Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Royal Tomb Museum at Taegangneung

The royal burial grounds are sacred resting places where traditional architecture and nature are harmonized. The 40 burial sites of the 27 generations of kings and their consorts spanning the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), a period of 519 years, were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage in June 2009 as a cultural legacy surviving the dynasty and extending beyond it into a century of war, modernization and cultural revision.

The 27 Generations of Kings (Joseon Dynasty)

In the mounds of Taereung [Historic Site No. 201] and Gangneung rest several 16th century political leaders of the Joseon Kingdom. Taereung was occupied by Queen Munjeong (1501-1565) [interestingly in the Confucian dynasty known for persecuting Buddhists, she was a devout Buddhist and trusted the monk Bou; she also introduced a state-administered examination for monks], the consort of the eleventh king Jungjong, and Gangneung by the thirteenth king Myeongjong (r. 1545-1567) and his consort Queen Insun (1532-1575).

Taereung and Gangneung mounds are located through means of pungsujiri in front of Buram Mountain, the guardian mountain, only about one kilometer apart from each other, and arranged and structured in similar styles. Both mounds show the scale and grandeur of the mid-Joseon period tombs, adorned with retaining stones and stone railings and guarded by three-meter-tall stone officials.Evolution of the Stone Carved Officials

Inside the museum are copies of some of the stone statues used to guard the tombs through the Joseon Dynasty. Stately, dignified and sometimes grosteque statues are shown in evolutionary contrasts to one another to depict a transition in thought and the virtue of appearances in guarding the royal ones.

Pictured to the left are 3 stone civil officials and to the right are 3 stone military officials taken from the tombs of:
* King Taejo at Geonwolleung (1408)
...military official - 222cm [far right]
...civil official - 231cm [far left]
* Queen Munjeong at Taereung (1565)
...military official - 337cm [middle]
...civil official - 333cm [middle]
* King Jangja at Yungneung (1789)
...military official - 230cm [far left]
...civil official - 220cm [far right]
Of cultural interest here is that in the earlier Joseon Dynasty the civil official was given more stature, symbolizing more importance within society at that time, but with the development of the dynasty, the military official surpassed the civil offical in status. As the infamous Imjin War did not take place until 1592, three decades after the visible rise in military standing as depicted here, I find the heightened status and importance of the military official rather premature to historically-known cultural need, especially as the Joseon Dynasty lauded the scholar (the brain) and not the brawn of the warrior.

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