Visiting Geumjangdae Pavilion, a brand-new scenic attraction

Last Tuesday, I made a trip to Geumjangdae Pavilion, wanting to be there at the moment when its first guests were welcomed after it was reconstructed. To accommodate the structure’s completion ceremony, there was a break in the rain that had been falling. After the rain stopped and permitted a clear and unsullied view of Gyeongju from Geumjangdae Pavilion, I couldn’t help but exclaim at the vista. The reborn Geumjangdae Pavilion is definitely worth a trip.

The path up to Geumjangdae Pavilion

Geumjangdae Pavilion stands on a low hill to the southeast of Hyeongok-myeon. It is near Seocheon, a stream which feeds into Hyeongsan River.
The city of Gyeongju has published a booklet of stories passed down from the Silla era about “samgi-palgoi (three treasures and eight oddities).
Called “Shinbiroun Gyeongju” (Mysterious Gyeongju), the booklet describes Yegicheongso Pond, the pond located below Geumjangdae Pavilion, as the meeting place of three different streams. The streams converge at the pond and form a ‘water cushion,’ making a whirlpool or eddy. (Seocheon merges with Mooncheon, which flows from Toham-san, and these are said to meet Bukcheon, which flows from the distant Bomun area.)
In other words, watercourses from three separate sources converge here in front of Geumjangdae Pavilion, forming some great scenery.

Crossing the bridge past the parking area…
The path up to Geumjangdae Pavilion: Go past the spacious parking area, then cross the wooden bridge that goes over a small stream. You’ll be at the beginning of the trail to Geumjangdae Pavilion.

Enjoying the scenery from a bench before going up~
Before ascending to Geumjangdae Pavilion, sit on one of the benches along the way and take in the view of Seocheon glittering in the sunlight. The scenery is intoxicating.

Seeing the petrographs in Seokjang-dong~

Just below Geumjangdae Pavilion, on a vertical rockface measuring 9m wide and 2m high, you can see some Bronze Age drawings. These are none other than the Seokjang-dong petrographs. As long as you are at Geumjangdae Pavilion, these drawings are really worth a look.

Entering Geumjangdae Pavilion~ Many people are gathered here to celebrate the rebirth of Geumjangdae Pavilion.

Yegicheongso, the pond below Geumjangdae Pavilion, appeared in Kim Dong-ni’s short novel Munyeodo (Portrait of a Shaman, 1936), which depicted the life and death of a female shaman named Mohwa. Geumjangdae Pavilion is also one of the “samgi-palgoi (three treasures and eight oddities) passed down from Silla era. One of the wonders described is geumjangnakan (金丈落雁, wild geese alighting at Geumjang). This story tells of wild geese that were passing over Geumjangdae Pavilion that stopped and rested, bewitched by the pavilion. And, according to Mr. Young-ki Choi, director of the Silla Culture Institute, Geumjangdae Pavilion served as the combat headquarters for the civilian militia (義兵) during the Japanese invasions of the late 16th century. As you can see, Geumjangdae Pavilion has a rich variety of stories in its past.  

After the ceremony to unveil the signboard for the reconstructed pavilion, everyone who had traveled to see Geumjangdae Pavilion entered the pavilion.
The wind blowing from the stream stung our cheeks. And the vista from Geumjangdae Pavilion unfolded before our eyes.

At Geumjangdae Pavilion
Ascending to Geumjangdae Pavilion, the autumn wind is chilly
The long winding river embraces the rocks
Instead of asking about bygone days of the thousand-year-old nation,
One should just sit with his friends and drink liquor.
– Cheol-woo Kim (1569 - 1653)

Next to me, an old gentleman enjoying the scenic view of Gyeongju said with a contented smile, “Ah, I feel like a sinseon (divine being from heaven).” Literary men who have passed through Geumjangdae Pavilion have each recited poems here. Some lamented the loss of a nation while gazing at the beautiful scenery. Some may have been intoxicated by the view while tipping a glass with friends.

A traditional boat with yellow sails appears on the canvas of Seocheon stream, as if drawn with the strokes of a paintbrush. The boat is there to celebrate the opening of the restored Geumjangdae Pavilion, and enhances the heady atmosphere of the occasion even more. This boat is supposed to sail the river every day through September 12th, when PEN International holds its annual literary congress. So, if you visit the pavilion before then, you’ll be able to watch the boat gliding through the tranquil waters as you enjoy the view.   

Adding more pictures to a pretty picture- Seokjang-dong petrographs

After descending from Geumjangdae Pavilion, I went to see the petrographs I’d been meaning to see in Seokjang-dong. I was transported back to an era when ideas were expressed in drawings inscribed on a sheer rock face. The engraved forms were not quite visible on the moss-covered rock. Just as I was about to yield to disappointment, I suddenly began to make out some shapes on the right side of the wall that matched a drawing shown on the signboard. Shouting ‘Eureka!,’ I felt like a youngster full of curiosity and wonder. Feeling merry, I’d clap like a seal every time I located one of the shapes referred to on the signboard. 

Try finding the shapes by comparing the signboard with the actual rock wall. The drawing that could be seen the best showed a shield, presumably connected with some Bronze Age battle.

The best time to see the engravings: In the afternoon around 3-4 p.m.
To see the petrographs in Seokjang-dong, stop by in the late afternoon. As the sun makes its transit to the southwest, the shadows of the forms engraved like intaglio make it easier to see them clearly.

Below Geumjangdae Pavilion, there is a cliff with a sheer 90 degree vertical drop. A legend passed down says that a gisaeng (Korean geisha) named Eulhwa accidentally fell to her death here at a royal banquet during the reign of King Jabi of Silla (the 20th Silla ruler). It is the same cliff where the petrographs of Seokjang-dong are. Momentarily putting fear aside, I sat down in front of the cliff face and looked to my heart’s content, wanting to see as much of the brilliant forms as possible. Although the area for viewing the petrographs is fairly large and there’s not really any cause for concern, better safe than sorry, right?

A place that makes you want to stay a while


Not wanting to leave, I headed back towards Geumjangdae Pavilion once more.

The event was over. But the tracks of other visitors like me, who just wanted to linger more, seemed magnetically drawn to Geumjangdae Pavilion. One fairly popular activity was trying on traditional Korean garments that had been arranged in one corner. Visitors could put on the clothing and play-act at being Silla royalty while looking down from Geumjangdae Pavilion.

Right next to me, a Dongguk University liberal arts class was taking place at this terrific site. The class was ‘Understanding Korean Music,’ the students told me, and here on this romantic spot where the arts were enjoyed for hundreds of years, they were completely into it. I joined the students in listening to stories about Geumjangdae Pavilion told by Mr. Young-ki Choi, director of Silla Culture Institute, who lent a helping hand in the reconstruction of Geumjangdae Pavilion

Members of tea-related organizations in the Gyeongju area had turned out to serve tea to visitors. Sipping a cup of tea as I sat on cool pavilion floor made my visit to Geumjangdae Pavilion even sweeter.

After sitting for a while, my back leaning against a column, I found that I had Geumjangdae Pavilion all to myself. I hope you will go up to Geumjangdae Pavilion, a place that makes you want to linger a long time. Splendid scenic views and early autumn breezes await you.

Geumjangdae Pavilion sightseeing hours
6 a.m. – 10 p.m.
In the evening, exterior lighting allows sightseeing after dark.
Geumjangdae Pavilion also has restroom facilities.

Go to Geumjangdae Pavilion, a place that enchanted even the wild geese flying by.

Getting to Geumjangdae Pavilion
Geumjangdae Pavilion is located on a hill in the eastern part of Seokjang-dong, an area south of Hyeongok-myeon in Gyeongju. Enter a side road on the northern side of Dongguk University Gyeongju Hospital. Go under the railway tracks and turn left. Proceed until you reach the Geumjangdae Pavilion parking area. Walk over a wooden bridge at the end of the parking area and climb up for about five minutes to reach Geumjangdae Pavilion.
Public transportation
Take outbound Bus No. 40 or 41 towards Dongguk University’s Gyeongju branch campus and get off at Dongguk University Gyeongju Hospital. At that point, refer to the directions above. From there, it should take no more than 10-15 min. on foot.


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