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Asia-Pacific Database on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

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Republic of Korea

Kangnung Tano-je

( UNESCO Masterpiece: Proclamation 2005 )

A communal festival of Kangnung City


A shot of Confucian ceremony held during the festival.

Diverse musical performances and ceremonial rituals are offered during the festival.

Reasons for selection

Kangnung Tano-je is the biggest and most splendid festival among others still being performed in Korea. The festival is a blend of folklore shamanism, Confucianism and drama. By investigating the festival, one could understand the unique culture of Eastern Mountain Region and the social history reflected in the various activities of the festival.

Area where performed

Kangnung City, Kangwon-do Province

Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Dance, Theatre

Detailed explanation

Kangnung Tano-je is a communal festival in Kangnung area and was designated as Important Intangible Cultural Properties No.13 in 1967.

On the 15th day of the 4th lunar month, officials and shamans of Kangnung City climb up Taegwal-lyong Pass to both the mountain deity shrine and the tutelary deity shrine. Sacred trees are cut down and taken to the female deity shrine located in downtown Kangnung. Those trees are believed to be where the deities dwell. The deities are kept in the female deity until three days before Tano, the Spring Festival day, which starts on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month.

On the festival day, the deities are brought to an alter and high-ranking officials of Kangnung City conduct a Confucian ceremony in the morning. In the afternoon, leading shamans presides over 12 rites, including a rite to ward off evil spirits, rites celebrating the communal tutelary deity, the spirits of illustrious generals, ancestral spirits, the Harvest God, and so forth. During the festival the open-air Kwanno Mask Dance Drama is presented. On the day after Tano day is held Sonshin-je, the Sending off the spirits. Other colorful folk events, a variety of contests (swing, traditional wrestling)and open-air market continue for days.

Its origin is not clearly known. A couple of old legends are said to be related to the beginning of the festival. One of such is associated with the legend of Kim Yu-Shin who was the illustrious general of ancient Shilla period. The earliest record dates back to 10th century and the festival of present day form is believed to be 400 years old.

Publication and textual documentation

Office of Cultural Properties
1985 Important Intangible Cultural Properties: A Commentary on Ritual and Play.
Office of Cultural Properties.

Audio documentation

not yet available

Visual documentation

not yet available

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Preservation Society for Kangnung Tano-je, Kangnung City.

Data provider

Mr. Im Jang-Hyuk
Senior Researcher
National Research Institute of Cultural Properties of Korea
Address: 1 Sejong-Ro, Chongno-ku, Seoul, 110-050
Republic of Korea