A game throwing and catching a gongjuk by holding two sticks connected by a thread.
Despite the exact origin being unknown, Gonjuk seems to be the Korean version of China’s Dugongjuk game. It was referred to as many names, including Jukbangul Nolligi, Jjukbangul Dolligi, Jukbangul Batgi, Jukbangul Nori, Jukbangul Chigi, and Silpae Nori.
In Korea, most gongjuks (bamboo bells) have two wheels with a few variations of technique, thread and sticks. However, the Chinese have several sophisticated techniques depending on the speed and length of the string, power when pulling the string, methods of coiling the string, the direction of catching a gongjuk, and the size and weight of the yunban (wheel plate).
Gongjuks can be categorized into double-wheeled gongjuk, single-wheeled gongjuk, and heteromorphic gongjuk. A single-wheeled gongjuk has one yunban with a stick handle at the center. As the weight is put on the yunban, it is difficult to keep its balance; thus requiring an appropriate interval and equilibrium point given between the yunban’s weight and pivot when connecting an axis to the pivot. The axis is an important connection line for spinning. The spinning of the gongjuk varies depending on the direction of coiling and the speed of unwinding.
A double-wheeled gongjuk resembles janggu (Korean double-headed drum). It has two yunbans at each side with a groove in the middle of those through which an axis connects them. Since the weight is equally distributed to two yunbans, it is comparably easy maintain balance while spinning. If the spinning speed decreases or if the string is excessively coiled, the height and direction should be adjusted by the stick in the right hand. Here, the left hand should move at a similar speed of the right hand so as to adjust the spinning speed and pivot the gongjuk in a forward position.
In Gongjuk, the yunban, a sound hole, is crucial. Multiple holes are made along the circumference of a basic yunban as sound holes. Small bamboo pieces are then split and attached in order to adjust the size, space, and thickness of holes. Those pieces in yunban are coated with glue and dehydrated for 2-3 days. After a lid is put on a yunban, heavy items are placed on top during the period of re-drying to prevent it from falling off or twisting. Once the yunban is completed, an axis is inserted into the center and fixed in place. Afterward, a yunban is planed to smooth the grains so that the circumference and sound holes are in balance before the actual balance of weight for the yunban is checked.
Lastly, some drawings are painted on as decoration. The sound holes are then divided into treble, the smaller holes, and bass, the bigger holes. A good sound from a sound hole requires consistency in the size, space, and height of the holes, the thickness of the two yunbans, and the balance of weight. Currently, as plastic or rubber gongjuks were developed, yunbans and sound holes were removed from the double-wheeled gongjuks.
A heteromorphic gongjuk has a non-traditional size, weight, axis, or sticks: A large-sized gongjuk, ceramic lids, wheels of a bicycle, a smaller gongjuk using copper or iron to name a few. There is even a gongjuk that doesn’t require a stick to spin it and only needs a string to connect with other gongjuks.