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Marvelous Mungyeong and its terrific tea and ceramics festival

Mungyeong (pronounced “moon-gyoung”), a small city nestled in the foothills of Mt. Sobaek in southern Korea, is known for its scenery, but it is not the only reason why more than five million people visit the place every year.

Many visit there to check out town’s prowess in ceramic-making, as the town boasts a 900-year history in producing ceramic crafts and tea bowls in particular.

The large tea bowls, called chassabal in Korean, are used for making powdered tea and are known to be simple and plain in color and texture.

Mungyeong is an ideal place to produce such fine tea ware, thanks to the abundance of high-quality clay, pure river water from its valleys and a huge supply of firewood from its thickly-wooded forest.

In fact, as the only place in Korea that produces and fires bowls in traditional kilns located near a deep mountain pass cutting through the Mt. Sobaek range, Mungyeong carries on the excellence of traditional pottery.

To celebrate the tea bowl making tradition, Mungyeong in Gyeongsangnam-do (South Gyeongsang Province) hosts the annual Traditional Tea Bowl Festival.

In its 11th year, the festival will be held from May 1 through 10 this year under the theme “Smell the Aroma of Traditional Tea.” It offers visitors a chance to appreciate the beauty and culture of traditional tea and tea bowls.

The venue this year will be Mungyeong Saejae, the filming location of a local TV drama “The Great King Sejong,” boasting a bigger venue and better programs.

This is an opportunity to not only learn about the region’s ceramic traditions, but also to experience one of the most beautiful regions in Korea.

In addition, performances, exhibitions and hands-on events will guarantee a great time.

One exhibition is an international trade show, with craftsmen from 26 different countries including Japan, China, and England and France, participating. The number of countries is the largest this year, up from 16 of last year.

Meanwhile, a special exhibition will showcase works by seven of Korea’s best ceramic craftsmen. There will also be one displaying foreign teas, where guests can learn more about the various kinds of teas served in other cultures and regions.

A variety of hands-on experience opportunities will delight pottery enthusiasts. Programs like making traditional pottery, drawing illustrations of the bowls, lighting the fire in the kiln where the bowls are baked and also making their own traditional tea and playing folk games promise to be entertaining.

Some 5,000 old-style tea cups will be given free to visitors at different events.

There will also be an auction of ceramics and pottery from Mungyeong’s best kilns at 3 p.m. every day during the festival.

There will be performances throughout the festival to enliven the atmosphere.

For more information, visit (English and Japanese are to be available soon; for now, Korean only).

You can also call 054-550-6393 (Korean or English).

*How to get there from Seoul

Take a bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (East Seoul Bus Terminal -- Gangbyeon Station, line No. 2, exit 4) to the Mungyeong Bus Terminal, which is about a two-hour ride.

The festival venue is about 25 kilometers from the terminal. Take the city bus for Saejae Provincial Park from the Mungyeong Bus Terminal (runs 07:10 a.m.-18:00 p.m. / every 40 minutes).

By Han Aran Staff Writer

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