Royal Culture Festival kicks off with modernized rites, music performances
Seoul’s largest cultural heritage festival highlights new technology in traditional contents, from media facades to digital ‘black tiger dance’
Published : May 11, 2022 - 15:47
Updated : May 11, 2022 - 15:47
“Saebom Binari” is performed by a team of dancers and a pansori singer at Gyeongbokgung as part of the 2022 Royal Culture Festival, Tuesday evening. (Yonhap)
The 2022 Royal Culture Festival’s opening performance was held at Heungnyemun Square in Gyeongbokgung, on Tuesday evening, after having gone virtual for two years due to the pandemic.

Jointly hosted by the Cultural Heritage Administration’s Royal Palace and Tombs Center and the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation, the spring edition of the biannual festival is being held under the theme of “Narye and Yeonhui“ through May 22.

The festival centers around royal court rituals and performances held to ward off evil spirits and invite good fortune. By combining today’s narratives and technologies to the rituals and performances, the event conveys hopes for the nation’s recovery from the pandemic crisis and a new life.

The festival opened with a modernized version of “Gunahaeng,” a traditional narye rite, based on a poem written by scholar Yi Saek, during the Goryeo era.

With the sound of traditional instruments, lion-masked performers marched behind a flag with black tigers that is meant to shake off bad energy and bring in positive spirits.

In the first act, a team of dancers from K-Arts Dance Company and pansori singer Choi Ye-lim took to the stage.

The performance, “Saebom Binari,” a song wishing for a hopeful new spring, involved a mix of Korean pansori with gugak and dance. Media art projections were shown on 5-meter-tall towers. 
The traditional street art performance “Gunahaeng Daepannoreum” is staged with a modern twist at the 2022 Royal Culture Festival held at Gyeongbokgung on Tuesday evening. (CHA)
“Gunahaeng Daepannoreum,” a traditional street art performance that combines gilnori, pannori, a tiger dance and hapdongmu followed. An EDM DJ played the music in a reinterpretation of the original performance, and a performer in a black tiger costume cheerfully danced to the vibrant beat, with lights beaming from its eyes.

The festival highlight, “Yeolsangjinwon,” was revealed in the second act of the festival. The multimedia performance was inspired by a tale surrounding a small spring located at the foot of Bugaksan before Gyeongbokgung was built. With media facades and 3D laser arts, lights and moving images gently illuminated the night at Gyeongbokgung.

The stage came to an end with a song from the musical “Sohyeon,” a tragic yet beautiful story about the dreams of Crown Prince Sohyeon and Princess Minhoe.

The Royal Culture Festival is held across five Joseon royal palaces in Seoul -- Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Deoksugung, Changgyeonggung, Gyeonghuigung -- as well as Jongmyo and Sajikdan. Admission to Gyeongbokgung is free throughout the festival period.

Information on some 49 programs and ticket reservations are available at the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation’s website.

By Kim Hae-yeon (