Ganggang Sullae Ring Dance(羌羌水越来)
Ganggang sullae (Kor. 강강술래) is a female-centered ring dance performed on the night of Chuseok (Kor. 추석, Chin. 秋夕, Harvest Festival, the fifteenth of the eighth lunar month). The custom originated in the southwestern part of Korea and is currently observed in most parts of the Korean Peninsula. Arguably the most typical group activity for women, ganggang sullae combines group entertainment with dancing and singing. It is primarily performed outdoors on the night of Chuseok, under the full moon. In some parts of Korea the custom is observed on the first full moon day of the year, Jeongwol Daeboreum (Kor. 정월대보름, Great Full Moon Day, the fifteenth of the first lunar month). On February 15, 1966, ganggang sullae was designated as Important Intangible Cultural Treasure No. 8.
The exact origin of this activity is unknown. According to some theories, it was invented by Admiral Yi Sun-sin (1545-1598) as a war tactic during the Imjin Waeran (Kor. 임진왜란, Chin. 壬辰倭亂, Japanese Invasion of 1592); others suggest that it is related to foreign invasions by northern tribes from Manchuria or the Japanese. None of these hypotheses are supported by much evidence. Another theory proposes that ganggang sullae derives from primitive ballad dances performed in ancient tribal societies. Yet others maintain that the dance originally was part of a shamanistic ritual, serving as a courting and mating opportunity for young men and women.
Depending on the speed of the song and dance movements, the performance can be divided into three successive segments characterized slow, medium, and fast tempos. As the full moon rises over the village hill, women gather in the yard of a large house and begin dancing ganggang sullae at a slow tempo. The tempo gradually accelerates, culminating in a fast-paced finale.
Extra segments are frequently inserted into the basic pattern of ganggang sullae in order to add excitement to the performance. These are usually different kinds of games such as gaegori taryeong (Kor. 개고리타령, lit. frog song) and namsaenga norara (Kor. 남생아 놀아라, lit. Have fun, terrapin!) to gosari kkeokja (Kor. 고사리 꺽자, lit. Let’s pick fern shoots), jwinjwi saekki nori (Kor. 쥔쥐새끼놀이, lit. field mouse play), cheongeo yeokko pulgi (Kor. 청어엮고 풀기, lit. tying and untying herrings), giwa bapgi (Kor. 기와밟기, lit. reading the roof tiles), deokseok mori (Kor. 덕석몰이, lit. mat wrapping), kkori ttagi (Kor. 꼬리따기, lit. chasing tail), munjigi nori (Kor. 문지기놀이, lit. gate keeper play), gamadeung (Kor. 가마등, palanquin play), sugeon noki (Kor. 수건놓기, lit. laying the towel), and oe ttameokgi (Kor. 외따먹기, lit. picking cucumbers).
As a faith-based practice, ganggang sullae is a message to the gods intended to please and entertain them. The fact that ganggang sullae historically was performed as a farming rite at Chuseok, an agrarian thanksgiving festival held at the beginning of the harvesting period, suggests that the religious function of this dance prevailed over its other social roles. Over time, however, the original significance and function of the ritual were forgotten and only the movements remained. Consequently, ganggang sullae came to be regarded as a secular form of entertainment. In modern Korea, most people are unaware of the original sacred functions of this dance, which they perceive as only a traditional form of entertainment.