Monday, October 5, 2009

A Great Experience to Visit Donggureung Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty and Dasanchodang

The 25th of September was a nice and interesting day for me. On that day we, the bloggers folks, gathered for the second times. It was organized by Presidential Council on National Branding (PCNB). We were scheduled to meet at 9 am in PCNB office located near Euljiro 3 ga Station. Indeed, it is not far from my place, which is Hyehwa. Yet I was little bit worried whether I could wake up very early or not. I do not wake up early these days, as I do not have any class in this semester, only thesis is left for my course. However, there are always early-raiser friends whom you can ask for help in special days. I used this opportunity and asked one of my friends to wake me up from my sweet dreams. Probably because I was excited, I woke up at 7 am by myself before my friend called me. After getting up, I took one hour to get ready as I had Yaksuk (commitment) to meet other blogger friends, Jaad, Claudia, Ivonne at 8 am in front of our dormitory.

After a long time, getting up in the morning, I felt that I am going to Kyung Hee University to attend my language class as I used to do two years ago almost everyday. However, this day was nice and exciting for me as I was going to visit some historical places with some nice friends. And most importantly “I do not need to pay” for it. Although I had some work that day, but I did not want deprive myself from getting such kind of nice experience.
After meeting with my other friends in front of the dormitory, we started to walk towards Hyehwa subway station to catch subway, a daily company of mine, to go to PCNB office. We were able to enter into the PCNB office before 9 am. We spent some time to find the building of PCNB office even though the officials of PCNB sent us clear map how to go there. As soon as we entered into the seminar room of PCNB, Mr Wonkyu lm told me Woh Ajumma (Married woman). This is because at the first program of PCNB, I sang an Ajumma song. After that, the people of PCNB remembered me as Ajumma and unfortunate enough they think that I like only Ajumma but I told several times them that I like Agassi (Young girl). I think that PCNB officials are not going to forget me because of this Ajumma song. Anyway, if I get any other opportunity to sing I would not mind to sing Ajumma song again. I love this song.

After sitting in the seminar room of PCNB for a while, some staff distributed us photographs of the last tour along with sandwiches and drinks. I was happier to get some food than getting photographs. It always feels nice when someone offers me free meal. I was a little bit hungry. So, I did not take much time to finish my sandwich and drink. Yummy Yummy…. Actually, when I feel hungry, I cannot concentrate in other things. After full stomach, I can give full concentration for everything, even skydiving, for example. My stomach and concentration is interrelated. However, after satisfying my stomach, with full concentration I started to listen as a very obedient blogger to every single words of Mr. Wonkyu lm, who was explaining about the tour of the day.

Not many people were able to join at that day tour, may be because of the program held in a weekday. Mr. Wonkyu lm started to explain about our day tour by asking the question, “What is history? What can we learn from the History?” He also asked me this question. I gave my opinion. Anyway, I do not know whether he likes my opinion or not. After getting opinions form us, he turns on the projector and gave us some information about visiting spots indicating to projector screen. Actually, I always like the taste of ancient and historical places. When I heard that we are going to visit some historical places, I told myself “Woh Great”. After a short orientation of the program, we started our day tour around 10 a.m. But we had to wait inside the bus about 15 minutes as one of our friends from Myanmar, could not able to find PCNB office in the scheduled time. Our bus started to run towards Donggureung as soon as our friend arrived.

It took 40 minutes only from the PCNB office to Donggureung, where many royal tombs of Joseon Dynasty are located. When we reached in Donggureung, a guide gave us some information about the place at a glance. And then we entered into the royal tombs of the Jaseon Dynasty. As soon as passing through the gate, I felt I went back to the Jaseon dynasty era and as if I were one of the big officials of Joseon Dynasty. It was nice to see such kind of dream. At that moment, all our friends were looking very curious and taking photographs of the every part of the royal tombs.

The Royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty are a group of tombs of members of the Korean Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The tombs have been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2009. Joseon-era royal tombs followed the guidelines outlined in Chinese Confucian texts, such as the Book of Rites (Li Ji) and the Rites of Zhou (Zhou Li). Many factors went into consideration when deciding the location of a tomb, such as the distance from Hanyang, the distance in relation to other royal tombs, the accessibility of the location, and Korean traditions of pungsu (geomancy). The tomb construction also took into account traditional burial rituals of Korea and the natural environment. This cluster of tombs represents the best sample of royal family group tombs from the Joseon Dynasty. Seven kings and ten queens are interred in nine Neung-type tombs. Famous tombs in this group include the Geonwolleung tomb for King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty.
The tomb of the King Taejo has some special features, for example; the king tomb is made such a way that the people cannot see the tomb from near. They need to keep some distances from the tomb to see it. Our guide was describing us how to show respect to the king. Two of our friends attended in demonstration session to show us how to go to the king tomb. I could not resist myself to join that demonstration session with my friends. Our guide told us that there are two paths to go to the tomb of the king. We used the path which is for general people like us. There is a small room just right side on the way to go to the king tomb where there are two stones, one is six hundreds years and another one nineteen hundreds years to respect the king.

Most of our friends tried to take photos of those two ancient stones and the tomb of the King Taejo. One of our Brazilian friends, Agatha was very busy in taking photos from different angles and was curious to know about everything related with the place even though the age of the trees. I was also motivated to know everything to see her.

After experiencing the royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, we started our journey for another exciting experience to the Dasan Chodang. It took 40 minutes to go there from Donggureung. After walking and preserving all kind of knowledge into our short term memory, the neuron of the brain which is responsible for hungriness, was reminding us that our stomach want some food. I think that the driver realized our situation and he stopped the bus just in front of a nice restaurant in Dasan Chodang. As I was very hungry (I think that it is my problem, always I feel hungry), I just jumped over to the food. I did not feel shy to take two plates of rice and ordered more fishes for me. After fulfill my stomach we started our main vision, which is visiting Dasanchodang to look around the Jeong Yak-Yong or Dasan’s valuable work.
Jeong Yak-yong, also Jeong Yag-yong or Dasan (1762–1836), was a leading Korean religious philosopher during the Joseon Dynasty. He is commonly regarded as the greatest of the Silhak thinkers, who advocated that the formalist Neo- Confucian religious philosophy of Joseon return to practical concerns. Jeong Yag-yong and his brothers were also among the earliest Korean converts to Roman Catholicism.

Jeong is known above all for his work in synthesizing the Neo-Confucian thought of middle Joseon. In the process, he wrote widely in fields including law, political theory, and the Confucian Classics. He sought to return Confucian scholarship to a direct connection with the original thought of Confucius. He called this return to the classics "Susa" learning, a reference to the two rivers that flowed through Confucius' homeland.

Dasanchodang is a little thatched cottage where Jeong Yag-yong lived for 10 years of his banishment. It is at the foot of the Manduk Mountain, which has a nickname, ‘Dasan’ from which he derived his pen name. In this place, he devoted himself to studying and teaching young students. Moreover, he wrote more than 500 books including Mokminsimseo which provided guidelines for local officials to govern people.

Dasanchodang consists of three buildings. ‘Chodang’ the largest building, where Jeong Yak-yong lived, is located at the center. Seoam (the west hermitage) and Dongam (the east hermitage) stand on its left and right sides, respectively. Seoam is the building where his students stayed and Dongam is the place where Dasan used to reside and wrote his books. Originally, the three buildings were thatch-roofed houses but they were restored and changed to tiled-roofed houses in 1970. I could feel how he lived and his strong passion for study even though some parts of the place and cottages had changed with time.

Around Dasanchodang, there are four major spots related to Dasan. Dajo is a wide rock on which he made tea and drank it. As he loved tea, he chose ‘Dasan’, which means ‘tea tree hill’, for a pen name. Next to Dajo, there are Yeonjiseokgasan, a small pond with a heap of stones. At that time, he mobilized workmen and created ‘Seokgasan’, a three-story heap of stones around the pond.

It was more beautiful than a real mountain and got the name Yeonjiseokgasan. Then, climbing up between two houses, Seoam and Chodang, I saw a huge rock named Jeongseok Rock. Dasan inscribed his surname ‘Jeong’ on the rock just before returning to Seoul. This rock is a little high off the ground, but it’s worth the climb.

As I drew closer its message became clear to me. It symbolizes his upright personality and firm resolution not to be daunted by political hardships and to live for social reform. ‘Live right and frankly,’ that is Dasan’s message to us all.

Finally, we visited the Dasan Legacy Museum where Dasan’s undisclosed articles were exhibited during the Gangjin celadon Porcelain Festival. It was a great experience for me. Many people visited there, became interested in Dasan and began to see him as one of Korea’s most prominent scholars. In addition, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism selected the banishment road of Dasan Jeong Yak-yong for one of the country’s road restoration projects. They have chosen roads with culture, history and nature to give people a historic and meaningful message. As Dasan’s articles and his road were chosen by the ministry for their project, we could see that they are more than just relics of one person’s banishment.

Walking along the road Dasan, I could feel his strong spirit and desire to live a clear and meaningful life. He used hardship to improve himself. In these aspects, Dasan is worthy of our respect and I think people have to visit there and recognize them. Sometimes when we face hardship we complain that we can’t endure it, because of our poor environment and arduous work. That is not true. It is because of the way we think, our inner mind. I was very surprised to observe his work and knowing about him. How much this noble guy was devoted to his work and what am I doing? Writing my thesis only I am getting tired.

Anyway, after visiting the exhibition hall, it was time to return to Seoul according to our schedule. Before leaving Dasanchodang, our PCNB officials did not forget to present a small gift to our guide who gave us a lot of valuable information about Dasan what if we can follow one-third in our life, I am sure that our next generation will never forget us. This tour could successfully teach me what we learn from the History.

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