2 Canadians in Korea

Welcome to our blog. It's designed to give people back home an idea of what it's like living in South Korea and to allow you to follow us on our journey.

I've been blogging a lot of facts and I feel I should say that some of it is copy pasted from books, the internet and the signs that I took pictures of at the tourist site itself.

Click here to view my videos on my You Tube Channel

To view larger images just click on them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wolseong Palace

There was a great palace built by King Pasa in 101 in Gyeongju called Wolseong and it was also called Jaeseong meaning a king's residential palace. Ever since, the succeeding kings made the castle their residence until it was destroyed when the Silla rulers were ousted. Only a few remnants remain from the palace such as corner stones that the pillars from the buildings layed on. You could walk the grounds of where the palace once stood and see where the buildings were as you see in the first two pictures.
The only building that remains is the Seokbinggo, the ice storage. We went to Gyeongju for our 1st year wedding anniversary which was July 7th and it was extremely hot that weekend. We walked for 4 hours touring the sites and had to go back to our hostel to shower and change since we were soaking wet. When we climbed down to the gate of the ice storage the tempature dropped dramatically to the point where it was almost too cold and there wasn't even ice in it. The building was 3/4 below ground and was really damp. I bet the kings took breaks from the hot days in there, I know I would.
Close to the palace grounds is the Cheomseongdae which was built during the reign of Silla Queen Seondeok between 632 and 647 and is the oldest astronomical observatory in East Asia. the observatory is 5.17 meters in diameter and 9.4 meters in hight. The bottle-shaped tower made of square granite stones stands on the square stone base. The lenght of the stone base is 5.25 meters. Up to the 12 layer from the bottom, this hollow tower was filled with soil and pebbles. Between the 13th and 15th layer, there is a square opening through which an observer can ascend to the top.

Royal Tombs

In Gyeongju, there are hundreds of royal tombs scattered across the city dating back as far as 2000 years ago. It's kind of strange really as you will be on a bus going down a business street and there is a break in the line of buildings for a nice grassy mountain which is a royal tomb. I don't think they know who's under all the tombs but they have quite a few of them labelled. They have excavated a few of them and we got to go inside one tomb called Chonmachong (Heavenly Horse Tomb) which got its name from an artifact found in the tomb which was a painting of a white Heavenly Horse on birch-bark saddle flaps. We were able to see the painting up close but we were not allowed to take pictures. In the tomb, which dates back to the 5th century, was 11500 other artifacts such as a golden crown, bracelets, jade ornaments, weapons, pottery and they even found some ancient eggs. Knowing I was going to see a crown I had an image in my mind of what I was going to see and I was wrong. The crown was not a rigid chunk of gold like a ring would be but more of a sheet of gold paper formed into a crown with three tall stems with designs carved into them and bean shaped jade pieces tied into them.
The tombs were built the way they are to prevent people from digging them up to get the riches that were burried along with the kings. Each of them are a little different when it comes to size and this one was 13 meters high and its circumference is 157 meters. They placed the body along with his treasures in the middle of the tomb in a wooden box and pilled small boulders on top until it was a big hill. Then they put 6-10 inches of clay, 3 feet of dirt and finally grass. The idea is that no one can dig it out without it caving in on top of them. Althought I wasn't allowed to take a picture inside I managed to sneak this one in which shows the layers under the grass.

The Divine Bell of Great King Songdok

The bronze bell, nicknamed Emille Bell, is housed in a pavillion on the grounds of the Kyongju National Museum. The bell is 3.33 meters high and the diameter of its mouth is 2.27 meters. Known as the most outstanding bell in Asia, it is also the biggest one in Korea. King Kyongdok had a giant bell cast with 120,000 kun of copper to be dedicated to his deceased father, King Songdok. However, the bell was completed in 771 during the reign of King Hyegong. The bell holds a dragon-shaped hook that suspends it. the sound of the bell is exceptionally magnificent. The bell's body is decoreated with heavenly figures, floral designs and an inscription showing details about the casting of the bell.

I got the details from a guide book I bought, what it doesn't say is how it was built which we got to see at the museum. The mold was made below ground and the fire melting the copper was above it. There was an intricate system that allowed the melting copper to pour properly into the mold. It was first made of bronze but it didn't work out since it was full of cracks and didn't sound good. The second attempt is what resulted in the bell you see here. We didn't get to hear the actual sound of the bell but it is said that it could be heard over a 3km radius when struck only lightly with a fist but you are not allowed to test this claim. Regardless, the bell is extremely famous in Korea and small versions of it can be found in just about any souveneir shop right next to all the buddhas.