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Author winterkjm
#31 | Posted: 14 Sep 2011 13:28 | Edited by: winterkjm 
I would recommend visiting Seolleung Cluster, Heolleung Cluster, and Donggureung Cluster

- Seolleung cluster because it is easy to visit and representative of a typical Joseon dynasty tomb. The tomb has the same name as the subway station.

- Heolleung cluster is only two tombs, but one is Taejong's tomb which is one of the largest and oldest of the Joseon dynasty tombs. You can also explore the tomb extensively, which is not possible at many sites. King Taejong was the father of one of Korea's greatest monarchs King Sejong (inventor of Hangeul).

- Donggureung cluster is an incredible cluster of 17 tombs. The founder of the Joseon dynasty, King Taejo is found here. Highly recommended.

If you visit these three sites you will really cover a great variety of tombs. Age of these particular clusters primarily vary from the early 15th to the 18th century. These tombs also include some of Joseon's most important kings.

The Hongyureung Cluster includes the latest Joseon Kings (Emperors), the style is very different (blend of Joseon style with Chinese dynastic tombs). While they are worth visiting you cannot walk to the tombs, you can only visit the unique statues and ceremonial buildings. Gwangneung is another cluster that is worth visiting particularly for its beautiful location, but it takes a while to get to, and you don't want to ONLY visit tombs while your in Korea.

These are all the tomb clusters I have visited. All worth visiting, but I think the three I mentioned are sufficient.

*Donggureung Cluster - King Taejo (15th century and on) largest cluster of tombs
*Heolleung Cluster - King Taejong and his Queen (joint tomb) (15th century)
*Seolleung Cluster - King Seongjong (15th, 16th century)
*Seooreung Cluster - large cluster, but mostly minor tombs
*Gwangneung Cluster - King Sejo (15th century) located in a Unesco Biosphere Reserve
*Yeongneung Cluster - King Sejong (15th century)
*Hongyureung Cluster - King Gojong (19th, 20th century)
*Sareung Cluster - minor tombs adjacent to Hongyureung
*Taereung Cluster - Gangneung tomb a major part of the cluster may be closed presently, it was open in 2008

Author winterkjm
#32 | Posted: 23 Sep 2011 04:58 
The DMZ may become a Unesco Biosphere Reserve very soon. (The South Korean section of the DMZ)

Author winterkjm
#33 | Posted: 28 Sep 2011 00:51 
Here is an old article (2005) which proposed the idea of the DMZ as a world heritage site. While I am not a big fan of Ted Turner, his proposal in this article is fascinating.

As the DMZ is currently being evaluated as a potential Unesco Biosphere Reserve, and with a decision planned for June 2012, this article sheds new light on the idea of the DMZ as a WHS and international peace park.

Author winterkjm
#34 | Posted: 2 Oct 2011 22:12 | Edited by: winterkjm 
Concerning Frederik Dawson's Review
I just read your review on the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty. It is unfortunate that many tombs are closed for close-up viewing. This was not the case only a couple years ago. Nevertheless, there are still quite a few tomb clusters where you can walk up to some tombs. I was very dissapointed to hear that the two sites you visited were closed beyond the sacrificial buildings. Indeed visiting one of the tombs and not being able to walk up to the actual tomb is dissapointing and would be hard to judge the sites OUV.

Only last June I walked directly up to King Taejong's tomb. (one of the most magnificient of all Joseon tombs) The elaborate stone carvings, guardian animals, and the scholar and general statues are all fantastic to see up close.

*Percieved error in your review
There was some details of the review that stood out as a misunderstanding of Korea and it's relationship with China. Though I am not Korean I know that most Koreans would be offended by your statement that Royal tombs in Korea should only be compared to tombs of dukes, eunuchs, and/or the aristocracy in China.

Section of Review
"In ICOMOS report, I was surprised that ICOMOS and Korea use Chinese Imperial Tombs for comparative study as Emperor and King is totally different in status. To be fair, Joseon Tombs should be compared with the tombs of Chinese ducal or noble family, or Japan's shogun family, as they have equal rank under Chinese imperial tributary system. The tombs of imperial eunuch even have more intricate details than the Joseon ones."

You mentioned tombs of Imperial Eunuchs in China. Some of these Eunuchs rose to greater power than the Emperor's they served, which explains some of the particularly elaborate tombs. Moreover, you never viewed the Joseon tombs up close to see the details of the stone work and statuary figures.

"To be fair, Joseon Tombs should be compared with the tombs of Chinese ducal or noble family, or Japan's shogun family, as they have equal rank under Chinese imperial tributary system."

Why should only China's view of Korea be considered? How about how Korea saw themselves? Should we only look at East Asian heritage through the lens of the Chinese tributary system, would that be accurate? The facts are Korea has never been considered part of China, and for much of their history China considered Korea it's most enlightened neighbor. The tributary system was largely symbolic, in which the Korean monarch was legitimized as a ruler under heaven, though lower in status to China's Emperor. Should we judge Japan's heritage sites by how Ming and Joseon viewed Japan, often as pirates and vagabonds? In ancient East Asia, China traditionally saw itself as the eldest brother (or father), Korea as the middle brother, and Japan as the youngest brother based on how each civilization developed. Should Unesco compare Royal Scottish palaces or castles to the English aristocracy, instead of English royalty because the English mindset was that the Scots were inferior to them? Korea's traditions and history should not be overlooked or judged trivial because of a more powerful neighbor. The same is true for Scotland and the Netherlands.

Korea has been largely independent as a nation throughout their history (except during the Japanese colonial period). In fact, when Ming China fell Korea saw itself as the only true civilization left in East Asia. Ming China and Joseon Korea rose together and each made incredible advancements during the same period and both sacrificed soldiers on the others behalf.

The Joseon dynasty was even more structured in Confucian doctrine than China. Chinese officials were often suprised how deep Confucianism had been absorbed into almost all daily life in Korea. So in many ways Confucianism is more pure in Korea than in China. The Joseon Royal Tombs, Jongmyo Shrine, and the Joseon palaces in Seoul are perfect examples of this. Perfection in placement and architecture with the surrounding environment was the ideal of Joseon architects. Humility and efficient simplicity were greatly admired. While the Joseon tombs are not as elaborate as Chinese Royal tombs, the placement of the tombs show far more consideration of the natural environment in relation to tomb construction. This was all purposefully done, many Chinese style tombs would have been considered by Joseon scholars as poor locations for someone of status.

Do not take my views as angry or argumentative. My opinion is only that you made an error in your assessment of Korea in your review. I would certainly be open to friendly debate if you wish to share your views.

Author meltwaterfalls
#35 | Posted: 6 Oct 2011 11:18 
In regards to the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty I found this website that has some good practical information on visiting them to supplement Kyle's advice.
It is good to know we are not the only ones ticking off these sites!

Author winterkjm
#36 | Posted: 6 Oct 2011 14:43 | Edited by: winterkjm 
Nice find, a lot of good information here. I was suprised to find that from his pictures it seems like the tombs at Donggureung cluster are now largely off-limits. This is dissapointing since this is the largest tomb cluster, and includes the founder of Joseon. These tombs were not entirely closed in 2008, though sometimes I was unsure when a tomb was accessible or not when I visited.

At one site there was a video camera next to the tomb, and all of a sudden a speaker phone sounded and notified me the tomb itself was off-limits and that I needed to make my way down to the main area! Needless to say I was startled from the serenity and silence of the site! There was a path on the side of the tomb area, and nothing blocked the path, so naturally I thought the tomb area was open.

It is worth noting that on less busy days, (if you show interest), staff at the tomb may be willing to take you to the tomb itself. This has happened twice for me. This will not work at busier tomb clusters in Seoul. It may also help visiting with a Korean friend or in my case with my father-in-law.

Author Durian
#37 | Posted: 8 Oct 2011 09:54 | Edited by: Durian 
Dear Winterkjm, i have to visit Seoul soon, do you know any royal tomb still open for close up view? or I need to visit museum or intreprative center as Frederik's review to see the replica?

Author winterkjm
#38 | Posted: 8 Oct 2011 15:08 
*Heolleung Cluster - King Taejong and his Queen (joint tomb) (15th century)

This is relatively easy to get to, it is located in Southern Seoul. This is not a large tomb cluster like Donggureung, but it has one of the best examples of an early Joseon tomb. It is a joint tomb, one of the tombs is minor and you cannot visit. On the other hand, King Taejong's tomb is one of the most grand tombs built during the Joseon dynasty. I walked right up to the burial mound and explored the whole area around King Taejong's tomb. There are stairs on the side that go right up the hillside to the tomb. I visited this tomb in ealy June this year. So it seems likely this tomb is still open to the public, but offcourse there is no gurantee. If any burial mound area is closed it is worth talking to the staff that you are very interested in the tombs and that you wish you could walk to the burial mound.

King Sejong the Great the son of King Taejong built this tomb to honor his father, this is one reason it is more grand and larger than many other tombs. It may be the largest actually. The stone statues of animal guardians, generals, scholars, and the stone pillars are all high quality representations of Joseon tomb architecture. Also the stonework on the tombs themselves are fascinating.

I think this tomb may be your best bet. Another tomb that had some burial areas open when I visited in 2008 was Dongureung. However when I checked the site mentioned above about the guy ticking off the tombs, I noticed he had no close up pictures of any tombs at this cluster. He visited in 2011, so maybe many if not all of the tombs here may be closed. In my opinion besides Heolleung, this may be the best option because there are 17 tombs located here including King Taejo. It be worth the chance to once again to ask staff if it is possible to walk up the tombs, particularly because you have a STRONG interest in Korean history.

*Donggureung Cluster - King Taejo (15th century and on) largest cluster of tombs


Author Durian
#39 | Posted: 9 Oct 2011 08:51 | Edited by: Durian 
Thanks, Winterkjm :)

I will ask my host about Heolleung, as you mentioned it is in south Seoul, I may visit it with Namhansan Fortress as my host will take me for hiking. I would not say my Korean interest is STRONG, but in recent year I go to Korea many times, so my knowledge of Korea is still BASIC and based on my trip. (my interest for restaurants in Myeongdong area is maybe STRONGER :) )

Author winterkjm
#40 | Posted: 9 Oct 2011 13:47 | Edited by: winterkjm 
Haha, yeah the food in Myeongdong is a great place to find great Korean food! Koreans are always happy to accommodate foreigners if they are interested in their history and culture. So even though your interest in Korea is not that strong, if you want to visit a tomb area that is currently off-limits it may be in your best interest to be outgoing and enthusiastic! Always worth a shot!

I just added 24 pictures of 8 tomb clusters of the Royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty on Flikr. The pictures are half from 2008 before inscription, and half in 2011. Browse through the photos if you want to see some of the main tombs and styles of the serial nomination. Almost all of the tombs I was able to visit the burial mounds close up.

Check out the slideshow.


Author Durian
#41 | Posted: 13 Oct 2011 05:59 
Joseon Tombs Close-up view Report

Dear Winterkjm,

I visited Selleong and Heolleong yesterday as suggested by you for close-up view of the tombs, well all the tombs are off-limited with rope. There is no guard around to ask permission, my friend and I did not want to enter without permission. So I did not see the tomb closely. But at Heolleong, there is a walkway to the area behind the tomb that has fine view to see a liitle more close-up details of the tomb, camera zooming can help a lot :) At Seolleoung also there is a small walkway beside the tomb for a better view. I also found , the museum as in frederik's review, the place is good with documentary show tomb plan and funeral things. A nice trip I have to say.

Author winterkjm
#42 | Posted: 13 Oct 2011 08:02 
Well, glad to hear you had a pleasant time. At least many of the tombs are now developing "viewing areas". This is perhaps a happy medium from not being allowed anywhere on the hilltop where the burial mounds are located.

I would consider (like Frederick) a visit to only the ceremonial buildings and not getting any real view of the burial mounds as somewhat dissapointing. So I am glad you got somewhat up close! I particularly enjoy the views from behind the tombs. It really hits you the care that was put into each tombs location. If the tomb is a bit away from Seoul, they often offer great forested vistas. Next time I am in Seoul I will have to check out the museum you both mentioned.

How about Namhansanseong? I am curious if you found the site worthy of inscription or that it is overkill for Korea to add another fortress after Hwaseong. (Though Namhansanseong is quite a bit older) I had mixed feelings, I think in many ways it is more important than Hwaseong, but it is hard to justify both as WHS. Hwaseong exhibits the East/West influence in its construction which is fairly unique and also contains more monumental architecture. On the other hand, Namhansanseong is actually far more authentic than Hwaseong, as the later was very heavily damaged in the Korean War and much was rebuilt. (I did notice there was quite a bit of restoration work occuring at Namhansanseong when I visited in May) The temporary palace site at Namhansanseong is highlighted heavily in the nomination, but actual remains of this are almost non-existant and have been reconstructed. What were your impressions?

Author Durian
#43 | Posted: 14 Oct 2011 03:02 
Dear Winterkjm, Yes I did visit Namhansan, but my friend took me to a new hiking route far from the fortress so I did not see the place. Maybe next time as I have to visit Seoul again early next year.

Author meltwaterfalls
#44 | Posted: 18 Oct 2011 06:16 
Thanks for posting this stuff guys, should hopefully come in useful next week.

Seolleoung is certainly on my itinerary, and hopefully a few other clsters will work their way into my travels.

Any other tips for Seoul based eating and drinking could well be useful.

Thanks again

Author Durian
#45 | Posted: 18 Oct 2011 11:32 
My favorite places for eating are in Myeongdong, an area is a little bit confusing but you may ask locals to find the way.

My favorite bibimbap (some kind of rice and vegetable) is Gugung (I go to eat everytime I'm in Korea)

Korean Duck Myeongdong is another great place for duck bbq and its soju korean whisky :)

For tea and cake O'sulloc is the best in the area.

Myeongdong Gyoja is great for korean dumping and noodle if you can wait a really long queue.

Jilsuru near insadong is also OK for sweets, try its persimmon shake if available.

If you go to Gyeongju, go to eat Ssambap at Kuro Shikdang near the ancient observation thing.

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