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Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa Dolmen

The Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites are groups of megalithic funerary and ritual monuments.

A dolmen is a kind of tomb, or prehistoric cemetery. They can be found all over the world, but Korea is said to have 40% of the world's total on its grounds. The numerous ones included here were constructed around the 1st millennium BC.

The dolmens in Ganghwa are the earliest ones, of the northern, table-shaped type. They include the biggest stone of this kind in South-Korea, measuring 2.6 x 7.1 x 5.5 meters.

Map

Visit September 2001

Of these Korean dolmen sites, I only visited the big one at Ganghwa Island (near Seoul). No entrance fee there, though the dolmen is placed in a little park and there is the ubiquitous soft drink vending machine.

To simply get there, and to enjoy the Ganghwa landscape was the most interesting part of my visit. The dolmen itself is "just" 3 stones put on top of each other. I have seen those before in Holland.

But I have good memories of visiting this site, because it was the 7th and last worldheritage I saw on my trip to Korea. As this one is quite out of the way and was not included in my original travel plans, I am glad that I was able to visit it after all.

Community Reviews


Thibault Magnien - April 2012

The Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites are locations for hundreds of dolmens used as graves and for ritual ceremonies. Most of these megalithic structures are dating from the period of the first millennium BCE. According to specialists, Korea contains more than 40% of the world's dolmen.

The site located on Gangwha Island is the easier most convenient one to visit from Seoul. From the Sinchon bus Terminal, take a bus to get to Gangwha Island bus terminal in one and a half hour and from there, take another bus to move on the island. However, the dolmen are scattered throughout the island and it is difficult to see most of them and to have a general view.

A notable dolmen on Ganghwa Island's site is a kind of table-type dolmen where it was believed ancestral rites were performed. This dolmen is thought to be the biggest in Korea.


Ian Cade - November 2011

The main thing that struck me was how delicate this structure looked despite the massive size of its capstone, it was perched like a delicate Brancusi sulpture. Ganghwa island is littered with megaliths and if you really were keen this would be a good place to go exploring, apparently it is one of the densest concentrations in the world. As for me, I was here just to see the big one, which is now in a well-manicured park which does contain another standing stone (also part of the WHS).

My visit was a little brief as the weather wasn’t so nice, but the warm welcome and free cup of coffee from the friendly information centre kept me going. There is also a pretty new local history museum next door, but it was closed on the day I visited (Monday). There are regular buses from Ganghwa bus station; just asking for ‘Goindol’ got me on the right bus.

I wouldn’t say this would be most people’s highlight of Korea, but it was a nice place to head to on a quiet, slow and slightly gloomy day, it helped me recharge my batteries to gear me up for the delights of Seoul.

[Site 3: Experience 4]


John Booth - May 2010

I have now visited all three WHS listed dolmen sites in Korea and consider the Gochang site to be the most interesting. There I saw a whole mountainside dotted with 128 dolmen of several different styles. Altogether there are around 2000 dolmen on this district. The visitor centre at the dolmen site is served by a bus from Gochang town, which in turn has bus connections with Jongeup and Janseong, both stations on the Mokpo railway line.

The Hwasun dolmen I reached from Neungju railway station, and the Ganghwa site by bus from the Sincheon bus station in Seoul.


Kyle Magnuson - April 2010

These pre-historic dolmens site are just as fascinating as some of those found in the UK or France. Not as spectacular as Stonehenge or some of the other stone circles in the UK, but altogether impressive if at the very least by the sheer number of them. The largest dolmen is located on Ganghwa Island, which is only about an hour or so from Seoul. Some of the best preserved and largest clusters are found in Gochang in the Southwest. There are three different styles of dolmens. The major dolmen at Gangwha is by far the most impressive. Yet, the other dolmens on the island are often collapsed or difficult to locate.

Gochang has the largest concentration of dolmens perhaps anywhere in the world. Most Gochang dolmens are table-top style and are found spread out over a broad hill. Many look like boulders, but on closer inspection you can see they are placed on two or four small rocks. There is an excellent small museum at the Gochang site just completed in 2010. I visited some of the Ganghwa dolmen sites in 2008 and I visited the major Gochang dolmen cluster in 2011. I was most awed by the Ganghwa dolmen, but as far as visitor experience Gochang holds the greatest value. Will anyone venture to the Hwasun Dolmen cluster? Perhaps on my next visit, as I explore the nearby Unjusa Temple.

Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites (7)

A caveat in choosing Gochang is that Gochang County is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This reserve includes the dolmens, Gochang Fortress, Gochang Tidal Flat, Ungok Wetland, and Seonunsan Provincial Park. Choosing Gochang means 1 WHS, 1 TWHS, 1 UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and 2 Ramsar Wetlands! Perhaps one of the most unique and beautiful counties in Korea.

Read more from Kyle Magnuson here.


Boj - January 2010

I visited the dolmen site in Ganghwa Island in Jan. 1, 2010. It is an ideal day trip for those based in Seoul. The earliest bus from Sinchon station is at 5:40 a.m. and the trip will take about an hour and a half.

There are many things to see in Ganghwa. Apart from the dolmen sites, I also visited fortresses (overlooking the sea) and a palace. Be sure to check the bus schedule as they are quite few. It was cold when I went and waiting for buses going back to the terminal or to other locations in the island took at least 30 mins each time.


Prof. K.P.RAO - February 2009

It was really a wonderful experience visiting the Hwasun megaliths in December, 2007. As a person studied widely, the megaliths from India, I find the Hwasun megalithis really amazing. They are huge and impressive. I feel we need to make a comparative study of the Korean and Indian megaliths. In india also we have cup-marks on megaliths. I am happy that the site is well protected and maintained.


Jacob Choi

First of all the Ganghwa dolmen are spread all across on a mountain park and you have to go through a steep climb to get there and to reach the park you need to go through a small village through the island but it was an incredible world heritage site.


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Site Info

Full name: Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites

Site History

Locations

The site has 4 locations.

  • Hwasun Dolmen Site
  • Kanghwa Dolmen Sites
  • Kanghwa Dolmen Sites
  • Koch'ang Dolmen Site

Connections

The site has 13 connections.

Constructions

History

Human Activity

  • Festivals Festivals are held yearly at all three Dolmen Sites."Ganghwa Dolmen Cultural Festival is the most famous of Ganghwa Island's festivals. It celebrates the island's dolmens, which have been designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The Dolmen Festival includes several performances, such as the reenactment of a traditional Korean funeral ceremony and a demonstration of how the dolmens were constructed." - english.visitkorea.or.kr
  • Stone Quarries "They also preserve important evidence of how the stones were quarried, transported, and raised..... Hwasun Dolmen Site ...In a number of cases the stone outcrops from which the stones making up the dolmens were quarried can be identified."

Individual People

  • Homer B. Hulbert "I incline strongly to the opinion that they are very ancient graves, in spite of the fact that no bones are found. These dolmens are much more ancient than any Koryu grave." - The Passing of Korea (1905) pg. 295

Religion and Belief

  • Legends and Folk Myths "In Hwasun-gun, South Jeolla Province, there is a dolmen known as "Pingmae Rock," which is related to a legend about the Fairy Grandmother. It is said that when the Fairy Grandmother heard that 1,000 images of the Buddha and 1,000 pagodas were being built at the nearby Unjusa Temple, she picked up a huge stone and headed toward the temple. But along the way, she was told that all the images and pagodas had already been completed, so she laid the stone down there and departed." - www.koreaembassyusa.org

Timeline

  • Built in the 7th century BC The Chungnim-ri group in Gochang is considered to date from around the 7th century BC. Dolmen construction ceased here in the 3rd century BC. The Hwasun dolmens are a little later, from the 6th-5th centuries BC. There are insufficient data to permit dating of the Ganghwa group, but they are thought to be earlier rather than later.

Trivia

WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process

  • Inscribed on a single criterion only iii. to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared