Friday, 20 March 2015


Someone once rightly said-"A civilization without the knowledge of their past,origin and culture is like a tree with no roots." Our rich cultural heritage like the monuments,sculptures, architectures etc. that we inherit from our ancestors speaks to us about our glorious past.They talk to us about our history, culture, traditions, folk-lores, rituals and civilization - it enriches our lives with the knowledge of our past and origins that give us our sense of identity and belonging.According to me,a country with no cultural heritage,past or origin is like an island staying afloat waiting to be discovered! Yup, you can quote that as Sonaal says! :-)

And this time around in Part-II of this series (Read Part-I),I shall take you on a virtual tour of Korea as I share with you informational nuggets on at least five such cultural and natural heritage sites (of course there are more...time for you to explore!) that were inscribed in the World Heritage list at the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

Before that,have a look (see pic) at some exciting Wow Korea merchandise and a warm congratulatory letter I received from the Korea Tourism Organization,New Delhi on making it to the Phase-I of the Wow Korea Supporter 2015!! Thank you! Kahm sa Hamnida!

1. Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple: The construction of Bulguksa Temple (also known as Temple of the Buddha Land),located on the slopes of Mount Toham that begun in 751 was completed in 774 by the Silla royal court and has had about 40 renovations until 1805! The large temple site is centred on two courts namely Daeungjeon hall (Hall of Great Enlightenment,) which houses the Shakyamuni Buddha while Geungnakjeon hall (Hall of Supreme bliss) where the Seven Treasure Bridge Chilbogyo is housed. The Seokguram Grotto,a hermitage built by Gim Daeseong and originally called "Seokbulsa" (Stone Buddha Temple) overlooks the Sea of Japan and is 750m above sea level. The Seokguram Grotto has an arched entrance that leads into a rectangular chamber which bears the statue of Buddha with legs crossed in a serene expression of meditation and is surrounded by Bodhisattvas, Arhats and ancient Indian Gods in the rotunda.

Trivia Time - And the legend goes that the Bulguksa Temple considered as a masterpiece and the golden age of Buddhist art in the Silla kingdom was dedicated to Gim’s parents in his present life while the Seokguram Grotto was dedicated to Gim's parents from a previous life.


2. Hwaseong FortressThe Hwaseong Fortress (in English - Brilliant Castle or Fortress) was built by King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty  between 1794 to 1796 to give honor to his late father Prince Sado by housing his remains in the castle.Prince Sadao was murdered by his own father  King Yeongjo when he was locked alive inside a rice chest after failing to obey the command to commit suicide. It is also said that construction of this fortress was a response to the collapse of the Korean front line during Imjin war. Thus the dominant model for building fortresses in Korea was making a simple wall for the city or town and an independent mountain fortress where people could be evacuated in times of war. 

Trivia Time - It took 700,000 man hours ,1500 sacks of rice to pay the workers and a cost of 870,000 nyang (the currency then) from the national treasury to build this huge fortress! 

3.Jongmyo ShrineJongmyo shrine, located adjacent to Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung in the South is the oldest royal Confucian shrine is a preserve dedicated to the memorial services for the deceased kings and queens of the Korean Joseon Dynasty which was built in the 14th century by the order of King Taejo. The Jongmyo Shrine is divided into 15 main parts with a total of 19 rooms, a room each reserved for a king and his queen and memorial tablets placed in each of those 19 chambers.One of the main halls also known as Jeongjeon alone had seven rooms! 

Trivia Time  - It is believed that the south entrance gate of the shrine was reserved for spirits to enter and exit, the east gate was for the king whereas the west gate was for the performers of the royal ritual.


4. Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava TubesJejudo, a volcanic oval shaped island that stretches 130 kilometers from the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula and has a surface area of 1,846 square kilometers is the smallest province and the largest island in South Korea. The best part is that during cold winter months,the weather on Jejudo Island remains significantly warmer than the mainland.Jeju is scientifically valuable for its extensive system of lava tubes that are natural conduits through which magma once flowed. These are now empty caves which are also some of the largest in the world! These caves provide opportunities for scientific research and is also a popular tourist destination.It is also oft referred to as “Samdado Island” (means 'the three many') because of it's abundance of beautiful and unusually shaped black rocks, women and wind.The abundance of women dates back to time when fishing was the primary means of income as many men were lost at the seas.

Trivia Time - Did you know that in the central part of this island resides the Mt. Hallasan National Park which have 1,565 vascular plant species,17 mammals,8 types of amphibians, 8 types of reptiles,198 types of birds and 947 insect species that have been catalogued in this natural reserve.


5. Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites: Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites are invaluable megalithic stones dated back to seventh century BCE (Before the Common Era) which are the location of hundreds of stone dolmen that were used as grave markers of the ruling elite and for ritual purposes during the first millennium BCE when the Megalithic Culture was prominent on the Korean Peninsula. 

Dolmens are typically a single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of two or more upright stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone (table). They are classified in two types in East Asia - the table/northern-type and the go-board/southern-type. The table/ northern-type four stones are positioned to make the walls of a box which are capped by a stone whereas the go-board/southern-type is characterized by an underground burial of stones that is supported by a capstone. 442 dolmen have alone been documented and classified in the Gochang Dolmen Site! In the Hwasun Dolmen site,the Hyosan-ri group contains 158 dolmens and the Dasin-ri group has 129!

Trivia Time -  The most notable dolmen at Ganghwa,a northern/table-type dolmen is the biggest stone in South Korea measuring 2.6 × 7.1 × 5.5 meters weighs between 150 and 225 tons!

"A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural,educational, aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies - all of the things that quite literally make us who we are." ~ Stever Berry


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