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Jeongneung

Jeongneung

This morning I had originally decided to get up and head out to Central Park, but then I got to thinking… why do a video on Central Park during the week? The fun of the park is seeing all the action taking place. So I changed my mind and decided to head into Seoul and visit Seonjeongneung: The Royal Tombs.

When I first shared that I wanted to go visit this location with my manager, he was shocked, since it isn’t a huge draw on the tourist circuit. I laughed, as I think these sites are very interesting given their history. A sentiment shared by the UN as UNESCO is set to announce the site as a World Heritage Site this year.

Gate, Path, and Ritual House

Gate, Path, and Ritual House

Seonjeongneug is home to the royal tombs of the 9th and 11th kings (and their wives) of the Joseon Dynasty. After paying your admission you find yourself immediately at a red gate. This served as not only a marker for holy ground, but to ward off evil spirits. At the top of the gate is the Taegeuk (the Korean Yin/Yang symbol: Red is the air, Blue is the earth, Yellow is humanity). The spikes on the gate announce the King’s authority over the land.

From the gate is a bi-level path. The upper path is for the heavenly spirit of the departed King and the lower path is for the living. The path leads up to a temple where rituals are still performed to this day to honor the departed kings. It’s here that the body and spirit of the kings were separated, only to be rejoined when they meet once more at the tomb. While you can fully explore Seolleung, one must admire Jeongneung from afar.

King Seongjong (1457-1494) was the 9th king of the Joseon Dynasty. He was well loved and left legacies that still are a part of Korean life today. His tomb is the Seolleung. It’s a large structure situated on a hill. There are three levels representing military, civil, and royal responsibilities. Stone statues stand guard on the first two tiers, along with a giant lantern symbolizing education and enlightenment. The final (royal) tier is marked by a stone tablet which covers the tomb’s entrance. To either side of the tablet are a pair of tall pillars. These pillars have holes in them, which the King’s spirit could enter and be reunited with his body.

The Tomb itself is a 12 sided structure, symbolizing the 12 directions and signes of the Chinese Zodiac. There are intricate stone carvings around the tomb as well as several stone animals for protection.

Jeongneung is the burial site for King Jungjong (1488-1544), the 11th king of the Joseon Dynasty. Both tombs are surrounded by a lush pine forest and business professionals from around the area often come to the grounds to have lunch or relax. It really does give a soothing feel to an overworked person stepping in from the concrete jungle. For more pictures, visit the album.

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Written by Steve Miller

June 11, 2009 at 4:43 pm

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