Andong Bronze Bridge-Walking
Andong Notdari Bapgi (Kor. 안동놋다리밟기, Chin. 安東-, lit. Andong bronze bridge-walking) is a collective game played by the women of Andong, North Gyeongsang Province after the sunset on the Great Full Moon Day (the fifteenth of the first lunar month). In 1985 Andong Notdari Bapgi was designated as North Gyeongsang Province Intangible Cultural Treasure No. 7. The word notdari (Kor. 놋다리) might mean “brass bridge” (Chin. 銅橋) or “bridge as hard as brass”. According to another theory, notdari is a phonetic variation of nodalgi (Kor. 노달기, “off-month”, period of resting from work); the latter is the name of the first lunar month in the Andong dialect. There are two types of Andong Notdari Bapgi: one is carried out inside the township and the other outside the township.
According to local legend, during the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392), King Gongmin (1330-1374) fled the invading Red Turbans (the Chinese rebels) with his wife, Princess Noguk (?-1365, the daughter of the Yuan dynasty’s king). They were traveling southwards and eventually arrived at the Soyacheon Stream in Andong. With no bridge across this stream, nor a ferry boat, the king and his attendants found themselves in a predicament. Dusk was approaching quickly, and with evening the temperature became freezing. When the women of Andong heard about this, they rushed to the stream and lined up bending their backs so that a human bridge was formed. The king and his followers safely crossed the stream; these events inspired the development of a communal merrymaking activity for women known as notdari bapgi.
With the rise of the first full moon of the year in the eastern sky, women and girls residing in the western part of the village outside the city walls gather in the yard of a large house. A group of 70 to 80 women and girls sit down in a big circle and sing the song “Dungdung Demi” (Kor. 둥둥데미). While singing, the participants, starting from the head of the group, take turns jumping over the human circle and walking around it. For the next song, “Silgamgi Norae” (Kor. 실감기노래, lit. Thread Winding Song), the women form several circles with one circle inside another. Holding each other’s hands, the women intertwine themselves by finding a passage between the circles. As the pace of the “Silgamgi Norae” is fast, the members have to run around the circles in order to match the rhythm. The smaller circles finally disappear into a single large circle. All participants now are bent over, so that their backs create a human bridge in a circular shape. A young girl, chosen as the princess, is elevated on to the human bridge by several women, and starts to walk over it. This part of the activity is known as unggul notdari (Kor. 웅굴놋다리).
After the princess has made a complete tour of the unggul notdari, the participants head out to the road in one long chain with their backs bent and proceed to Seomunduk, the location of the Mokseonggyo Bridge. This is referred to as jul notdari (Kor. 줄놋다리), in reference to the straight-line shape of this procession. Two adult women with powerful voices are placed together with the princess at the head of the procession to sing the lead part. The chorus is sung intermittently by unmarried girls, then young wives, middle-aged women and finally by elder women.