Dance and history on a summer afternoon
Gyeongbok-gung Palace, Seoul: these gardens and buildings in the middle of this frenetic city date back to the 1390's. The skyscrapers and traffic just outside the walls can seem a world away...
On this summer weekend afternoon, I happened to catch an outdoor concert of medieval court music and dance. These performers were presenting a 'peony dance' on the site where, in the mid-1400's, King Sejong the Great and his cabinet invented and then presented to the nation 'Han-geul,' the Korean alphabet. (It was the world's only phonetic alphabet specifically created to encourage mass literacy by using scientifically-based symbols. South Korea used to even have a national holiday commemorating that declaration--the world's only 'alphabet-day.')
Watching the riot of color in the breeze and listening to wavering vibrato, I recalled that one of those cabinet ministers from five-and-a-half centuries ago was a distant relative on my mother's side of the family. A sense of 'coming home' in a foreign place settled over me as I sat in the sun.
Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
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