South Korea // Jeolla //

Traditional arts and crafts in the hanok village


Near the eastern end of Taejoro, the road bisecting the hanok village, you’ll find the Traditional Craftworks Exhibition Hall, a traditionally styled wooden structure which holds crafts created by Jeonju artisans – a great place to hunt for souvenirs. If you’re lucky you may get to see one of the traditional song and dance shows that are occasionally held just outside the complex – there’s a list of performance times on the hanok village map. North of Taejoro, exhibits in the Traditional Wine Museum aren’t terribly interesting, but the beauty of the hanok building – and the fact that free tipples are occasionally handed out – make it worth a quick peek. Of more interest is the Korean Paper Institute, where beautiful examples of products made with handmade paper (한지; hanji) are on display, many available to buy; if you ask nicely, you may even be able to try your hand at making a kite or lantern.

South of Taejoro, and overlooking the stream that marks the hanok village’s southern boundary, is the Gangam Calligraphy Museum; stored inside are wonderful examples of writing from some of Korea’s best-known calligraphers. Artistic beauty of a different kind can be found a five-minute walk east along the streamside road, at the Traditional Culture Center, which puts on pansori shows every Friday. The mournful singing and sparse drum-raps are well complemented by the old-fashioned beauty of the building, the performers are usually of an extremely high standard, and the shows are not over-long, making this an absolute must-see. Other nights see similar performances, though of slightly lower quality. Other programmes run by the centre include a free tea ceremony course, and irregular cheap lessons in cooking, fan-making, traditional music and the like; consult a tourist office for details.

Lastly, there are a few interesting craft shops in the hanok village. Abo sells jewellery made in a vaguely dynastic style, and the earrings, bangles and bracelets are all reasonably priced. Practically next door, Midang sells beautiful silks and traditional attire made with a contemporary twist. On the other side of the road, you’ll find a few decent pottery shops.

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