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UNESCO Heritage in Korea

Since the earliest settlements on the Korean Peninsula and in southeastern Manchuria during prehistoric times, the people of Korea have developed a distinctive culture based on their unique artistic sensibility. The geographical conditions of the peninsula provided Koreans with opportunities to receive both continental and maritime cultures and ample resources, which in turn enabled them to form unique cultures of interest to and value for the rest of humanity, both then and now.
Korea’s vibrant cultural legacy, comprising music, art, literature, dance, architecture, clothing and cuisine, offers a delightful combination of tradition and modernity, and is now appreciated in many parts of the world.
At the present time, Korean arts and culture are attracting many enthusiasts around the world. Korea’s cultural and artistic achievements through the ages are now leading many of its young talents to the world’s most prestigious music and dance competitions, while its literary works are being translated into many different languages for global readers. More recently, Korean pop artists have attracted huge numbers of admirers across the world, the most spectacular success being Psy’s global hit Gangnam Style.
The cultural prosperity Korea has enjoyed lately would have not been possible without its traditional culture and arts, which were built on the Korean people’s traits of tenacity and perseverance combined with an artistic sensibility that has matured throughout the country’s long history. The unique artistic sensibility reflected in the diverse artifacts and tomb murals of the Three Kingdoms Period became richer and more profound as Korea progressed through the periods of Unified Silla (676-935), Goryeo (918-1392) and Joseon (1392-1910). This aesthetic sensibility has been handed down through the generations to the Korean artists, and even ordinary members of the public, of our time.
Korea preserves a wealth of priceless cultural heritage, some of which have been inscribed on the lists of human legacies protected by UNESCO. Currently, a total of 44 Korean heritage items are listed either as World Heritage Sites or Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, or have been included on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

World Heritage Sites
    Changdeokgung Palace Changdeokgung Palace, located in Waryong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, is one of the five Royal Palaces of Joseon (1392-1910), and still contains the original palace structures and other remains intact. It was built in 1405 as a Royal Villa but became the Joseon Dynasty’s official Royal Residence after Gyeongbokgung, the original principal palace, was destroyed by fire in 1592 when Japanese forces invaded Korea. Thereafter it maintained its prestigious position until 1867, when Gyeongbokgung was and renovated and restored to its original status. Changdeokgung was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Although it was built during the Joseon Period. Changdeokgung shows traces of the influence of the architectural tradition of Goryeo, such as its location at the foot of a mountain. Royal palaces were typically built according to a layout planned to highlight the dignity and authority of its occupant, but the layout of Changdeokgung was planned to make the most of the characteristic geographical features of the skirt of Bugaksan Mountain. The original palace buildings have been preserved intact, including Donhwamun Gate, its main entrance, Injeongjeon Hall; Seonjeongjeon Hall, and a beautiful traditional garden to the rear of the main buildings. The palace also contains Nakseonjae, a compound of exquisite traditional buildings set up in the mid-19th century as a residence for members of the royal family.
     Jongmyo Shrine Jongmyo, located in Hunjeong-dong, Jongno-gu in Seoul, is the royal ancestral shrine of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It was built to house eighty-three spirit tablets of the Joseon Kings, their Queen Consorts, and direct ancestors of the dynasty’s founder who were posthumously invested with royal titles. As Joseon was founded according to Confucian ideology, its rulers considered it very important to put Confucian teachings into practice and sanctify the institutions where ancestral memorial tablets were enshrined.
The two main buildings at the Royal Shrine, Jeongjeon Hall and Yeongnyeongjeon Hall exhibit a fine symmetry, and there are differences in the height of the raised platform, the height to the eaves and the roof top, and the thickness of the columns according to their status. The entire sanctuary retains its original features, including the two shrine halls which exhibit the unique architectural style of the 16th century. Seasonal memorial rites commemorating the life and achievements of the royal ancestors of Joseon are still performed at the shrine.
     Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon Located in today’s Jangan-gu of Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do, Hwaseong is a large fortress (its walls extend for 5.7km) built in 1796 during the reign of King Jeongjo (r. 1776-1800) of the Joseon Dynasty. Construction of the fortress was begun after the King moved the grave of his father, Crown Prince Sado, from Yangju in Gyeonggi-do to its current location near the fortress. The fortification is elaborately and carefully designed to effectively perform its function of protecting the city enclosed within it. The construction of the fortress and related facilities involved the use of scientific devices developed by the distinguished Confucian thinker and writer Jeong Yak-yong (1762- 1836), including the Geojunggi (type of crane) and Nongno (pulley wheel) used to lift heavy building materials such as stones. 
     Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple Seokguram, located on the middle slopes of Tohamsan Mountain in Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, is a Buddhist hermitage with an artificial stone cave built in 774 to serve as a dharma hall. The hall houses an image of seated Buddha surrounded by his guardians and followers carved in relief, which is widely admired as a great masterpiece. The cave faces east and is designed so that the principal Buddha receives the first rays of the sun rising from the East Sea on his head.
Completed the same year as Seokguram Grotto, Bulguksa Temple consists of exquisite prayer halls and various monuments, including two stone pagodas, Dabotap and Seokgatap, standing in the front courtyard of the temple’s main prayer hall, Daeungjeon. The two pagodas are widely regarded as the finest extant Silla pagodas: the first is admired for its elaborately carved details, the second for its delightfully simple structure.
Dabotap, or the Pagoda of Abundant Treasures, is marked by a unique structure built with elaborately carved granite blocks. It also features on the face of the Korean 10 won coin. By contrast, Seokgatap, or the Pagoda of Shakyamuni, is better known for its delightfully simple structure which exhibits fine symmetry and balance. The pagoda is now generally regarded as the archetype of all the three-story stone pagodas built across Korea thereafter.
Among the other treasures preserved at the temple are the two exquisite stone bridges, Cheongungyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) and Baegungyo (White Cloud Bridge), leading to Daeungjeon, the temple’s principal dharma hall. The bridges symbolize the journey every Buddhist needs to make to reach the Pure Land of Bliss.
     Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty The Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) left behind a total of fortyfour tombs of its Kings and their Queen Consorts, most of which are located in and around the capital area including the cities of Guri, Goyang and Namyangju in Gyeonggi-do. Some of these Royal Tombs are arranged in small groups in the Donggureung, Seooreung, Seosamneung and Hongyureung. Of these, forty tombs are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Royal Tombs of Joseon are highly regarded as tangible heritage that reflect the values held by the Korean people, which were drawn from Confucian ideology and the feng shui tradition. These historical remains are also valued highly for having been preserved in their original condition for anywhere from one to six hundred years.
     Janggyeongpanjeon Depositories of Haeinsa Temple, Hapcheon
The Printing Woodblocks of the Tripitaka Koreana, which was made during the Goryeo Period (918-1392), are housed in two depositories specially made for that purpose in 1488 at Haeinsa Temple. As the oldest remaining buildings at the temple, the Tripitaka depositories are marked by the uniquely scientific and highly effective method of controlling ventilation and moisture to ensure the safe storage of the age-old woodblocks. The buildings were built side by side at the highest point (about 700m above sea level) in the precincts of Haeinsa Temple, which is located on the mid-slope of Gayasan Mountain.
What makes these depositories so special is their unique design which provides effective natural ventilation by exploiting the wind blowing in from the valley of Gayasan. Open lattice windows of different sizes are arranged in upper and lower rows on both the front and rear walls of the depositories to promote the optimum flow of air from the valley. Similarly, the floor, which was built by ramming layers of charcoal, clay, sand, salt and lime powder, also helps to control the humidity of the rooms.
     Namhansanseong Fortress Namhansanseong Fortress, located about 25km southeast of Seoul, underwent large-scale restructuring in 1626, during the reign of King Injo of the Joseon Dynasty, to create a refuge for the King and his people in the event of a national emergency. The foundations of Jujangseong Fortress, built almost one thousand years earlier in 672, during the reign of King Munmu of Unified Silla, served as the base of the renovated structure. 
The defensive position of the fortress was reinforced by exploiting the rugged topography of the mountain (average height: at least 480m). The perimeter of its wall is about 12.3km. According to a record dating from the Joseon Period, about 4,000 people lived in the town built inside the fortress.
Temporary palaces, Jongmyo Shrine, and Sajikdan Altar were built in the fortress in 1711 during the reign of King Sukjong of Joseon. The fortress is also a result of the wide-ranging exchanges made and wars waged between Korea (Joseon), Japan (Azuchi- Momoyama Period), and China (Ming and Qing) during the 16th-18th centuries. The introduction of cannons from western countries brought many changes to the weaponry inside the fortress and the way the fortress was built. The fortress is a “living record” of the changes in the way fortresses were built during the 7th-19th centuries.
     Baekje Historic Areas Baekje is one of the concurrently presenting ancient countries in Korean Peninsula from B.C 18 to 660 CE. Located in the mountainous mid-western region of the Republic of Korea, Baekje Historic Areas comprise a series of eight archaeological sites, including the Gongsanseong fortress and royal rombs at Songsan-ri in Gongju, the Busosanseong fortress and Gwanbuk-ri Administrative buildings, the Jeongnimsa Temple, the royal tombs in Neungsan-ri and the Naseong city wall in Buyeo, the royal palace at Wanggung-ri and the Mireuksa Temple in Iksan. This property represents the historical tracts of relationships among east Asian ancient kingdoms of Korea, China, and Japan from 5th to 7th century and conclusively stands for the architectural development and the spread of Buddhism. Through this property, the reputation of its capital, Buddhist temples, ancient tombs, architecture, and stone pagodas are seen to prove the culture, religion and the aesthetics of ancient kingdom Baekje period. 
Acknowledged as pivotal elements of ancient city, fortress, palace site, city wall, royal tomb, Buddhist temples are representing the outstanding universal value of Baekje Historic Areas heritage.

Memory of the World Register
     Hunminjeongeum(The Proper Sounds for the Instruction of the People)
Hangeul is the name of the Korean writing system and alphabet, which consists of letters inspired by the shapes formed by the human vocal organs during speech, making it very easy to learn and use. Hangeul was promulgated in 1446 by King Sejong, who helped devise it and named it Hunminjeongeum, or The Proper Sounds for the Instruction of the People. It was also in that same year that he ordered his scholars to publish The Hunminjeongeum haeryebon (Explanatory Edition) to provide detailed explanations of the purpose and guiding principles of the new writing system. One of these manuscripts is currently in the collection of the Kansong Art Museum and was included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 1997.
     Joseon wangjo Sillok:Annals of the Joseon Dynasty The Joseon Dynasty left behind a vast collection of annual records of Joseon rulers and their officials covering the 472 years from 1392 to 1863. The records, Joseon wangjo sillok (Annals of the Joseon Dynasty), comprise 2,077 volumes and are stored at the Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies, Seoul National University.
The annals of each Joseon ruler were usually compiled after his death during the early phase of his successor’s rule based on the daily accounts, called “historical drafts” (sacho), made by historiographers. The annals are regarded as extremely valuable historical resources as they contain detailed information about the politics, economy, culture and other aspects of Joseon society.
Once the annals had been compiled and placed in the “history depositories” (sago), they would not be opened to anyone except in special circumstances where it was necessary to refer to past examples with regard to the formal conduct of important state ceremonies such as the memorial rites for royal ancestors or the reception of foreign envoys. Originally there were four history depositories, one in the Chunchugwan (Office of State Records) at the Royal Court, and three more in the main regional administrative hubs in the south, namely, Chungju, Jeonju and Seongju. However, these were destroyed in 1592 when Japan invaded Korea, and the Joseon Dynasty was compelled to build new depositories on some of the remotest mountains in the country, Myohyangsan, Taebaeksan, Odaesan and Manisan.
     Seunjeongwon Ilgi:Diaries of the Royal Secretariat his collection of documents contains the records of the Joseon rulers’ public life and their interactions with the bureaucracy; they were made on a daily basis by the Seungjeongwon, or Royal Secretariat, from the third month of 1623 to the eighth month of 1910. The records are collected in 3,243 volumes and include the details of royal edicts, reports and appeals from ministries and other government agencies. The diaries are currently kept in the Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies, Seoul National University.
     Ilseongnok:Daily Records of the Royal Court and Important Officials
This vast collection of daily records made by the Kings of the late Joseon Period (from 1760 to 1910) is compiled in a total of 2,329 volumes. The records provide vivid and detailed information on the political situation in and around Korea and the ongoing cultural exchanges between east and west from the 18th to the 20th century.      
     
Human Rights Documentary(Heritage1980:Archives of the May 18th)
     Democratic Uprising in Gwangju The May 18th Gwangju Uprising was a popular rebellion that took place in the city of Gwangju from May 18 to 27 1980, during which Gwangju’s citizens made a strong plea for democracy in Korea and actively opposed the then military dictatorship. The pro-democracy struggle in Gwangju ended tragically but exerted a powerful influence on similar democratic movements that spread across East Asia in the 1980s. This UNESCO inscription consists of the documents, videos, photographs and other forms of records made about the activities of Gwangju’s citizens during the movement, and the subsequent process of compensation for the victims, as collected by The May 18 Memorial Foundation, the National Archives and Records Service, the National Assembly Library, and various organizations in the USA.
     Royal Ancestral Rite and Ritual Music The Royal Ancestral Rite (Jongmyo Jerye) now held on the first Sunday of May to honor the deceased Joseon Kings and their Queen Consorts at the Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul remained one of the most important state ceremonies after the establishment of Joseon as a Confucian state in 1392. Designed to maintain the social order and promote solidarity, the ritual consists of performances of ceremonial orchestral music and dances praising the civil and military achievements of the Royal ancestors of Joseon. This age-old Confucian ritual combining splendid performances of music and dance is widely admired not only for the preservation of original features formed over 500 years ago, but also for its unique syncretic or composite art form.
     Pansori The first event of the Danoje Festival is related to the preparation of “divine drinks” (sinju) to be offered to gods and goddesses, thus linking the human world with the divine world. This is followed by a variety of festive events such as the Gwanno Mask Dance, a non-verbal performance by masked players, swing riding, ssireum (Korean wrestling), street performances by farmers’ bands, changpo (iris) hair washing, and surichwi rice cake eating. Of these, the changpo hair washing event is particularly widely practiced by women who believe that the extract of changpo will give them glossier hair and repel the evil spirits that are thought to bear diseases.
     Ganggangsullae This traditional event combining a circle dance with singing and folk games was performed by women around the coastal areas of Jeollanam-do during traditional holidays such as Chuseok (Harvest Moon Festival/Thanksgiving) and the Daeboreum (the first full moon of the New Year on the lunar calendar) in particular.
     Namsadang Nori Namsadang nori, generally performed by an itinerant troupe of male performers, consisted of several distinct parts including pungmul nori (music and dance), jultagi (tightrope walking), daejeop dolligi (plate spinning), gamyeongeuk(mask theater) and kkokdugaksi noreum (puppet theater). The performers also played instruments while they danced, such as the barrel buk (drum), janggu (hourglass-shaped drum), kkwaenggari (small metal gong), jing(large metal gong), and two wind instruments called nabal and taepyeongso.
     Yeongsanjae Yeongsanjae, literally meaning “Rites of Vulture Peak”, is a Buddhist ritual performed on the 49th day after a person’s death to comfort his or her spirit, and guide it to the Buddhist land of bliss. The ritual, known to have been performed since the Goryeo Period (918-1392), consists of solemn Buddhist music and dance, a sermon on the Buddha’s teachings, and a prayer recitation. While it is an essential part of the Korean Buddhist tradition conducted to guide both the living and the dead to the realm of Buddhist truths and to help them liberate themselves from all defilement and suffering, it was sometimes performed for the peace and prosperity of both the state and the people.
     Jeju Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut This age-old shamanic ritual was at one time performed in almost all the towns and villages in Jejudo, with worshippers praying for a good catch and the safety of fishermen working at sea. According to the traditional folk belief of Jejudo islanders the second lunar month is the month of Yeongdeung, during which Grandma Yeongdeung, a wind deity, visits all the villages, farming fields and homes across Jeju, bearing tidings about the harvest in the oncoming autumn.
     Taekkyeon One of the surviving traditional martial arts developed in Korea, Taekkyeon, which is quite different from Taekwondo, used to be known by several different names such as Gakhui (“sport of legs”) and Bigaksul (“art of flying legs”), although such names suggest that it is related with the movement of kicking. Like most other martial arts in which weapons are not used, Taekkyeon is aimed at improving one’s self-defence techniques and promoting physical and mental health through the practice of orchestrated dance-like bodily movements, using the feet and legs in particular. Contestants are encouraged to focus more on defence than on offense, and to throw the opponent to the ground using their hands and feet or jump up and kick him in the face to win a match.
     Falconry Korea has a long tradition of keeping and training falcons and other raptors to seize quarry, such as wild pheasants or hares. Archaeological and historical evidence show that falconry on the Korean peninsula started several thousand years ago and was widely practiced during the Goryeo Period (918-1392) in particular. The sport was more popular in the north than in the south, and was conducted usually during the winter season when farmers were free from farm work. Falconers would tie a leather string around the ankle of their bird and an ID tag and a bell to its tail. The Korean tradition was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010 along with those preserved in eleven other countries around the world including the Czech Republic, France, Mongolia, Spain, and Syria..
     Arirang Arirang is the name of a folk song sung by Korean people since olden times. There are many variations of the song, although the lyrics of their refrains have the words “arirang” or “arari” in common. The song was sung for many different purposes such as to reduce feelings of boredom during work, confess one’s true feelings to one’s beloved, pray to the divine being for a happy and peaceful life, and to entertain people gathered together for a celebration.
One element that has helped Arirang remain in the hearts of Korean people for so many years is its form, which is designed to allow any singer to easily add their own words to express their feelings. The importance of Arirang in the daily life of the Korean people is succinctly described in an essay, Korean Vocal Music, written in 1896 by Homer B. Hulbert (1863-1949), an American missionary and ardent supporter of Korean independence:
“The first and most conspicuous of this class is that popular ditty of seven hundred and eighty-two verses, more or less, which goes under the euphonious title of A-ri-rang. To the average Korean this one song holds the same place in music that rice does in his food?all else is mere appendage. You hear it everywhere and at all times.
The verses which are sung in connection with this chorus range through the whole field of legend, folklore, lullabies, drinking songs, domestic life, travel and love. To the Korean they are lyric, didactic and epic all rolled into one. They are at once Mother Goose and Byron, Uncle Remus and Wordsworth.”






 

 

 

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