The Cultural Heritage Series - Episode 3:
Date: Monday, 18 January 2021 | Time: 6.00 p.m. IST
Cultural heritage can be tangible or intangible. Tangible cultural heritage refers to things that we can store or physically touch. Examples of tangible cultural heritage include traditional clothing, tools, buildings, artwork, monuments, and modes of transportation. Intangible cultural heritage
refers to things that are not physical items but exist intellectually. Intangible cultural heritage includes oral traditions songs, rituals, values, superstitions and myths, beliefs, social practices and the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts. The Intangible Cultural Properties (무형문화재) are
aspects of intangible culture that the government of South Korea has officially designated for preservation under the supervision of South Korea's Cultural Heritage Administration. Exceptional individuals are designated as the holders or invaluable repositories of these craft or performance traditions, and are referred to and supported as Living National Treasures.
The Cultural Heritage series aims to focus episodically on introducing and celebrating singular aspects of Korea's cultural traditions. In the third episode of this series, we focus on Mosi weaving - the aesthetic beauty, utilitarian value and rigour of traditional methods that define Korean clothing culture.
The versatile ramie plant (Boehmeria nivea) - a flowering nettle native to eastern Asia - has gained popularity in the past decade for its use in bio-plastics used to manufacture hybrid cars. In Korea, ramie has been used since the 9th century to weave mosi cloth, a light-weight, ultra-absorbent textile worn during the summer months. Mosi, or ramie cloth, has been a popular material for Korean clothing for more than 1,500 years. It forms an integral part of the aesthetic that defines Korean clothing culture. Mosi is an exceptionally breathable cloth providing relief during hot summers. The fabric can be so light and finely woven that it has been likened to the ethereal gossamer quality of a dragonfly's wings! The woven cloth gains softness and lustre the more it is worn and washed.
The area around Hansan-myeon in Seocheon-gun, South Chungcheong Province, with fertile land and sea winds allow ramie plants to thrive. The area contains ideal natural conditions for cultivating the highest quality ramie plants in Korea and this has led to the development of proprietary weaving methods and production of high quality ramie cloth. Hansan ramie weaving, boasts of one of the finest qualities of mosi weaving and incorporates special weaving techniques.
Weaving ramie cloth involves a number of processes, including harvesting, boiling and bleaching ramie plants, spinning yarn out of ramie fibre, and weaving it on a traditional loom. The process starts by harvesting ramie shoots and peeling off the thick skin using specially made ramie knives. Once sundried, the fibres turn from green to brown. Individual fibres are then lanced by women who pull the strands between their front teeth - a time-consuming, often painful practice that yields super-thin, flexible fibres ready for spinning and length-setting.
Ramie threads are then expertly inserted into a yard guide before undergoing a final starching process, whereby the fibres are strengthened by brushing them over a slow-burning coal fire. Using hybrid back-strap/standing looms, women then weave the cloth using special pulleys attached to their shoes to control the loom's heddle. The fabric can be so light and finely woven that it has been likened to a dragonfly's wings! The woven cloth gains softness and luster the more it is worn and washed.
Ramie cloth is comfortable in hot summer weather and is used to produce a variety of clothing from dress suits and military uniforms to mourning garments. The whiteness of the bleached ramie fabric, as well as its refined quality and neatness, makes it suitable for high-end clothing as well as for clothing for ordinary people. Weaving of Mosi traditionally takes place in the form of women-led family operations in which mothers transmit techniques and experience to their daughters or daughters-in-law. The tradition also binds the community together with neighbours gathered and working in a designated section of the town. At present, around 500 people in the province are engaged in the diverse activities of weaving fine ramie.
Hansan ramie, a traditional Korean summer cloth representing the national aesthetic, contains significant historical value and has been designated as an important Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO to safeguard the weaving methods and to enhance the visibility of this cultural heritage. Master Bang Yeon-ok is recognized as the master of Hansan ramie weaving and as Korea's Living National Treasure. (Source: www.unesco-ichcap.org)
The finished mosi cloth is used to make garments and bojagi, a traditional Korean wrapping cloth. Hansan's mosi weaving is recognised by UNESCO as an important Intangible Cultural Heritage and recorded for posterity at the Hansan Ramie Fabric Hall museum and through the annual Hansan Ramie Fabric Cultural Festival.
About the National Intangible Heritage Center, Republic of Korea:
The National Intangible Heritage Center's mission is to retrieve Korea's intangible cultural heritage from the past, to preserve it and to increase its value for future generations.
Set up in 2013, The National Intangible Heritage Center (NIHC) is located in Jeonju, a city known for its traditional music, architecture and cuisine. NIHC is the first complex administrative institution for safeguarding and transmission of Korean Intangible Cultural Heritage.
NIHC has various facilities such as permanent/special exhibition galleries, performance halls, archives, international conference rooms, learning spaces.
The primary roles of NIHC are safeguarding, transmitting, and fostering Korea's Intangible Cultural Heritage through research, archiving, exhibitions, performances, educational programs, support for the Masters of Intangible Cultural Heritage practices, and extension of the market for traditional crafts.
We present, in association with the National Intangible Heritage Centre, Republic of Korea, a film on Mosi weaving that showcases its singular technique, aesthetic appeal and utilitarian value.
Tune in to https://www.youtube.com/user/InKoCentre on Monday, 18 January 2021 at 6.00 p.m. IST.