Tag Archives: spirit

Guide to: Seolleung and Jeongneung tombs

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Royal tomb at Seonjeongneung. SCREAMfmLondon

There are 40 royal tombs honoring members of the Korean Joseon Dynasty throughout South Korea. The scenic tombs are scattered in about 18 different clusters — most of which are located near Seoul.

One such cluster, housing Seolleung and Jeongneung, is located in modern-day Gangnam. Seonjeongneung is the burial grounds of two Joseon Dynasty kings and one queen.

An entry fee of 1,000 KRW grants you access to the expansive, gorgeous park.

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The first structure you encounter at most royal tombs is the Jeongjagak shrine — the site where memorial services are held and offerings are presented.

Two paths called “chamro” lead up to the T-shaped shrine building. The sinro path is slightly elevated because this is the spirit road. You are not allowed to walk on the spirit road unless, of course, you are a spirit or a god of some sort. The eoro path runs parallel to the sinro — this is the path of the king, and this is the one you are supposed to take when visiting the tombs.

There are also two sets of separate staircases leading up to the shrine. The spirit stairs are larger and more ornately decorated with stone swirls along the sides. The king’s stairs are simply stacks of bricks (with a helpful little “you may step on” sign guiding the visitors’ way).

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Beyond the first Jeongjagak building at Seonjeongneung are the tombs of King Seongjong and Queen Jeonghyeon. King Seongjong is the ninth king of the Joseon Dynasty, and he ruled from 1469-1494.

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The tomb of King Seongjong. SCREAMfmLondon

Queen Jeonghyeon was his second wife who outlived him by 35 years. She is most notable for her interest in reviving Korean Buddhism. In 1498, she had the nearby Gyeonseongsa Temple refurbished and renamed as Bongeunsa.

The grave mounds are protected on three sides by walls and are flanked by great stone statues of scholars, soldiers, horses and other animals that watch over the tombs.

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Tomb guardians. SCREAMfmLondon

In addition to the tombs, the grounds offer a very beautiful chance to escape the bustle of Seoul to stroll through thickets of trees, see wild pheasants and fall down in the mud. Trust me: I did all three. The air smells fresh and woodsy, and there are apricots and grapes growing around every corner.

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Full disclosure: I fell down these stairs. SCREAMfmLondon

But, don’t worry; you’re not really, really in nature. I am such a sucker for that silvery city skyline visible just above the groves of red pine trees.

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View from the top. SCREAMfmLondon

On the other side of the site is the Jeongneung tomb — the burial ground of King Jungjong. He was the 11th king of the Joseon Dynasty and King Seongjong’s second son. King Jungjong is known for succeeding his tyrannical half-brother, Yeonsangun, to the throne after the latter was overthrown in a coup in 1506.

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Modern-day Gangnam encroaching upon the Joseon-era buildings. SCREAMfmLondon

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Guide to: Bukchon Hanok Village

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Traditional Korean architecture in Bukchon Hanok Village. SCREAMfmLondon

Bukchon Hanok Village is one of those must-see spots in Seoul where the traditional (a village that has been preserved for about 600 years) is beautifully juxtaposed with the modern (the streets are jam-packed with tourists holding Instagram photoshoots 24/7).

The hanok village is located pretty centrally between Gyeongbok Palace and Changdeok Palace. The neighborhood was where high-ranking government officials and nobility lived during the Joseon Dynasty (a Korean kingdom that reigned from 1392-1897).

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It’s a bit like the Hollywood Hills of the Joseon Dynasty — especially with its ornately-decorated, exclusive exteriors and the steep, narrow and winding streets showing off an expansive view of the greenery and busy city life below. On the way up and scattered throughout are ritzy restaurants, clothing boutiques, art galleries and cafés. And in between the groupings of traditional houses are ultra-modern apartments that some poor souls currently pay a lot of money to live in, although it must be miserable having so many strange people milling around outside every time you’re trying to drive the car out of the garage.

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Kkoktu museum in Bukchon Hanok Village. SCREAMfmLondon

One of my favorite parts of Bukchon is the miniature kkoktu museum hidden inside one of the hanoks. Kkoktu are small, wooden funerary figures used to decorate funeral biers during the Joseon Dynasty. Basically, they are colorful little buddies that accompany your spirit on its journey to the afterlife.

Kkoktu come in a variety of styles and, together, form a complete little gang. Some are guides that ensure the spirit doesn’t get lost. Some are fierce guardians carrying weapons to fight off any evil spirits the group might encounter. Some are mother figures that provide comfort in case your spirit feels scared or sad about having left the mortal realm. And some are entertainers who play music or perform acrobatic tricks to keep the mood from getting too somber as the procession makes its way to the hereafter.

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Inside a hanok in Samcheong-dong. SCREAMfmLondon

The kkoktu museum itself is pretty tiny, but the figures (and the stories behind them) are so neat. The museum also offers the unique chance to walk around and check out the inside of a hanok. It’s a win-win. I love this place.

Everything in Samcheong-dong is pretty delightfully scenic, from the street artists to the architecture (both modern and historical, really). Nothing beats the view of those tiled roofs in front of great, silvery skyscrapers and the Namsan Tower in the distance. At Bukchon Hanok Village, you can do it all: drink some coffee, study some history, buy some expensive jewelry, photobomb some selfies.

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I thought about cropping out the random dude, but it gives a more accurate representation of the area to depict all the camera-flashing that goes on here. SCREAMfmLondon