Royal Ancestors and Ancient Remedies

Royal Ancestors cover image

Royal Ancestors and Ancient Remedies is the book of LKL’s trip to Korea in early May 2010, kindly sponsored by the Korea Culture and Information Service.

From the back cover:

A Korea enthusiast commits himself to a week in Korea to attend the nation’s most solemn Confucian ceremony in honour of the Royal Ancestors, and to do some high-minded interviews with cultural figures to give him some material for his London-based Korean culture website. Everyone tells him he will be bored out of his mind. He is determined to prove them wrong, and with the help of his trusty friends finds peace in the mountains during a temple stay and is introduced to the world of traditional herbal medicine. This is the story of his week in Korea, and shows some of the many cultural and other attractions that Korea offers as a tourist destination.

The book is now hard to get, but the content is 99% identical to the blog posts you can find below (as usual, with the latest posts first).

The final installments of LKL’s trip to Korea at the beginning of May Saturday 8 May 2010. We are back in Seoul in good time. At the start of the week, I hadn’t known what my Sancheong schedule was going to look like: my friend Kyung-sook had managed to secure an extra day or so […]

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The Last King of Gaya

by Philip Gowman 27 August 2010
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Korea is rightly proud of its heritage, and submits the most select elements of its long history to UNESCO for inscribing in the list of important world heritage items. One of the most recent items to have been so listed is the Joseon Dynasty Royal Tombs. They are beautifully peaceful places to visit. Perfectly manicured […]

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The Jirisan Forest Trail

by Philip Gowman 23 August 2010
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Jirisan is the highest peak on the South Korean mainland, and the National Park in which it is set is South Korea’s largest. Most of the park is in Gyeongsangnam-do, but in the west it spills in to Jeollanam-do and Jeollabuk-do. For walkers, the park offers a wide variety of experiences. For the hardened hiker, […]

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Makgeolli, maeuntang and a fashion show

by Philip Gowman 21 August 2010
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We sit outside in a pavilion overlooking the river as the sun goes down over the hamlet of Saengcho in the north of Sancheong County, picnicking on tiny deep-fried fish with the usual kimchi side dishes, all washed down with makgeolli. We are waiting for the rest of our party to arrive. Morgan and Yoseph […]

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A visit to Sancheong’s finest potter

by Philip Gowman 20 August 2010
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In 1592, Japan invaded Korea. Their ultimate destination was China, but they never got further than Korea, and they wrought havoc there. During their occupation, which lasted on and off until their second invasion in 1598 was repelled by Admiral Yi Sun-shin’s famous turtle ships, they sent back to Japan in their ships a human […]

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Remembering Seong Cheol Sunim

by Philip Gowman 9 August 2010
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What is Buddhism all about? I confess to knowing very little. One night of temple stay, and browsing round a few exhibitions of Buddhist art, does not qualify as a proper introduction. In Daewonsa, Neunghae Sunim took a pleasingly laid back approach to the Buddhist life. “Don’t rush things” and “Enjoy yourself” seemed to be […]

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The Beautiful Walls of Namsa-ri

by Philip Gowman 7 August 2010
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In the week that Hahoe folk village near Andong was admitted to the UNESCO heritage list, LKL recalls a visit to Namsa-ri, a less-visited but equally impressive hanok village. Friday 7 May 2010. After our visit to the Nambugun memorial museum we were feeling in sombre mood. But fortunately, lunch comes to the rescue. Sancheong […]

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Remembering the struggle against the partisans

by Philip Gowman 6 August 2010
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Sancheong County, nestling at the feet of Jirisan in Gyeongsangnam-do, has two memorial museums to the struggle between the leftist partisans and the Southern military and civilian authorities at the time of the Korean War. The key headlines of the conduct of the Korean War itself are well known: the Northern sweep southwards, the UN […]

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Daewonsa – early morning prayers and sutra painting

by Philip Gowman 31 July 2010
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Friday 7 May. I wake up at 3 o’clock. My body seems to be ready for early morning prayers even though I hadn’t signed up for them. I wanted to hear those moktaks and chants again, so I crawl into my clothes and stumble out to the main temple courtyard to wait for the prayers […]

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Daewonsa – the 9 o’clock meditation

by Philip Gowman 31 July 2010
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Thursday 6 May. I’m not sure if the monks do their 108 bows every day. If they do, we did not see it because we did our bows in a separate chapel. And if they do, I’m sure they don’t listen to that CD when they’re doing it. But I was expecting the 9 o’clock […]

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Daewonsa – the 108 Bows

by Philip Gowman 27 July 2010
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Thursday 6 May. The time has arrived for the 108 bows. Strangely, we are told to meet in the car park. But that’s where a large side chapel has recently been built, mainly to minister to visitors on the temple stay programme. The chapel at the moment has none of the internal decoration of the […]

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Daewonsa – the magic at sundown

by Philip Gowman 24 July 2010
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Thursday 6 May 2010. A monk sits in the corner of the room, brewing yellow tea, while we sit on the floor around the main table. Perfectly ripe fruits are laid out in front of us, including some of Sancheong’s famous strawberries. The conversation rumbles on, I’m not sure about what, because it was all […]

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Arrival at Daewonsa

by Philip Gowman 15 July 2010
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Thursday 6 May 2010. We drive up a winding road, through woodland on the side of a valley until we arrive in the car park of Daewonsa Temple, in the foothills of Jirisan mountain. We are met in the car park by a monk well known to our local guide. “She’s my favourite monk,” he […]

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Heo Jun and Sancheong’s herbal heritage

by Philip Gowman 12 July 2010
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Thursday 6 May 2010. The mayor hurries off for an appointment: not only is the Sancheong Medicinal Herb Festival in full swing, but elections are approaching in a month’s time. In fact I’m amazed he has found time to meet with this foreign blogger at all. He leaves the rest of us to finish the […]

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2010 Travel Diary #24: Lunch with Sancheong’s Mayor and the battle for the 2013 Donguibogam Expo

by Philip Gowman 7 July 2010
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Thursday 6 May 2010. We drive to a quiet restaurant – though in Sancheong County that describes most of them. In the shaded car park we are greeted by a large reception committee. The mayor and his wife, all dressed in hanbok, are waiting, and many of the county officials. I think my friend Kyung-sook […]

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2010 Travel Diary #23: Turtle, Phoenix and Seal

by Philip Gowman 4 July 2010
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Thursday 6 May 2010. Sancheong County in Gyeongsangnam-do occupies an area larger than Seoul1, but its population is only 35,000. It is a land of mystery and legend, with ideas and importance more in proportion to its land mass than its population size. People there are very proud of where and who they are. Our […]

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2010 Travel Diary #22: A sense of direction

by Philip Gowman 30 June 2010
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Thursday 6 May 2010. I’m somewhat stiff from sleeping on the floor. Throughout the night different parts of my body were suffering from pins and needles. But the location was peaceful, and I get up rested. Overnight rain has made everything seem greener, but low cloud clinging to the hilltops and wisps of mist rolling […]

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