Yangdong Village

June 30, 2015

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Yangdong village is a 16km bus ride from Gyeonju train station, next to the Seongdong market in the middle of town, it takes about half an hour to hurtle down the motorway. The bus stop is right outside the post office opposite the market. All the guesthouses will be able to tell you which number it is because I’ve forgotten.

It is a traditional village that was used by the nobility of the Joseon Dynasty, so from the 14th to the 19th century. People still live here in examples of traditional Korean architecture and there are examples of how the nobility’s houses would have looked although these are empty. The houses of the nobility have tiled roofs and sit on top of the hills.

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There are houses for the peasants on the lowlands that have straw roofs and are surrounded by mostly farmland

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We noticed that the place seemed quite sterile, with not many people around and it felt a bit like we were prying in on other people’s daily life. I think the MERS crisis has affected this as people are being advised not to travel and we’ve noticed that tourist attractions have been generally less busy than people say they will be.

Nevertheless there are some excellent examples of traditional architecture; walls flank some of the roads to separate the courtyards of the rich from the poor.

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The nature that surrounds the village is beautiful. There is also a brilliant panorama of Gyeongju city from the top of one of the hills.

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There was some excellent examples of painted ying yang symbols, this one on the door of a house:

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This one on the door of a personal temple:

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Perhaps one of the most interesting things from the village is that we learnt about traditional Confucian culture from the tour guide (BYC). Apparently even after a man and a woman married they were not permitted to sleep in the same room. The men’s quarters were around the outside wall of the building, and the women’s living area was in the centre. Once a year the groom’s father would predict, according to the alinement of the moon and the stars and other astronomical information, the best time for the married couple to conceive the next generation of the family name. It was considered a blessing to have a son and so there were certain triggers in astronomy to tell them that it was certain that they would have a son. If it did not happen, the wife would be blamed for bringing embarrassment upon their family.

Incredibly, it was not considered proper to talk about sex with each other so when the father decided that the time was right, he would tell his wife, who would tell the wife of her son that she should sleep with her husband that night. You can imagine how awkward that conversation would have been. In any case, they used a metaphor to talk about sex in the form of saying: “I think you should prepare a drink for your husband tonight.” One night a year, they’d get drunk and try to have a son. Fun times.

If the woman failed to have a son, it was accepted that the man could take a local peasant woman and pay her in rice to conceive a son for him, she would live in the tiled house in a separate room until this was achieved, then she would be paid off and return to her village without her son. The son of course would be raised as nobility. Shocking.

After we’d wandered around the village for a while, we went back to the bus stop to return to Gyeongju and saw this great piece of writing.

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This is where buses often run away.