줄다리기 Juldarigi Tug-of-war Encyclopedia of Korean Seasonal Customs Winter
January
Games and Performances
Great Full Moon Festival
Juldarigi (Kor. 줄다리기, tug-of-war) is a popular holiday activity of the Great Full Moon Festival (Jeongwol Daeboreum, Kor. 정월대보름, the middle of the first lunar month) in most parts of Korea. Depending on the region it is also referred to as jul danggigi (Kor. 줄당기기), jul ttaenggigi (Kor. 줄땡기기), jul ssaum (Kor. 줄싸움), jul ssam (Kor. 줄쌈), gejul ssam (Kor. 게줄쌈), gwijul ssaum (Kor. 귀줄싸움) or dongjul darigi (Kor. 동줄다리기). Although some claim that the name juldarigi has always been the standard term for this activity, it is likely that the term gained recognition when the dialect of the Seoul and Gyeonggi region became standard Korean. A custom originating in rural communities, tug-of-war has a strong ritualistic undertone because in the past its outcome was interpreted as an indicator of farm production for the coming fall. The custom is practiced extensively in southern rice-growing regions and most often takes place on the fifteenth of the first lunar month.In general, children play the first round of tug-of-war before the adult members of the community play. During the New Year’s holidays, village children emulate the adults by forming two groups and playing tug-of-war in the neighborhood streets. This is known as gosat juldarigi (Kor. 고삿줄다리기) in the environs of Jangheung and as golmok juldarigi (Kor. 골목줄당기기) in the Hwayang region. Both names mean ‘alley tug-of-war.’ In the adult tug-of-war, the villagers divide into either the east and west teams or the men and women teams. The teams are sometimes decided by drawing a line in the village along a specific axis. Several villages can group together to form a team. The team of villages inside the town walls, for instance, can challenge a team of villages that lie outside the town walls. At times, a street or a stream is chosen as the demarcation line between the east and west teams. The east team, upper village team, team of villages outside the town walls, or the men’s team generally pulls the sutjul (Kor. 숫줄, lit. male rope), and the west team, lower village team, team of villages inside the town walls, or the women’s team, tug the amjul (Kor. 암줄, lit. female rope).Around midnight on the Great Full Moon Day, villagers begin preparing for the event by holding a rope ceremony. The ceremony consists of two distinct rituals: goyu (Kor. 고유, Chin. 告由) and gosa (Kor. 고사, Chin. 告祀). During goyu each team prays in front of its respective rope with the hope of victory in the upcoming contest. For gosa, both teams come together at the venue designated for the tug-of-war, offer sacrifices to the earth god Jisin (Kor. 지신, Chin. 地神), and pray for an abundant harvest and the safety and peace of the community. Most often the captains of the two teams officiate these ceremonies. During the Joseon period (1392-1910) these rites sometimes were presided over by the town governor. At daybreak, the two teams head for the contest venue with the young and middle-aged male members carrying the ropes. The captain, dressed in armor and wearing a war helmet, commands the team with the help of two assistants. The procession is usually followed by a large escort of people bearing banners and flags and carrying long spears. A farmers’ band accompanies the parade playing drums and gongs. Women, children and the elderly cheer for their respective teams. When the teams arrive at the contest site, a loud theatrical squabble over the way to connect the two ropes takes place. Since fitting the top of the male rope into the female rope mimicks sexual intercourse, members of the teams habitually exchange sexually-charged words in order to provoke one another. Once the edges of the two ropes are fitted into each other, the start signal is given. The tug-of-war is performed to the rowdy cheers of the villagers and loud music. The victory is decided after the first pull, but sometimes the winner is declared based on three pulls (two out of three). The winning team supposedly brings a great harvest to its respective part of the village or a group of villages. In reality, the contest most often ends with the victory of the west team. This tendency can be attributed to the fact that the west team (which pulls the female rope) represents the female principle and the victory of the female principle, in popular belief, is good for the harvest. Locals insist that the contest is fought fairly and that the east team does not intentionally let the west team win. There are also towns such as Naju where the outcome of the contest is interpreted in the opposite way: the victory of the east team that pulls the male rope brings a good harvest. In some regions, the winning village or group of villages celebrates their victory at the house of the captain. The following morning the victors pay a visit to the captain of the team that lost in order to deliver their regards. On this occasion, the members of the winning team wear mourning clothes and arrive at the house of the losing team’s captain in a march that resembles a funeral procession.The social function of tug-of-war is reflected in the organizational structure of the teams and the proceedings of the contest. The goal of most farming rites was to increase productivity, and in the past, participation in this communal event was compulsory. This social pressure to participate in the tug-of-war united the community and strengthened the sense of solidarity among its members. The competitive component was a minor aspect in comparison to the main goal of the activity, which ensured the prosperity of the entire community. The custom helped not only the horizontal integration of a local community (between members of the same class), but also promoted cohesion vertically between different social classes because the event was not confined to a specific socio-economic group, but required participation of all members of the local community.
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of Coiling up the Rope Yeongsan Tug-of-war - Sound of Pulling the Rope Yeongsan Tug-of-war - Song of Making Female Rope Juldarigi