Autumn Mountain Picnic
Deunggo (Kor. 등고, Chin. 登高, lit. mountain climbing) was a custom observed on Jungyangjeol (Kor. 중양절, Chin. 重陽節, the ninth of the ninth lunar month). People would climb a mountain in their neighborhood to watch the autumn foliage and enjoy poetry and wine. This autumn outing is also known as gukhwa nori (Kor. 국화놀이), jungyang nori (Kor. 중양놀이, Chin. 重陽-), jungyang pungchaeyu (Kor. 중양풍채유, Chin. 重陽楓菜遊) or sihoe (Kor. 시회, Chin. 詩會).
According to the “Xu Qizie Ji” (Kor. 속제해기, Chin. 續齊諧記, All Writings of the Qi dynasty Continued) by Wu Jun (469-520) who lived in the Chinese Southern dynasty of Liang (502-557), the origin of deunggo is related to the story of Hung Jing, a man of the Later Han dynasty (25-220). The custom of climbing a high hill or mountain on Jungyangjeol to appreciate the beauty of fall foliage is likely to predate Hung Jing’s time. Deunggo is mentioned in many ancient Chinese poems including those written by Du Fu (712-770) and Wang Wei (699-759). In the “Yeoryang Sesigi” (Kor. 열양세시기, Chin. 洌陽歲時記, Seasonal Festive Customs in the Capital, 1819), one reads, “When hills and mountains are flush with fall colors, people spend time outdoors watching foliage and chrysanthemum blossoms, just as they go out to see blossoms and willow trees in spring. Those nobles who are fond of ancient customs would climb a high mountain on the day of Jungyang and compose poems.” The “Dongguk Sesigi” (Kor. 동국세시기, Chin. 東國歲時記, A Record of Seasonal Customs in Korea, 1849) also contains records referring to the custom. For example, one finds the following description: “In Seoul, people customarily go atop Namsan or Buksan for a picnic, and this practice is derived from the ancient custom of deunggo. Cheongpunggye, Hujodang, Namhan Mountain, Bukhan Mountain, Dobong Mountain and Surak Mountain are among the best foliage destinations in the Seoul area.”
Unlike China, where deunggo had strong links with the story of Hung Jing and rituals to prolong life and prevent disasters, the custom in Korea developed into a popular practice of appreciating the fall scenery, poems, and wine. As time passed, connection with Jungyangjeol also disappeared and the tradition survived in the form of fall foliage outings, which are enjoyed by many Koreans today.