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Finding Korean architecture's beauty through night tours

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The reflection of Woryeong Bridge lit up at night is seen in the water of the Nakdong River in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province. Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization
The reflection of Woryeong Bridge lit up at night is seen in the water of the Nakdong River in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province. Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization

By Jung Da-min

ANDONG, YEONGJU / North Gyeongsang Province ― Following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more travelers are discovering the charms of uncrowded outdoor places. Some also prefer visiting tourist destinations at night to have an even less crowded experience. But besides the lack of crowds, nighttime trips themselves offer a unique experience, providing different perspectives from those found during daytime.

For those who want to make some special memories of nighttime traveling, several places in North Gyeongsang Province offer beautiful views of traditional or traditional-style Korean architecture in harmony with the surrounding nature.

Woryeong Bridge

Under the moonlight, Woryeong Bridge, whose name means "moon's shadow," tells visitors the story of a woman who lived in the area of Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, in the 1500s with her sick husband.

In a mournful prayer for him to recover, she made a pair of "mituri," or traditional hemp shoes, for him out of her own hair, so that he could wear them once he recovered. But the husband died soon after and the wife buried the mituri and a letter for him along with his body, which were excavated in 1998.

Both ends of Woryeong Bridge contain platforms designed in the shape of a pair of
Both ends of Woryeong Bridge contain platforms designed in the shape of a pair of "mituri," traditional hemp shoes, as per the story of a couple who lived there in the 1500s. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min

To preserve the couple's tragic tale, the design of the pedestrian bridge is themed with of a pair of mituri-shaped platforms that are located at both ends of the bridge, and a pavilion is set up halfway between. Today, as people cross the bridge with their loved ones, they pray that their love remains sincere forever. The 387-meter-long bridge that crosses the Nakdong River makes a beautiful walk for visitors, especially during nighttime, as the bridge and the surrounding trails are lit up.

Visitors can also cruise the water in a crescent-shaped "Moon Boat," or a yellow hemp sail boat.

Buseok Temple

Before the sky gets dark and the moon rises, visiting Buseok Temple, a Buddhist temple located on Mount Bonghwang in Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, offers a special moment of watching the sunset and twilight. The beautiful architecture of the temple makes the view of the mountains even more impressive when seen against the vivid colors of the sunset.

A sunset seen from Buseok Temple in Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province / Courtesy of Gyeongsangbuk-do Tour
A sunset seen from Buseok Temple in Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province / Courtesy of Gyeongsangbuk-do Tour

The temple shows the beauty of Korea's traditional architecture. It was built in 676 during the reign of King Munmu (661-681) of the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. to A.D. 935) and founded by Great Monk Uisang (625-702) to pray for protection of the country from a possible invasion by the Tang Dynasty of China. As the temple was built on the hillside of Mount Bonghwang, visitors can find different views of the buildings there from different spots and angles while walking up to the temple's main prayer hall called Muryangsujeon.

For example, when looking up at a two-story pavilion called Anyangru, a gate that leads to Muryangsujeon, from the lower side of the hill near the entrance of the temple, visitors will find five statues of the Buddha right below the roof of Anyangru.

The two-story pavilion on the right is Anyangru at Buseok Temple in Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province. Visitors can see the five statues of Buddha below the roof of Anyangru, but upon closer view, they will notice that these are not actual statues, but that the wooden structures of the roof and empty spaces between them form the shape of five statues. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min
The two-story pavilion on the right is Anyangru at Buseok Temple in Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province. Visitors can see the five statues of Buddha below the roof of Anyangru, but upon closer view, they will notice that these are not actual statues, but that the wooden structures of the roof and empty spaces between them form the shape of five statues. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min

But arriving at the pavilion, they will notice that they are not actual statues ― the wooden structures of the roof and empty spaces between the structures, along with the yellow paint of the outer wall of Muryangsujeon located behind the pavilion, make the shape of the five statues of the Buddha when seen from below. As visitors approach the main prayer hall, they will not be able to see the five statues any more but will instead meet a statue of Amitabha Buddha inside the main prayer hall.

Visitors can also find another interesting view of the two roofs of the main prayer hall and the two-story pavilion overlapped to make a shape of one roof, with the roof of Anyangru seen as a projecting part of the roof of Muryangsujeon.

The roof of Buseok Temple's main prayer hall, Muryangsujeon, and that of two-story pavilion Anyangru overlap, so it looks like it is a single roof with an extension. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min
The roof of Buseok Temple's main prayer hall, Muryangsujeon, and that of two-story pavilion Anyangru overlap, so it looks like it is a single roof with an extension. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min

Seowon

For travelers who want to see more traditional Korean architecture, they are recommended to visit "seowon" in North Gyeongsang Province. A type of neo-Confucian academy of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) found across the country, they represent the history of neo-Confucianism from China being adapted here according to Korea's society.

Nine of the seowon were added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2019. Of them, four are in North Gyeongsang Province: Sosu Seowon in Yeongju, Byeongsan Seowon and Dosan Seowon in Andong and Oksan Seowon in Gyeongju.

Travelers can visit Sosu Seowon and Dosan Seowon during the nighttime to see the night view of the architecture with lights on, as well as the starlit sky above the buildings.

The buildings of Sosu Seowon are seen under a starlit sky. Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization
The buildings of Sosu Seowon are seen under a starlit sky. Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization

The designs of seowon also reflect their essential functions: interacting with the natural environment as well as learning from and offering veneration to scholars. Situated near mountains and water sources, the buildings were intended to facilitate connections to the landscape, allowing the students to appreciate nature and develop their body and mind.

For example, in Byeongsan Seowon, the wooden pillars of two-story pavilion Mandaeru give a view that resembles the frames of a traditional folding screen called "byeongpung," and the mountain and river seen between the pillars are like the paintings on the screen.

The wooden pillars of two-story pavilion Mandaeru in Byeongsan Seowon, Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, give a view that resembles the frames of a traditional folding screen called
The wooden pillars of two-story pavilion Mandaeru in Byeongsan Seowon, Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, give a view that resembles the frames of a traditional folding screen called "byeongpung," and the mountain and river seen between the pillars are like the paintings on the screen. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min

As Byeongsan Seowon is near Hahoe Village, one of the most famous folk villages in Korea surrounded by the Nakdong River, travelers can visit the two places in one day. Hahoe Village was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010.

A resident of Hahoe Village in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, stands in hanbok, traditional Korean clothing, at an old house of the village. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min
A resident of Hahoe Village in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, stands in hanbok, traditional Korean clothing, at an old house of the village. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min

Andong was one of five regional tourism hub cities to be designated by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Korea Tourism Organization in 2020, along with the other four cities: Gangneung of Gangwon Province, Jeonju of North Jeolla Province, Mokpo of South Jeolla Province, and Busan.

Lee Kwang-soo, director of Korea Tourism Organization's Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province Office, said, "We are focusing more on promoting night tourism spots in Andong and Yeongju to boost the tourism industry of North Gyeongsang Province."


Jung Da-min damin.jung@koreatimes.co.kr


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