‘Palgwanhoe’, meaning Buddhist Festival of Eight Vows, was the largest festival of Goryeo held on November 15th (lunar) calendar at Gaegyeong.
On this day, a memorial service was offered to Buddha and a festival was staged to please the deities. The king himself performed the rituals to the heavens, mountains, rivers and dragons of the sea.
The congratulatory performances lasted until late in the evening. Not only the high-ranking officials of Gaegyeong, but also the local officials representing each region took part in the ceremonies.
On this day, envoys and merchants from other nations came to see the king and offered him gifts. Merchants from around the then known world took this opportunity to sell products to the aristocrats from not only Gaegyeong, but the rest of the country as well.
Palgwanhoe was the place of festivals and trade, as well as the place for the exchange of information where news on the surrounding nations and regions could be obtained.
Meanwhile, Yeongdeunghoe, meaning the Lantern Festival, held on lunar January 15, was the most important Buddhist event. On this day, temples, government offices, markets and private houses hung the lotus lanterns. This signified the enlightening of the world that is filled with agony, foolishness and darkness, and prayers to Buddha as well as prosperity and peace of the state and the royal family. Also staged at the festival were various folk entertainment. Men and women of all ages participated in this festival held in a joyous atmosphere.
The civil service examinations of Goryeo which were employed to appoint government officials were comprised of four subjects:‘jesul-gwa’,‘ myeonggyeong-gwa’,‘ jap-gwa’and‘ seung-gwa’.‘ Jesul-gwa’evaluated the candidates on the basis of their ability to compose in set Chinese literary forms while‘ myeonggyeong-gwa’examined knowledge of Confucian classics. The ‘Jesul-gwa’examination was deemed the higher. ‘Jap-gwa’examined candidates for specialization while‘ seung-gwa’ examined candidates for Buddhist monks. Those who passed the civil service exam did not immediately serve in the central government. In principle, successful candidates were appointed to head local units within three or four years of passing the exam and they had to serve for 20 to 30 years before they actually attained high posts. However, becoming a government official was a guarantee to wealth, power and honor. As payment for serving the state, the government officials were given land to engage in agriculture and forest land to derive firewood. They were also given rice and barley twice a year as part of the salary.