IN A bright early morning a village is filled with excitement. Crackidi
crack! A few men are making small Yunnori sticks. "It just looks like
children's play when you see those women juggling around with these tiny
sticks!" "That sure is. Anyway, what penalty should we give the losers this
time? Hohoho!" Meanwhile, in the women's quarters women are talking about what
their fortunes are going to be. "This year, I will definitely be engaged!" "You
cannot know that. Mr. Lee is the one who has the sticks. He will divine our
future." What is it that these villagers are all excited about? Oh, of course it
is the Yunnori day!
Yunnori is a traditional game which can be enjoyed by everyone.
It was played on new years or the first full moon as a village event. There is
no fixed theory about how yunnori occured. However, according to Suseo,
the book of Chinese history, yunnori existed before the period of the Three
Kingdoms. The items needed for yunnori are four sticks called yuts,
four stones called yunmals, and a board named yutpan. Each
side of a yut represents the sky and earth, which means while throwing
them, man can be in control of nature. 28 circles that are drawn on the
yutpan represent the stars. The movement of yunmals expresses
the circulation of the stars. When our ancestors played yunnori, they were also
keeping in mind the harmony between humans and nature.
Yunnori was mainly played on new years or the first full moon.
However, since yunnori was such an amusing game, it was held more often than
twice a year. Yunnori meant more than just fun. Villagers could inspire a sense
of cooperation and also relieve stress. This was important because in the old
agricultural society, partnership was an important factor. People could foresee
if it would be a good or bad year for farming by throwing the yuts. In
Hwanghae Province, a district in the north west of Korea, villagers
played yunnori to find out which kind of crop would have a good harvest.
Meanwhile, personal fortunes were also hot issues and fortune tellers gave
people predictions about their futures by throwing the yuts. However,
as time passed by the tradition of fortune telling disappeared.
Many kinds of yunnori also died away. It is usually thought that
there has always been one kind of yunnori. However, yunnori varied from region
to region . In the southern area, people used chestnuts as yuts and
threw them using a bowl, while northerners used beans instead of chestnuts.
There were also folk songs along with the play. The songs were about hoping for
their yutmals to run faster or the joy of having a good number. In
yunnori, the numbers one to five are called doe, gae,
gul, yut and moe. Every number has a humorous song.
For example, if one got a doe, he or she would sing the doe song.
"Yunnori encourages community spirit. Every holiday people play
yunnori together and feel the partnership inside." says Lee Chul-su, an expert
of Korean traditional play. Yunnori is a simple game that can be played by
everyone regardless of the number of people. Moreover, the yunnori items can be
bought in markets or stationary stores, which makes it easier to play. By
playing yunnori in teams, the community spirit grows higher and higher. "Through
yunnori, people in individual societies can learn the importance of harmony and
see the composure of our ancestors," says Lee.
As time passed by, the local
color of yunnori gradually disappeared and only its entertainment features
became overemphasized. However, yunnori is still played on holidays by families
and friends. They can gather up and build trust and friendship through yunnori.
Thus, yunnori is continuously being loved by many Koreans. By the act of
throwing the sticks and singing songs all together, people can learn not only
the harmonious spirit, but also the composure of our ancestors.
Needed: Four sticks (yut), four
stones (yunmal) for each team, and a board
1. Throw the yuts! Move your stones forward
according to the number of sticks that land back-side-up. If all
yuts land right-side-up, move forward five spaces.
2. You can move any yunmal present on the
3. If your yunmal lands on
the same space as your opponent's, the other team's yunmal will
have to start again. If it lands on another yunmal of your own,
they can move together.
4. If the last yunmal of a
team arrives home first, that team wins.