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Andong Dosan Seowon Confucian Academy

Recent Posts, Posted by Matt in ALL DESTINATIONS,Gyeongsang,Historic Korea, 2 Comments

Andong Dosan Seowon Confucian Academy


The city of Andong in North Gyeongsang Province is famous as one of Korea’s cultural centers. Well-known for its conservative tastes and preservation of folk culture, Andong is high on the list of many travelers’ must-see sites. And one of my favorite places is Andong Dosan Seowon Confucian Academy (도산서원), whose original name was Dosan Seodang.

Constructed in 1574 during the 7th year of King Seonjo’s (선조왕) reign, the school was built to enshrine the memorial tablet of Yi Hwang (이황). Yi is one of Korea’s most celebrated philosophers. And if you’ve been to Korea, you’ve no doubt seen his likeness, because that’s him on the ubiquitous 1,000-won ($0.72) note.

Andong Dosan Seowon Confucian Academy

Despite the historic and cultural nature of the academy, which is Korea’s largest and most famous, it’s somewhat remarkable that it still exists. The school, which in its day was the center of the Yeongnam School of Neo-Confucianism, was one of only 47 so-called “lucky” academies that escaped the widespread destruction of such schools during the rule of Heungseon Daewongun (흥선대원군), the father of Korea’s emperor, Gojong.

From Andong Hahoe Folk Village and Seowon Confucian Academy

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Thankfully, in recent decades the Korean government has worked to preserve these precious landmarks. In 1969, government support helped to repair the Andong Dosan Seowon Confucian Academy, and today, the site consists of at least 17 different structures.

From Andong Hahoe Folk Village and Seowon Confucian Academy

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Among them, the most important building is the Sangdeoksa (상덕사) where Yi Hwang’s memorial tablet is enshrined. Located farthest from the entrance, the simple building was built in 1574 and is surrounded by what was originally an earthen wall, but was later rebuilt out of stone.

From Andong Hahoe Folk Village and Seowon Confucian Academy

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To the right of Sangdeoksa is probably my favorite building. Jangpangak (장판각) is a beautiful, if unadorned structure. Unlike the colorful tapestries that cover most of Andong Dosan Seowon Confucian Academy’s walls and roof eaves, this building was where almost 3,000 wooden blocks were preserved. The blocks, which contained the written works of Yi Hwang and King Seonjo, were transferred to the Korea Studies Advancement Center for safe-keeping in 2003.

From Andong Hahoe Folk Village and Seowon Confucian Academy

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Andong Dosan Seowon Confucian AcademyThe Andong Dosan Seowon Confucian Academy complex has a number of other rooms to explore. Two libraries on either side of the central pathway were built high off the ground to minimize humidity. The Chinese letters “gwangmyeong” on the hanging board were written by Yi, whose pen name was Toegye (퇴계). The translation of gwangmyeong means, “books give us hope and prospects.” If you keep following the path, it leads to the Jeongyodang (도산서원 전교당) or lecture hall.

In 1792, King Jeongjo held a special government examination to celebrate Yi Hwang. Reportedly, some 7,000 people took that exam and the King marked the occasion by creating a stele and shelter. But when the nearby Andong Dam was built, the area was flooded, so the Sisadan Stele (시사단) had to be moved. Well, today, it sits across from the academy amid a grove of pine on top of a picturesque island. The calm waters reflect the bucolic scenery of low mountains and fields.

From Andong Hahoe Folk Village and Seowon Confucian Academy

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And, finally, the academy’s grounds also include an excellent museum that looks at Yi’s life, his philosophy and poetry. Each signboard is translated into English, Chinese and Japanese, and is definitely worth a visit. Any visit to Andong Dosan Seowon Confucian Academy should accompany a trip to Andong Hahoe Folk Village (안동 하회마을)..
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For your information…

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09:00-18:00 (Summer); 09:00-17:00 (winter)Admission: ₩1,500 Adults, ₩700 Youth, ₩600 Children; Parking: ₩2~4,00002-1330
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North Gyeongsang Province Andong-si Dosan-myeon Toegye-ri 680From Andong Bus Terminal, walk 150m to Kyobo Life Insurance Bus Stop. Take bus #67 to Dosan Seowon Confucian Academywebsite
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2 Comments

24 March 2009 02:07

M Rahman

I like your post. I am a regular listener of KBS World [RKI] Since 1991. Pictures are so nice specially I like Korea’s foremost intellectuals Yi Hwang’s image on 1,000-won note as well as Baby picture.

24 March 2009 08:16

Matt Kelley

Hi M. Rahman,

I appreciate you taking the time to read the post. Thanks for your nice comment. I’m impressed to hear you are such a long-time listener to Radio Korea International! No doubt you’ve heard many programs come and go over the years.

Best to you,
Matt

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