Category Archives: history

history Korean culture Ruins & remains tips for tourists

The Juryeonggu (주령구): Party Dice of the Silla Royalty

Replica of Juryeonggu Dice (image from Yonhap News Agency)

Replica of Juryeonggu Dice (image from Yonhap News Agency)

Although I fancy myself a history buff, I can sometimes find the long halls of pottery shards and bronze daggers at the Gyeongju National Museuma to be bit repetitive and boring.  However, the Museum is also home to one iconic Silla artifact that is sure to squeeze a smile from any visitor, especially former frat boys or D & D enthusiasts.  During the excavation of Anapji Pond (안압지)  in the 1970’s, amidst all the roof tiles and gilt bronze Buddhas archeologists unearthed a wooden dice with 6 square and 8 hexagonal sides.  On each side of this curious object were inscribed in Chinese what appear to be instructions for a drinking game, earning the object the name Juryeonggu (주령구), or literally “drink command tool.” read more »

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Downtown East Sea Geumcheok-ri Gyeongju history Hwangnam-dong Korean culture photography Ruins & remains Stories, legends & people tombs

“From Fusan to Wonsan by Pack-pony” by Rev. H. O. T. Burkwall: A Turn of the Century Missionary’s Travelogue of Gyeongju

Old Photo of Silla-era Royal Tombs, Gyeongju

Old Photo of Silla-era Royal Tombs, Gyeongju

In the course of my Masters research, I’ve sometimes run across interesting tidbits of Gyeognju history that are completely off-topic which I file away for future blog posts.  Here is one such tidbit: a brief  travelogue written by perhaps one of the earliest westerners to visit Gyeongju; the awesomely-named missionary Rev. H. O. T. Burkwall.  Rev. Burkwall’s account was printed in the January 1903 edition of the “Korea Review” (pp. 18 – 22).  The “Korea Review” appears to be one of the earliest English-language academic journals devoted to Korean culture, history, religion and literature and was published between 1901 and 1905 by the Methodist Publishing House in Seoul.  For those interested, .pdf files of the whole 5 year run of the “Korea Review” are currently hosted online by Royal Asiatic Society of Korea. read more »

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Silla Buddhism: New Translations of Masters Wonhyo (원효) and Uisang (의상) in the “Collected Works of Korean Buddhism”

Wonhyo's Awakening, Seonggwangsa Temple

Wonhyo’s Awakening, Seonggwangsa Temple

Maybe only Korean history enthusiasts or Buddhism geeks like me get excited over this sort of thing, but last year saw the publication of a document of great significance for western scholars of both Korean history and East-Asian Buddhism.  In the summer of 2012 the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism released a critical edition of the Hanguk Bulgyo Jeonseo, or “Collected Works of Korean Buddhism,” translated into English.  Not only that, but all 13 volumes are free to download in high-quality .pdf format.  Two volumes of this publication in particular concern the lives and work of the Silla Buddhist Masters Wonhyo  (원효) and Uisang (의상) and are thus significant contributions to the western study of Buddhism during Gyeongju’s famed Silla Dynasty.  read more »

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Arts & crafts Gyeongju history Ruins & remains tombs

The Tou (토우): Mysterious Burial Figurines of the Early Silla Dynasty

Tou Figurines (image from heritagechannel.tv)

Tou Figurines (image from heritagechannel.tv)

If you take a stroll down the Bonhwang-ro street of traditional crafts and culture in downtown Gyeongju, you’ll probably notice a series of odd-looking stone sculptures depicting amorphous animals and lumpy  people with exceedingly large genitalia.  You’d probably be forgiven for assuming the city government has wasted the local taxpayers’ money on some abstract and tasteless public art.  In reality, these odd sculptures are actually enlargements of several “Tou” (토우); miniature clay figurines made during the Silla peoples in the 4th and 5th centuries.  These figures actually served funerary vessels and were unearthed from early Silla tombs by the hundreds and they now make up one of the more interesting permanent exhibitions at the Gyeongju National Museum. read more »

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Buddhist culture East Sea Gyeongju hiking history Stories, legends & people Temples & shrines tips for tourists

Going to the River: Girimsa Temple (기림사) and Yongyeonpokpo Waterfalls (용연폭포)

Yongyeonpokpo Waterfalls, Girimsa Temple, Gyeongju

Yongyeonpokpo Waterfalls, Girimsa Temple, Gyeongju

About a month ago a friend on on Facebook asked where around Gyeongju you can “go to the river.”  Unfortunately I’ve been a bit distracted with writing my Master’s thesis over the last month, but I hope to post on a few places to “go to the river” around here while there’s still some of the summer left. There are actually a number of nice swimming holes and lovely picnicking spots by the rivers around Gyeongju which we go to almost every weekend, if the weather’s nice. read more »

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Cycling Routes Gyeongju history Ruins & remains Sites to see Statues & carvings Temples & shrines tips for tourists

Gyeongju Cycling Courses and Maps

Gyeongju Cycling Map

Gyeongju Cycling Map

Gyeongju is really a great place for cycling.  The countryside around Gyeongju is fairly flat and dozens of cement farm roads weave their way through scenic rice paddies and rustic villages.  Cycling’s also the fastest way to visit the dozens of ancient Silla tombs, temples, relics and ruins scattered outside of the city.  Not to mention, you can rent bikes for the day at both the train and bus stations and the bikes are usually in fairly decent shape too.   When I first started this blog I’d planned on posting a lot more on different cycling routes in the area.  Unfortunately, aside from one or two early posts, that never really happened.  To be honest, I’ve probably been on a bike once since my son was born two years ago (a sad fact I hope to soon change). read more »

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Buddhist culture Events Festivals Gyeongju hiking history holidays photography Statues & carvings Temples & shrines tips for tourists

Buddha’s Birthday at Sinseonsa (신선사) Temple on Mt. Danseoksan (단석산)

Miruk Grotto at Sinseonsa Temple, Mt. Danseoksan, Gyeongju

Miruk Grotto at Sinseonsa Temple, Mt. Danseoksan, Gyeongju

Like many things in Gyeongju, I’ve been meaning to write about Mt. Danseoksan for a while, but I’ve been too busy to get around to it.  However, celebrating Buddha’s Birthday, or Seokga Tansinil (석가탄신일), yesterday at the ancient stone grotto of Mirukgul (미룩굴) on Mt. Danseokan has given me the best reason I’m probably going to get.  Located about 10 km south-west of Gyeongju City, Mt. Danseoksan is officially part of Gyeongju National Park and is famous for its history, legends and natural beauty.  Literally meaning “Split Rock Mountain,” Mt. Danseoksan is, in fact, named after one such ancient story involving the famed Silla general Kim Yu-sin. read more »

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Downtown Gyeongju history photography tips for tourists

Downtown Gyeongju: Photo Slideshow Part 1

Downtown Gyeongju

Downtown Gyeongju

This post probably won’t win me any awards from the Korean Tourism Organization, but once upon a time I was a Fine Arts student.  So after the last few weeks of beautifully blossoming cherry trees, please forgive me if I’m in the mood to post something a bit more urban and gritty.  Here’s the first part of a slideshow of I’ve put together of Gyeongju, so you can scroll down or click on the photos for the slideshow viewer.  I wanted to break in my new Nikon D5100 last month and went for a stroll downtown, so most of the photos here are from that shoot.  Also I’ve thrown in a few older pictures that, for some reason or another, haven’t made it up on the blog yet. read more »

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More Dangsan Namu (당산나무): KTV Documentary in 4 Parts

Since we’ve been on the subject of Dangsan Namu (당산나무) lately, I posting a KTV documentary I found on Youtube about Korean Dangsan Namu.  The documentary is in 4 parts, though unfortunately only the first and second seconds have English subs.  Even so, parts 1 and 2 are enough to a give a sense of the rich variety of legends surrounding the Dangsan Namu in Korean folklore.  Part 2 even includes details on the traditional village ceremonies honoring the Dangsan Namu on Daeboreum (대보름), which I talked about a few weeks ago.   Unfortunately my Korean’s not good enough to make much sense of the Korean narration in parts 3 and 4, but I’m including them below anyways.  If any Korean speakers would like to chime in with a summary in the comments section, I’d definitely appreciate it ;-) read more »

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Photos: A Dangsan Tree (당나무) on Daeboreum (대보름)

Dangsan Tree on Daeboreum Holiday in Gyeongju

Dangsan Tree on Daeboreum Holiday in Gyeongju

If you’ve checked your calendar recently, you might have noticed that last Monday night was a full moon.  In fact, it was the first full moon after Seollal (설날), or Lunar New Years , here in Korea, which marks it as the holiday of Daeboreum (대보름).   Daeboreum has been traditionally celebrated with a massive bonfire , music, and dancing, making it one of my favorite Korean holidays.  In fact, I’ve already posted twice on Daeboreum, with both photos and video of the Gyeongju’s Daeboruem bonfire a few years back, so I won’t say too much here about the holiday itself. read more »

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