Monday, November 29, 2010

전주향교 (全州鄕校)

This is the place where the "Sungkyunkwan Scandal" (성균관 스켄들, 成均馆绯闻) was 'exposed'. The place is called the 'Jeonju Hyanggyo' (전주향교, 全州鄕校), a former Confucian academy built at its present location in 1603, during the Joseon dynasty. Besides providing education for the sons of 'yangban' or aristocrat, it also served as a Confucian shrine.

I have not been following the drama "Sungkyunkwan Scandal" but I got to know about 'Jeonju Hyanggyo' (the drama's main filming site) through a KBS news report. Even if you are not a Korean drama fan, the majestic ginkgo trees within its compound, many of which are more than 300 years old, by itself, is a worthwhile reason to visit the place. Getting there is not much of a problem. Hop into a waiting taxi at the taxi stand outside Jeonju inter-city bus terminal (전주시외버스터미널) and tell the taxi driver, "기사님, 전주향교(에) 가주세요." The taxi ride takes about 25-30 minutes and cost about 5,000won.

Jeonju Hyanggyo - The main filming site of "Sungkyunkwan Scandal"

Typical of most 'hyanggyo', the front courtyard of 'Jenju Hyanggyo' is a sacred place meant to house Confucian shrines and for performance of rituals. The back courtyard is where classroom and dormitories are located. The layout of the buildings is also typical Korean architectural style - the back faces a mountain to the north whilst the front doors open to the south, preferably with a river right in front. You can compare this layout with that of Gyeongbok palace. Essentially, they share similar layout.

Layout of Jeongju Hyanggyo - 1. Manhwa Pavilion (만화루, 萬化樓) 2. Ilwol Gate (일월문, 日月門) 3. Dongmu (동무, 東廡) 4.Seomu (서무, 西廡) 5. Daeseong Hall (대성전, 大成殿) 6. Dongjae (동재, 東齋) 7. Seojae (서재, 西齋) 8. Myeongnyun Hall (명륜당, 明倫堂) 9. Gyeseong Shrine (계성사, 啓聖祠) 10. Ipdeok Gate (입덕문, 入德門) 11. Toilet

1. Manhwa Pavilion (만화루, 萬化樓)

On first look, I thought 'Manhwa' Pavilion is the main gate of 'Jeonju Hyanggyo' but it isn't. There are doors no doubt, but those are very low doors and you will have bent your body to go through. The thing about visiting a Confucian school is that it makes you think. Names of each building and gate stimulate a lot of thoughts in my mind. For example, 'manhwa' means 'ten thousand changes' literally and this word reminds me that this world where I live in is impermanent and change is a constant. Archimedes claimed that all he ever needed was a point that was firm and immovable and he might be able to move the entire Earth from the place it occupied. Alas, he could not find any. The truth is, all things are movable and mutable. To indulge in upholding status-quo at the expense of change is to go against the order of nature. Nobody in history has ever registered a win over nature.

Manhwa Pavilion, a good place to observe ceremony, ritual or to study and relax. There is a staircase at the side which you can use to access the upper level.

It is rare to see 'hanja' being used in Korea these days. The banner is to inform the public that there was a national 'pansori' singing competition going on.

I have to bend my body to get through the low door under the pavilion.

2. Ilwol Gate (일월문, 日月門)

After going under Manhwa Pavilion, I entered a small courtyard with Ilwol Gate in front of me. 'Ilwol' means 'sun moon' literally, so Ilwol Gate can also be called the 'Sun Moon Gate'. I think, calling the gate 'sun moon' has a much deeper meaning than just some nice sounding celestial name. In eastern philosophy, sun corresponds to 'yang' (positive energy) and moon to 'ying' (negative energy). Hence, sun-moon are widely used to refer to the two polarities of nature which is the basis of 'Tao' or in simple English, the way nature behaves. In 'Tao', everything in this world has its antithesis and it begins with the splitting of 'emptiness' into its two opposite extremes and ends with the merging of the extremes. Rise and fall, wealth and poverty, happiness and sadness, are things that come and go. They are not meant to stay unchanged. All Confucian scholars were supposed to be well versed in that.

The 'Ilwol Gate' or the 'Sun Moon Gate'. The centre door is meant for great people. Commoners like us will have to take the side doors. At the back of the door is the front courtyard.

A mother and daughter were seen collecting ginkgo nuts in the yard. There are so many ginkgo nuts on the ground if you ever bother to gather them. You will probably think thrice about paying for some health products which claim ginkgo extracts in Korea when you can have the real stuff in great abundance. The good thing is, it is free.

3. Dongmu (동무, 東廡) and 4.Seomu (서무, 西廡)

'Dongmu' and 'Seomu' are two shrines that flanked 'Daeseongjeon' (the Confucius shrine) in the front courtyard. It is said that the memorial tablets of eighteen Korean sages are enshrined in these two buildings. '廡' is a Chinese character that I have not come across. I would have pronounced it '无' if I have not made a check. It is actually pronounced as '五'.

'Dongmu' or East Shrine - The shrine on the eastern flank of Daeseongjeon

'Seomu' or West Shrine

A huge ginkgo tree in the front courtyard which is about 350 years old. Just look at its size as compared to a person. 

5. Daeseong Hall (대성전, 大成殿)

'Daeseongjeon' or 'Daeseong' Hall is the principal shrine in the front courtyard which enshrines the memorial tablet of Confucius. "Daeseong' (大成) was a title bestowed upon Confucius which has the meaning of 'great accomplishment'.

There are three paths leading to the Daeseong Hall. The centre path is meant for Confucius. Again, commoners like us should use the side paths out of respect. 

When you see '大成殿' any where, it always got to be a Confucius shrine.

This low door connects the front courtyard to the back. The warning in English is written much bigger than the Korean. So don't say you can't read English. Watch your head to avoid unwanted headache.

6. Dongjae (동재, 東齋) 7. Seojae (서재, 西齋)

The back courtyard is the most picturesque part of Jeonju Hyanggyo. Autumn is the best season to study and you will know why when you enter the back courtyard. Two giant ginkgo trees towering over the courtyard, carpeted it golden with their fallen leaves. You cannot help feeling poetic when you are surrounded by old buildings, old trees and the autumn hues. I was told that to excel in learning, it is not just about you and your teachers, the environment also plays an important part. The back courtyard is a fine example of a perfect environment for learning.

'Dongjae' or the East Dormitory. I like this scenery best.

I wonder how many people can afford the time for simple pleasure like watching the falling of autumn leaves?

Autumn is indeed a good season for learning

'Seojae' or West Dormitory at the other end. The giant ginkgo tree in front of 'Seojae' is almost 400 years old. Big is beauty.

A closer look at 'Seojae'

The back courtyard is the best spot for photo-taking.

8. Myeongnyun Hall (명륜당, 明倫堂)

'Myeongnyundang' or 'Myeongnyun Hall' was the classroom where the Confucian scholars received their teachings of Confucius. 'Myeongnyun' means to 'understand relationships' literally. In Confucius teachings, there are five principal relationships in a society. These are relationship between parents and children, king and subordinates, husband and wife, siblings and friends. In a healthy society, there must be closeness between parents and children, loyalty between king and his subordinates, difference (in role) between husband and wife, order of seniority between siblings and trust between friends. Upsetting any of these relationships would set the society on a course to dysfunctional. It is thus important for Confucian scholars to clearly understand the importance of these five relationships, which is the core of Confucius teachings.

Myeongnyun Hall framed by ginkgo tree.

A shower of golden leaves

Decorated at the front with chrysanthemum for the 'pansori' competition.

A full view of Myeongnyun Hall. Not a very a big building. Then again, how many people could afford an education for their children during the Joseon dynasty.

9. Gyeseong Shrine (계성사, 啓聖祠)

The 'Gyeseongsa' or 'Gyeongseong Shrine' is the building which enshrined the memorial tablet of Confucius's father. 

The yard in front of Gyeseong Shrine. The door in front is 'Ipdeok Gate'.

10. Ipdeok Gate (입덕문, 入德門)

I think 'Ipdeok Gate' is supposed to be the entrance to 'Jeonju Hyanggyo' although it looks like a side door. 'Ipdeok' means to enter 'deok' literally. 'Deok' means the way a society should behave. "Enter the door and you will learn how a moral society is supposed to function", was probably what the school wanted to tell those who once entered it. I guess for some people, they would rather choose to exit the door. Immorality does pay well to some extent. However, regardless of which side of the door you are standing, we are all subjected to the same law of nature.

The entrance into Jeonju Hyanggyo

The side road leading to Ipdeok Gate

This is supposed to be a notice board. If you look closer, many were remarks left for 'Mikki Yucheon', the male protagonist of "Sungkyunkwan Scandal". 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

가을 다 가기전

Between Dec 2007 and Dec 2009, I experienced two winters, two springs and two summers in Korea. The only season I missed twice is autumn. As 2010 autumn is drawing to a close, I decided that I need to visit Korea again to complete my story of four seasons. 'Autumn tales' is the final and concluding chapter of this story which started with 'Winter Wander' in Nov/Dec 2007, followed by 'Scent of Spring' (Mar/Apr 2008) and 'Summer in KHU' (Aug/Sep 2008). Autumn is indeed a beautiful season to be in but I gain greater satisfaction from completing the full circle.

(Above two pictures are taken in Gyeongbok Palace in late autumn 2010)

서울 세계 등 축제

"Hi~ I'm Haechi. Welcome to 2010 Seoul Lantern Festival at Cheonggyecheon. This year festival is special because it coincides with the G20 summit."

It's rare to get this unobstructed view of Haechi lantern. Most of the time, crowd will be taking photo in front of it.

"Guards on duty" at Cheonggyecheon Plaza

Lanterns shown at the festival came mainly from Korea, Japan and China. Lanterns from Korea depict mainly animals, rituals and folklore, things that are closer to life and nature. However, it was the lanterns from China and Japan which stole the show. They are huge, elaborate and glamorous. Not to be outdone, Korea also has its 'jewel' - the turtle ship, which I thought was the best lantern in the festival.

A typical Korean lantern depicting animals seen in the peninsula

Carp lantern

Sea turtles lantern

Tiger lantern - In Korean culture, tigers are always depicted as adorable animals rather than fierce predators

Skating on ice

Celebration the Korean style - Wrestling, music and dance

'Pungmul' - Korean folk music tradition that includes drumming and dancing 

The turtle ship - The oars are moving, the dragon mouth spews steam and the canon mouths throw out flame. The most attention-grabbing lantern at the festival.

This lantern from Japan is the tallest lantern in the festival, probably about 10m tall. It depicts a gruesome-looking 'King of Hell'. Usually, the purpose of making such lantern is not to frighten people but to remind them to do good and stay away from evil.

The back of the 'King of Hell' with hell flame as the backdrop

Another nice piece of lantern from Japan - probably a sumo wrestler

The back of the sumo wrestler lantern

Distinctive Japanese paintings

Chinese lantern depicting landmarks of Shanghai

A very huge lantern which can only be captured in whole from afar

Chinese opera masks

A close-up shot. The beard is lit with LED lights.

Cowherd and Weaver Girl from Chinese legend

Revolving lanterns - The dark shadow kept revolving around inside the lanterns. 

There were about 25,000 lanterns on display with almost an equal number of crowd to match. In short, the place was very crowded.

Lanterns carrying the wishes of people

May all wishes come true

A lantern to promote Jeonju bibimbap

Yeony and Suny, the two mascots of Yeosu World Expo 2014. They are inspired by the planktons in the sea. I think the theme for the coming expo at Yeosu is also about sea.

That's all folk. This is Haechi in Seoul signing off.