Posted by: rbbadger | January 29, 2009

남산골 한옥마을

In many places in Korea, you can see many fine examples of hanok, or traditional Korean houses.  Many of them have been moved, restored, and gathered into villages.  With the exception of the Hahoe village near Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do, most of these old houses are not in use anymore.  In Hahoe, many of the people lead lives not too dissimilar from how Koreans traditionally lived. 

In Seoul, right in the middle of downtown, they made a small village of some old houses dating back to the 19th century.  One of these houses was the home of Korea’s last queen, as well as the Confucian shrine of her father.  These have been restored and the Namsangol Hanokmaeul (Namsan Hanok Village) is a popular destination in Seoul.  I had not been there until this past Seollal holiday.  As you can see, it was packed.


They did invite people to take their hand at pounding rice with a mallet for the production of ddeok, or rice cakes. 


Here is an image of the home where Korea’s last queen and empress, the Empress Sunjeong, lived until she was bethrothed to the Emperor Sunjong at the age of 13.  Emperor Sungjong was not the brightest of Korea’s rulers.  He was mentally disabled and unable to sire offspring, as a result of having been poisoned by the Japanese.  The Empress Sunjeong never had children of her own, so Emperor Kojong’s other son, Eumin, was Korea’s last crown prince. 


The Koreans developed a system for heating that is quite unique and which heats my house now.  It is known as ondol heating.  In modern houses, pipes carrying heated water under the floor heat up the floor and keep it toasty and warm.  In the old days, a unique system of flues kept the floors warm.  A fire was built underneath one part of the house and flues such as these free-standing ones expelled the smoke and gases. 


They also had set up a sort of traditional altar on which offerings would be made to the spirits of the dead ancestors.  There is a strict order as to what foods can be placed and where they can be placed.  On a high chair above the food, we see an ancestral tablet.  Behind the chair is a screen with something written on it in classical Chinese in hard to read cursive style writing.  The Jongmyo Royal Ancestral Shrine was built primarily to hold the ancestral tablets of the deceased kings and queens and to offer sacrifice to their spirits.  This rite is still observed by many Korean families, though the Protestants forbid the observance of it entirely. 


Here we see something from Korea’s shamanistic roots, damely the 달집 or dal jip.  This is burned during the Lunar New Year celebrations as a means to make wishes for the new year come true.


If you look at the bottom left side of this photo, you will see a sand table.  This was something used in teaching children how to write.  Making paper in the old days was a laborious process, so this table could be used to help children master the techinques of writing Chinese characters rather than wasting page after page of paper.  And paper figures heavily into the next post, too.


Finally, I leave you with an image of some pâpier-maché dolls doing various traditional things.




  1. Thanks for sharing your pictures of your travels! We live vicariously through you! It’s fun to see different places and cultures. 🙂

  2. […] and relocated.  If you want to refresh your memory of what these beautiful houses look like, click here.  This was the same place with the beautiful paper flowers.  You can see those photos by clicking […]

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