Ibike Korea People-to-People Program
Photo essay: Seoul Walking Tour
Sample the sights of the ancient and modern capital of South Korea.
|This collection of photos are
from walks around Seoul to "feel the pulse of the city." It is quickly
evident that it has a lot! It is steeped in history and full of energy and
creativity. Up early, for an initial walk in the Gangnam neighborhood.
The sidewalk around the park is rubberized to make it more comfortable for
walkers (left). People
had already gathered in the park for a session of Tai-chi and stretching.
We stopped for breakfast once we got into the central city. From there we walked.
|The best way to get across Seoul is on the extensive subway system. It is clean, smooth, comfortable, there is no graffiti. and on Sunday morning it is very spacious. It is said that the subways are multi-purpose -- they can also server as shelters should the north attack. In the center of town the corridors continue between stations -- as linear shopping malls -- so in extreme weather you can move around the city in climate controlled comfort.|
|Emerging from the subway system our first stop is Seoul Railroad Station. The old station was constructed in 1926, by the Japanese, is a Renaissance-style building with a Byzantine dome. A multi-year restoration project was completed in 2011. The initial development of the Korean rail system was started during the Japanese occupation. The system now includes a comprehensive system of local, regional and high speed inter-city trains.|
|The new station is a post-modern glass building. If you are looking for Korea's bullet train this is where to look. Seoul Station is the northern terminus of the KTX, the Korean bullet train.|
In recent years Seoul has made an effort to be more bicycle-friendly. A
number of major arterials now have bike lanes, but the central city still has a
ways to go before it is family-friendly for bicycling.
Perhaps to show that they are in the spirit there is an installation of colorful, energetic, and fun bicycle art. The sculptures appear to be by David Gerstein, an Israeli artist and sculpture, who has similar pieces in other public spaces around the world. The pieces in Seoul are: (upper left): "Flower Girl Bike Rider", "Ladder Man" and "Armstrong", (lower left) "Troubadour Bike Rider" and "Weekend Ride", and (right) "Country Rider". Also a part of the Seoul installation, but not posted here are "Spring Bicycle Riders" and "Rider in Euphoria".
|Namdaemun (South Gate) is appropriately named because it was literally the south gate to the city. It is National Treasure number 1. The city has long since engulfed it, but that hardly diminishes its elegance. In 2004, it sat inside a traffic circle (left) with five lanes of traffic continually swirling around it. By 2006 it had been "rescued" (right). Traffic is diverted to one side, pedestrians have access to the gate and there is a regular "changing of the guard" ceremony. Ironically its 'rescue' may have lead to its demise because in 2010 it was torched by an arsonist. To find, collect and properly cure the old growth timber to authentic restore the structure will take several years.|
|Just inside the gate is Namdaemun Market. It seems to have everything. Among the clearly identifiable sections are the fish arcade, vegetable arcade, jewelry arcade, ginseng arcade, clock arcade and folk craft arcade to name a few.|
|If a shop has one of something it seemed to have an enormous number of that item. In one shop (left) it was all about head bans and hair accessories, with the dominate color of pink. Other shops would specialized in perfume, or shoes, or socks, or belts, or hats or watches, or phones, or knives, or table settings, or crafts, or ginseng and tea, or trinkets and souvenirs, and the list goes on.|
were several shops that
grind pepper in enormous quantities so that people don't run short of gochu, the main
spice for kimchi (left).
Many shops have dried fish -- bagged and hanging -- ready for sale (right).
It is interesting that hanbok fashion changes over time, both the style of cut
and color. One year the reds seem a bit more rust color, and there is less
of the light green and pink of recent past years. This was followed by
more pastel colors. And the style has probably moved on again.
In addition to the streets of storefront markets and kiosks, there are at least a dozens "vertical malls" in the neighborhood. In one-story high signs this building lists what you can find on each to the nine floors of the interior: Wholesale flowers, children's clothes, ladies wear (two floors), accessories, men's wear, shoes, "synthesis clothes" (two floors) and a restaurant.
A mismatch to anything
around, on the edge of Namdaemun
Market is this quite different, French Renaissance-style building, designed by
the Japanese architect Tatsuno Kinko in 1911. At the time is was the main
office of the Bank of Joseon. After liberation it became the main office
of the Bank of Korea. It stands as an example of one of the many ways the
Japanese disregarded (and often aggressively destroyed) the existing history and
culture of Korea during their occupation (1910-1945).
An now, across from the bank building is Post Tower. It is one of a growing number of highly designed skyscrapers in Seoul with multiple angles, curves and planes that probably couldn't have been successfully designed and build prior to access to powerful computers.
|The old (foreground) and new City Hall (behind the old building in the photo to the right) demonstrate the contrast in Seoul architecture. The old building is another example of neo-classic architecture (from the Japanese occupation era) and the new modern glass international-style building looks like a wave rising and enveloping the old building from behind.|
is a green sanctuary in the bustling city. It was originally (1454) a royal villa, but in 1593, when the Japanese burned the
palace, this became a temporary palace. From 1623 to 1897 it was not used as
a palace. After being forced to give up his throne in 1910,
again by the Japanese, Emperor Gojong
secluded himself here until his death in 1919. It is the smallest and
probably simplest palace in Seoul. One item of more interest is a sun dial
(upper right), with instructions.
There is a colorful changing of the guard ceremony at 10:00, 14:00 and 15:00 (subject to change.), except on Mondays and holidays.
It is a bit of cultural dissonance when the Joseon period royal guard turns the corner and marches in front of the Dunkin Donut shop.
During one visit, this brightly, traditionally attired, all-girl marching, horn, flute, shell and drum corps joined other traditionally attired groups for a parade through Seoul, but I never learned the occasion.
|The Anglican Church, in Seoul, was the first church building in Asia to be built in typical Romanesque style. The apse and altar are Sicilian-style. The image, from left to right, are: St Stephen the Martyr, St John the Evangelist, St Mary, The Prophet Isaiah, and St Nicholas. Jesus Christ is above. The organ has 20 stops and 1450 pipes.|
|At Gwanghwamun Public Square is the "zero milestone" for South Korea. Previously, this was the location of the Bumingwan multipurpose theatre. Historically, it was a venue for pro-Japanese rallies after the October 20, 1943, Imperial Order #48 requiring military-age college and high school students to serve in the Imperial army. In July, 1945, a group of Korean independence fighters threw a bomb at a group of pro-Japanese sympathizers standing here.|
very inspiring pedestrian
and environmental quality
project in the heart of Seoul is the restoration of Cheonggye-cheon (stream).
When Seoul was just a village and small town, kids played in the stream and women did laundry on its banks.
After the Korean War people immigrating from the countryside and seeking a better life in Seoul, built makeshift
houses along and cantilevered over the stream. This had a heavy
impact on the stream and filled it with garbage.
In the 1960's a series of project cleansed the low-cost housing, encase the polluted stream and build an elevated highway over it. This was the measure of progress of the day. (A few of the support pillars for the highway have been left standing.)
Forty years later the vision and local priorities changed again, this time placing greater values on aesthetics and the natural environment, and preserving the heritage of the city. The day-lighting of the stream, removal of the highway, restoration of old bridges and installation of riverside walks, waterfalls and public art was completed in October 2005. A open stream with crystal clear water now flows between the canyon of skyscrapers and out of the heart of the city. Each block of the stream and river bank changes character -- generally progressing from more formal and designed to more natural and random. Along the walkways are exhibits and art installation the commemorate the history of the country, city and stream.
|If you continue far enough along Cheonggye-cheon you will come to the ancient Dongdaemun (the east gate) (left), tucked into and engulfed by the city. Opposite the gate is a large contemporary shopping center with a living room (green roof) (right). To add to the architectural diversity, not far away a high rise residential building which might have been inspired by the designers earlier plan with legos.|
Frequently in the plaza at the head of the stream restoration and in the open spaces
along the way, during the warmer months, there are special programs,
The main information center for the Korean Tourism Organization is also along Cheonggye-cheon. Among the resources there is a permanent exhibit called the K-Star Gallery, with larger-than-life cut-outs of Korean entertainment stars.
|Prominently in the median of Sejong-ro, there are larger than life statues to the larger than life Korean national heroes Admiral Lee Seun Sin and Emperor Sejongno Road. Admiral Lee undermined the Japanese invasion (1592-98) with his "turtle ships" that reeked havoc with Japanese supply lines. Emperor Sejong, among many accomplishments, revived the Chiphyonjon, Royal Academy. It started with a staff of 10 and grew to 20 and development Hangul script and many scientific instruments.|
|Also prominent on Sejongno Road is the 24/7/365 guarded U.S. Embassy. It is not with just a few sentries, but armored military vehicles and a detachment of riot police camped along the wall. Some of this is visible in the lower right of the photo. It is pretty much ignored by the tourists.|
|Gyeongbokgung, built in 1395, was the primary palace of the Joseon Dynasty. While it has a resemblance to the Forbidden City in Beijing, much of it has been destroyed. It was never as large as the Forbidden City because Korea was generally subservient to China and had to show deference. This is Gwanghwamun (gate) and the palace wall.|
During the day, weather permitting, there are
ceremonies for the opening and closing of the palace gates, and twelve, hourly Changing-of- the-Gate-Guards, with several variations.
The chart (right) shows the various ranks and their respective uniforms and positioning in ceremonies. The ceremony was first fully established in 1469. The ceremony reenacted today has been revived in accord uniforms, weaponry and formalities customary in the early Joseon, in the 15th century.
|Heungnyemun (gate), Gyeongbokgung (Palace). In front of the gate is a stone bridge over a stream. A stream flowing through a palace is regarded as divine water carrying the spirit of nature. Crossing over the waterway protects people from evil spirits.|
|Geunjeongmun (Gate), Gyeongbokgung (Palace). Through each gate and leading between the gates there were three paths. Only the king could use the middle roadway. On special occasions the military (to the left) and civil servants (to the right) would line up in front of the gate to pay their respects to the king as he passed. The posts indicate where each rank is to stand.|
Geunjeongjeon, considered the
greatest building of Joseon architecture. It is the main building of
Gyeongbokgung. It is the place where ceremonies of the state, such as new
year's greetings to the king by civil and military officials, were held, and
where foreign envoys were received. It is believed to be in a very
auspicious location; surrounded by four mountains and with a stream running
through the grounds. Behind
the throne (right) is a picture showing a red sun and a white moon, above five
mountains, a waterfall and the ocean (the realm) and pine trees (a sacred tree).
This is the symbol of the emperor and it traveled with the him. The sun and
the moon in particular represent all of nature
(yang and ying), and the king and queen, respectively.
On the ceiling (right) is a watchful gold dragon, another symbol of the emperor. He was also likened to a dragon.
|Symbols of the Korean zodiac guard the palace. These posts feature monkeys and roosters. The Korean zodiac is probably derived from the Chinese zodiac. According to legend, the Jade Emperor invited the animals of his kingdom to enter a race through the countryside. The first 12 to finish the long race would each rule over one year every 12 years. The 12 animals are: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Each zodiac animal brings it own personality and characteristics to the year.|
|The interior of Sajeongjeon, the royal office, Gyeongbokgung, is furnished with the royal throne and royal screen depicting five mountains (left). To the right are the reading tables, document boxes and other furniture. The lower photo features the incense burner, with the throne, lanterns, candlestick, reading tables and other furniture in the background.|
|Gyeonghoeru pavillion is where official banquets were held and foreign envoys were entertained. King Taejong dug the pond and the pavillion was built in 1412.|
|Figures guard the building at Gyeongbokgung. There is always an odd number, and the more the number of figures, the more important the building.|
|The vent at the base of the building and the chimneys to the left are for the 'ondol', under-floor heating system. In Korea, ondol was developed 6,000 years ago by peasants. Over time it was improved and in common use by all social classes by 2000 years ago. It is still used to this day. Romans used hypocaust, under floor heating ducts, in the early C.E., but these disappeared. In the 11th C. fireplaces were in use in European culture, but they allowed about 80% of the heat to escape. Central hot air and steam heat returned to Western culture in the late 18th C.|
|Sajeongjeon was used as the King's office along with Manchunjeon to the east and Cheonchujeon to the west -- yin and yang. One was for winter meetings (ondol heated floor) and one for summer meetings.|
|Gangnyeongjeon, the king's residence: In both wings of this building there are nine rooms arranged in a 3x3 pattern. The central room was where the king slept and the surrounding eight rooms were where the court ladies kept night watch. There are Yeonsaengjeon, the eastern bed chamber and Gyeonseongjeon, the western bed chamber and Yeongildang and Eungjidang as an annex. Different rooms were used in different seasons. Above the door, reading from right to left, the characters are for 'think government hall'.|
|Gyotaejeon, the queen's residence building has a wooden floor hall in the center, with ondol rooms on each side of it. The present building was restored in 1994. The queen could look out of the window in the back the building onto a garden: There are four terraces in the garden, one for each season. The chimneys are part of the traditional ondol heating system for the buildings. The orange brick is for women.|
|The National Folk Museum,
on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung, has 4300 artifacts, displayed in three main
halls: Hall I: History of Korean People, Hal II: The Korean Way of Life, and,
Hall III Life Cycle of Koreans.
One of the exhibits is on the history of the Hanbok. It is fascinating to see the evolution of the style. Even today the cut and color change from year to year like any fashion trend. The common denominator seems to be high wasted belt or tie.
|The next intriguing exhibit on the nuances of Korean culture is on the making and evolution of kimchi. Some kimchi is fiery hot, but other type a are cool pickled vegetables. A main component of the hot styles of kimchi is red pepper, but the story is that red pepper was only introduce to Korea, from Europe via Japan, in the 17th century. This revolutionizing kimchi, but begs the question, "What was Korean cuisine before the introduction of red pepper?" One display shows 23 types of kimchi. There are now 160 types of kimchi.|
|Incorporated into the National Folk Museum is a hands-on children's museum. The is also an outdoor section to the museum with traditional children's games and a replica of a 1950's Seoul street.|
|In time it may be a little change, but I am amazed at how often I happen upon public performances of traditional Korean music and dance. The Koreans in the audience seem as thrilled as I as the foreigners..|
|Bukchon (north village) was a residential area of high government officials during the Joseon Period. After the fall of the Joseon Dynasty and the occupation by the Japanese, Bukchon fell on hard times. As the old traditional hanok, wooden houses, became derelict they were replaced by less traditional structures. There is now a resurgence in appreciation for the hanok that has lead to effort to preserve the remaining few. Bukchon has a higher concentration of hanok than any other part of the city and has become famous for this. It has again become a fashionable address.|
Donhwanmun Gate, the oldest palace gate among those remaining in Korea.
& the Secret Garden were the 2nd palace for a long period. After the Imjin
Invasion (1592-98), Changdeokgung was the first rebuilt and was used as the main palace until until 1865, in the late
Changdeokgung has many of the elements of Gyeongbokgung, the big palace, on a lesser scale.
|Buyongji pond is created to mimic earth, the square pond, and the universe, the round island. The building on the hill was used to store the royal archives.|
Nakseonjae living quarters
Euiduhap, where the Prince Hyomyeong enjoyed reading and contemplating nature
|Insa-dong: Traditional an area of antique and rare book dealers, calligraphy shops and tea rooms, patronized by seniors, aristocrats and artists. Gentrification and modernization is pushing them out. The new stores sell fast food, logo wear, designer fashion, etcetera, but they fill the street with people.|
pottery shop. Celadon is pale-jade-green pottery, made from white clay with a
small iron content. It is coated with a ferric feldspar dirt glaze and
fired at 1300oC. The process was refined from the 10th to 12th
century. Celadon's high quality was favored by the royal family.
There are still a few artist in the area practicing their trade, as exemplified by the man to the right hand-painting fans.
|Into the first decade of the new millennium there were antique dealers in the store fronts along the main streets. These have now been pushed to shops on the side streets and a couple of temporary sales kiosks on the main street.|
|These fortune tellers was two in a line of about a dozen fortune teller booths at the end of Insa-dong street. There are both male and female fortune tellers, and they seem to use a variety of techniques, such as palm reading, tarot cards and others.|
|Seoul is full of narrow streets and tightly packed market areas. One of the long standing modes for moving goods in and around the markets is by cargo bikes. The bikes have a long wheel base that is achieved by lengthening all of the horizontal tubes. To correct the distance between the saddle and the handlebars, the seat post is a goose-neck that extends forward and supported by additional brasing. The platform on the back is large enough to carry a medium-size refrigerator, which has probably been done.|
|Tapgpol (Pagoda) Park was the first modern park in Seoul. The primary pieces were recovered from the site of Wongak-sa, a Joseon era temple -- since destroyed. The park gets it name from the intricately carved, ten-story, 12m high, marble pagoda that was moved to the park. It was originally 13 stories. The monument to the right describes the history of the construction of Wongak-sa. Granite turtle base, with a marble body stone and head stone. The park is historically prominent because it is the birth place of Korea's modern Independence Movement. On March 1, 1919, during the Japanese occupation, 400-500 students gathered here to hear the first reading of the Korean Declaration of Independence.|
|"Uiam" Son Byeong-Hui was a Chondokyo (Donghak) leader, independence activist and educator. Headed the group of 33 men that represented the people during the March 1 Movement.|
|Jogyesa Temple, headquarters of Korean Buddhism.|
|The monument (left) is at Ri Insik's house, where general, civil servant and activist Min Young-Hwan (b. 1861) committed suicide on November 30, 1905, after leading resistance to capitulation to the invasion by the Japanese. The statue of Min (right) is near Bongeun-sa.|
|The Bosingak Bell Tower was originally built in 1396. The bell was rung to signal the opening and closing of the city gates and to alert citizens when there was a fire. The tower, itself, was burnt down several times and rebuilt.|
|The current Korea House was constructed in 1980. it is the work of Shin Eung-Soo, a great carpenter artisan, as well as important cultural asset. Historically, it was the private residence of one of the six most royal subjects of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).|
|Namsangol Hanok (traditional) Village, Seoul, was created to preserve the national heritage by moving some of the Joseon's yangban (noble class) houses still remaining in the capital to a central site. Tragically, much of the heritage housing in Seoul was destroyed during the Japanese occupation (1910-45)|
|Namsangol Hanok (traditional) Village, consists of the parental houses of Queen Yun, consort to King Sunjong (1907-10); Shrine house of Haepung Buwongun (title given to a king's father-in-law) Yun; House of Bumadowi (title given to a king's son-in-law) Bak; House of Owijang (Commander of Five Commanders') Kim; and, House of Dopyeonsu (Master Architect) Yi.|
|This is one of the interiors, with period pieces at Namsangol Hanok (traditional) Village, Seoul|
|Outside of the oldest parts of Seoul the streetscape is dominated by wide boulevards and International-style architecture. After the WWII, much of the the industrial world, embraced International style architecture. It embraces the philosophy that "less is more." Beauty was to be the result of the structure and form of the building, dependent on the proportions of the structural steel grid and the curtain wall that covered it. Buildings should be functional and geometric. Characteristics are tall slender buildings, glass and aluminum shells. There is no delineation of base, shaft and capital.|
|International-style architecture is used for commercial and residential buildings alike. Fortunately, generally on the non-arterial side of the residential buildings some green space is provide. These generally aren't full fledged parks capable of accommodation the recreational needs of the adjacent population but they do provide a softer edge and may contain a walking path and bench for meditation.|
If "less is more" inspired the international style, "less is a bore" became the mantra of some architects after the 1980's -- labeled post-modern Post-modern didn't start to seep into Seoul's streetscape until much later. Even now projects that try to twist, contort and distort the box are rare, but when they do they tend to be very eye catching. They tend not to deviate from the International form as some post-modern architecture, but they are a start at creativity.
Alas, the street wall of a long many of the boulevards is used for commercial retail space. It rarely looks much different from what you might see in Los Angeles, London or Paris. In fact, many of the stores are the same brands that you will see in Los Angeles, London and Paris.
|A few blocks away, in the center of the Gangnam district's high-rise buildings, are the Seonjeongneung Royal Tombs. King Seongjong (r 1469-94), his second queen, Jeonghyeon-wanghu, and King Jungjong (r 1506-44) are buried here. King Seongjong ascended the throne at the age of 13. He is remembered for his work ethic and love of poetry. In 1485 he promulgated the Grand Code of State Administration, whose compilation had begun in the reign of King Sejo. He also completed the Expanded National Code in 1492, perfecting the laws and institutions of the state. He stabilized the authority of the throne by engaging the neo-Confucian literati to check the meritorious elites who wielded immense power at the time.|
Bongeunsa was built in 794
south, across the river from old Seoul. The temple may have included up to
18 temples/shrines when it was destroyed by fire in 1939. Key shrine currently
are: Daewungjeon (main), Bupwangru, Shimgeundang, Seonbuldang, Jijangjeon,
Yeonsanjeon, Bukgeukgojeon, Yeonggak, Pan jeon, Bowudang The temple groups
are now totally engulfed by an
urban environment, but still is a refuge of tranquility.
The dominant statue is Mireukdaebul (Buddha of the Future State). It is the largest Buddha in Korea. The statue symbolizes hope for Maitreya to arrive and save all of man kind. Bongeunsa offer temple stay programs, which provide relaxation and a chance to experience the culture through experiencing the daily life of a monk.
Korean fish and mandu
(dumplings) dinner, with and assortment of side dishes. (left)
If the Italians got the idea for pizza from Korea it was from panjeon. Jeons are made from a variety of vegetables and / or seafoods fried in a light batter. Jeon also has a resemblance to pancakes and tempura. The platter to the right has modeum jeon -- assorted pancakes.
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