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The geography of Korea - a peninsula jutting out from the world's largest continent - has contributed greatly to the development of uniquely Korean characteristics. The foundation for the country's culture and arts is the Korean identity: a combination of traits associated with continental and island peoples. Throughout many millennia, Korea has interacted with the predominant continental cultures of Asia despite its peripheral location in the northeast. Remarkably, while accommodating major religions and traditions of other Asian regions, the country has developed a truly distinct culture in many aspects, which some people call the "centrality of the Korean culture."

Under this topographical influence, the Korean people came to develop a peace-loving yet dynamic character that has created a contemplative yet vibrant, optimistic yet sentimental culture.


World Heritage Treasures
    Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto were constructed over a 23-year period beginning in 751during the Silla Kingdom by Chief Minister Kim Dae-seong (701-774). It is recorded that Kim was reincarnated as the son of a chief minister because he had been the virtuous son of a poor widow in a previous life. He himself became chief minister and resigned in 750 to supervise the construction of Bulguksa to honor the parents of his present life and Seokguram to honor the parents of his previous life. Bulguksa was for public worship and Seokguram for the private worship of the king.
Built on a series of stone terraces, Bulguksa blends into what appears as an organic whole with the rocky terrain of the wooded foothills of Mt.Tohamsan.
The temple houses the Seokgatap (Pagoda of the Historic Buddha) and Dabotap (Pagoda of Many Treasures) as well as Cheongungyo (Blue Cloud Bridge), Baegungyo (White Cloud Bridge) and Chilbogyo (Bridge of Seven Treasures) - the three staircases are called bridges because symbolically they lead from the secular world to the spiritual one of Buddha. There are many other outstanding treasures within and outside the temple grounds, including gilt bronze Buddha statues.
Dominating the courtyard of the Daeungjeon (Main Hall) are two of Korea's most beautiful pagodas. The 8.3-meter-high Seokgatap and the 10.5-meter-high Dabotap were both built around 756. Seokgatap is characterized by masculine simplicity and princely dignity and represents spiritual ascent via the teachings of Sakyamuni whereas the highly decorative Dabotap is more feminine and symbolizes the complexity of the world.
     Seokguram comprises a rectangular antechamber and a round interior chamber with a domed ceiling connected by a passageway. Chiseled out of a single block of granite, the 3.5-meter-high main Buddha is seated cross-legged on a lotus throne facing the east, with eyes closed in quiet meditation, and a serene, all-knowing expression on its face. Seokguram represents a combination of Silla's knowledge of architecture, math, geometry, physics, religion and art into an organic whole and is one of Korea's greatest Buddhist masterpieces.

Tripitaka Korean and Janggyeongpanjeon
Janggyeong Panjeon, two storage halls at Haeinsa Temple, are the repositories for the Tripitaka Koreana, consisting of some 81,258 wood printing blocks, the Goryeo Dynasty version of the Buddhist canon. With more than 52 million Chinese characters precisely rendered, it is the oldest and most comprehensive Buddhist canon existing in the world today.

Other World Heritage Treasures
     Jongmyo the Royal Ancestral Shrine, was dedicated in 1395, three years after the Joseon Dynasty was established. It enshrines the spirit tablets of its kings and queens. The elaborate memorial rites and the music, which accompanies them called Jongmyojeryeak, were designated as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Ceremonial reenactments of the Joseon ancestral memorial rites are conducted on the first Sunday of every May at Jongmyo.
     Changdeokgung Palace was first built in 1405 and was reconstructed after being burnt down in 1592 during the Japanese invasion. The palace itself is a masterful work but particularly noteworthy is the back garden (Huwon), also called the Secret garden (Biwon), which is widely acclaimed for its beautifully landscaped and creative gardens. The garden comprises almost three-quarters of the 405,636 m2 palace grounds and is tastefully laid out with all the essential elements of a Korean traditional garden: picturesque pavilions and halls, lotus ponds, uniquely shaped rocks, stone bridges, stairways, water troughs and springs scattered among dense woods.
     Hwaseong Fortress was constructed over 34 months in Suwon, south of Seoul, in 1796. The fortress incorporated the very latest construction technology, theories of military defense and aesthetic principles to create the most advanced military stronghold Korea had ever known. It  stretched over undulating terrain around an urban center and included four major and several minor gates,command posts, observation towers, battlements, guard posts and bunkers. Most of the 5,743 meter exterior fortress wall still remains.
The Gyeongju Historic Areas and dolmen sites in the counties of Gochang, Jeollabuk-do; Hwasun, Jeollanam-do; and Ganghwa, Incheon, were also added to the list in 2000. Gyeongju was thecapital of the Silla Kingdom for a thousand years and the area is called a "Museum Without Walls"because of the wealth of historical properties there.

Memory of the World Register
     Hunminjeongeum was a primer for teaching Hangeul, the Korean alphabet created by the Joseon Dynasty's fourth ruler, King Sejong the Great (r. 1418-1450). The new alphabet was promulgated
in 1446.
     Joseonwangjosillok
resulted from the tradition of preparing a historic record of each reign. It;began in 1413 with the Annals of King Taejo, the founder and first king of Joseon, and continued through the end of the dynasty in 1910. The Annals were drafted by historians in the Office for Annals Compilation (Chunchugwan), and to ensure preservation, copies were stored in special repositories situated in different parts of the country.
     Buljo Jikjisimcheyojeol, compiled in 1372 by the monk Baegun (1298-1374), contains the essentials of Seon (Zen) Buddhism. The key words of the title, "Jikjisimche" were taken from afamous phrase about attaining enlightenment through the practice of Seon. A colophon on the last page of the book states that it was printed with movable metal type at Heungdeoksa Temple in 1377,about eighty years before the Gutenberg Bible was printed in Germany, making it the world's oldest book printed with movable metal type.
     The Seungjeongwon, the Royal Secretariat of the Joseon Dynasty, was responsible for keeping the Seungjeongwon Ilgi, a detailed record of the daily events and official schedule of the court, from Joseon Dynasty's first king, Taejo (r. 1392-1398), to the 27th and last, Sunjong (r. 1907-1910). However, currently only 3,243 volumes exist. Recorded in the Seungjeongwon Ilgi is the largest amount of authentic historic information and state secrets of the Joseon Dynasty. It served as the primary source for the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, thus its historic value is even greater than the Annals itself.
     The Goryeo Daejanggyeong (Goryeo Dynasty Tripitaka), known as the "Tripitaka Koreana" to modern scholars, is a collection of the Tripitaka (Buddhist scriptures). Carved onto 81,258 wooden printing blocks in the 13th century, under commission by the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), it is currently stored at Haeinsa Temple in Gyeongsangnam-do Province.
A unique form of documentary heritage, the Uigwe is a collection of Royal Protocols for the 500 year-long Joseon Dynasty. A comprehensive and systematic collection of writings and paintings, it provides a detailed account of the important ceremonies and rites of the Joseon court. Its particular style of documentary heritage cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
     Donguibogam(The Principles and Practice of Eastern Medicine) is an encyclopedia of medical knowledge and treatment techniques compiled and edited by Heo Jun (1539-1615) in the early 17th century, with the collective support of medical experts and literati, according to instructions from the royal court. The work shows the evolution of medicine in East Asia and beyond. In terms of health care system, it developed the ideals of preventive medicine and public health care by the state, which were virtually unprecedented ideas.

Korean Wave
The term “Korean Wave” (“Hallyu” in Korea) was first coined by the Chinese press a little more thana decade ago referring to the popularity of Korean pop culture in China.  The boom started with the export of Korean television drama to China in the late 1990s.  Since then, South Korea has emerged as a new center for the production of transnational pop culture, exporting a range of cultural products to neighboring Asian countries and more recently in the other parts of the world. 
In the late 1990s, the Korean wave reached numerous Asian countries, including, Japan, China,Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore.  Korean dramas were a key aspect of this proliferation, achieving a significant level of mainstream success in Japan, China and Southeast Asia.
Korean pop music, K-pop, has also played a significant role in this cultural phenomenon.  In 2012,Korean rapper PSY’s “Gangnam Style” has become a worldwide viral phenomenon.  His music video racked up 467 million views on YouTube.  The single has reached number 1 in the United Kingdom and number 2 in the United States. The Korean wave has had considerable impact on the South Korean economy.  In 2011, the Korea wave added approximately $3.8 billion USD of revenue to the South Korean Economy.  In addition to the economic benefits, the Korean wave has had some political impact as well.  The Korean wave’s worldwide cultural influence translated into soft power of Korea, increasing its voice in the global political arena.  According to a survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 80% of respondents from China, Japan, and Vietnam look to South Korean culture with high respect.





 

 

 

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