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A Trip to Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty
A Trip to Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty : Public Gardens for the Living and the Dead in the Vicinity of Seoul
The Joseon Dynasty began in 1392 and lasted for 519
years. Rarely have any of the world’s royal dynasties
lasted for over half a thousand years, but what is
even more surprising is that the tombs of all the kings
and queens of the Joseon dynasty have been preserved
until the present day. The roads to the royal tombs
lead travelers to an auspicious place. The sites of
the royal tombs were carefully selected by Feng Shui
experts, and the landscape, structures, and architecture
surrounding the tombs combined to produce the highest
art form of the time. The premises of the royal tombs are
surrounded by mountains, bodies of water, and grass lawns and covered by old pine trees. Royal tomb sites are picturesque and places to relax and escape from the bustle of the city. The royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty were built to honor the spirits of the dead monarchs and to allow them to rest peacefully. Therefore, they are peaceful public gardens for both the living and the dead.
On your trip to Korea, be sure to pay a visit to these unique royal tombs of the Joseon dynasty, which are now a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
  Structure of Royal Tombs
The forty royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty have been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The tombs all have similar shapes, and the stone structures and buildings also follow certain styles. Here is an introduction to the tombs’ basic structures and names, so you can enjoy your visit to the sites even more.
The organization of the royal tomb sites can be broken down into three parts:

● The part around the Jeongjagak, which is the meeting point between the dead and the living (the area outside Hongsalmun Gate is the space for the living);

● The area just past the gate, which contains the Jeongjagak shrine, the Subokbang, and the Suragan buildings. This is a space of the earthly and the holy as this is where the spirits of the kings and queens meet with their worshipers;

● The sacred ground of the grave mound, the wall, and the stone structures.
Structure of Royal Tombs
1. Gokjang (곡장): Three sides of walls around the grave mound that protects the sacred ground.
2. Bongbun (봉분): The place where the deceased king or queen is buried. It is also called Neungchim (능침) or Neungsang (능상).
3. Byeongpungseok (병풍석): The stone support underneath and around the Bongbun, which protects it.
4. Nanganseok (난간석): The hedge-like stone outside Byeongpungseok, which protects the Bongbun.
5. Seokho (석호): Guardian deity made of stone in the shape of a tiger, which was erected to protect the Bongbun. The statue faces outwards.
6. Seogyang (석양): A sheep made of stone, which was erected to pray for the repose of the soul and fend off evil spirits from the earth.
7. Mangjuseok (망주석): A pair of stone pillars, which were erected on both sides of the front of the mound.
8. Honnyuseok (혼유석): The name means a stone that invites the soul to come out to play, this rectangular stone was erected in front of the mound.
9. Jangmyeongdeung (장명등): A lantern to comfort the soul and pray for its blessing.
10. Muninseok (문인석): Scholars made of stone erected on the left and right sides of the Jangmyeongdeung lantern.
11. Muinseok (무인석): Military officer made of stone, which was erected below Muninseok for guarding the king.
12. Seongma (석마): Horse made of stone.
13. Yegam (예감): This place was used for burning the written prayer following the memorial services. It is located behind Jeongjagak on the left side.
14. Bigak (비각): This building contains a stone monument, which has the name of the king and the queen engraved on the front and a list of the king’s accomplishments engraved on the back.
15. Jeongjagak (정자각): Memorial services are held in this building. The name of the building comes from its shape, which is the Chinese character Jeong (丁). The building should be entered by the right stairway (East) and exited by the left stairway (West).
16. Chamdo (참도): These stone covered paths lead from the Hongsalmun gate to the Jeongjagak building. The path to the left that is slightly higher is called Sindo (신도), or Path of the Gods; the path to the right that is slightly lower is called Eodo (어도), or the Path of the King. In accordance with Korean customs, visitors should walk only on the Eodo path.
17. Subokbang (수복방): This building is where the officer guarding the tomb lived.
18. Suragan (수라간): This building is where the foods for the memorial services were brought and prepared.
19. Baewi (배위): Next to the Hongsalmun gate are stones, which have been placed in a rectangle, this was where kings and memorial service officials knelt to honor and pray to the king buried in the tomb. It is also called Panwi (판위) or Eobaeseok (어배석).
20. Hongsalmun (홍살문): The gate has two red cylindrical pillars with no roof. The area past the gate is a sacred area, so visitors are asked to behave respectfully.
  Geonwolleung (건원릉) – Tomb of King Taejo
Geonwolleung is the tomb of King Taejo (Yi Seong-gye), the first king of the Joseon and the founder of the Joseon Dynasty. Geonwolleung is located along with eight other royal tombs in Inchang-dong in Guri, Gyeonggi-do Province. This area is called Donggureung (Nine Tombs in the East). From the ticket office, you walk through a spacious wooded area for a good while until you come to Hongsalmun, the gate which marks the entrance to the royal tombs. Walking for about 10 minutes past Sureung (수릉) and Hyeolleung (현릉) tombs, you will reach the entrance to Geonwolleung tomb.

When you stand in front of its Hongsalmun Gate, you will not see the burial mound behind Jeongjagak building. This is because it is a sacred place, and the burial mound has been placed on a higher hill to prevent anyone from accessing it. Unlike all the other mounds, which are covered with grass, Geongwolleung burial mound is covered with eulalia grass. King Taejo had wanted to be laid to rest in his hometown of Hamheung (now a major city in South Hamgyeong-do Province in North Korea), but was buried in this location instead. Out of respect for his wishes, eulalia grasses from his hometown were collected and planted on his tomb.
Geonwolleung (건원릉) – Tomb of King Taejo
☞ Opening Hours: 06:00-18:30 (March - October), 06:30-17:30 (November - February)
☞ Admission: Adults: 1000 won, ages 7-18: 500 won. Closed on Mondays
☞ Address: Gyeonggi-do, Guri-si, Donggureung-ro 217-14
☞ Transportation: At Cheongnyangni Station (Subway Line 1), take bus 202 or 88 for Donggureung; Or at Gangbyeon Station (Subway Line 2), take bus 1, 1-1, or 9-2 for Donggureung.
☞ Click here for more on the Donggureung Tombs  
  If you want to see the royal tombs at their best,
visit in the early morning. On foggy days it is
even better, you will have the illusion of walking on
The royal tomb areas are quite extensive, so a
leisurely round trip from the ticket office takes about an
hour. When visiting the tombs, make sure to get a map
at the entrance.
The area past Hongsalmun Gate is sacred, so visitors are
askedto behave with the proper decorum. At the Chamdo paths,
be sure to walk on the Eodo path to the right. Also, when visiting the Jeongjagak building, make sure to enter through the stairway on the right side.
  Yeongneung (영릉) – Tomb of King Sejong
Yeongneung is the tomb of King Sejong, the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty (1397-1450; reigned from 1418 to 1450), and his queen Soheon. It was the first joint royal tomb to be constructed during the Joseon Dynasty. King Sejong is noted for his many accomplishments and is one of the most respected kings of Korea. As a result, many people visit this tomb. Past the ticket office, there is a statue of King Sejong to the right and on the left you will find the Sejongjeon building (세종전). This building has an outdoor exhibit of scientific devices whose invention were facilitated by King Sejong due to his policy of recruiting talented people regardless of social class.

Yeongneung is also the only royal tomb that has stairways on each side behind Jeongjagak building, so visitors can easily access the burial site. At most tombs visitors are only allowed to see the Jeongjagak building, but at Yongneung tomb visitors can examine the burial mound and the surrounding statues. Of the 40 royal tombs from the Joseon Dynasty, Yeongneung is also counted as the fourth best in geomantic terms. The extensive site is covered with grass and surrounded by pine trees, allowing for both natural energy and the king’s energy to flow freely. Yeongneung tomb is perhaps one of the best tombs to visit to get an understanding of the Joseon Dynasty’s royal tombs.
Yeongneung (영릉) – Tomb of King Sejong
☞ Opening Hours:
<March-October> Weekdays 09:00-18:30, Weekends 09:00-17:00
<November–February> 09:00-17:30
☞ Admission: Adults: 500 won, ages 7-18: 300 won, closed on Mondays
☞ Address: Gyeonggi-do, Yeoju-gun, Neungseo-myeon, Yeongneung-ro 243
☞ Transportation:
●From Seoul to Yeoju:
From Dong Seoul Express Bus Terminal (Subway Line 2, Gangbyeon Station), take a bus to Yeoju (it takes 1.5 hours, first bus at 06:30, last bus at 21:40), buses run every 30 to 60 minutes, fare 4,900 won.
●From Yeoju to Yeongneung:
There are three direct buses a day from Yeoju Bus Terminal to Yeongneung (영릉.세종대왕릉) (bus #52-2 at 09:30 / #52-6 at 13:00 / #54-2 at 14:50). You can take these buses from the “Buy the Way” convenience store next to Yeoju Bus Terminal.
☞ Travelers Tip:
Buses from Yeongneung to Yeoju Bus Terminal departs at 10:10 / 14:30 / 15:50.
☞ Click here for more on Yeongneung  
☞ Nearby Tourist Attractions: Birthplace of Empress MyeongseongSilleuksa TempleMoga Museum
This is the birthplace of Empress Myeongseong, who was the wife of Emperor Gojong, the 26th ruler of Joseon Dynasty. She lived in this house until she was eight years old. Only Anchae (the women’s quarters) remain in their original state, but in 1995, Haengnangchae (the servants’ quarters), Sarangchae (the men’s quarters), and Byeoldangchae (the annexed house) were restored. The Gamgodang building, which is where the Empress lived in Hanyang after the age of eight, was also moved to its present location next to the birthplace in 2006.
☞ Korea Travel Phone: +82-31-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
  Hongneung (홍릉) – Tomb of Emperor Gojong
Hongneung is the tomb of Emperor Gojong, the 26th ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, and his empress Myeongseong. Being an imperial tomb, it has a different structure from the other royal tombs. Most notable is that various tall stone statues start from the Hongsalmun Gate, instead of just surrounding the burial mound. Modeled after the imperial tombs of the Ming Dynasty in China, Hongneung has stone statues of a giraffe, an elephant, a lion, and a camel, which are not found in other royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.

Another characteristic is the ‘ㅡ’ shaped Chimjeon building (침전) instead of the T-shaped Jeongjagak building. Though the names and shapes are different, the buildings serve the same purpose. The only tombs that have Chimjeon buildings are the imperial tombs of Hongneung and Yureung. There are stone statues of Muninseok, Muinseok, and Seongma between Hongsalmun and Chimjeon and there are nanganseok, mangjuseok, honnyuseok, and jangmyeongdeung near the burial mound. The Chamdo path from Hongsalmun Gate to the mound has three parts: the center part, which is slightly higher, is Sindo. Walking along the Eodo path to the mound, visitors feel like they are being escorted by the large stone statues positioned on both sides.
Hongneung (홍릉) – Tomb of Emperor Gojong
☞ Opening Hours: 06:00-18:30 (March - October), 06:30-17:30 (November - February)
☞ Admission: Adults: 1000 won, ages 7-18: 500 won, closed on Mondays
☞ Address: Gyeonggi-do, Namyangju-si, Hongyureung-ro 272
☞ Transportation: Subway Line 1, Cheongnyangni Station, Exit 4; take bus 165-3, 2227, 30, 65, 165, 9201, 9205, 330-1, 765, or 3300
☞ Click here for more on Hongneung/Yureung  
  Yungneung (융릉) – Tomb of Posthumous King Jangjo (Sado Seja)
Yungneung is the joint tomb of posthumous King Jangjo and his queen Heongyeong, who were the parents of Joseon’s 22nd king, King Jeongjo. King Jangjo, who is more commonly known as Sado Seja, was the second son of 21st Joseon king, King Yeongjo. Though he displayed many excellent qualities when he was crown prince, he became the victim of a political conspiracy and was killed in a wooden rice chest. His death is often the subject of Korean historic dramas and novels.

Immediately upon acceding to the throne, King Jeongjo made it clear that he was the son of Sado Seja and moved his father’s tomb to Hwaseong. He later honored his father by bestowing on him the posthumous title of King Jangjo, and moved his father’s tomb to the current location, naming it Yungneung. Yungneung is a propitious site, which reflects King Jeongjo’s filial piety towards his father.
Yungneung (융릉) – Tomb of Posthumous King Jangjo (Sado Seja)
☞ Hours: 09:00-18:30 (March - October), 09:00-17:30 (November - February)
☞ Admission: Adults: 1000 won, ages 7-18: 500 won, closed on Mondays
☞ Address: Gyeonggi-do, Hwaseong-si, Hyohaeng-gil 612
☞ Transportation: Subway Line 1, Byeongjeom Station / Take bus # 34, 34-1, 50, 44, 35-1, or 35 at the” Byeongjeom Stn. Back Gate (병점역 후문)” bus stop, near to exit 2 of Byeongjeom station.
☞ Click here for more on Yungneung / Geolleung 
☞ Nearby Tourist Attractions: Suwon Fortress Yongjusa Temple
Hwaseong Fortress was built over a period of two years and eight months by King Jeongjo to house the remains of his father, Sado Seja (Posthumous King Jangjo), and to accommodate his mother Queen Heongyeong, so that she could live near the tomb. The fortress was listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1997. Located five minutes from Yungneung is Yongjusa Temple, which was built by King Jeongjo to protect his father’s tomb. Unlike other temples, Yongjusa has a Hongsalmun Gate, a structure that is normally found at the entrance to royal tombs.
☞ Korea Travel Phone: +82-31-1330 (Korea, English, Japanese, Chinese)
  Visitor Information  
Visitor Information Dining Suggestions
Gabojeong (가보정): Restaurant specializing in beef ribs in Suwon. +82-31-232-3883
Jeongilpum (정일품): Restaurant serving Korean set menus in Icheon, Gyeonggi-do. +82-31-631-1188
Geolgujaengine (걸구쟁이네): Temple food restaurant inside Moga Museum in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do. +82-31-885-9875
Miranda Hotel: Famous resort in Icheon equipped with an indoor/outdoor pool using hot spring water
Address: Gyeonggi-do, Icheon-si, Anheung-dong 408-1
Tel: +82-31-633-2001
☞Click here for more on Miranda Icheon
Date 08/17/2009

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