to drive home... if we were lucky. 

So, what is Chuseok? Here is a quick re-cap. 

Chuseok (추석) is a major harvest festival and 3 day holiday in Korea celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Up until only a few decades ago Korea was still a heavily agrarian society so celebrating a good harvest is still an central part of Korean culture. During chuseok Koreans visit their ancestral hometowns and share a feast of Korean traditional foods.  

There are a couple of theories on how and when chuseok originated, but the most popular theory is that it started 2000 years ago as a weaving competition when two teams would go head to head in a month long weaving competition. The team that had woven the most cloth was declared the victor and was treated to a feast by the losing team. 

In modern South Korea, on Chuseok there is a mass exodus of Koreans as they return to their hometowns to pay respects to the spirits of their ancestors (I joined my in-laws for this last year). Early in the morning (before breakfast) people perform ancestral worship rituals and then later in the day visit the tombs of their immediate ancestors to trim the grass and clean the area around the tomb. They also take some food and drink to offer to their ancestors to show their thanks to their ancestors for blessing their harvest. 

This year because my in-laws had moved to Suwon (last year they were in Iksan) so Jihyeon and I caught the train north to Suwon. 

To save some money we caught the Mugunghwa, which is one of the original passenger trains in Korea. The carriages are really old and rattly, but it is about half the price of a KTX (the high speed modern train that does 300km/h). 

The country side still looks quite green and the rice fields are almost ready for harvesting. 

Even though population growth in Korea is slowing, there are still a lot of apartment buildings getting built. 

Once we arrived at the in-laws, we were put to work helping prepare the food.  

Handmade Mandu (Korean dumplings). 

Later, we took the dog for a walk around the park. 


Lots of people stopped us and wanted to pat Haru. 

The next morning we were put to work again preparing food. 

Later that night I went back to Hwaseong fortress again (for my 4th time) to walk around the last part of the wall I had not seen and take some night time photos. You can find photos from my first three visits here, here and here

In ancient times the Hwaseong Fortress wall surrounded the town center of Suwon (Suwon city is about 30km south of Seoul) and was built in 1794 by King Jeongjo to house and honor the remains of his father Prince Sado, who had been murdered by being locked alive inside a rice chest by his own father King Yeongjo after failing to obey the command to commit suicide. 

We started at the southern gate of the fortress wall which sits in the middle of a chaotic roundabout.  

We then started walking around the section of the wall we were yet to explore. 

A watch tower. 

We then crossed to the inside of the wall. In the distance you can see the huge church that sits in the middle of Suwon. The church is ginormous and is easily the biggest building in the center of the city. 

View from another watch tower. 

This is the outside of the eastern gate. 

And the inside of the eastern gate. 

This is the command post for all the important people. It has a good view of inside the wall. 

Another watch tower.

Another watch tower.

I wanted to keep going but they turned all the bloody lights off at 10PM. 

The next day was Chuseok. We got up early and set the table for the offering. 

Haru looked on in envy at the food. 

and then did what she does best once the food was put away. 

Later in the afternoon we went for a bike ride around the huge park and lake near by. Suwon (at least this part of Suwon) is really well designed. You don't see it from the road or the train, but all the apartment complexes are joined by a huge network of parks, bike-ways and footpaths. It's really great having such a large green space close by. 

We then packed up and headed back to Daejeon.

1 comment:

  1. Love these photos Phil. The night photos are beautiful - have added it to my must visit list :)