Posted by: Matt Kelley | 12 November 2008

Hahoe Village

Traditional-style homes like this one are preserved in Hahoe Maeul (하회마을), an historic clan village near the city of Andong in North Gyeongsang Province.

(A version of this text aired on KBS World Radio on November 1, 2008.)

As the Nakdong River winds its way through North Gyeongsang Province, nestled in one of its curves is a picturesque place called Hahoemaeul (하회마을), or Hahoe Village (pronounced: ha-hwae). Designated “Important Folklore Material No. 122” by the Korean government, Hahoe is where members of the Pungsan Ryu family have lived for many generations.

“Hahoe” means winding river, and the scenic combination of the river and Taebaek mountains mean the village is located in an auspicious location. Some say Hahoe is like a lotus floating on the water.

The area is a well-preserved example of a typical clan village from the Joseon Dynasty days. But what’s unusual about Hahoe is how the aristocratic yangban class and commoners lived together. The largest homes are located at the center of the village, which is divided by a road stretching northeast and southwest.

Hahoe Village is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in Korea.

Historically, the main thoroughfare divided the Ryu clan’s primary and secondary branches. For example, the head house of the Ryu clan, known as Yangjindang (양진당), is located in the north section, and today is home to the family’s 14th direct descendant. The village’s south section, however, includes Chunghyodang Manor (충효당), which is designated Treasure #414, and remains home to descendants of Ru Song-nyong, a 16th-century scholar and prime minister. Today, members of both branches live together throughout the village. The village has been designated a future candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status.)

Circling around the stately homes are more modest ones. And unlike most villages, they face in all directions from the center, not only southward. These commoner dwellings typically feature thatched roofs instead of the traditional tile roofs of hanok-style homes.

Ripening rice fields were on display during our visit.

While wandering along the narrow roads, it was clear that fall was on the way. The rice paddies had gone from a vibrant green to an almost fluorescent yellow. Among the village homes, I saw signs on some that offered tea, meals or even overnight stays. And yet, the place, while very popular with tourists on the weekends, didn’t feel overly commercialized.

Hahoe Village is nestled in a small bend in the Nakdong River. The cliff known as Buyongdae offers great views of the village.

Another striking topographical feature of Hahoe-maeul is the cliff that rises 64-meters above sea level. Located against one of the river’s bends, it’s known as Buyongdae. In Joseon times, the ruling class would conduct a poetry meeting in front of the cliffs as julbulnori (줄불놀이), a traditional fireworks display would pop and crack above them. During my visit, a long canoe was ferrying people across the river to hike the cliff and enjoy the views. Long strings of fireworks ran from the village beach high up to the cliff, and shortly after sundown, they lit up the night sky.

At the entrance to the village are dozens of jangseung (장승), which guard against evil spirits.

Hahoe Village is also well known for its role in preserving Korea’s folk heritage. At its entrance are several jangseung (장승), which resemble North American totem poles. These carved wooden statues guard against misfortune by appeasing the air and earth spirits. But Hahoe is probably best known for its dramatic mask dance and shamanistic rituals called Hahoe byeolsingut talnori (하회 별신굿 탈놀이). The dances were one way the common people could satirize the arrogance of the ruling class. If masks are your thing, then check out the Hahoe Mask Museum, which features hundreds of masks from Korea and around the world.

Artisans practice their craft at some of Hahoe Village’s homes.

map_hahoevillageAnd, finally, back in the day, the mask dances would occur under an old zelkova tree. There are three major shrines in Hahoe Village, and the tree is home to the village spirit. Over 600 years old, at the tree’s base is where residents still pray for the health and success of their village.

Getting There:
→ From Seoul, non-stop buses leave the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (subway line 2’s Gangbyeon Station, exits #3 or 4) for Andong 34 times per day. The 2 hour 50 minute ride is 15,400 won each way. 



  1. […] we’ve visited North Gyeongsang Province’s Hahoe Village and Seoul’s Bukchon, or North Village. This time, we’ll complete our trifecta of Korean […]

  2. […] posts: Andong’s Hahoe Village (November 12, 2008) (A version of this text aired on KBS World Radio on March 21, […]

  3. April 12, 1953 I took photos from a Naktong Bombing site 27 men tent village encamped to monitor bombing practice in the river bed. I have these photos available on request. 2007 we visited Hahoe village & it wasn’t until we returned home here in Hawaii that I began to think that I was nearby to the river bombing site.
    I would like to return to this area in 2010 to question any older Hahoe area occupants to learn if indeed the boming site was close to the village. If anyone has suggestions they would be welcome. I was in the 49th Fighter Bomber wing at K-2, Taegu (now Daegu & Nakdong) My phone number is 808 254-1221 & I live in Kaneohe, Hawaii at 44-208 Malae Pl., Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744. I am dying of curiosity and may revisit celebrating the 60th anniversity of the commencement of the Korean War in 2010.
    aloha, Harry (Harold).

  4. Hi Harry,
    Thank you so much for your comment. I don’t know about the events you mentioned but am really interested to hear more about your experience. If you have photos that I could post on here, I think other visitors would enjoy them.

    Thanks again, Matt

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