Buddhist All Souls' Day(百中)
Baekjung (Kor. 백중, Chin. 百中, Buddhist All Soul’s Day) is a major summer folk festival falling on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month. By this time Korean farmers could take a brief period of rest after one of the busiest farming periods of the year. They usually spent the day refreshing themselves by enjoying food and drink, and playing games. The festival was also referred to by other names such as Baekjong (Kor. 백종, Chin. 百種, lit. Hundred Kinds), Jungwonil (Kor. 중원일, Chin. 中元日, lit. Central Prime Day), and Manghonil (Kor. 망혼일, Chin. 亡魂日, lit. Souls’ Day). However, among common folks, the festival has always been called Baekjung.
In the “Yeoryang Sesigi” (Kor. 열양세시기, Chin. 洌陽歲時記, Seasonal Festive Customs in the Capital, 1819) the festival is referred to as Baekjongjeol (Kor. 백종절, Chin. 百種節, lit. Festival of a Hundred Kinds) when people offer one hundred kinds of flowers to Buddha. In the “Dongguk Sesigi” (Kor. 동국세시기, Chin. 東國歲時記, A Record of Seasonal Customs in Korea, 1849) and the “Jingchu Suishiji” (Kor. 형초세시기, Chin. 荊楚歲時記, Seasonal Festive Customs in the Jingchu Region, 6th century), the festival is called Baekjongil and is described as a seasonal holiday when people participate in an ullambana (a Buddhist service held at a temple to comfort the spirits suffering in hell) or hold a ceremony at home when the moon is bright to evoke and console the spirits of their ancestors with food offerings.
Apart from the religious ceremonies held to commemorate the departed, the holiday was also celebrated with joyful events that entertained the farmers and servants. These events were called by different names according to region and took on a variety of forms. For example, there was a custom of presenting fine new clothes to servants and giving them a day off, so that they could wear the new outfits and have fun at the market. Another important event on Baekjung was the ritual of purification of the village well, known as umul gosa (Kor. 우물고사).
The main entertainment usually took place at the village marketplace. The most popular event was a traditional Korean wrestling (ssireum) competition open to all men, including servants. The competition gave merchants a fine opportunity to make money by selling food and drink to the crowds of spectators who gathered to cheer on the participants representing their respective villages. The winner in ssireum was given an ox as the champion prize and his return home was celebrated with a parade.
During the Joseon Period (1392-1910) Baekjung was one of the two major folk festivals of the farming communities; the second one was a winter festival called Jeongwol Daeboreum (Kor. 정월대보름, Great Full Moon Festival, the fifteenth of the first lunar month). Unlike the Great Full Moon Festival, which is still observed throughout Korea, the Baekjung celebrations have almost all disappeared following the extinction of village cooperatives, or dure (Kor. 두레).