Culture of Korea
The nation uses vibrant colors for its festivities which is said to be due to Mongolian influences. It is common to see bright hues of red, yellow, and green on objects and material that define traditional Korean motifs . Family ties are an important aspect of familial relations, including business relations. Bowing is a custom that is expected among Koreans as a way of greeting one another. Although about half of the population is non-religious, Korean values spring from a large number of influences, including Shamanism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and more recently Christianity. . Korea is sometimes described as a Confucian society. Korean cuisine is marked by its traditional dish called kimchi which uses a distinctive fermentation process of preserving vegetables. Chili peppers are also commonly used in Korean cuisine, which has given it a reputation for being spicy. See also Korean cuisine.
The traditional music in Korea is based on the voice. It is thought that the voice is a distinctively Korean voice, reflecting the temperament and history of Korean people. There are two kinds of traditional music: Jeongak and Minsogak.
Jeongak is court music and has a strong intellectual emphasis. This kind of traditional music is closely related to the upper-class, the literate. Jeongak is played at a very slow pace. Some single beats can take three seconds. The beat matches the speed of breathing rather than the heartbeat as in most Western music. As a result of this slow speed, the music feels static and mediative. Most people do not take pleasure in listening to this kind of music.
The tone of Jeongak is soft and tranquil because the traditional instruments are made of non-metallic materials. String instruments have strings made of silk rather than wire. Almost all wind instruments are made of bamboo.
Minsogak is Korea's traditional folk music and is full of expressions and emotions. This kind of traditional music is closely related to the lives of common people. In opposition to Jeongak, the music of Minsogak matches the heartbeat.
As with the Jeongak, improvisation is common in Minsogak. This is much more evident in the emotional music of Minsogak.
Traditional Korean instruments
Traditional Korean wind instruments include the piri (cylindrical oboe), taepyeongso (metal-bell shawm), daegeum (transverse flute), danso (end-blown flute), saenghwang (mouth organ) and the hun (ocarina).
Traditional string instruments include zithers such as the gayageum, geomungo, and ajaeng, and the haegeum, a two-stringed fiddle.
There is a great number of traditional percussion instruments, including the kkwaenggwari (hand-held gong), the jing (hanging gong), buk (barrel drum), janggu (hourglass drum), bak (clapper), pyeonjong (bell chimes), pyeongyeong (stone chimes), as well as the eo (tiger-shaped scraper) and the chuk (wooden box).
Characteristics of traditional Korean music
Apart from the instruments used, traditional Korean music is characterized by improvisation and the lack of breaks between movements. Pansori is a good example of the latter. A pansori performance can last for over eight hours during which a single singer performs continuously.
Rather than contrasting different speeds as it is common in Western music, most traditional Korean music begins with the slowest movement and then accelerates as the performance continues.
There is a unique set of handicrafts produced in Korea. Most of the handicrafts are created for a particular everyday use, often giving priority to the practical use rather than aesthetics. Traditionally, metal, wood, fabric, laquerware and earthenware were the main materials used, but later glass, leather or paper have sporadically been used.
Ancient handicrafts, such as red and black pottery, share similarities with pottery of Chinese cultures along the Yellow River. The relics found of the Bronze Age, however, are distinctive and more elaborate.
Many sophisticated and elaborate handicrafts have been excavated, including gilt crowns, patterned pottery, pots or ornaments. During the Goryeo period the use of bronze was advanced. Brass, that is copper with one third zinc, has been a particularly popular material. The dynasty, however, is renowned for its use of celadon ware.
During the Joseon period popular handicrafts were made of porcelain and decorated with blue painting. Woodcraft was also advanced during that period. This led to more sophisticated pieces of furniture, including wardrobes, chests, tables or drawers.
The use of earthenware on the Korean peninsula goes back to the Neolithic Age. The history of Korean Ceramics is long and includes both Korean pottery a later development after the traditional use of coils and hammered clay to create early votive and sculptural artefacts. During the Three Kingdoms period, pottery was advanced in Silla. The pottery was fired using a deoxidizing flame, which caused the distinctive blue grey celadon colour. The surface was embossed with various geometrical patterns.
In the Goryeo period jade green celadon ware became more popular. In the 12th century sophisticated methods of inlaying were invented, allowing more elaborate decorations in different colours.
White porcelain became popular in the 15th century. It soon overtook celadon ware. White porcelain was commonly painted or decorated with copper. With the Japanese invasion in Korea in the 16th century, many leading potters were kidnapped to Japan where they originated the creation of Japanese ceramics. Many leading Japanese pottery families today can trace their art and ancestry to these Korean potters.
In the mid Joseon period (late 17th century) blue-and-white porcelain became popular. Designs were painted in cobalt blue on white porcelain. With the growth of Japan's hegemony on the peninsula towards the end of the 19th century the tradition of porcelain largely declined in favour of Japanese imports.