Skip Navigation

Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity- Republic of Korea
Gangneung Danoje Festival

The Dano Festival of Gangneung
Jubilant Recreation and Holy Rituals

Dano is the fifth day of the fifth month according to the lunar calendar. Ancient Koreans viewed dates that had two repeating odd numbers as being particularly auspicious. As a result, the first day of the first lunar month (seol), the third day of the third lunar month (samjitnal), the seventh day of the seventh month (chilseok), and the ninth day of the ninth month (junggujeol) were all considered holidays because they all overlapped odd numbers. On these holidays, people played fun games and prepared dishes in accordance with the season.

In particular, dano was the day in which the cosmic yang energy (positive, male energy) was strongest and was considered the biggest holiday along with the New Year’s Day and the Harvest Moon Festival (chuseok). People ate rice cakes made from surichwi (a kind of herb found in marshes), exchanged folding fans as a reminder of the imminent hot season, and played folk games such as swinging (geune) and wrestling (ssireum).

Most of all, the “Double Fifth Day” was closely connected with farming. It was roughly around the time when the grains had been planted in the field, and when rice planting in the paddy was completed and the hectic spring farming was basically finished. After completing the preparations for one year of farming, a commemorative service was held to pray for a bountiful harvest and to take a break and enjoy playing games. This was called “Danoje,” meaning the Double Fifth Festival.

Danoje is a traditional event that combines recreation with ritual offerings. It used to be carried out everywhere throughout the country, but today it is a gradually disappearing tradition. Of all the Danoje festivals, the one held in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, has a particularly long history and is robustly keeping the tradition alive.
The offering ceremony of the Gangneung Dano Festival is a commemorative rite in honor of the three “deities” - Kim Yu-sin (the mountain deity of Daegwallyeong Pass), Monk Beomil and his wife (the village deities). Kim Yu-sin (595-673), a military official of the Silla Kingdom, is said to have made a famous sword in Gangneung when he was young, and with it, he unified the three separate kingdoms of Korea. After his death, he was believed to have become the mountain god of Daegwallyeong Pass. Beomil was a renowned monk who promulgated Buddhist doctrine in Gangneung toward the end of the Unified Silla Period and established the Gulsansa and the Sinboksa temples. According to a folk tale, the monk died and became the deity of Daegwallyeong Pass and married a daughter from the Jeong family. A memorial rite is offered to the couple on the 15th day of the fourth lunar month, which is believed to have been their wedding day.

Currently, the festival starts off on the fifth day of the fourth lunar month with the ritual preparation of wine for the deities. After holding a welcoming ceremony for the mountain deity on the 15th day of the fourth lunar month, the festival is celebrated for five days beginning on the third day of the fifth lunar month and lasting until the seventh day. On the last day, the festival finishes with a departure ceremony to send the mountain deity back to Daegwallyeong Pass.
The recreational part of the festival is enthusiastically celebrated for five days starting on the first day of the fifth lunar month. In the festival locations along Namdaecheon stream, an exorcism rite by shamans consisting of over 20 acts is held, and many scenes of folk games take place throughout the area.

They include traditional farmers’ music and dances, the Gwanno mask drama and other performances, swinging, wrestling, and tug-of-war competitions.
The shamanic rite, called dano gut, is a grand-scale ceremony, with spectacular rituals continuing throughout more than 20 acts.
Another performance that cannot be missed in the festival is the Gwanno mask drama, in which a story is told not in words, but through music, dance and mime.
The word “gwanno” means “slaves belonging to government offices,” who were the players of its original form hundreds of years ago. During the Dano Festival, the entire city is in a festive mood, with open-air markets bustling with sales and scenes of merrymaking taking place here and there.