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Gangneung Danoje Festival the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO

© Yu, Jae-Won

Gangneung Danoje Festival is designated as part of South Korea's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO on November 25, 2005. The annual Gangneung Danoje Festival takes place in the town of Gangneung and its surroundings, situated east of the Taebaek Mountain Range on the Korean peninsula.The festival includes a shamanistic ritual on the Daegwallyeong Ridge, which pays tribute to the mountain deity and male and female tutelary deities. It encompasses traditional music and Odokddegi folk songs, the Gwanno mask drama, oral narrative poetry, and various popular pastimes. The Nanjang market, Korea’s largest outdoor marketplace, is today a major element of the festival, where local products and handicrafts are sold and contests, games and circus performances take place.

The four-week long festival begins with the brewing of a sacred liquor and the Dano shamanistic rituals, in which a central role is played by a sacred tree, the sinmok, and the hwagae, a ritual object made of feathers, bells and bamboo wood. One of the specific features of the festival is the coexistence of Confucian, shamanistic and Buddhist rituals. Through the rituals devoted to the deities, the region is believed to remain unaffected by natural disasters, allowing all its residents to live in peace and prosperity. Every year, a large number of visitors attend the various ritual performances and actively participate in events such as making Danoje festival fans, brewing the sacred liquor, drawing masks for the Gwanno Mask Drama, preparing and eating Surichiwi rice crackers and washing their hair in Iris water.

The Gangneung Danoje Festival enjoys immense popularity. In the traditional context of the festival, one of the functions has been to transcend social differences by allowing people of all social classes to participate.

© Yu, Jae-Won


Its origin is not accurate but according to Nam-hyowon's record, shaman prayed for the God for 3 days every March, April, and May. Also, Heo-gyun wrote in his book that he saw the Gangneung Danoje in 1603.

Heo Gyun personally saw Gangneung Danoje and wrote that the subject of the memorial service was General Kim Yu-shin. After unifying the three kingdoms, Kim Yu-sin died and became a mountain god in Daegwallyeong and recorded that this god was honored and visited Daegwallyeong every May to greet and entertain the gods. Therefore, if God was happy, he would have a good harvest that year, and if he was angry, he would give a natural disaster, and because of this, all the people of Myeongju gathered to sing, dance, and serve God.

Gangneung Dano Festival has long been a public-centered event and a public-private festival with active cooperation from the government.



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