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Replicating ancient marketplace to celebrate world's oldest book printed with movable metal type

All Headlines 17:12 August 29, 2016

CHEONGJU, South Korea, Aug. 29 (Yonhap) -- Organizers of an international festival on the world's oldest extant book printed with movable metal type, Jikji, said Monday they will replicate a marketplace from Korea's 918-1392 Goryeo Dynasty to provide a glimpse into the social background of the times when it was created.

The Jikji Korea Festival will open Thursday in the central South Korean city of Cheongju, some 130 kilometers south of Seoul, for an eight-day run under the theme of "Jikji, Enlightening the World." The main venues will include the Cheongju Arts Hall and the Cheongju Early Printing Museum.

Printed at the city's Heungdeok Temple in 1377, Jikji is the abbreviated title of "Jikjisimcheyojeol," a book on the Zen teachings of great Buddhist priests. In that year, two disciples of Ven. Baegun completed the publication of the book written by him using movable metal type.

UNESCO confirmed Jikji as the world's oldest metal-printed book in 2001 and included it in the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme that year.

Cheongju, home to the world's oldest movable metal type, has held the Jikji Festival since 2003 as part of efforts to develop the city into a "hub of printing culture," like Germany's Mainz, and to further promote movable metal type printed texts around the world.

In the buildup to this year's Jikji festival, which is held as an international event for the first time, a group of 19 civic bodies has drawn up a plan to make a replica of a Goryeo marketplace for people visiting the festival, a measure to help citizens take part in the event in a more active way.

Under the plan, the marketplace will be set up around the parking lot of the Cheongju Early Printing Museum, using thatched-roofed houses in place.

Merchants, attired in traditional Goryeo dress, will offer their goods to visitors at the booths where they can try making Korean paper, ceramic wares and iron goods that were the dynasty's main specialties.

As part of an effort to manifest Goryeo's brisk trading activities, people from multicultural families and foreigners, including Chinese students studying in South Korea and Turkish businesspeople, will take part in the re-enactment of commercial activities in the imagined marketplace.

During the festival, visitors can walk into the past by strolling the streets of the marketplace after dressing themselves with Goryeo clothes, fans and umbrellas. When dressed appropriately, they can stop stop by a tavern to get a drink of Korean traditional rice wine, or "makgeolli"; view a performance of "pansori," a traditional Korean form of storytelling performed by one vocalist and one percussionist; and see a "madanggeuk" show, a traditional mask-dance drama.

People of the theater in the Cheongju region are to play the parts of traditional rice candy vendors, peddlers and Korean A-frame coolies.

The organizing committee has conducted a campaign to hope for the return of the metal-print Jikji, kept in the National Library of France, to South Korea, and to shed light on its creative value.

Under the campaign, a total of 1,377 people including elementary school pupils have written their wishes on patches of cloth that will be displayed as a mosaic in front of the Cheongju Arts Hall.

It will one of the festival's two symbolic structures with a wall of 8,000 lattice boxes, dubbed the "Jikji Wall," which has been erected before the Cheongju Arts Hal. The wall, 11.7 meters high and 87 meters long, features a total of 16,021 Chinese characters contained in the second volume of the metal type printed book.

The boxes are covered with translucent plastic. With the effects of light-emitting diode illumination, they are expected to present visitors with a colorful night view when the Sept. 1-8 festival is run.

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