[KTravel] Korea Cultural Heritage Sites Part 1

3:12:00 PM

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Haeinsa Janggyeong Panjeon (Designated 1995)

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Location

Gaya-myeon, Hapcheon-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do

Description

Haeinsa Temple Janggyeongpanjeon Hall is an official archive built to safefy store the 13th-century GoryeoPalman Daejanggyeong (the Tripitaka Koreana), a priceless world's treasure. The distinguishing story of Haeinsa Temple and that of Goryeo Daejanggyeong are well acknowledged, whereas lesser facts are told about the parts on Janggyeongpanjeon Hall in comparison.
Nevertheless, the legacy of Haeinsa Janggyeong Panjeon is very important in Korean history as it provides insights in learning the ancestor's wisdom of protecting cultural assets and how far the techonogical development was achieved in that time. Thanks to these efforts, the current establishment still remains well and stands firm. It is estimated that the Janggyeongpanjeon first opened in early 15th century (1401~1500), and went through many times of surgical constructions due to external invasions and tresspassing.
During these mishaps, amazingly enough, Palman Daejanggyeong was fairly unharmed, despite the shortcomings of the wood itself that is vulnerable to wear, tear, distortion, and fire. Considering these aspects, it is often compared to the Egyptian Pyramids in terms of the mystery of the ancient technology used in the construction. The UNESCO highly acclaimed this and included Janggyeongpanjeon Hall into its World Heritage list in year 1995. It is the existence of Haeinsa Temple Janggyeongpanjeon Hall that made the prominence of the Goryeo Daejanggyeong printing blocks well-maintained, as if they were made yesterday!
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Jongmyo Shrine (Designated 1995)

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Location

Jongno-gu, Seoul

Description

Jongmyo Shrine in Jongno-gu, Seoul, is the royal shrine interred with tablets of royal family of the Joseon Dynasty and the place where the memorial services for the kings and queens were performed. The place itself has the greatest religious implications from a Confucian perspective and it is a sacred site that has the legitimacy of political principal of the time. It is also a great representation of the culture and legacy in the royal history.
The shrine was first built around the end of 14th century by King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty. Unfortunately, it had to undergo reconstruction around 17th century after the complete destruction due to Japanese invasion in 1592. Fortunately enough, it was suggested that the shrine’s originality and structures are well maintained, preserving the spiritual beliefs valued by generations of Korean. Therefore, the unique atmosphere found from the ground and entire compound in sum are considered to be a one-of-a-kind historical monument nowhere to be found, encompassing all the other Asian and Western nations.
Especially in the Jongmyo Shrine’s main building, Jeongjeon, shows the impressive façade of a courtyard of 150 meters long and 100 meters wide, but at the same it is placed in a good harmony with other auxiliary buildings. This testifies the greatest example in aesthetical background and indigenous views on ‘balance’, a concept that the Koreans have long treasured. Along with this cultural acknowledgement, a ceremony held for the kings and queens of the Joseon Period (also known as Jongmyo Jerye in Korean), is regularly held within the site, adding more significance to the reasons for preserving the area.



As a living heirloom, Jongmyo Shine is hidden with many interesting details and facts. First of all, there is ahamabi, which is a commandment stone indicating that anyone who passes by Jongmyo should get off his horse as a form of respect to the ancestors (‘ha’ means to descend and ‘ma’ means horse in Chinese character). Even the kings and queens of the post-era are not exempted from this protocol as they too had to get off from their palanquins in order to pay the righteous respect to former thrones.
Aforementioned, Jeongjeon Hall, which is credited to be the largest wooden structure among all contemporary architectures of the world, is elaborately decorated inside where mortuary tablets are placed, unlike what is observed from the outside. Visitors cannot see this in person, but instead see the replica of Hyangdaecheong, a storage room that held important supplies such as ritual paper, incense, and offerings used during ancestral rituals and sacrifices.
There are three main gates to Jeongjeon, and these brick-covered walkways run through the horizontal stone platform at the east, west and south direction respectively. The narrow path located in the south, is reserved for the royal spirits and thus, so no living soul is allowed to tread on or cross it. The two other gates are for mortals: the east gate was for the king and the west gate was for musicians and dancers. Even the king was no more than a humble mortal in this palace of deceased royal ancestors.



The main hall of the Jeongjeon complex has only rooms for twenty tablets, therefore an expansion was required. Henceforth, Yeongnyeongjeon Hall, meaning ‘Hall of Eternal Comfort’ was built and it follows the same designs and model of Jeongjeon but only the scale differs. One distinctive feature is that this annex has four larger chambers covered with a taller roof at the center, while the Jeongjeon has an uninterrupted roofline with chambers of the same size. As a result, the annex has a more comfortable feeling though not as majestic as the main hall, which is submerged in a stern atmosphere.
Another fact known about Yeongnyeongjeon is that the place is enshrined with kings and queens whose reign period was either overly too short, recorded with no notable achievements or the dethroned. Besides, tablets of Yeonsangun (r. 1495~1506) nor Gwanghaegun (r. 1575-1641) are not housed here, as they are judged to be disrespectful figures who did not practice filial duties and portrayed mischievous behaviors. Thus, this reemphasizes Jongmyo’s deep connection to Confucianism, the belief that established Joseon and the ancestors’ careful decision making in managing the royal ground.
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Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple (Designated 1995)

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Location

Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do

Description

Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple are ancient Buddhist temples of Korea, which were established in the mid-8th century during the golden era of the United Silla Dynasty.
These two heritages represent the highly developed architectural skills and creative craftsmanship of the Silla people. In particular, the magnificent and sublime beauty of Seokguram’s carvings and Bulguksa Temple’s stylobate and its two stone pagodas are considered some of the masterpieces of Buddhist architecture, unparalleled in all of Northeast Asia.
Seokguram is an artificial stone temple made of granite. Inside the round-shaped main hall are the Bonjon Statue, Bodhi-sattva and his disciples. Seokguram was built to preserve these statues. The majority of the stone statues, including the Bonjon figures have high value in cultural heritage for having survived the passage of time with the original structure still intact since the 8th century.
Bulguksa, literally translating to Temple of the Land of Buddha, was built with the aspiration for Buddha’s utopia. The temple was damaged in 1592 by the Japanese during the Imjin War, when all the wooden structures of the temple completely burned down. Luckily, the stone altars, bridges, pagodas, lanterns and bronze statues of the Buddha escaped the fire, and have been well preserved up until now. A partial restoration was conducted from 1969 to 1973, which resulted in the current structure.



The Bonjonbul figure is a giant statue of the Buddha, 3.3 meters in height and 2.7 meters in width. While most statues of Buddha were carved in a standing position wearing a generous smile, the bonjonbul is seated on a pedestal, emanating a sense of grandeur. From the solemn and grave facial expression to wrinkles in the statue’s dress, all details were meticulously carved, representing the splendid and prosperous Buddhist culture of the Unified Silla era.
A key point at Bukguksa is the relief of 10 disciples, a rarity in World Buddhist Art history. It is highly appreciated for its uniqueness and artistic characteristics for vividly capturing the disciples who are diligently carrying out their tasks as Buddha’s followers. The smallest disciple is about 2.08 meters in height the tallest is about 2.2 meters.



Seokgatap, located on the western side of the temple, has two stereobates (stone foundation levels) and is crafted in the traditional pagoda style of the Silla period. Dabotap, which is also called Muyeongtap, is quite simply designed, yet has an imposing appearance, radiating a feeling of stability.
Dabotap, standing on the east side of the yard before Daeungjeon, was distinctively different from other stone pagodas of the Silla era. Remaining completely intact since its establishment, it has been said that the stone tower was based on the shape of Chilbotap, a tower from Buddhism scriptures made of seven treasures.
Although Dabotap and Seokgatap are uniquely different, the foundation stones and stylobate are roughly the same height, providing a balanced and proportional aspect when viewing the two towers together.


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Changdeokgung Palace Complex (Designated 1997)

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Location

Jongno-gu, Seoul

Description

The primary palace of the Joseon Dynasty was Gyeongbokgung Palace. Overlooking Sejong-ro, Seoul’s main street, its grand, majestic features rightfully have become a symbol of the prestigious Joseon Dynasty. Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, and Gyeonghuigung Palace were all subsidiary palaces located inside the capital of the Joseon Dynasty. These palaces served as residences for the royal family in case Gyeongbokgung Palace was undergoing routine repairs or was damaged by fire. Unlike the main Gyeongbokgung Palace, the simple, unimposing style of Changdeokgung Palace is not as majestic or grandiose.
The palace is listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in year 1997 for its historical significance, simplicity and subtleness. The UNESCO committee also described the site as an outstanding example of exceptional architectural designs, where buildings including Injeongmun GateInjeongjeon HallHuijeongdang HallDaejojeon Hall, Buyongji Pond, Nakseonjae Hall and Donhwamun Gate, exist in harmony with the natural environment.



Injeongmun Gate, as the name suggests, is the main gate leading to Changdeokgung Palace and its courtyard where Injeongjeon Hall is centered. The walkway in-between is marked with stones where ranks of royals and officials should stand during royal ceremony for throne succession and other blessing events.
Injeongjeon Hall is also called as ‘A Throne Hall’ due to its function used for conducting state affairs, including the coronation of a new king and prince, where King Hyojong (r. 1649∼1659), King Sukjong (r. 1674∼1720) and King Yeongjo and other kings of Joseon succeeded the throne at this very place. Other major occasions such as assembly of officials, and reception of foreign envoys were also held. Therefore the interior of this building was decorated upscale with modern styles influenced from the western nations, which are rarely seen in that time. Special lanterns, curtains, windows are installed with beautiful yellow drapery on the sides.
Visitors of this day will also be able to notice the variety of furniture displayed here, carved in details with lots of embroideries. The hall still embodies a prestigious ambience even though it was last rebuilt in year 1804.



Daejojeon Hall, the National Treasure No. 816, is a building primarily served as an official residence of the queen. It is located close to king's residence as well, therefore making an ideal place for young princes and princesses to make frequent visits, to receive trainings for national affairs and education on their responsibilities from an early age. Aesthetic features outside and inside of this architecture is another element that are highly acknowledgeable of the Daejojeon.
The royal garden located to north of Changdeokgung Palace is called Huwon, or Secret Garden in English because it is at a rare part of the establishment. Thankfully, the garden was kept as natural as possible and was touched by human hands only when absolutely necessary. Huwon was constructed during the reign of King Taejong, the first king of Joseon, loved by royal family members thereafter. It is good for visit in any time of the year, but the most beautiful time is when autumn foliage is at its peak, topping the ground of the palace with warmer colors of yellow and orange. There are a number of treasures including trees dating more than 300 year old and small pavilions and fountains completing the traditional Korean style garden.
In order to preserve the historical integrity of the Huwon, visiting hours are strictly limited. Visitors to the garden must be accompanied by a palace tour guide and the tickets to Huwon can be purchased from online as well as on-site, separately or by an integrated admission pass.
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Hwaseong Fortress (Designated 1997)

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Location

Suwon, Gyeonggi-do

Description

Spanning over 5.74 kilometers and reaching a height of 4 to 6 meters, Hwaseong Fortress located in Suwon, Gyeonggi-do is a living remnant of the nation’s proud history, representing the Joseon Dynasty of the 18th century. Built by King Jeongjo (Joseon’s 22nd king) in 1796 as an act of filial devotion to his father, Crown Prince Jangheon (also known as Sadoseja), and in an effort to make Suwon the second capital city, he ordered the relocation of his father’s tomb, as well as many of the nation’s resources.
Being the world's first planned city, Suwon Hwaseong Fortress is highly praised by experts for its thorough and systematic designs compared with other structures of the time, valid even today. The construction methods used encompass the strong points of both Asian and Western elements together. In addition, the fortress was built in good harmony with the surrounding nature, implementing its geological advantage wisely for strategic defense rather than destroying it. There are ever more secrets being unveiled about Hwaseong Fortress, and to appreciate these valuable aspects, UNESCO enlisted Hwaseong Fortress on the World’s Cultural Heritage List in the year 1997.
The magnitude of the construction project was enormous, with over 700,000 laborers working on the project from January 1794 to September 1796. After the completion, 5,000 troops belonging to the royal guard unit were stationed in the fortress. Though Hwaseong Fortress ultimately failed to become the second capital of the Joseon Dynasty, it remains a symbol of both the ingenuity and technological advancements of the period.



Paldalmun Gate is the southern gate of Hwaseong Fortress, designated National Treasure No. 402, and is unique in that it is detached from the rest of the gates. Being located in the middle of the busy city, the gate was encircled by a crescent-shaped Ongseong Wall to prevent the enemy from attacking the fortress. Thanks to this structure, Paldalmun Gate was able to keep its original shape, boasting a mesmerizing scene after sunset.
Seobuk Gongsimdon Tower is another structure designated as a national treasure. Made with bricks, it served as a major guard point, defending against attacks from the Hwaseomun direction. The walls feature arrow-slots to give soldiers a sort of built-in shield, while shooting firearms and canons through the holes created a way to prevent soldier casualties.



Banghwasuryujeong Pavilion (interchangeably called Dongbuk Gangnu), sits above Yongyeon Pond, providing great scenery, and functions as a strategic military position. Standing at the east side of Hwahongmun Gate, this northeast pavilion commands a breathtaking view over the city, exhibiting an exquisite beauty and tranquility found nowhere else.
Hwaseomun is the western gate of Hwaseong, which previously served as the major route connecting the center of Suwon with Namyangman Bay and the western coast (Seohae). Designated National Treasure No. 403, this gate is also surrounded by an ongseong wall, though slightly different from the one that circles Paldalmun, being open on one side.
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[full credits to Korea Tourism Organization]

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