Step back in time in Gyeongju

Historic Yangdong Village
A Hahoe village house caters for tourists

Old Korea is on show in Gyeongju’s Yangdong Village and Andong’s Hahoe Village, stunning examples of preserved Joseon-era clan townships set in countryside that is simply beyond beautiful.

Educated more on the Joseon Dynasty’s art rather than history, I was astonished at how each scene from both Hahoe and Yangdong still resembles the waterbrushed mountain crags, swirling ink rivers and neat little dwellings of a Joseon painting.

The villages are composed, rather than built, my guide tells me, each dwelling and the village, as a whole, laid out according to the Confucian culture of the early Joseon Dynasty.

According to UNESCO, who in August added the two villages to its world heritage list, both Yangdong and Hahoe are “an exceptional manifestation of the Joseon political and cultural regimes and the way they were shaped by Confucianism”.

Houses of nobles are on higher ground and have tiled roofs (giwajip) while farmers’ houses are closer to the fields with thatched roofs (chogajip), my guide said and added that men always got the best views.

Although as the villages are framed by forested mountains, scenes of flowing rivers and golden fields, I doubt there is a bad view from any aspect.

In fact, visitors are encouraged to look out at the views from within the dwellings, the villages embodying a blend of manmade and natural, which, according to my guide is an important aspect of Korean architecture both past and present.

Both villages are living, interactive museums, each housing a number of residents who not only tolerate the daily tourists to their homes, but welcome them with the traditional Korean greeting (phonetically: an-nyung-ha-se-yo).

There’s a charm to blocked off entry ways and villagers picking up what visitors to the village have left behind and I hope that should the inevitable tourist numbers increase, this charm remains, that rather than dying with the current, admittedly older residents, these historical villages will continue to live via the travels of domestic and international visitors alike.

For those wanting to extend their experience of the Joseon lifestyle, visitors can stay overnight in the villages, eating traditional Korean cuisine and participating in hundreds of years old activities.

Both located in Korea’s south-east, Yangdong and Hahoe villages are easy to get to from both Seoul and Busan.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: Gaya Avery
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