Photo: Hwallaejeong at Seongyojang House
Star of the immensely popular drama “Dae Jang Geum,” Lee Young Ae is finally returning to the world of K-dramas through the upcoming historical drama, “Saimdang, Light's Diary.” The story focuses on Shin Saimdang, one of Joseon Dynasty’s (1392-1910) representative artists and the most famous hyeonmoyangcheo, meaning “good wife and wise mother.” Saimdang was born and raised in Gangneung, on the far eastern coast of Korea, where her house still stands today. With this history, Gangneung was the obvious choice as filming location for “Saimdang, Light's Diary.”
Shin Saimdang isn’t the only outstanding person to come from Gangneung; the city has produced many scholars of literature and other fields. Visit Gangneung to discover the beautiful scenery that inspired these many figures.
Photo: Black bamboo forest of Ojukheon House
The main setting of “Saimdang, Light's Diary,” Ojukheon House was the birthplace of both Saimdang and her son, Yulgok. Ojukheon gained its name from the grove of black bamboo, ojuk in Korean, growing around the house. The black bamboo forest is impressive, with a strong feeling of density not felt in groves of green bamboo.
Photo: Pine forest behind Ojukheon House
Ojukheon House appears in a variety of ways in “Saimdang, Light's Diary.” Lee Young Ae plays the roles of both Saimdang and modern-day university professor Seo Jiyoon. In late 2015, Seo Jiyoon is filmed coming down the staircase from the Sajumun Gate entrance. In another scene, co-star Song Seung-heon, playing the role of a scholar, walks through the pine forest behind the house.
Photo: Photo spot of Ojukheon as it appears on the 5,000 won bill (left) / Exhibition at the Museum of Oriental Embroidery (right)
On the way from Ojukheon House to the Yulgok Memorial Hall, you will come across a copperplate installed on the path. From here, you can take a photo of Ojukheon House exactly as it appears on the 5,000 won bill; have fun in your photo comparing the drawing to the real building. Yulgok Memorial Hall displays the 5,000 won bill side by side with the 50,000 won bill, featuring Shin Saimdang and one of her more famous paintings. The hall also employs digital media with the works to elicit strong feelings when viewing the displays. Before leaving Ojukheon, channel your inner artist through the hands-on embroidery experience at the Museum of Oriental Embroidery.
TIP. Meet Shin Saimdang and Yulgok Yi I
The woman featured on the Korean 50,000 won bill is none other than Shin Saimdang. She is famous for being a talented poet and artist, as well as for raising her son to be an outstanding figure. Her son, Yulgok Yi I, went on to become the best scholar of his time, and is featured on the 5,000 won bill.
* Related column
Delve into the Secrets Hidden Inside Korean Money!
Photo: Peonies at the birthplace of Heo Nanseolheon
It’s time to meet another representative woman of the Joseon Dynasty, the famous poet Heo Nanseolheon, born Heo Chohui, at her birthplace, just 4km away from Ojukheon House. The hanok here is not the original building in which Heo Nanseolheon was born, but is a newer house built at the same site.
Here, Nanseolheon grew up with her younger brother Heo Gyun, known for authoring the first novel written in Hangeul, “The Tale of Hong Gildong.” From the time she wrote her first Hansi poem (a poem written in Chinese characters) at just eight years old until she passed away at the young age of 27, Nanseolheon produced many works. When she died, she left behind a will that all of her works be burned, but her younger brother Heo Gyun managed to save and gather enough works to be preserved in a book, which then went on to be quite popular in China and Japan.
Photo: Marionette performance (left) / Rubbing experience (right)
Visitors to the memorial park can watch a marionette performance about the life of Heo Nanseolheon; learn about her birth, marriage, and eventual death as well as the poems she penned in her short life. The park offers both Heo Gyun & Heo Nanseolheon Memorial Hall and Chohui Traditional Tea Ceremony Experience Hall, where one can take part in ink rubbing, a traditional tea ceremony and more fun experiences. The park also has a vast pine forest, perfect for taking a leisurely walk and meditating while breathing in the fresh air.
Photo: Gangneung delicacy, Chodang Tofu
If you’re feeling hungry, there is no better place in Gangneung to fill your belly than Chodang Dubu Village. Chodang Tofu is known to have been created by Heo Nanseolheon’s father, using the salty water of the East Sea in the making process. Chodang Sundubu is served as a large plate of soft tofu without any seasonings. Following one’s tastes, the tofu can be dipped in soy sauce or eaten plain; either way, the pure taste and smoothness of the tofu will fill your palate.
Photo: Interior of the Maewoldang Kim Si-seup Memorial Hall
Seongyojang House has preserved its original appearance for over 300 years, including the beautifully harmonious Hwallaejeong and the lotus pond just beyond the entrance. Hwallaejeong is especially attractive, with written works from countless master calligraphers hanging from each pillar. It is interesting to compare the handwriting of the different artists, as each work truly is a piece of art. We recommend Joseon Dynasty’s finest calligrapher Kim Jeong-hui (penname Chusa) and Independence Movement activist Kim Gu (penname Baekbeom).
In addition to these famous calligraphers, next to Seongyojang House is the Maewoldang Kim Si-seup Memorial Hall. Kim Si-seup was a famous writer and scholar, known for penning “Geumo Sinhwa,” the first Korean novel, among his many other works.
Photo: Gyeongpoho Lake’s Gyeongpojeong (left) / Gyeongpodae Pavilion (right)
Photo: Gyeongpo prickly water lily marsh
Passing Maewoldang Kim Si-seup Memorial Hall, you will come upon Gyeongpoho Lake. The lake features a marsh of prickly water lilies, which comes into full bloom July through August. The pride of Gyeongpoho Lake is the Oriental scene created by the blooming lotuses surrounding a pavilion appearing to float on the water. Another fantastic spot is found at Gyeongpodae Pavilion, where the lake and its surroundings spread out expansively, with the endless ocean seen beyond.
Photo: Gangneung Café Street at Anmok Beach
Anmok Beach is Gangneung’s prime romantic café spot. The Café Street began in the 1980’s, when coffee vending machines lined the beach. Many people would take in the beauty of the East Sea with a cup of coffee from these “street cafés” in hand. These days, the vending machines have been replaced by numerous cafés, each one doing its part in adding to the aromatic scent of brewed coffee filling the air. It’s a great spot for watching the ocean unfolding before one’s eyes, as evidenced by the many people found relaxing on the café terraces. Finish your trip at Gangneung Café Street, sipping a cup of coffee as the sun sets.
* This column was last updated in October 2016, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting.
<Last updated on October 11, 2016>