Seolleung & Jeongneung Royal Tomb, Seoul

After our follow up for our SMILE Eye surgery at Gangnam which we did yesterday, Magen and I took the train down to our next destination, a historical park in the middle of these modern downtown. It was kind of a long walk from the Samseong Station down to the Royal Tombs of Seolleung and Jeongneung. Of course I don’t know who these people were but as long it’s about history I was very happy to explore it.

Walking to the park

We came here yesterday too but unfortunately the park was closed on Mondays so we have to go back today. Upon reaching the boundaries of the park, we still have to walk to the entrance which was on the other side so we followed a fence of walls and turned right and finally saw the parks greenery with its railing fences with a dragon symbol on each one and we reached the entrance with a dragon symbol on each one. It was open and we came to the booth for information and ticket. Then we looked at the giant map and the information in it

Welcome sign

“This graveyard houses Seolleung and Jeongneung, which are two royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty. Seolleung is a double-mound tomb of the royal couple of King Seongjong, the 9th monarch, and Queen Jeonghyeon, his consot, while the latter is that of King Seongjong, the 11th monarch. King Junggong was the 2nd son of King Seongjong. As for Jeongneung, King Jungjong was originally buried next to Queen Janggyeong, his second consort, within the royal graveyard of Seosamneung at Goyang, Gyeonggi-do. But in 1562, his tomb was separated from Queen Janggyeong and moved to this site.

Bongeunsa, which is the Buddhist guardian temple of the two royal tombs, is located about 1km away to the northeast. The precincts of the two royal tombs survived the strong development pressure of the 1970s and have become a major green zone in Seoul’s central business district today.”

Map of the park

Purification Housea hour where the tomb officer stationed to manage the tombs. Rite participants purified themselves here before holding rite.

T-shaped Shrinea hall where they hold ancestral rite.

Tomb Guards House a house where tomb guards stayed.

Royal Kitchenhouse where they finally arrange offerings in the ritual utensils.

Stele Sheda shed which protects stone stele from wind and rain.

History Centera hall which provides information, stories, and videos about the tombs and kings.

After reading the information we followed the map which goes clockwise and we walked along the dirt trail. The park was very clean and there few people walking around, either enjoying the serenity of this greenery or just tourists like us. Our first stop in our park tour was the Jaesil. It was located above a little hill that we climbed a couple of steps before reaching it.

Jaesil

Jaesil, or “house of purification,” is a facility where ritual presiders stay and purify their mind and body for a few days before the date of an ancestral rite. They also prepare offerings here. Ordinarily, tomb officials station here to take care of the tomb everyday. A jaesil typically consists of incense storage, storage for ritual objects, a royal kitchen, and servants’ quarters. The building is not decorated with multi-colored paintings.”

We went inside the couryard and saw some people sitting and seemed to be waiting for something. We didn’t wait to see what its about and instead just took some pictures and went on our way.

History Center

We followed the trail and our next stop was the museum. Beside the entrance booth the museum was the only modern structure in the whole park. We went inside and saw information, timeline and pictures of the tomb and the park.

Inside the museum

Unfortunately, almost all the information were written in Korean. All we can do was looked at the pictures and go from there. Since, I won’t be able to give any additional info about the park here is brief bio of the kings and queen who lies here.

King Seongjong of Joseon (1457-1495)

King Seongjong

“He was the grandson of King Sejo, he was still young when he ascend the throne so his grandmother and mother rule for him until he came of age. His reign was marked by the prosperity and growth of the national economy, based on the laws laid down by kings Taejong, Sejong, and Sejo. He himself was a gifted ruler. In 1474, the code of law, first ordered by King Sejo, was completed and put into effect. Seongjong also ordered revisions and improvements to the code.

Besides the law, he also encouraged Confucian scholars. It was under Seongjong’s reign that the Widow Remarriage Ban (1477) was enacted, which strengthened pre-existing social stigma against women who remarried by barring their sons from public office. He also sent several military campaigns against the Jurchens on the northern border in 1491, like many of his predecessors. King Seongjong was succeeded by his son, Yeonsangun, in 1494.”

Queen Jeonghyeon

“Also known as Queen Dowager Jasun was the 3rd wife and Queen Consort of King Seongjong of Joseon, the 9th monarch of the Joseon Dynasty. She was of the Papyeong Yun clan.”

King Jungjong of Joseon (1488-1544)

King Jungjong

He ruled during the 16th century. He succeeded his half-brother, Yeonsangun, because of the latter’s tyrannical misrule, which culminated in a coup placing Jungjong on the throne. Jungjong worked hard to wipe out the remnants of the Yeonsangun era by reopening the Seonggyungwan, royal university, and Office of Censors, which criticizes inappropriate actions of the king. 

In the early days of reform, Jungjong encouraged the publishing of many books; but publications declined dramatically after the literati purge in 1519. He also tried to improve self-government of local areas and succeeded in reforming the civil service examination. In the latter days of his reign, he realized the importance of defense and encouraged military service.”

Now we know some backgorund about the royals who were entomb here. After looking and taking pictures inside the museum Magen and I continued on we passed by the marble sign of the park with a stamp of the UNESCO. Here is brief discription written on it.

UNESCO Sign

“The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty in recognition of their outstanding universal value as a cultural legacy of humanity have been inscirbed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in accordance with the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty comprise 40 burial grounds of the kings and queens of the Joseon period (1392-1910). The royal burial grounds are sacred places, where traditional Korean architecture and nature are beautifully harmonized.

Entrance to the first tomb

They are living cultural legacies with royal ancestral rites still performed in an authentic manner. Date of Inscription June 30, 2009.”

So thats it and we moved on and was greeted by the red, piked gate. The entrance to the first royal tomb. We followed the two paths which was designated for the king and for commoners and from the distance we saw the Red T-shape Shrine.

Tomb Shrine

We first checked the other small buildings with the Royal Kitchen on the left side of the shrine some feet away and the Tomb Guards House and the right side and further back was the Stele Shed. They were all close so we just went inside the shrine and saw some tables and chairs, all prepared as if some event will take place. It was an open air building and after that we follow the cobble and dirt paths to the first tomb.

There was also another path which said “Spirit Road,” I guess that was for ghosts? It has a rope blocking it so to show respect we didn’t step or follow that path. We passed by several trees and reached a round hill with fences all around it. It was simple and with a plaque here is the inscription.

Seolleung Royal Tomb

Royal Tomb

Seolleung entombs the royal couple of King Seongjong (157-1494, r. 1469-1494), the 9th monarch of the Joseon Dynasty, and Queen Jeonghyeon (1462-1530), his consort. It is a tomb with double burial mounds, each separately placed on the neihboring hills. The one on the western hill is for King Seongjong, while the other on the eastern hill is for Queen Jeonghyeon.

Twelve-faced retaining stones surround the burial mound for King Seongjong, with a corresponding Oriental zodiacal animal on each face. In contrast, there is no retaining stone around the burial mound of Queen Jeonghyeon. However, both mounds have a twelve-angled stone railing around them.”

Queen Jeonghyeon Tomb

I guess the first tomb we visited was the king’s that was why it’s so high and we can barely see the monuments surrounding the tomb. I was a bit disappointed as we left and followed the path and saw this fallen pillar with a description.

“This pillar of the railing stone is supposed to be broken, disqualified and buried under the ground during construction or subsequent repairs to the Tomb of Queen Jeonghyeon.”

We went to the side of the tomb and up the hill and came upon the queen’s tomb because of statues surrounding it. It was way more elaborate and there were human and animal statues around because its lower. The mound was smaller but closer to us to take several pictures of. The queen’s tomb gave us the satisfaction of what the royal tomb looks like. After that we walked down the hill and follow the path eastward. The trails were covered with trees that you can barely tell your in the middle of the city. We came across a few people walking or seating on the benches.

King Seongjong Tomb

We crossed the park to the other side following the map and reached the other tomb. Like the one before we were greeted by the red, piked gate and the T-shaped temple, and a small building of the Stele Shed.

Jeongneung Royal Tomb

Jeongneung Royal Tomb

“Jeongneung is the single-mound tomb of King Jungjong (1488-1544, r. 1506-1544), the 11th monarch of the Joseon Dynasty. King Jungong’s tomb was originally built in the royal graveyard of Seosamneung together with Queen Janggyeong (1491-1515), his 2nd consort. However, it was separated and moved here by Queen Munjeong, it was separated and moved here by Queen Munjeong, the 3rd consort of King Jungjong, in 1562, under the pretext of the feng shui theory. However, when Queen Munjeong insisted to move the tomb of her husband, she actually had the secret intention to be buried next to her husband after her death. However, she failed in realizing her intention because there were so frequent floods here every summer, due to the area’s low altitude. Thus, she could not be buried at Yangju, Gyeonggi-do (Nowon-gu, Seoul today) alone by King Myeongjong, her son, under the tomb name of Taereung.

Another shrine on the Jeongneung tomb

Jeongneung is furnished with retaining stones, which have the twelve Oriental zodiacal animals engraved on each corresponding face. A stone railing also encloses.”

Like the previous buildings, the two buildings in front of the tomb has the same color of red and green and has some chairs and table inside. Like the first tomb this one was surrounded by a red, wooden fence. We tried to walk closer to its gate but its restricted due to the ropes surrounding the area. This side of the park was more open than the previous Royal tomb. We took some photos and then went on our way finishing our loop around the historic park. To end this trip here is a history during the Japanese Years in Korea related to the Royal Tombs.

Japanese invasions of Korea and Seonjeongneung (1592–1598)

“As Seolleung and Jeongneung were excavated during the Japanese invasions of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty, the bodies of both Seongneung and Jeongneung were not found in the three tombs. Jeongneung is more unusual as only the ashes were found in the tombs of King Seongjong and Queen Junghyeon, but the bodies of the deceased in Jungjong were found. To determine whether or not this corpse belonged to King Jungjong, they conducted a survey from the elder to the heads of the court. Few people remembered his appearance because he had died a long time ago, and it was difficult to confirm the fact that the rest of them were aged too. The records and the dead body were very different. And it was in the hot summer when Jungjong died, but the fact that the body was still intact. Some questions have been raised as to whether the Japanese army had kept the tomb for the sake of the deceased. People could not easily come to a conclusion because it might have been Jungjong’s body. Eventually, Seonjo ordered the body to be buried somewhere else.”

Here are the links for more information:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seongjong_of_Joseon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungjong_of_Joseon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Jeonghyeon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seonjeongneung

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