Ibike Korea People-to-People Program
Photo essay: Gyeongju Tour
|Explore this ancient capital of
the Silla Empire.
Points of Interest: A bounty of national treasures: Tombs, temples, folk village, national museum
Gyeongju has many things to like: Part of the downtown started with narrow
streets and these have been put on a sever "traffic-diet" to further deter
driving in the neighborhood and make the
environment more pedestrian friendly.
The central covered market is spacious, light and have a wide variety of interesting products to muse about.
|Workers prepare to place live flowers on the "center piece" in front of the railroad station (left). The structure is constructed with a drip irrigation system that goes to each boxes so that the plants can be easily watered. The finished product is on the right.|
|Because of protective tariffs many bikes in Korea are domestically manufactures. Even "low cost" imported Chinese bicycles are relatively expensive. The domestic bicycle industry produces a little over a half million units a year (2003), but is expected to decline in the future. (By comparison, the domestic automobile industry produces over three million units a year (2003).) The lower picture features rental bikes, including a tandem (bicycle for two), which are very popular with young couples on the weekends. For more on cycling see www.ibike.org/engineering/kr-mnt/.|
|A woman vendor carrying her inventory of snack bread on the racks of her bicycle.|
|Students flashing a friendly small and the ubiquitous peace sign that seems to be required in all pictures for this age group. It is worth noting the dress code: Besides uniforms for students, hair is cut to shoulder length or shorter, and skirts are below the knees.|
|This bus shelter, with its extensive route and system information is indicative of a transportation infrastructure that make is fairly easy to get by without a car throughout Korea: The big city like Seoul and Busan, have subway systems. There are commuter, intercity, express and high speed trains to all regions of the country. There is even more coverage by the bus system which has city buses, district buses, regional buses and cross-country buses. On the coast there is an extensive system of ferries serving hundreds of islands. We a combination of these you can get to almost every village in the country.|
|Daereungwon Tomb Park: There are 23 large tombs here from the Kim Clan, reflecting the power and wealth of the royal family of the Silla Dynasty. Each tomb has a story. One of the engaging aspects of Korea is all along the road are signs and monuments with legends and history spanning more than 2000 years.|
|Cheomseongdae Observatory, established by Queen Seondeok, is believe to be the oldest in the East. Among the fascination features are: the windows in the tower are oriented perfectly north-south-east-west and the total number of blocks used to construct the shell of the tower is the same as the number of days in a year on the calendar of the time. The length of the top stone is half that of the stylobate stone.|
|Seokbinggo Ice house built during the reign of Yeongjo, the 21st king of the Joseon Dynasty. Ice has been stored in Korea since the time of the Three Kingdoms Period. Unfortunately there is no information on where the ice comes from. Did the workers mine it in the mountains in winter and haul it to the city for a summer supply?|
|This is the head residence of the Gyeongju Choe clan. Built around 1700, this residence comprises a gate house, a "sarangchae" (men's living quarters), an "anchae" (women's living quarters), a family shine and a storage house. It was around the middle of the Joseon period that the Choe family moved to this region and enjoyed immense prosperity. The Choe's maintained their prosperity for 12 generations. It is said that they were able to maintain their status because of six family rules: 1. New bride must wear cotton for three years (to learn frugality). 2. Treat guest well. 3. Pass state exam but don't take government job. 4. Give discount on rent during good harvest years. 5. Don't buy land in bad harvest year. 6. Allow no starvation for 25km. The property has now been donated to a university.|
|The "anchae" is arranged in a square with a courtyard at the center. In the foreground are the large earthenware crocks which are use to store various types of kimchi (preserved vegetables), ganjang (soy sauce), doenjang (soybean paste), gochujang (red pepper paste) and salt, the basic seasonings of Korean cuisine.|
timing was fortunate enough to be invited to a traditional wedding ceremony:
The bride is carried in a chamber to the wedding (upper left), while the groom
waits for the bride (lower left). As part of exchanging their vows, they
bow deeply to each
other (upper right). The table is covered with fresh Korean fruit. After completing the ceremony they stand as husband and wife (lower right)
|Samaso was a house where "saengwon" and "jinsa" (gentry) taught Confucianism and discussed politics. It is not certain when it was first built, but during the Japanese invasion (1592-98) it was burnt down.|
|Inyongsa Temple Site: This site is actively being excavation. The story is that the people built the temple to honor Kim In-mun, a warrior and diplomat in the middle of the seventh century. It is the only Shilla temple on record that was not established by Buddhist monks or royalty, but by commoners.|
|Inyongsa Temple Site: The structure of the temple is long gone but the stone relics on the site indicate that it was a typical Unified Shilla temple with twin pagodas.|
|Sacred Bell of King Seongdeok-wang, the largest bronze bell of its kind in Asia. The bell is commonly known as the Emille Bell, a name derived from an ancient Shilla term, pronounced "Em-ee-leh", which means "mommy". According to legend, the bell would not ring when it was first cast. It was melted down and a little child thrown into the molten metal as the head priest of the temple was told to do in a vision. When the bell was recast and struck, it sounds like the baby's cries of "Em-ee-leh" when the child was sacrificed. Gyeongju National Museum|
|The hollow tube, which is believed to control the tone, the kneeling apsaras or heavenly maidens, the four panels, each containing nine nipple-like protrusions, and the lotus and grass designs are all typical of bells of the Unified Shilla period. Gyeongju National Museum|
|This pagoda, on the grounds of the Gyeongju National Museum was built in 634, out of andesite cut like brick. It was probably seven or nine stories at the time. It was destroyed by the Japanese and rebuilt as a three story pagoda. A visit to the museum is enhanced by multilingual descriptions of objects and diagrams of the elements of objects, like the Names of Stone Stupa at the right.|
|This Buddha is part of a beautiful collection of Buddha's, and 3000 other cultural object (gold, bronze, earthenware, manuscripts, etc.) reflecting the Shilla culture at the Gyeongju National Museum. It is a lot to take in at one time and deserves several hours, but there is a snack bar on grounds so you can take a recess in the middle.|
|This is the explanation of a 14-sided dice game. It seems to be a drinking game. Depending upon how the dice lands, you need to follow the instructions. According to the sign the various sides say: "drink three cups of liquor ", "never abandon you unpleasant partner", "dance silently", "disregard an assault and remain calm and passive", " sing Wogyeong (a song)", "sing and drink", "sing Goeraeman (a song)", "let them strike your nose", "recite a poem", "drink it up with arms bent", "remain immobile while somebody tickles your face", "if you are stuck with two cups of liquor, pour them out and return them", "drink it and laugh loudly", and "ask anybody to sing."|
|Imhaejeon Palace Site: The palace was built in the reign of King Munmu who unified the Three Kingdoms. Anapji Pond (right) is a man-made pond. Since the edges of the pool are curved, the whole pond can't be seen from any one place. It is said that the pond was created so as to make a small pond look like a wide sea.|
|Bunhwangsa Temple: The temple was built in 634 and it is known as one of the seven best temples of the Shilla Dynasty. The stone well (lower left corner of upper photo) is octagonal on the outside, symbolizing the eight rightous teaching of Buddha, and cylindrical inside, representing the truth of One Buddha. It is still used. There is a legend that emissaries from Tang China visited Shilla in 795. They changed three dragons who had been protecting the country into small fish and took them to China. The next day, two women came to the king and identified themselves as the wives of two dragons. They asked the king to retrieve a dragon in the Bunhwangsa well and their husbands whom the emissaries took. The king immediately sent his men to bring back the dragons and let them live in the well, from where they protect the country.|
|Hwangnyongsa (temple) was suppose to be a new palace, but while it was under construction a yellow dragon appeared. Thus the plan for a new palace was changed to a new temple (AD 553). It took 93 years to be completed. Later during the Mongolian invasion (AD 1238) it was completely destroyed. Excavation of the site from 1976-84, unearthed 40,000 relics.|
|A common weekend activity is to rent bike with a group of friends and tour the city, or go for a more rural bike tour. Here a group of young women (left) and nuns (left) are taking a bike tour of the cultural sites in Gyeongju.|
|For the more ambitious, there is a series of paths and sidewalks, or you can brave the roads, that will get you out to Bomun Tourist Area and Pulguksa, one of the major temples in the country, and the royal temple during the Shilla Dynasty. Unfortunately not all of the bicycle facilities are well designed or maintained, but they would get you there.|
is a very purposeful built environment. There are many hotels, a lake,
lakeshore walks, rest areas, public art, golf courses, go-carts and amusement
Pulguksa (temple) is considered a masterpiece of Silla culture. There are four
main buildings: Daeungjeon, Geungnakjeon, Birojeon and Gwaneumjeon.
There are two pagodas, Dabotap and Seokgatap which are connected to the sad legend about Asadal (the great stone mason who built the pagodas) and Asanyeo (an his wife). The pagodas took much longer that expected to construct. After waiting in anguish for her husband, Asanyeo undertook the arduous journey across the country to find. Being a woman she was barred from entering the monetary. After much pleading, the gatekeeper instructed her to go to a nearby pond where she could see the reflection of Dabotap. But unbeknownst to the gatekeeper, Asadal had finished working on Dabotap and begun constructing Seokgatap. Seeing the reflection of Dobotap but no sign of her husband working on it and thinking that he had left forever, she flung herself into the pond and cried out Asadal's name. At the same time Asadal had a vision of his wife looking falling into the pond. He rushed to the pond and found only still water. He remained there grief struck for weeks. One day he thought he caught a glimpse of Asanyeo on the far bank. He rushed there and only found a large rock. Out of the rock he carved a seated Merciful Buddha, with his wife's face. From there Asadal disappeared into obscurity.
The pagoda on the left is suppose to have been built in 751. It has very unique architecture and design elements that are found on pagodas in any other country.
|A traditional meal in Gyeongju is Ssambap; a table full of vegetable and fish side dishes, a basket or plate of leaves (lettuce, steamed cabbage, sesame, and others) and a bowl of rice. The assortment is eaten by taking a leaf in your hand, putting a dollop of rice in it, adding something from the side dishes on top of that, folding the leaf over to close it and popping the morsel into your mouth. It is very healthy and tasty.|
|Nighttime is for sweets: This bakery had a staff of ten on the evening shift and they were selling hwangnam bread (cookies) hot out of the oven about as fast as they could make them. Hwangnam bread (cookies) are pastry dough filled with sweet red bean paste. They are a specialty of Gyeongju.|
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