Sejong the Great was born in 1397, crowned king in 1418, and he reigned until 1450 as the fourth king of Joseon. Sejong is perhaps most famous as the inventor of the Hangul language, a phonetic alphabet system for the Korean people that is still in use today. This language was a much simplified from the previous Chinese writing, and was intended to allow all Korean people the opportunity to learn to read and write.
The Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine is a unique area on the north bank of the Han River. Near the shrine stands a huge rock outcropping where French missionaries first set foot in Korea. Years later (in 1866), after the Korean royalty got tired of the intruders converting their citizens, they decided to execute about 1,000 of the French missionaries on the spot the missionaries first landed to purify the Korean soil. Years after the executions of the missionaries and their followers, this area became a shrine for their sacrifices. There is now a great Christian Church, an underground tomb, and an exhibition hall. Jeoldusan actually translates into "decapitation hill" in English.
From Hapjeong Station (lines 2&6) walk south to the Han River following the brown signs in English that read "Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine". The address is 96-1, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul.
The Jogyesa temple sits in a non-descript part of Seoul, not far from the northern royal palaces, hemmed in by the surrounding buildings. It is very much at the centre of Korean Buddhism. However, it is not a tourist attraction for trolling around in shorts and vests: it is a spiritual centre that deserves respect and dignity, especially when visiting it as a tourist. Originally called Gakhwangsa, and then Taegosa during the occupation, and was finally renamed Jogyesa in 1954 when it was felt that Korean Buddhism had been fully restored and replenished.
The temple opens its doors at 4am and stays open until 10pm, and it is generally busy right the way through the day with people worshipping. The main hall and the annex can be packed out, and it may be best to observe quietly from near a doorway rather than obtrusively push you way around the halls.
The temple is not old, having only been constructed in 1910, but it is particularly significant for the role its monks played in actively resisting changes being forced upon the Korean people by the Japanese occupiers between 1910 and 1945, and then in restoring Korean Buddhist traditions that had been removed by the Japanese.
Today, Jogyesa is the spiritual centre of Seon Buddhism (known as Chan in China and Zen in Japan), and is named after the mountain in China where the Sixth Patriarch lived in the 7th Century BCE.
The Daeungjeon or main Buddha hall was built in 1938 (and is currently undergoing major structural renovation) has a simple but extremely elegant construction, with particularly beautiful wooden panels depicting the life of Buddha around the exterior: most of these can be seen even during the renovation work although the light is poor. Inside, the hall can be difficult to explore because of the large numbers of worshippers. The statue of Sakyamuni is believed to date from early on in the Joseon Dynasty. Behind it is a painting of the Vulture Peak Assembly, and this can be difficult to appreciate from the doorway!
To the west of the Daeungjeon is the Paradise Hall, where Amitabha is accompanied by Avalokitesvara and Ksitigarbha, symbolizing the Western Paradise (Amitabha is the Buddha of the West). Along part of the walls are statues of the arhats and the judges of hell.
Just outside the Daeungjeon is a seven-storey stone stupa, constructed in 1930 and recently moved as part of the renovation programme (which will provide considerably more space for the temple complex). The stupa contains small remains of Sakyamuni, generously donated by Sri Lanka.
The Bell Pavilion contains a bell, unsurprisingly, but also a gong, a drum and a wooden fish, so holding all of the main implements with which to create the sounds of Buddhism! The bell calls those who live in hell, the gong the birds, the fish water creatures, and the drum calls beasts and man!
By the east door of Daeungjeon is a rather sad looking Chinese lacebark pine: these trees do not seem to do well in Seoul for some reason, but in front of the temple is a huge scholar tree that is definitely thriving.
As this is a truly living and breathing temple, there are many religious activities, and if you contact the temple authorities, they will advise you on upcoming events of note. They are particularly friendly to visitors and will show you around with obvious pleasure.
45 Gyeongji-Dong, Chongro-Gu
This small but colorful collection of textiles, household items and ceremonial objects highlights the culture of Tibet, which has links to Korea`s own.
The museum is only a few rooms, but can easily be combines with the Asia Eros museum around the corner (see separate entry) with which it is affiliated.
Quite a contrast!
This small cemetery, located near the Jeoldusan Martyrs Shrine, has the grave sites of hundreds of westerners. It is worth stopping at this peaceful spot on your way to the Martyrs' Shrine. The cemetery was established in 1890 and hosts the graves of hundred missionaries, businessmen, and expat soldiers, along with their families. Nothing fancy like the Korean National Cemetery or Arlington, the Foreigners Cemetery is just a modest plot of land somewhat overgrown and with names gone from some grave stones, but a good final resting spot for those who fell in love with Korea. The cemetery is maintained and administered by the Seoul Union Church.
This site (http://freepages.misc.rootsweb.com/~schipp/) has a small article on the history of the cemetery.
To get here, take the subway to Hapjeong Station, exit 7. Walk along the elevated subway tracks and you'll see small brown signs signs for both the Foreigners Cemetery and the Jeoldusan Martyr's Shrine. This site (http://www.seoulunionchurch.org/contactinformation.htm) has a great map of the area with directions.
The address is 144 Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu Seoul, 121-885 , South Korea.
Annother "Must see" located off the beaten path is the War Memorial. It offers an educational experience about the many wars in which Korea was involved.
Opend: 9.30 - 18.00 hours, closed on Mondays.
Take subway line No. 4, get off at Samgakji-Station.
Near Jogye Sa Temple is the 4-19 cemetary, dedicated to the 142 Korean Students that were killed in a protest against the fraudulent 1960 presidential elections. The Protests and shootings brought the country to the brink of civil war. This caused President Syngman Rhee's government to collapse. The military General Park Chung Hee took over the government of the country and was a dictator until his assisinated in 1979.
There is a museum with pictures and 3-D di-aramas, fountains, a walking trail, small temple and some interesting art work. Unfortunately, all of the information is in Korean but the pictures do tell the story pretty well. The Cemetary is on the edge of Buk-han San park.
To get to the cemetary Take subway line 4 to Suyu station and follow the signs to the north of the station. The road the cemetary is on is called the 4-19 road, and it is well marked. If you write 4-19 any local can direct you the right way.
Seolleung Park is a medium sized park with two major attraction--Seolleung Tomb and the Jeongneung Tomb--where to of Korea's Kings are buried. The tombs themselves are huge mounds of earth with the actual burial site at the peak as a second, smaller mound. Around the burial site you will see stone figures of animals and people, perhaps guarding the location?
Seolleung Tomb is the resting place of King Seongjong (reign 1469-94), the ninth king of the Joseon dynasty, and his wife, Queen Yun. Queen Yun gave birth to Seongjong's second son and future King Jungjong. Queen Yun also founded the nearby Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple.
The Jeongneung Tomb is also located here, and it is the burial site for King Jungjong, the 11th king of Joseon (r. 1506-44). He was a son of King Seolleung.
Seolleung Park is one of the few areas with Royal Tombs that is easily accessible by Subway ( line 2, Seolleung Station or Samseong Station). It is located in Gangnam next to COEX Mall and the grand Intercontinental Hotel.
This mosque, billed as Seoul's only Islamic temple, is in Itaewon, Seoul's foreigner district. Conveniently enough, the mosque sits square atop Hooker Hill. It opened in 1976 and was the first mosque in South Korea.
The mosque is located just up the hill from Ext 3 at Itaewon Station. Its address is 732-21, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu and telephone is 02-793-6908.
There are only about 6 mosques in the entire country serving the nation's 50,000 to 100,000 Muslims. Here is an article on Muslim life in Korea (http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/culture/200404/kt2004041519135011680.htm)
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