Sunday, November 12, 2017

Donggureung, Hongneung, Yureung - Royal Tombs

Jihoon Suk, a new member of the Royal Asiatic Society and a recent MA graduate in Korean Modern History from Yonsei, led a tour of some of the royal tombs. Since he grew up in the precincts of Donggureung and has seen the changes since childhood, he had great commentary on the development and "exportation of modern culture" on the tombs and their appearances today as compared to just 20 years ago.


Royal Tombs of Donggureung, UNESCO World Heritage

The largest royal tomb cluster of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Donggureung refers to nine tumuli east of Seoul where seven kings and their ten queen consorts, spanning almost the entire dynasty, are buried. They include Geonwolleung for the found King Taejo (r. 1392-1398), Mongneung for the 14th ruler, King Seonjo (r. 1567-1608), and Wolleung for the 21st monarch, King Yeongjo (r. 1724-1776).

Located at an extraordinarily auspicious site, the cluster was initially called Dongoreung (eastern five tombs) and then Dongchilneung (eastern seven tombs). The current name dates to 1855 when Sureung was added to inter the posthumously named King Munjo (1809-1830).

The 40 Joseon royal tombs, except for two in North Korea, were collectively inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in June 2009 in recognition of their traditional Korean architectural style, beautiful landscaping in harmony with the natural settings, the rituals held at the royal grave sites, comparable examples of which are hard to find in any other country, and rich documentary heritage related to the tombs.

East Nine Royal Tombs, Guri

Historic Site No. 193

After the demise of King Taejo, the founder and the 1st monarch of the Joseon Dynasty in 1408, King Taejong, the 3rd monarch of the dynasty, built a royal tomb for King Taejo at this location. Throughout the Joseon Dynasty, other kings and queens were buried here also. As a result, there are a total of 9 royal tombs in this site.
  • Geonwolleung - the tomb of King Taejo, 1st monarch
  • Hyeolleung - the tomb of King Munjong, 5th monarch and Queen Hyeondeok
  • Mongneung - the tomb of King Seonjo, 14th monarch, Queen Uiin and his 2nd Queen Inmok
  • Hwireung - the tomb of Queen Jangnyeol, 2nd Queen of King Injo, 16th monarch
  • Sungreung - the tomb of King Hyeongjong, 18th monarch and Queen Myeongseong
  • Hyeongeung - the tomb of Queen Danui, queen to Gyeongjong, 20th monarch
  • Wolleung - the tomb of Yeongjo, 21st monarch, and his 2nd Queen Joengsun
  • Sureung - the tomb of posthumous Emperor Munjo and Empress Sinjeong
  • Gyeongneung - the tomb of Emperor Heonjong, 24th monarch, Empress Hyohyeon and the 2nd Empress Hyojeong

In accordance with pungsu (geomancy), Donggureung has Mt. Geoman as the guardian mountain jusan at the rear, and most of the burial mounds are located halfway up the hill. Donggureung also features topographical elements, including a symbolic blue dragon on the left and a white tiger to the right and the opposite mountain overlooking the site of the burial mounds to the south. Donggureung with the area of 196-ha shows various types of burial mounds. These are:
  • Dalleung, the grave mound of a king or queen alone on a hill
  • Ssangneung, the grave mounds with the king and queen side by side on the hill
  • Dongwonigangneung, the separated mounds with king and queen placed on adjacent hills running from the same guardian mountain
  • Hapjangneung, the bodies of the king and queen buried under the same mound
  • Sanyeolleung, the triple parallel mounds of a king and his queens on the same hill

Stele for King Taejo at Geonwolleung Royal Tomb, Guri

Treasure No 1803

The stele for King Taejo at the Geonwolleung Royal Tomb in Guri was erected in 1409 (the 9th year of the reign of King Taejong of the Joseon Dynasty) to commemorate the life and achievements of Yi Seong-gye (1335-1408), who later became King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty. The stele bears an inscription recounting the story of King Taejo's life and the foundation of the Joseon Dynasty. With its excellent preservation of dragon-shaped capstone, main body and tortoise-shaped pedestal, it is told that the stele had become an example to the other stele dedicated for the kings of early Joseon Dynasty and also to the monuments of later times.

The epitaphs on the front and back of the stele were composed by Seon Seun (1352-1430), a renowned scholar and civil official of the early Joseon Period, and Byeon Gye-ryang (1389-1430), a great write of the same period. The name of the stele was written by Jeong Gu (1350-1418), a noted official and calligrapher, and the epitaphs were beautifully inscribed by the hand of Seong Seok-rin (1338-1423), a master calligrapher of the early Joseon period.

Although the tortoise-shaped pedestal was reconstructed at a later date, this stele exhibits the representative features of steles of the early Joseon Period, and attests to the shift from the traditional Goryeo structure to a new style of stele that incorporated the tradition of the Ming Dynasty.

It is also an invaluable cultural heritage that provides profound insights for research on Korean history, cultural history, and calligraphic history.

Hongneung and Yureung Royal Tombs, Namyangju

Historic Sites No. 207

UNESCO World Heritage (June 30, 2009)

This historic site is home to Hongneung, the tomb of Emperor Gojong (1852-1919), the 26th monarch of the Joseon Dynasty, buried together with Empress Myeongseong from the Min clan (1852-1895), and Yureung, the tomb of Emperor Sunjong (1874-1926), the 27th monarch of the Joseon Dynasty, buried with both of his Empresses, Empress Sunmyeonghyo (1872-1904) from the Min clan and Empress Sunjeonghyo (1894-1966) from the Yoon clan. 

In accordance with pungsu (geomantic principles), Hongneung and Yureung were built in front of Myojeok Mountain as a main mountain to protect the burial ground, since its topography reflects a blue dragon to the left and a white tiger to the right and faces another mountain at a distance.

Unlike the royal tombs of the predecessors, Hongneung and Yureung are imperial royal tombs which clearly show the changes that took place in the royal burial system during the Joseon Period. Those changes are, in front of the burial mound, a Chimjeon instead of Jeongjagak is placed and stone statues of civil and military officials, animal figures of giraffes, elephants, lions, haetaes, camels and horses are erected in order along the Spirit Road - Royal Road, the stone path from the Chimjeon to the Hongsalmun on both sides. The Spirit Road - Royal Road also became wider and Jaesil, ritual preparation chamber, became larger than those of past royal tombs.

There are more royal tombs located within this historic site. These are: 
  • Yeongwon, the tomb of King Yeongchin, son of Emperor Gojong, and his Queen
  • Hoeinwon, the tomb of Imperial Prince Gu, son of King Yeoungchin
  • the tomb of King Uichin, son of Emperor Gojong
  • the tomb of Princess Deokhye, daughter of Emperor Gojong

Yeongwon - Hoeinwon Royal Tomb

Yeongwon is the tomb of Crown Prince Ulmin (1897-1970), also known by his imperial title Yeongchinwang), the last crown prince of the Korean Empire, and his wife Crown Princess Uimin (1901-1989). When the crown prince died in 1970, his burial place (Yeongwon) was prepared near Hongneung, the tomb of his father Emperor Gojong. His wife was buried alongside him in Yeongwon upon her death in 1989. To the east of Yeongwon is Hoeinwon, the tomb of their second son Lee Gu (1931-2005). Built in the traditional style of royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, Yeongwon comprises a tomb keeper's house, a red-spiked gate, a T-shaped wooden shrine, and a stele pavilion. The mound is surrounded by retaining stones, other stone structures including statues of a ram, tiger and horse, stone pillars, a rectangular stone table, a stone lantern, and statues of civil and military officials.

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