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Folk Village Ritual and Play, Gossaumnori광주 칠석 고싸움놀이
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승인 2008.03.10  16:35:06
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn

 In the old days, Korean people began the New Year by conducting traditional rituals and folk games for good fortune in the year. Gossaumnori is a traditional Korean folk game originally played in the village of Chilseok-dong, Nam-gu, Gwangju on the 15th day of the New Year according to the lunar calendar. Gossaum is a compound word combining Go (round-shaped string) and Ssaum (fight), and Go is referred to as a loop of huge straw ropes made out of long strings tied up in a knob.
The folk game might have disappeared around 1945, but it was completely restored in 1969 and won the presidential award at the 10th National Folk Art Festival. In 1970, it was designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 33 and its name changed to Gwangju Chilseok Gossaumnori in 2005. On February 20, the Gwangju Chilseok Gossaumnori Festival was held in a village. Let’s feel the attraction of Gossaumnori and the ambitious spirit of the villagers by taking a look at the whole process of the game being played with a Chonnam Tribune reporter.

 The Village in a Festive Mood 



Daedong Farmers' Musical Band

It was still winter, but it was warm day. When this reporter arrived at the village, there was already a real festival atmosphere. Unlike this reporter's expectation, the festival was big and there were many visitors that participated in Gossaumnori with the game players. Preliminary to the game actually being played there, this reporter went to the building in which Gossaumnori has been handed down to others. Inside the building, a large Go was displayed. The Go is an oval-shaped loop consisted of a head, body and two strings of a tail. It is said that the Chilseok-dong villagers made it to wish a year of abundance together. Looking the Go, this reporter thought that this Gossaumnori was not a game just for fun but an important team game which had a social function to strengthen the villagers’ solidarity, and also felt their affection for Gossaumnori. Standing in front of the building, this reporter heard exciting music performed by a famer’s music band and saw two Gos on the center of the ground. It was time to start Gossaumnori.

Opening Performances of Gossaumnori Festival

Gossaumnori originally begins with Nongak (famer’s band music and dance) and traditional rituals such as Dangsanjae (ritual to worship mountain god/goddess trees) to pray for a good harvest and the peace and good health of the villagers and Guts (exorcism rites) which are performed to tread on the land spirit and to wish for the welfare of each house with the farmers' music and dance. Then, Gossaumnori is played at the game place, usually a rice field between upper and lower village team; the former is called Dongbu (East side) and the latter called Seobu (West side). The village is divided into two parts by a small alley in the center of the village. Dongbu symbolizes a man and the Seobu a woman, the symbol of fertility. As this game aims to pray for a fruitful year, it is believed if only Seobu wins, their wish comes true. For this reason, the Go of Seobu is larger than Dongbu's one.
Likewise, in the beginning of the festival, Ganggangsullae and Nongak made the players and spectators get excited. The farmers' music band raised a fighting spirit of the players and aroused other village people's interest in the fighting game from start to finish. While performing Nongak, the farmer’s music band firstly led the Gos to Halmeoni Dangsan, an 800-year-old gingko tree which is the symbol of a female deity in front of the village. After the players of both villages together performed Dangsanjae, the rituals to worship the gingko tree where Gossaumnori started, they carried their own Go to the game place respectively. The color of dress was the most obvious way to identify each team; Dongbu wore blue and Seobu red. Old villagers who could not carry the Go held several flags on which was written, "Agriculture is the prop of the country." Looking at the players in red, this reporter hoped Seobu would win the game so that this village enjoys a large harvest this year.

How to Play Gossaum


1.The Players of Juldarigi, Tug of War 2. Figure of Go






Gossaum players take charge of each role as the followings; Julpaejang, leader who rides on the most front part of Go and steers the fighting, Gomen-saram or Melkkun , players who carry the Go and consist of 70 to 80 men, and Kkorijul-jabi, the tail holder who are mostly women players in the game and to drive the Go.
If Gossaum starts, the players of Dongbu and Seobu stimulate their fighting with each other. The respective farmer's musical bands of both teams sang songs with shouts to express their intention to fight as standby players. As the fight goes on, both team players repeatedly move forward and retreat to push the opponent’s Go to the ground. Julpaejang commands "Push," and then the rest of the players carry their own Go with shouting, heave support panels of the Go using both hands and bump against the the head of the Go. At the moment, Gomen-saram and Kkorijul-jabi tangle and struggle with each other because the Go’s length is about 15 meters. After quite a while, the leader commands, "Back off." In the process of the game, if the Go approaches the opponent’s Go, they show their courage with uplifting and bringing down their Gos.
At the festival, these scenes of Gossaum happened in an instant and made me surprised. Especially when the Gos were lifted high, spectators including this reporter gave rousing cheers. Gossaum players repeated such fierce movements over and over again while this reporter watched their efforts to win a victory. The players also retreated to take a rest and regain their strength for a while. It took 40 minutes for the Gossaum game to be over after Seobu’s Go pressed down the opponent Dongbu’s Go four times. When Seobu’s Go won the game, the ground resounded with loud songs of victory and a rich year. At that moment, this reporter could not suppress excitement and let the Gossaum out of my sight. It made this reporter feel as if this reporter would live in the Joseon Dynasty period.

Unity of the Local Community

As previously mentioned, our ancestors played Gossaumnori as a ritual play for fertility of the
year for about seven days from the eve of Jeongwoldaeboreum, the first full moon’s day of the year. If only Gossaum would not be finished by January 20 according to the lunar calendar, the villagers untie Gos used in Gossaum to make long ropes and play Juldarigi (tug of war) to determine the winner between Dongbu and Seobu. At a tug of war, the west or women's side should win a victory for a good harvest during the year.
As Seobu won the game of the Gossaumnori festival on the day and the villagers needed not play Juldarigi, which was played as a part of the audience participation program. This reporter had a chance to experience playing a tug of war. It made this reproter realize the importance of community consciousness, and learn about our traditional folk games and its social functions. These days, its major function seems to be expanded to just a traditional folk game for a festival, but this reporter hopes many people are interested in Gossaumnori as one of the representative team games to strengthen solidarity and cooperation of the local community.


 Folk Village Ritual and Play, Gossaumnori  

  By Rhy Seung-hyi, Student Editor




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