Hwaseong


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Asia » South Korea » Gyeonggi-do
July 5th 2015
Published: August 19th 2015
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When I moved to Hwaseong, three years ago, I didn't think that there were any sights to see in the area. However I do a piece of work with my students, where they have to describe a famous attraction in the local area. Thanks to my students mentioning Yungneung and Geolleung, the royal tombs. I did a bit of research and found out that they were pretty close along with Yongjusa Temple to where I live. I was going to visit yesterday, but the weather was crappy. Luckily I got a gorgeous day today. I took the bus, you can get either the 34 or 34-1. The journey took about 40 minutes and definitely went through serial killer territory. Hwaseong's claim to fame is a serial killer roamed the area between 1986 and 1991, murdering 10 women. A great Korean movie 'Memories of Murder' was based on these killings. Sadly, the killer was never caught and the statute of limitations ran out in 2006, meaning he would not be prosecuted.

Both the royal tombs and the temple are on the same bus route. After looking the route between the two online they didn't seem that far apart and that it would be easy to walk between the two. I decided to get off t the tombs and visit them first, as they were the furthest away. Then I planned to walk back to the temple. However, the journey between the stops was a lot longer than it appeared on paper and through busy country roads with no pavements. Yeah, I decided to nix that idea. The royal tombs are a two minute walk from the bus stop. I thought there was a small entrance fee, but it appears that the powers that be have done away with it. The man in the ticket booth did inquire which country as to which country I come from and noted it down in a jotter. There was also a small hanok style building which was set in a little courtyard, which serves as the tomb keeper's house. This is where preparation for rites occurs.

I decided to head to Yungneung first. This is the royal tomb of posthumous King Jangjo and Queen Heongyeong. King Jangjo, known as Crown Prince Sado 1735-1762, was the second son of King Yeongjo and the father of King Jeongjo. Those names are tongue twisters! Because King Jangjo was very smart and excelled in calligraphy and martial arts at an early age, his father allowed him to handle state affairs while he was still a crown prince. He died at the young age of 28. The epithet Sado means remembrance and lamentation. Queen Heongyeong, from the Hong family, married him in 1744.

The walk to the tomb took about 5-10 minutes. The park the tombs are set in is very pretty and peaceful. I was surprised at how busy it was. I crossed a bridge which goes over the forbidden stream. The forbidden streams at the entrance of the Joseon tombs serves as a boundary between the secular and the sacred realms. I love that idea of water separating the two worlds. All Joseon tombs are set out in the same way and are divided into three area, the entrance area, the ceremonial area, and the burial area. I crossed from the entrance area to the ceremonial area, and walked through the red spiked gate. This gate signifies the the entrance to sacred territory. You then walk up worship road, which is a flagstone walkway linking the red spiked gate and the T-shaped shrine. The path is divided into two lanes, the higher one on the left is the spirit road, and the lower one on the right is for the king. To the left there is a small building, which is a royal kitchen. I presume this is where they prepare the food that is given as an offering. Lots of people were using it to take a rest in and get a bit of shade from the sun.

I wandered up the path towards the T-shaped shrine, however I walked to the right towards the stele shed. The stele shed holds the tombstones, which are inscribed with the achievements of the tomb's occupant. I didn't get too close though, because I didn't know if it was allowed or not. I, then, walked back toward the T-shaped shrine and had a nose around. You couldn't enter it, but the windows and doors are open so you can see in. This is where the ancestral rites are held and the tablet of the deceased is enshrined there. Behind this is the burial area, which as it is on raised ground, it is a little difficult to see. The burial mound is in the centre and is surrounded at the back and the sides with a bent wall to protect it. At the front and to the sides inside the walls, there were stone figures of animals, military and civil officials. The military figures guard the tomb and its occupant. They are located on the lower platform. The middle platform houses the statues of the civil officials and a stone lantern. The upper platform has the burial mound.

There was an information board, that showed different paths between the two tombs. I decided to take the longest path which was about two or three kilometres, through the woods behind the tombs. The guide stated that the walk would take about fifty minutes, but even in flip flops it didn't take that long. The path was really quiet and I enjoyed the walk. It wasn't too steep going up or down. I passed some lovely flowers growing and got some good views of the city surrounding the tombs. It was so peaceful I had completely forgot that I was right near the city. The only bad point was that the last part of the path heading down to Geolleung was quite smelly. I don't know if it was some port-a-potties or someone was using human feces as fertilizer, but the air was pretty ripe!

Geolleung is really similar to Yungneung. But this tomb houses King Jeongjo and Queen Hyoui. King Jeongjo was the seond son of King Jangjo and he took the throne when his grandfather, King Yeongjo, died in 1776. He clained straight away to be Crown Prince Sado's son and he strove to appease his father's spirit. He was a skilled literary and military figure. He established the Royal Library and the Royal Guard Garrison, where he built Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon. He also employed the policy of impartiality to avoid problems with the different factions that were about at the time. Queen Hyoui married King Jeongjo in 1762 and was well liked by her husband's family due to the great care she took of her mother-in-law, Lady Hyegyeonggung.

I spent a while wandering around Geolleung. It was really pretty, too. It was quite busy, but still felt really peaceful. It is a beautiful place to be buried, royalty always get the best spots. I wandered around the T-shaped shrine and near to the Stele shed. I wanted to go closer but nobody else was so I didn't really know if it was allowed and if you should keep a respectful distance. I wandered back towards the entrance, so the area is so gorgeous with all the oak trees in the forest. There was an information centre near to the entrance, so I took a look. Everything was in Korean, so I didn't understand anything. Well, apart form the map that showed the locations of the burial sites of the Joseon royal family.

I headed out of the tombs and went to catch the bus to Yongjusa Temple. I didn't have to wait too long for a bus to come. I was deposited outside of the temple. I wandered in through the gates, which house the four big statues, I think that they are there to protect the temple. I paid my entrance fee, I think it was 1,500 won, and was given some leaflets about the temple and its templestay programme. However, the leaflets were all in Korean, so I have no idea what they say. The temple was a lot quieter than the tombs. I walked up the path to the gate. This entrance way/building was very pretty. I spent a while taking some photos of the walls and windows.

Yongjusa was founded in 854 A. D. during the reign of King Munseong of the Silla Dynasty. Back then it went under the name of Garyangsa and it was a famous seminary. However the temple was destroyed by fire during the 1636 Manchu War. The name Yongjusa means 'Dragon Jewel Temple'. It is one of the main temples of the Jogye Order of Koren Buddhism. It was rebuilt in the 18th century and this is when its name changed to Yongjusa. It was rebuilt under the orders of King Jeongjo to honour his father Crown Prince Sado, as his grave was moved from Yangju to Hwaseong. The main role of Yongjusa was to protect his father's tomb and to wish heavenly bliss.

I spent a while wandering around the temple. It was really pretty. Korean temples are all pretty similar but I still love exploring ones new ones that I haven't been too. I wandered around all the different buildings, looking inside and taking photos of the outsides. There was some construction work going on at one side, so I couldn't really explore that part properly. Temples are always very calm and serene. I was surprised that in one of the building there was a woman crying and praying quite loudly. I wonder if she has suffered from a recent bereavement as she seemed so upset. I felt sorry for her, especially when I saw her adult son sitting outside, looking bored, playing on his smartphone. There was a water fountain off to the right, which was surrounded by the cute little monk statues and other small Buddha statues. I headed back to the bus stop, and a lady who had also been in the temple started talking to me. I had no idea what she was saying but she seemed friendly.


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