Category Archives: Sites to see

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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Buddhist culture photography Temples & shrines tips for tourists Ulsan Yangsan Yeongnam Alps

Photos: Fall “Maple Tripping” (단풍 구경) in the Yeongnam Alps (영남알프스)

Tongdosa Temple in the Fall

Tongdosa Temple in the Fall

The fall leaves are already a big deal in Korea and I don’t know if it’s due to global warming or radioactive rain from Japan, but the autumn colors have been especially vibrant this year. Gyeongju is a pretty popular destination for hikers and weekend visitors out on their yearly “Maple Trip” (단풍 구경) and I’ve already posted on a few good spots to check out the fall leaves around Gyeongju. However, this year I’ve been exploring the area south-west of town known as the Yeongnam-Alps a bit more, as it’s only about a 30 minutes drive out of town. I’ve taken the family here twice for a “Maple Trip” (단풍 구경) over the last few weeks, so I thought I share a some of my photos here on the blog. read more »

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Bomun Resort East Sea Gyeongju tips for tourists Wierd Gyeongju

Wierd Gyeongju: Dinosaur Village Herb Land (허브랜드공룡마을) and Gyeongju Herb Land (경주허브랜드)

Dinosaur Village Herb Land, Gyeongju

Dinosaur Village Herb Land, Gyeongju

Just like Teddy Bear Museums, “Herb Lands” have been of popping up around Korea lately in all the tourist hotspots.  And somehow, also just like Teddy Bear Museums, Gyeongju is blessed with not just one but two of these so-called Herb Lands. If you aren’t quite sure what a Herb Land is, its kind of like a cross between your local garden center and a miniature golf course. Or better yet, try imagining an amusement park without any actual roller coasters or rides. If that sounds kind of lame, then you’ve probably already guessed that Gyeongju’s Herb Lands are not really on my list of must-see local highlights and I wouldn’t really recommend them to anyone visiting just for a short weekend. However, for visitors who possess a warped appreciation of cheesy tourist traps, or have children under 10 years old, Gyeongju’s Herb Lands are a perfect fit.  Luckily for me, I have both, so it was only natural that we would eventually pay them a visit. 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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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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hiking Outside Gyeongju Sites to see tips for tourists Ulsan

Going to the River: Mt. Shinbulsan’s Hongnyu Waterfall (홍류폭포) and Eonyang’s Jakcheon-jeong (작천정) Pavilion

Jakcheon-jeong Pavilion, outside Eonyang, Ulsan

Jakcheon-jeong Pavilion, outside Eonyang, Ulsan

One way Koreans like to beat the oppressive heat and humidity of the summer is by “going to the river.” Although it never got past the first post, one of my projects for the blog last summer was to share some of the rivers near Gyeongju where locals like to picnic and swim. One popular area for “going to the river” is just outside of Eonyang (언양), 30 minutes south of Gyeongju on Highway 1. Technically within the Ulsan city limits, Eonyang is traditional market town in the mountains 15 minutes west of Ulsan city. Over the last few decades Eonyang has also become famous as the gateway for tourists and hikers exploring the surrounding the Yeongnam Alps.  Just outside of Eonyang in secluded valley at the foot of Mt. Shinbulsan (신불산) are a couple great places for spending the day picnicking and splashing around by the cool of Jaksujeong River. read more »

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Blog News Downtown East Sea Gyeongju Gyo-dong News Ruins & remains Temples & shrines

Blog Reboot Summer 2013

Gyo-dong Folk Village, Gyeongju

Gyo-dong Folk Village, Gyeongju

To start off my first post in almost a year, I’d like to apologize to all those folks who’ve posted comments and questions to this blog over the last several months.  I’ve basically been busy as hell this last year, so I hope to breath a second wind into the blog here over the next few months (time willing).  Over this last year, I’ve written the first draft of my thesis for my Masters in Buddhist Studies which, incidentally, involves research into the Silla  Kings Beopheung and Jinheung.  Also, I’ve coauthored a three part series on Gyeognju’s Mt. Namsan (click here to read part 2 and part 3) for the Jogye Order’s English language quarterly, Buddhism and Culture, plus an academic article surveying the life and work of the famed Silla monk, Ven. Wonhyo.  As of last February I changed both my job and  MA program.  Most importantly, however, this last March our second son was born, so everything non-essential has gotten pushed to the side since then.  I hope all the commentors that I’m just now getting back to would be so kind as to forgive this weary grad student, teacher and father for the late reply. read more »

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Bomun Resort Museums Sites to see tips for tourists videos Wierd Gyeongju

Wierd Gyeongju: The Teddy Bear Museum (테디베어박물관) and Teseum (테지움) of Bomun Resort

Entrance to the Teddy Bear Museum, Bomun Resort, Gyeongju

Entrance to the Teddy Bear Museum, Bomun Resort, Gyeongju

After spending an afternoon at Bomun Resort recently, I had an epiphany: teddy bear museums are to Korea what wax museums are to the U.S.  Both are cheesy as hell, prey on bored tourists and are not places you’d want to accidentally get locked in overnight.  Not to mention, both spring up around resorts and tourist traps like mushrooms in a Virginia cow pasture after the rain.   From Jeju Island to Mt. Seoraksan, teddy bear museums are currently the rage at all the major tourist destinations in South Korea. Of course Gyeongju’s Bomun Resort, being possibly the biggest tourist trap in the whole country, is blessed with not one, but two teddy bear museums, and they so happen to be just down the block from each other. 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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