Destination: Munmyo Confucian Shrine and Seonggyungwan Academy (northeast Seoul)
If you like exploring Seoul’s lesser-known corners, this one’s for you. The place goes by a few different names: Seoul Confucian Shrine, Munmyo Confucian Shrine, Seonggyungwan National Confucian Academy, and even Sungkyunkwan University’s Confucian Shrine. Whatever name you give it, it’s a historical site (#143), and was first founded in 1398 – the infancy of the Joseon Dynasty. Honoring Confucius and his disciples The shrine holds a twice-annual ceremony to this day, and holds the ancestral tablets for them all in Daesongjeon (the main hall). Like virtually every older building throughout Korea, it was burned down during the Japanese invasion in 1592, and rebuilt in 1602. Some major repairs happened in 1869, and of course the preservation continues to this day.
OK, you’ve got me here. There’s no sign describing it – perhaps a way for carrying something pressurized…?
If your hanja reading is up to spec, take a look at the dozens of signboards decorating the ceiling of the main hall.
Not just one centuries-old gingko tree, but two of them – each an estimated 500 years old. It’s a bit hard to see, but there are a number of beams supporting the trees, and parts of them look filled with concrete to help preserve them.
It’s not exactly the most secure lock (heck, it’s not even a lock), but it definitely adds a different shape to things.
묘정비각 (Myo-jeon-bi-gak) – the turtle holds a memorial stone with the history of the shrine on it – stone tends not to burn as easily as wood. It’s surrounded by the wooden slats (and an unlocked door), along with a wire fence to discourage birds from making a home inside.
Another centuries-old tree, albeit one without the fence or sign. Plenty of other buildings are around, of course – they’re mainly empty now, but they were dorms, kitchens, offices, and weapons storage.
If you appreciate seeing how history has been preserved for future generations, it’s all there – very little of it looks faux old, unless you’re looking at some of the modern signage. It’s not shiny, and if you’re looking for the bells and whistles you’ll be disappointed. Instead, it’s a quiet, off-the-beaten-path place to walk through slowly with a date or traveling partner.
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Name: Seonggyungwan National Confucian Academy / Munmyo Confucian Shrine (서울문묘와성군관)
Address: Seoul, Jongno-gu Myeongryun-3-ga 53
Korean address: 서울특별시 종로구 명륜3가 53
Directions: Take line 4 to Hyehwa station, take exit 4 to street level. Bear left down the side street, then walk about 200 meters to the intersection. At the intersection, look right – you’ll want to cross the main road and head straight (towards the Daiso, or 성균관로 (Seong-gyun-gwan-ro, the side road). Walk another 200 meters, then look for the university entrance on the left. Take the first right, and you should see some signs for the shrine.
Hours: It’s open from 9am-6pm, though admission closes at 5:30pm from March to October and 4:30pm from (November to February.
Phone: 02-2148-1822 or 02-2148-4168
Website: Visit Korea
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