조선왕릉, 왕실의 영혼이 숨쉬는 곳
Korea boasts 40 royal tombs found across the nation… tombs of kings and queens of many generations of the Joseon Dynasty, which lasted over 500 years from 1392. They all remain intact and are uniquely historic sites amongst royal tombs. Their value is further enhanced by the fact that all the tombs of kings and queens who led the dynasty of an era have been preserved.
Our Hwang Hojun examines The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea’s UNESCO World Heritage.
The tombs of the kings and queens of the 500-year-long Joseon Dynasty are not only landmarks of the final resting places of Korea’s royalty, but also a source of inspiration and awe for the entire world.
A special exhibition on the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty has been going on since June in the National Palace Museum, displaying excavated artifacts, and even a genuine royal coffin constructed during the Joseon regime.
The exhibition, which will end on the 27th of this month, also serves to educate the viewers how the tombs were formed through the dynasty’s renowned historical records of the royal rites.
The construction of a royal tomb progressed along with the state funeral of the royal family member.
It usually took about five to seven months from the death of the king or queen consort to the actual burial.
During that time, the most propitious tomb site would be meticulously selected according to the pungsu-jiri, an ancient geographic divination.
Then would come the grand funeral, with over 2000 palace personnel involved.
The coffin would be placed 3 meters below the surface level, then covered by multiple layers of earth, lime, and a mixture of sticky soil.
Thanks to this intricate and careful process, the royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty have remained virtually untouched.
There are 10 criteria that UNESCO uses to assess whether a heritage candidate has outstanding universal value.
To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must meet at least one out of ten selection criteria.
The royal tombs meet three of the criteria… because of their distinctive tradition, their outstanding architecture, and their 600 year-long annual ancestral worship.
“It’s unprecedented to have the tombs of an entire dynasty practically untouched and preserved. And it’s also important to note that the ancestral rites have been continuing for about six hundred years.”
In other words, it’s the hardware and the software that makes all forty sites worthy enough to be recognized as a world heritage by the UNESCO.
The special exhibition also gives visitors a bird’s-eye-view of the tomb and lets everyone learn about the structure of the tombs without physically being there through Virtual Reality.
Among the 40 royal tombs scattered over the 18 locations in South Korea is Seonjeongneung, the tombs of King Seongjong and his wife Queen Jeonghyeon, and King Jungjong, located in Gangnam.
The visitors are first greeted by Hongsalmun, a red gate with spikes, serving as the entrance to the sacred ground.
It’s from here, where the realms of the dead and the living meet.
“The stone-covered path that leads up to the shrine is known as the worship road.
The lower path is called Eodo, or the King’s Road, while the higher path is called Sindo, or Spirit Road.
Incense represented the spirit of the dead, so only the incense bearer could walk on the Spirit Road.
That’s why even today, visitors are only allowed to walk on the King’s Road.”
On top of the hill is the burial mound, surrounded by stone-carved tigers, sheep, and military and civil officials guarding the tomb and protecting the deceased from evil spirits.
All of these,… mostly how it was,.. half a millennium ago.
“It’s nice to see these cultural things have been preserved by Koreans and also makes me think that Koreans appreciate their cultural history.”
“For more than 500 years, the royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty have honored the memory of Korea’s ancestors.
Today, the burial mounds and surrounding landscape offer a bit of serenity to those of us living in the concrete jungle.
Reporting from Seonjeongneung. Hwang Hojun, Arirang News.”
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