Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Yeonhuigung - quintessentially Joseon

As you may know, the founder of the Joseon dynasty wanted to build his new capital city in the Yeonhui-Sinchon area. King Taejo loved the place, but his teams wanted to go further afield, to a bigger site beyond Muaksan / Asan, in the nest guarded by Bugaksan / Inwangsan. Taejo eventually gave in, but built a palace for his father where he wished he could have created his own.

The name of the future 'new town' capital city remained until now: Sinchon means 'new village'. The name of the palace also survived, but more indirectly: Yeonhuigung (연희궁-延禧宮) gave its name to the neighborhood, now known as Yeonhui-dong, and later to Yonsei University - for the 'Yon' part ('Sei' came from 'Severance' hospital).

Yeonhuigung was said to be made for future kings, and people around here often joke that the tradition perdured into the next millenium, because 4 South Korean presidents lived in the area (CHOI Kyu-hah, Chun Doo-hwan, ROH Tae-woo, KIM Dae-jung). But when they ruled, Yeonhuigung was already gone for decades.

It's interesting to note how this palace shared his fate with the Joseon Dynasty: created by its founder, blessed by King Sejong The Great (Taejo's grandson renovated it during the second year of his rule), and disgraced by King Sejo's bloodline. Sejo was the man who destroyed Sejong's heritage and the nation's momentum (see "King Danjong and Korea's Curse"), and his descendant Yeonsangun, another one of Korea's worst rulers ever,  basically turned Yeonhuigung into one of his lust spaces. The palace didn't survive the Japanese occupation.

So where would be this palace nowadays? On Yonsei campus, not far from the soccer field where I use to play, around where they built that new exit on Songsan-ro (to pave the way for a pedestrian Yonsei-ro).

Inaugurated Yonsei's new sw gate on my bike after the game (4 goals, 6 assists). Felt like king of Zlatanistan. (20131023 - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/393912711299342336)
NB: to reach "Ventouxsan" (see "A bump on the road (Ventoux-san)")
, follow that bike to the right
Local authorities have only recently sold the land - at a very low price - to the university, which had been using it for decades. Maybe something could be done to mark more visibly - not too eyesorely visibly, if possible - the former location of such a royal landmark.


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