One of the most distinctive things about Gyeongju are the ancient Shilla (신라) tombs scattered around town. Yeah, they’re pretty cool, but there are literally hundreds of them around here. After a couple a’ years, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. At least that’s what I’d been thinking until I finally got out to the Geomcheokri tombs (금척리 고분군) a few weeks ago. I’ve got to say, they were pretty impressive.
I’d caught glimpse of the Geumcheokri (금척리 고분군) tombs before, passing by on the train to Daegu: just a passing glance of gnarly, grass covered hills out in the middle of nowhere. I finally biked out there with some friends the other weekend and it was well worth the 10 km ride. Imagine an area the size of a football field strewed about with 40 plus ancient tombs of all shapes and sizes. Not unlike the tombs parks here in like, such as Daeruengwon or Nodong, but without all the tandem bikes, toy swords and camera toting hoards. In fact we didn’t see a single other person in the hour we were there.
The Geumcheok tombs have an eerie beauty to them. I actually felt like I was in the midst of something ancient and solemn, instead of a theme park for tourists. Not to mention, there’s an ancient legend about the place that’s pretty cool; something straight up out of Indiana Jones.
The story goes something like this: The founding king of the Shilla Dynasty, Park Hyeokgeose (박혁거세 거서간), had a golden ruler (as in measuring stick). This golden ruler had the magical power to heal the sick and even bring the dead back to life. Of course some ambassadors from China were planning to nick it, so in his wisdom King Park decided to hide it by burying it in a tomb. He then built 40 more tombs just like it to throw off any potential thieves. Hence the tombs are called Geumcheok, which means “golden ruler.”
Directions: The Geumcheok tombs are about 10 km out of town, going west towards Daegu. They’re located on either side of National Road 4 (35) about 2 km before the town of Geoncheon (건천). If you’re cycling, try taking some of the back roads along through the rice fields. Not only will you avoid the traffic, but the scenery and farm villages out that way are gorgeous.
View Cycling Route: The Geumcheokri Tombs (금척리 고분군) in a larger map