We visited Cheongwadae Sarangchae which is really close to Cheongwadae (the Blue House). Before our visit, I was wondering the meaning of Sarangchae and I finally had my question answered there. Sarangchae is a room where traditionally the host welcomes the guest. In the museum, Korea Tourism Exhibit Hall introduced to me the history of Cheongwadae and many interesting facts about it. For example, there are some cats and dogs in the Blue House because President Moon advocates animal protection and puts it into practice. I took a picture at the Bullomun Gate as well which represents long life. I read the major policies in every president’s period and tried to identify if he or she is conservative or progressive. The hall listed the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Korea and I took notes on them for future visits. Most importantly, there was a special exhibition on diplomatic gifts received by Korea from leaders of other countries. How lucky we were!
Then we took a bus to Bukchon Hanok Village. I learned from the Seoul Museum of History last week that it was an old residential area for the rich and government officials. I was surprised to see these Hanoks have been well preserved since 600 years ago. This allowed me to get a glimpse at what Seoul was like in the past. We went to the Bukchon Hanok Hall and were able to appreciate the view of the Gahoe-dong neighborhood through the windows.
After wandering in the village and having the delicious Samgyetang, we went to the Jongmyo Shrine where the tablets of the royal ancestors of the Joseon Dynasty have been enshrined and the memorial activities are performed. I found that the facilities in Jongmyo are not very lavishly decorated. After watching the introduction video in the exhibitions, I understand that this embodies simplicity, solemnity, and piety. Jongmyo inspired me to think about the meaning of life and death.
We finally arrived at the Kwang Jang Market in the evening. It was full of different kinds of Korean food. We tried a lot and they were all great! I saw local people talking and eating in small restaurants in the market with their friends. They really enjoyed their lives!
On Sunday, we took a tour to the Jogyesa Temple right next to our hotel. It is a temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Built-in the 14th century, it served as a fortress defending Korean Buddhism from Japanese suppressions. In the courtyard, there was a 500-year-old big White Pine tree which is gorgeous. There were also many lotus flowers inside and outside the temple which could also be found in the Gyeongbokgung Palace we went to. The tour guide said it represents purity because its roots deep in the dirt but its flower burst out of the water. I was moved by its spirit.
In the afternoon, we visited the Olympic Park and the World Peace Gate. It is amazing that this place has so many Korean historical and cultural elements embedded inside. For example, the floor of the Peace Plaza is decorated with pictures of hunters discovered in an ancient tomb from the Goguryeo Dynasty. What’s more, the Olympic Movement Monument constructed in the park has stones from the countries that those athletes were from. Piles of stones represent peace and progress in the history of Korea, so this monument is really meaningful. Additionally, I was wandering this creation symbolized far from the traditional culture, but the wish for harmony in 1988, the year of the Seoul Olympic Games and the time when the Cold War was close to its end.
Then we went to the COEX for shopping. On the way back to the hotel, we passed by Bosingak which is a bell pavilion. The bell gives Jongno, the district where we are in, its name. Nowadays, it rings at midnight on New Year’s Eve when there will be many people visiting and celebrating. I wish to visit Korea around a New Year to attend ceremonies and listen to the ringing in Bosingak.
To put in a nutshell, this is a wonderful weekend and I have learned so much about Seoul and the history and culture of Korea.
Yuchen Dai, B.A. International Affairs 2022
GWIKS Summer Study Abroad 2019