Yangdong Village Cultural Experience Program

 Yangdong Village Cultural Experience Program

  Every weekend, you can enjoy Yangdong Village at its very liveliest

I visited Yangdong Village last Saturday.

Including me, ‘GyeongjuLove’ from Gyeongju, there were forty people, young and old alike, who had come together from as far as way Chuncheon, Gimhae, and Daegu, and as near as Pohang.

These folks were gathered for a one-night, two-day traditional house overnight stay, offered as part of the Yangdong Village Cultural Experience program that started in April 2013. Even though it was the first weekend the overnight experience was offered, somehow enough people had heard about it that the program was booked solid, reaching the limit of 40 persons.

About the Yangdong Village Cultural experience program

The Yangdong Village Cultural Experience Program is a series of activities leveraging Korea’s traditional culture. It was jointly organized by the Gyeongju Cultural Center, Yangdong Village, and the city of Gyeongju. Its goal is to spread awareness of Yangdong Village, which has been designated as a World Cultural Heritage site, and to offer visitors a range of cultural experiences that give them a true sense of Yangdong Villages charms. Program activities started in April, and are slated to take place each weekend through this November. Some of the activities include a chance to try your hand at calligraphy and muninhwa painting, that is, an elegant type of ink drawing created by literati that feature calligraphic inscriptions, guided by a hunjang (traditional village teacher); a Yangdong Village cultural exploration program, led by interpretive tour guides; and an overnight stay in a traditional dwelling. The overnight stay was the program I took part in last Saturday. Here I will share the story of my experience.

If you’ve been to Yangdong Village, how much of it have you really experienced?

One night in Yangdong Village

In the exemplary historic Korean village of Yangdong, small clusters started to gather. The people congregating in front of the Yangdong Village Experience Center were a diverse lot who probably would never end up hanging around together, ordinarily. Most were elementary school-aged children, along with an occasional family member or cousin here and there. A group of ladies from a village mutual-aid society could also be seen. From this point forward, these people made up a group that would spend the next two days together, eating, talking, and having a good time. What fun things lay ahead for us in the overnight experience at Yangdong Village?

1:30 p.m.   01 | Program orientation and room assignments

The first item on the agenda was to gather at the Experience Center to hear a brief overview of the program’s schedule. Next, the chair of the Yangdong Village Experience Committee assigned sleeping accommodations according to group. No need to worry about an uncomfortable situation of sharing quarters with strangers: they do a good job arranging things so families and friends can share accommodations. Visitors do not sleep in a single big dorm, but rather are assigned by family to different homes in the village, assisted by village residents who operate minbak (similar to a bed & breakfast) out of their homes. 

Feeling as giddy as youngsters on a school excursion

Four ladies from Gimhae.  It’s their first group excursion in quite a while, so they are feeling rather giddy and excited. Traveling all by myself, I cheekily wormed my way into the ladies’ conversation. As long I was at it, I decided to accompany them as they went to their quarters to unpack.

Here are the ladies from Gimhae, who kindly tolerated me even when I was a nuisance. One of them, Ms. In-duk Woo, studies Korean traditional music at the Gyeongju campus of Dongguk University. When a professor of hers told her about the Yangdong Village experience program, she made a reservation. Come to our room tonight to have some makgeolli rice wine~ Hearing these delightful words sent a surge of excitement through me, as well.

2 p.m.  02 | 
Experiencing a seodang (private village school of the Goryeo and Joseon eras)

After unpacking, the first place we headed was Gyeongsan seodang. For the next couple of hours, we would experience a seodang, a kind of private village school of the Goryeo and Joseon eras. A cool breeze wafted among the wooden columns of the seodang, relaxing my heat-fatigued body. When you hear about a ‘seodang experience,’ you might imagine listening to someone endlessly quoting Confucius or Mencius, but it wasn’t like that. Instead, a gentleman named Mr. Byung-Hwan Lee talked to us about the village where he was born and raised. Even so, two hours must have been a bit too long for the visiting youngsters. Starting with the boy directly in front of me, the squirming gradually spread to all the kids. Seeing this from behind, it was kind of tough to repress a giggle. 

Impromptu on-site learning

Observing the increasing urgency of the squirming, the hunjang (traditional village teacher) led everyone out to the hillside in front of the seodang. There was a sweeping view of the entire village. As we looked down upon the village, he told a few more stories about the place.

During a little break, Ms. Woo, the traditional Korean music student, was asked to sing a tune. To give the children a chance to hear a traditional Korean song, she belted out an amazing melody. Receiving thunderous applause, she was presented with a folding fan as a gift from the hunjang. Among the lively crowd, there were plenty of anecdotes to tell.

3:30 p.m. 03 | Making lanterns in the shape of a polyhedron

The next order of business after returning to the seodang was to make lanterns that, later in the evening, would be illuminated for our pleasure. The lanterns were in an unusual shape called a cuboctahedron, mimicking the form of the traditional fourteen-sided Silla-era dice called the juryeonggu. Examples of this plaything have been excavated in Gyeongju’s East Palace and Wolji. Using glue and traditional hanji paper to assemble the lanterns with their sweet little fingers, the children were completely focused on their task. Their concentration was boundless, for a moment at least.

4 p.m.  04 | Exploring Yangdong Village

After the juryeonggu lanterns had been made for use later that evening, the chair of the Experience Committee, Mr.  Ji-Gwan Lee, showed us some of Yangdong Villages key attractions before dinner. He told stories about some of the structures we toured, including Seobaekdang House and Mucheomdang House, amplified by more stories of the village. Hearing about Yangdong Village from the villagers themselves brought everything to life more vividly than reading the informational signboards ever could. 

6 p.m. 05 | Dinner time

Three meals are included with the Yangdong Village overnight experience program. Meals are taken in the Yangdong Village Experience Center. Helping out with serving the food are the ladies of Yangdong Village. They chip in at every meal, organized into groups that take turns.

Begging our pardon in advance, the ladies explained that since most of the visitors were youngsters, the menu was targeted for children. The first meal included Japanese-style curry, bean-sprout soup, sautéed potatoes, and grilled fish. After we’d walked all over the place, seeing and experiencing all kinds of things, how could the meal taste like anything other than yummy nectar?

7 p.m. 06 | Making memories in Yangdong Village

One~ a little musical performance we put together ourselves

After dinner, a traditional singer by the name of Hyun-Jung Hwang had everyone sing Korean folk songs together. Ju-Hyung Kim, a musician who plays the large bamboo transverse flute called a daegeum, also performed during an interlude, in addition to organizing a contest in which the kids had to try to get a sound out of various flutes, including the daegeum, sogeum, and danso.

Mr. Kim, who makes his own bamboo musical instruments, presented one of his hand-crafted flutes as a prize to the kid who produced the best sound from the danso. This got an enthusiastic response from the children.

Two~ an evening walk with our juryeonggu lanterns

We’d been waiting eagerly for night to fall, just for this. It was time to go for a walk around Yangdong Village, carrying our illuminated juryeonggu lanterns that we had made ourselves at Gyeongsan seodang. So, by the lovely lantern light, amidst even lovelier people, night in Yangdong Village grew deeper.

Day Two  07 | Yangdong Village ecology & tea ceremony experiences

Although I had to leave early, I’m sorry to say, and couldn’t take part on the second day, the remaining experiential activities on Sunday morning included learning about tea ceremony etiquette and the ecology of Yangdong Village.

After breakfast, there was a chance to experience the natural setting of Yangdong Village. For this, Ms. Jung-Hyun Lee shared her knowledge about the native plants, flowers, and trees of Yangdong Village. 

After the ecological experience, the group moved to the Experience Center to make confections to enjoy with tea, along with practicing tea ceremony etiquette. The packed two-day schedule ended with lunch.

And so the first-ever Yangdong Village traditional house overnight experience, a substantial experience indeed, came to a successful conclusion. This was made possible thanks to both the material and moral contributions of the residents of Yangdong Village, from planning to execution. The Yangdong Village Cultural Experience Program lets visitors get up close and personal to have a profound experience of this historic village. 

Do you want to enjoy this experience yourself?


  1. how do u booked for this exchange program ? is there any website ?


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