Gyeongju’s Igyeondae

Gyeongju’s Igyeondae
A scenic hilltop pavilion overlooking Daewangam, 
a spot imbued with the spirit of the Silla king Munmu

A journal of my cultural heritage explorations: GYEONGJU
Igyeondae in Gyeongju (Historic Site No. 159)

The very first site I visited in my exploratory Gyeongju trip was Igyeondae.

The Underwater Tomb of King Munmu cannot actually be viewed up close and personal, so if you want to see it, the best place to go is Igyeondae, situated at the edge of Bonggil Beach. It also serves as an observation platform overlooking the panoramic expanse of the sea.
Two juniper trees stand guard together harmoniously at the entrance to Igyeondae.

When you enter Igyeondae, the first thing you see is a detailed information board in Korean about the site, [with brief explanations in English and Japanese as well].
You could go right past it, but if you take a moment to read it, you’ll learn about Igyeondae.

Gyeongju’s Igyeondae

Igyeondae is a scenic hilltop pavilion overlooking Daewangam ( ‘Great King Rock’), a spot imbued with the spirit of the Silla king Munmu. According to historic accounts from Samguk Yusa, or Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, a temple called Gameunsa was built by King Sinmun to pay tribute to his father, King Munmu, who had become a Hogukyong, a guardian dragon defending the nation.
They say that Igyeondae is the place where a dragon appeared in the sea to King Sinmun, bringing great benefits to the kingdom. Legend also has it that King Sinmun received special objects from the dragon to bring peace and save the world, including a jade belt  and a bamboo flute called Manpasikjeok . 

Igyeondae was later built on a site with a clear view of Daewangam, where succeeding rulers paid tribute to the tomb of King Munmu. There is also a mention of Igyeondae in Sejong Sillok Jiriji (Treatise on Geography from the Annals of King Sejong) that alludes to a passage from the Chinese I Ching ( Book of Changes), referring to the sight of a great dragon in the sea. Although the pavilion called Igyeondae built by King Sinmun no longer exists, the original site was identified in a 1970 excavation. On this site, a new pavilion called Igyeon-jeong was constructed in 1979, in an approximation of the Silla architectural style.   
* Manpasikjeok: The significance of this legendary bamboo flute  is to rid the world of turmoil and bring peace [i.e., flute that calms ten thousand waves].

Although I couldn’t find it, there is a monument below Igyeondae in honor of art historian Ko Yu-seop ( penname  [Woohyun], 1905-1944), who wrote a poem called ‘Daewangam’ and an essay entitled ' [my unforgettable sea]’ in contemplation of King Munmu’s commitment to protecting the kingdom. 

# Monument stone for Ko Yu-seop
If you continue going down past the stone marker for the mouth of the East Sea  you’ll see a stone inscribed with the essay title,  [my unforgettable sea]. This monument was erected in 1985 by Ko’s pupils to commemorate their teacher’s strong opposition to the Japanese occupation.

During the Japanese colonial era, Ko Yu-seop wrote a poem called ‘Daewangam’ and an essay entitled ' [my unforgettable sea],’ meditations of King Munmu’s commitment long ago to protecting the nation and guarding the Unified Silla kingdom against Japanese invasion. Ko’s writings illustrate his firm stance against the Japanese occupation and Japan’s imperious justification that the overt aggression was nominally a union of the two countries, known as ‘naeseonhapil’ .
 The significance of the site overlooking Daewangam is magnified by a group of inscribed stone monuments standing side by side. One contains Ko’s poem, another shows King Munmu’s last testament, and a third is engraved with the title of Ko’s essay ' [my unforgettable sea].’ 
* Source of photo: Journal of my cultural heritage explorations

* Ko Yu-seop (Woohyun), 1905-1944: Through his in-depth study of Korean art history and aesthetics during the Japanese colonial era, Ko Yu-seop , penname Woohyun , was the first Korean art historian to elevate the arts of Korea to the level of a true scholarly discipline. 

# Igyeong-jeong (1979 reconstruction)

Located atop a hill overlooking the East Sea, Igyeong-jeong is a pavilion memorializing King Munmu, the Silla ruler who declared that he would become a dragon and protect the Silla kingdom. This is the site where a dragon reportedly appeared on a sudden astonishing occasion.

I climbed up to Igyeong-jeong, the 1979 reconstruction of the pavilion, to view the Underwater Tomb of King Munmu.

A panoramic view of the cool ocean waters unfolded below, with the Underwater Tomb of King Munmu seen in the distance.

I took a few moments to examine Igyeong-jeong itself.

When I looked up at the ceiling beams, I saw two dragons painted there, looking out to sea.

After examining Igyeong-jeong, I went down to the beach to get a closer look at the Underwater Tomb of King Munmu.

Rays of light were shining down beyond the Underwater Tomb of King Munmu.

Pounded by the rough surf, the Underwater Tomb of King Munmu seemed so lonely and desolate.

There was a sweeping view of Bonggil Beach from Igyeondae.

After a quick sightseeing jaunt around Igyeondae, I went down to Bonggil Beach to take an even closer look at the Underwater Tomb of King Munmu.
A final note: Parking spots around Igyeondae are fairly plentiful, but there are no restrooms to be found.

* Source material: An exploratory trip guide, from a journal of my cultural heritage explorations
* This posting is an entry from my exploratory trip journal, dated January 20, 


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