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The marriage of Kaz and Ilsu

Seoul and Insa Dong District

     I would like to talk a little bit about the history of Korea and its important periods in particular.  I was a bit confused when I first started paying attention to all these mysterious periods of China and Korea. It seemed there were so many that I knew I would never keep them straight.  Well the Korean periods are not as mysterious as I first imagined.  Basically are only three different groups of people in Korea and only five periods however, a lot happened in that span of time.  The three kingdoms period started with the Kingdom of Silla (pronounced ‘Shilla’) in 57 BCE , the kingdom of Goguryeo in 37 BCE and the kingdom of Baekje in 18 BCE. Goguryeo was in the northern part of Korea, Silla in the southeast and Baekje in the southwest. Silla was basically the strongest and eventually conquered the Baekje in 660 CE and Goguryeo in 668 CE thus creating the unified Silla period 668-935 CE.  Then in 935 CE Korea had a coup d’etat and the new ruler named the country Goryeo which lasted until 1392. Korea is the anglicized version of Goryeo … do you see the resemblance? Then the circle came back around and Korea had another coup d’etat by a man named Yi Sung-gye in 1392 and the Joseon Dynasty 1392-1910 was created.  The Josun dynastsity lasted for five centuries as one of the world's longest running monarchies. Then the Japanese spoiled the party and remained there until the end of world war II.  Unfortuantely Korea was split in half and there is where we stand today.

    On January, 15 2007 we set out for the National Museum in Seoul. If I were to try to describe Seoul by American experiences, then I would have to say that if you took Los Angeles out of California and dropped it in the mountains west of Denver you would have Seoul. The drivers in Seoul are just as aggressive as New York City but there is not the same feeling of hostility that you get on the east coast of America. My brother Soolgee let me borrow one of his cars for a week and fortunately the drive to the museum was uneventful (as well as the rest of the week). The museum is located pretty much in the center of Seoul. One interesting note is that the Korean government has subsidized the ticket price so that it only cost about a buck to get through the door. They are pushing their wonderful heritage, and that is a very good thing, I wish the museums in the states were that way. The museum is located pretty much in the center of Seoul.

   This museum is a wonderful museum with many galleries inside the donation gallery has 22,000 artifacts collected over the years. Included in the museum are 100 treasures that are historically significant. There are 32 pieces of national treasure and 17 pieces of treasure. There are also 12 pieces collected from other countries. There are artifacts spanning at least seven thousand years.  I was fortunate enough to shoot many pictures in the museum and I have included a few on this page.

The picture below is of the entrance to the museum facing east.

National Museum in Seoul Korea

The following picture is of the ten story pagoda which stands in the atrium. It originally was built in the monastery of  Gyeongcheonsa in 1348 under King Choongmok of Coryeo.  Unfortunately in 1907 it was stole by a Japanese official by the name of Tanaka Koken.  Eleven years later it was returned to Korea due to the help of some British and American journalists.  In 1960 it was returned to Kyongbokgoong palace but due to acid rain it was dismantled again in 1995.  In 2005 it made its way to the National Museum and now stands in the atrium of the museum.

Seoul National Museum Pagoda display

     The Buddha pictured below is the biggest iron statue in Korea. It is presumed to be from the Goryeo period but due to its unnaturally slim waist and abstract details it is considered to be influenced by the Silla style. It was moved to the museum from the monastic site at Kyunggee-do in 1911. By closer inspection it seems to have originally had a thick coat of varnish on it and gold foil hammered over the top.

Goreyo Buddha in the Korean National Museum

     Excavations in the north tomb at Hwangnamdaechong yielded the crown in the following picture. Ornaments including a belt were found with the inscription of “Madam’s belt” make us inclined to believe the north tomb was one made for a woman. The social class and political position are indicated by the ownership of such items.

Silla Crown in the Seoul National Museum

The picture below is of a Korean ‘moosa’ or warrior They are the Korean equivalent of a Japanese samuri.

Moosa at the National Museum in Seoul Korea

     There were many Buddhist bells made beginning in the Silla period and almost all bells are an extension of that style. This Goryeo bell (below) is no different for it was inspired by the Silla style but has some beautiful changes that include a mighty dragon, lotus flowers, and images of angels to make it unique. This is the bell of Chunheungsa and many think it is the most beautiful bell from the Goryeo period.

Goreyo Bell at the National Museum in Seoul Korea

Here is the dragon clevis on top of the bell

Dragon Clevis from the Goreyo Bell

     January 16, 2007:  My good friend Dr. Bongo advised me to check out Insa dong district in Seoul so naturally we went. Insa dong, one of those places you find in any large metropolitan city, is full of shops, coffee houses, art galleries, restaurants and tourist traps.  Below is a shot looking south down the main street.

The heart of Insa Dong in Seoul

     Below is a picture taken from the street looking into the windows of a typical gift shop.  You can see many of the things tourists love to buy and take home to give to friends and family.

Korean Crafts in Insa Dong

 The picture below is of a gallery full of pottery and very nice crafts.

Insa Dong arts and crafts gallery

Hey what is this?! Look it is ancient policemen back to wish everyone safe shopping! I am not sure what the occasion  was but I enjoyed checking out those period costumes.

Korean Ancient Police in Insa Dong

Mc Donalds in Seoul Korea

     The picture above looks familiar but I think my American friends may have some trouble reading the text on the sign however, I can make it out for you ... it literally translates “mak do nal duh”  It is interesting to me to see how much English is used in the Korean language and actually, there is quite alot.
     Korea is quite an expensive place to live and there are little if any immigrants. So naturally they don’t have the kind of access to multicultural foods that we have in the states.  Furthermore, when you do get some western food they tweak it to their own taste. Furthermore, I can’t blame them we do the same thing to a lot of food here in the states.  So we went in to McDonalds to have a go at some western food (kind of).  I am sure that you are aware that McDonalds always cater to indigenous culture. In England you will find Hindu food at McDonalds; in Texas you can get McRibs and all along the southern border of the states, McDonalds will serve you a Mexican style breakfast burrito.  Then of course it is no surprise that McDonalds would be serving bulgogi burgers in Korea (see picture below).  However, what I didn’t expect was for them to take all the salt and grease out of the regular burgers.  I really missed the quarter pounder with cheese.  The fries remained intact so don’t fret.
     I saw very few western people while in Korea. My experience with seeing westerners was mainly in the airport. While we were eating at McDonalds a western man sat at the table next to ours. A few minutes went by, Ilsu got up to use the restroom and I struck up a conversation with the western man.  His name was Vincent and he was a Dutch citizen working in Korea for a large chemical company.  As soon as I spoke to him he lit up and said how nice it was to converse with someone who could speak English.  I thought this was odd since his native language was Dutch but he went on to say how he thinks everyone needs to learn English.  I am sure my French friends may want to argue that case, but hey who am I to argue and I really enjoyed talking with him anyway. He had been living in Korea for about a year and he shared his opinions from his experience there.  I went on to say that we were getting married this coming weekend and he should come to the wedding. In fact I told him you can be my only western friend there.  (I must stop at this point to mention that I did a very poor job of notifying my friends in the states as to when we were going to have the wedding. I did this mostly in part to me not wanting to be a burden on them by expected them to spend a few thousand bucks for my wedding.  In effect, I gave no one notice so they could make it to the wedding.)  … Anyway I was extremely happy that Vincent did show up at the wedding and he is included in the wedding pictures in the wedding section.

Bulgogi Burger at Mc Donalds in Seoul

     The picture below is me lecturing Ronald McDonald on the fact that if America is to be truly an imperialist country we must have the quarter pounder with cheese on the menu!

Me and Rono Baby

     Ilsu is a little bothered that the picture below is the only picture of the Seoul cityscape that I included in the website.  It is very true that this sole building near Insa dong does little justice to the incredible vibrant city of Seoul.  Maybe next time I go to Seoul I will do better.  However, I must say that I did enjoy the architecture of this building.

Night time in Insa Dong district

Tea Passion in Insa Dong

     The picture above was taken of two gentlemen passionately discussing the virtues of different tea pots.  I could not understand a word they spoke, but could easily feel the passion expressed in their conversation.  I love to be around people who are passionate about something … anything!  The gentleman on the right would pull a teapot from the shelf and point at its features while the gentleman on the left would light up with enthusiasm! It was so much fun to watch.
      A few minutes went by and the gentleman on the right asked a few of us customers if we would like to enjoy some tea.  Of course! ... we sat down and I watched him meticulously prepare the tea. I asked him what was so special about these little non-glazed tea pots? He went on to describe how important it is for the tea to breathe in the pot. The pot must be porous enough that the tea comes to life.  As I watch him slowly pour hot water in the pot, then on the pot, then back and forth like a religious ritual, I thought this man must be a Buddhist tea master skilled in the techniques of tea meditation.  The tea master finally filled up our tea cups and I carefully copied his every move. He slowly sniffed the tea taking a slow deep breath, then slowly exhaling and finally sipping the tea holding in his mouth and savoring the flavor with a self reflective ecstatic expression of wonder and accomplishment.  

Tea Master in Insa Dong

The tea master serving us tea-

 

      If you have any questions or comments I would be happy to answer them. You can contact me by the link below.

CONTACT KAZ

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