The next few days were busy from the crack of dawn to late nights with a reception, meetings at Seoul National University, and a conference…
In the evenings after work my sister and I roamed around the city together…
Once the conference was over, my sister and I had one more day to explore the city. It was a marathon!
Our hotel overlooked a group of Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty. There are 40 different Joseon Dynasty Royal Tombs scattered around various locations in Korea. Collectively, they have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Seonjeong-neung Park in Gangnam contains the tombs of King Seongjong (1469-94) and his wife Queen Jeonghyeon, as well as the tomb of King Jungjong (1506-44). On Friday morning we began our day by taking a walk around the park. The first stop was the jaesil, or “house of purification.” This was where officials would stay to purify themselves before presiding over the funeral rites.
Being here reminded my sister of visiting my paternal grandmother when we first moved back to Korea many years ago when she was six and I was a baby. Our grandmother lived in a house like this in the country. My sister remembers waking up in the middle of the night to see my mother compulsively glueing down edges of the waxed paper floor covering that had curled up:
Traditional Korean houses were heated by underfloor heating called ondol. Smoke from a furnace would travel through channels covered by the paper. The paper would be the only thing protecting everyone from the real peril of carbon monoxide poisoning.
This T-shaped shrine is typical of Joseon Dynasty burial sites:
A closeup view of some of the gargoyles perched along roof edges:
The tombs themselves are located in three different sections of the park. To reach them, you wind past copses of undulating pines: