Sunday, December 22, 2013

Meeting with King Jeongjo: Part 7 - Lunch and royal tombs

A month ago I went on a cultural trip to Suwon, put on by the Korean Culture and Information Service.  I've already written about these parts of the trip:
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After leaving the temple stay where we'd learned the importance of not wasting food, we walked half a block to a restaurant where we were served a Korean feast impossible to finish.


It was around 12:30 when we left lunch, and sleep-deprived me wanted nothing more than to be magically transported home to my bed.  But before our Meeting with King Jeongjo would come to a close, we had one last visit: his tomb.

Joseon royal tombs: Yungneung & Geolleung

We drove for about a half an hour, arriving at the tombs just after one o'clock.

In 2009 the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list, a fact our tour guide was understandably very proud of.  These royal tombs include 40 burial grounds, but we only visited two of the tombs: Yungneung and Geolleung.

Yungneung is the joint tomb of Crown Prince Sado (1735-1762) and his wife Lady Hyegyeong.  There was a small building at the bottom of the hill, where ancestors would bring offerings.  A red fence surrounded the hill, to keep present-day visitors from walking up to the actual tomb.

When we were given free time to walk around the grounds, our tour guide walked back in the woods and around to the other side of the red fence - on the hill with the tomb.  We can go there? I thought, and then followed him with the group of us that were nearby.


All of a sudden a siren alarm went off.  There were blinking red lights down by the building.  But we kept walking across this hill with our guide, because those couldn't be for us; he must have had special permission to take us on the hill.  Soon royal tomb workers had made their way over and were shouting at us in Korean.  Our guide (also Korean) talked with the tomb workers as we were shuffled back down the hill, to the other side of the fence.  Whoops.

After calming them down and talking with the tomb people some more (no idea what he said), our tour guide was able to lead our whole group through the woods and up to the actual mound of the tomb, on top of the hill.  No one else could go up here, so it felt special and also strange, as if we were in a graveyard standing on the ground directly in front of the tombstone:


Then we walked through the woods to the second tomb, Geolleung.  Geolleung is the joint tomb of King Jeongjo (1752-1800) and his wife Queen Hyoui.


It had the same layout as the first tomb (with the building at the bottom of a hill, tomb mound on top of hill, red fence keeping people out), though this time we did not trespass to the other side of the fence.

It was 3 p.m. when we boarded the bus and left the tombs, and then we were dropped off at Saturday morning's pick-up locations.  I don't think I got home until sometime between 7 and 8 that night, utterly exhausted.  It was a great (free) weekend trip though, where I gained new experiences and cultural knowledge.
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