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The royal tombs of Seonjeongneung in central Seoul

The royal tombs of Seonjeongneung in central Seoul

29th June 2013.

This is our last weekend in Seoul and we were going to explore the Samseong Station area to visit two more relics of the once powerful Joseon dynasty.

A beautiful, old temple and the royal tombs of Seonjeongneug. There are 44 royal tombs in South Korea, 40 are registered Cultural UNESCO Heritage sites and you can visit 6 in Seoul. The stone figures and halls are well preserved, showing the royal culture and understanding of afterlife during the Joseon dynasty.

 

Before we arrived at Seonjeongneug, the metro passed Seoul’s densely build residential blocks flanking the Han river. A lasting memory.

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The architecture that surrounds the site of Seonjeongneung was coloured grey as if to make a statement to Seoul’s modern architecture. Location: get off Seolleung Station, exit 8. Admission: 1,000 won.

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Upon arrival you can get a souvenir stamp and postcard for free!

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The entrance is so cheap,  it is not just a tourist stop but a park and recreational area for Seoulites.

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A popular photography spot.

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And a lover’s hide away.

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When I don’t know the way I spin around.

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Small forest.

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I managed to get a shot of a butterfly despite their poor posing habits.

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But I am getting carried away. The tombs!

Before a king or queen was buried, this house, the Jaesil, was a place of purification and preparation for the presider of ancestral rites. Room for storage of incense, offerings and ritual objects.

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Offerings.

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So this is the tomb of King Jungjong, the 11th monarch of the dynasty, dating back to 1544. It was closed for renovation but the others you are going to see look similar. The spiked gate symbolises the entrance to sacred territory and consists of two pillars spanned by horizantal bars with spikes.

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The worship road is a flagstone walkway linking the spiked gate and the shrine through two lanes with different levels. The higher one is the road for spirits of the dead   (!) and the lower one, on the left, is reserved for the king.

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Separate stairs for the king (left) and the spirits (right)!

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Monarchy makes room for democracy.

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This friendly man was reading Korean signs to us, with a torch. Up until the reign of the 4th king of the Joseon dynasty, scholars had a monopoly on higher learning and complex Chinese characters were used for all written communication.

King Senjong, the Joseon emperor in the 15th century, created an alphabet that a commoner could easily learn, with a simple script that was phonetic. But the scholars fought back, and Hangul didn’t really catch on until the 20th century. Hangul is quirky and cartoonish modernist looking, before modernism was invented.

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This is the tomb of King Seongjong, the 9th monarch who died in 1494. His queen, who was promoted from a concubine is buried on a neighbouring hill. She died in 1530.

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Various animals are carved out of stone and surround the tomb. I found a tiger, sheep and horses.

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Military officials out of stone guard the entrance to the burial area.

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The stone lantern marks each tomb.

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I wonder how the King would have liked the new skyline of Seoul.

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Would he approve of all those foreign intruders?

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Crazy folk that come for fun. However, the royal tombs are serious cultural heritage of humanity and were inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage list in 2009.

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The Joseon dynasty, which lasted 519 years, embraced Confucianism as the ruling ideology. Respect and worship for ancestors were considered very important and the tombs were looked after with great care. As such, none of the royal tombs have been damaged or destroyed but are perfectly preserved at their original sites.

Care for a drink and another sight in Seoul, follow us to the oldest Buddhist temple in Seoul!

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