Haman Nakhwa Nori: The Traditional Korean Fireworks Festival
The Nakhwa Nori Fireworks festival in Haman, South Korea, is a spectacular event that has been celebrated for centuries. During the festival, traditional Korean fireworks light up the night sky, creating a breathtaking display of color and light.
In addition to the fireworks, visitors can also enjoy traditional Korean music and dance performances, making the Nakhwa Nori Festival a unique and unforgettable experience. Let’s dive into the history and significance of the Nakhwa Nori Fireworks festival and useful tips for experiencing the festival to the fullest.
Here’s what to expect when visiting the Haman Nakhwa Nori Festival.
History of Nakhwa Nori Fireworks
Nakhwa Nori is a traditional fireworks festival that takes place in Haman County, located in the southern region of South Korea. The festival has a rich history that dates back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and is one of the oldest and most significant cultural events in the region.
The origin of the festival can be traced back to the early 18th century when King Yeongjo, the 21st king of the Joseon Dynasty, visited Haman County. During his visit, he witnessed a spectacular fireworks display and was so impressed by it that he ordered the locals to continue the tradition and hold the festival every year.
Today, the festival is held for free every year on Buddha’s Birthday.
During the festival, the main attraction is the traditional Korean fireworks, which are called “cheonyeondae” in Korean. These fireworks are made by skilled artisans who use traditional techniques to create intricate designs and patterns in the sky. The fireworks are accompanied by traditional Korean music and dance performances, which add to the festive atmosphere. The festival has faced many challenges over the years, including interruptions due to war and political unrest. However, the local community has always been committed to preserving the tradition, and the festival has continued to be held every year.
Today, the Nakhwa Nori Festival has become a major tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the world. The festival provides a unique opportunity to experience Korean culture and tradition firsthand and has become an important part of the cultural heritage of the region.
How to Get to Haman
Address: 36-2 Gwangjeong-ri, Gaya-eup, Haman-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
경상남도 함안군 가야읍 광정리 36-2
From Seoul, take a KTX to either Dongdaegu Station or Jinju Station. From Dongdaegu Station, you can take a ITX train to Haman Station and from Jinju a Mugunghwa Train to Haman Station. Both trips will take around 4.5 hours. From Haman Station, you can walk 15 minutes to reach the Nakhwa Nori Festival grounds.
Where to Stay in Haman
Due to the long travel time down to Haman, I recommend spending a night in Haman. There are several motels you can choose to stay in Haman. I stayed at JM Motel, which was centrally located and very inexpensive.
What else is there to do in Haman?
Haman was an important place in Korean history, especially during the Gaya kingdom. Gaya was situated between Baekje and Shilla in the southern part of the Korean peninsula. The kingdom prospered especially due to the abundant iron resources available in the region. Today, you can still visit several ancient historic sites from the Gaya period, the best-preserved of which are the royal Gaya tombs of Marisan Tumuli.
If you want to learn more about the Gaya kingdom, read this interesting paper titled “The Cultural Characteristics of Korea’s Ancient Kaya Kingdom” by Kim Taesik, Professor, Dept. of History Education, Hongik University.
Besides the fireworks festival, Haman is famous for the UNESCO Marisan Tumuli site where political leaders of Aragaya were buried from the 1st to mid-6th century.
The cemetery consists of 127 mounded tombs, and stone-lined chambers and corridor-chambers were built over time. The site was identified as a tomb cluster for ancient kings and is well-preserved.
Excavations at the cemetery have revealed a large quantity of burial objects, including unique local pottery variations. The museum is quite new and super interesting to visit! Do not miss it.
Address: 153-31, Gobun-gil, Gaya-eup, Haman-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do, Republic of Korea
What to expect from the Nakhwa Nori Festival
The festival officially goes from around 5PM to 8PM – but people start flocking to the festival grounds around 3PM to get a good seat and to watch the event getting set up. You can grab some street food from local vendors to pass the time.
Before the event starts, several musical performances take place and special guests are introduced. The history of the Nakhwa Nori fireworks is also told by locals who grew up in Haman.
At around 5 PM, just as the sun begins to set, the fireworks staff start cruising around the pond with a boat lighting the traditional paper firework sticks one by one. This is very interesting to watch.
About one hour into the spectacle, the fireworks start to release their fairylike light and the true magic begins. Each firework stick releases hundreds of glowing sparks as the fire slowly burns up the stick, creating an otherworld-like scene.
It takes about 2 hours for the firework sticks to burn completely. After this, the festival is over and people are on their way.
How do the Nakhwa Fireworks work?
Charcoal powder from oak tree bark is filled into a paper bag, which is then hung up in long lines. Setting fire to the bag burns the charcoal powder inside, scattering tiny flames all around.
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