Korea’s Treasures

The Battle of Lepanto, wherein the allied forces of Venice, Genoa, and Spain overcame the Turks by means of a superior number of cannons, was a turning point in naval history in the West. Dominance of the sea enabled countries such as the Netherlands and England to play a dominant role in world affairs. The […]

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Reading the Heavens Part 3 – The Astronomical Legacy of King Sejong

by Matthew Jackson 28 February 2012
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As mentioned in part 1, King Sejong presided over the zenith of Korean astronomical achievement. The construction of a large observatory at Gyeongbok Palace in 1438 – later destroyed without a trace in the Japanese invasion – played a key role in the country’s progress. On the roof were installed various astronomical instruments such as […]

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Reading the Heavens Part 2 – World’s First Complete Star Map

by Matthew Jackson 21 February 2012
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Koguryo generally has the tag of a warlike kingdom, and I always assumed that it was the least culturally developed of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Amongst other things, however, it was responsible for the world’s earliest complete map of the stars. This planispheric star map is believed to have been produced in 1395, the […]

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Reading the Heavens Part 1 – Two Millennia of Astronomy in Korea

by Matthew Jackson 14 February 2012
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To celebrate star-crossed lovers everywhere, Matthew Jackson starts a series of articles on Korean astronomy As we can tell from ancient monuments like the Dolmen stones and more recent buildings such as Cheomseongdae, astronomy was big in Korea. Why was this exactly? Reverence for nature was part of it, but it was in fact more […]

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Buddha’s Voice – The Bell of King Seongdeok

by Matthew Jackson 26 October 2011
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People sometimes take a jaundiced view of Korea’s estimation of the importance of its cultural heritage. In the case of the Sacred Bell of King Seongdeok, however, it was foreigner, Dr. Otto Kummel, a director at the National Museum of Germany, who suggested that the museum’s description of the bell as ‘the best in Korea’, […]

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Raindrops over Joseon – Sejong’s Cheugugi

by Matthew Jackson 22 October 2011
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King Sejong is most famous for the creation of the Korean alphabet, Hangul, which remains in use today. His whole career as king was underpinned by the philosophy that a king must serve his people, and this philosophy gave rise to many advances in science and culture that benefited the people of Korea. One less […]

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Donguibogam: Prevention before Treatment

by Sena Lee 20 October 2011
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The Donguibogam is a medical encyclopedia written by Heo Jun (1539-1615), a royal physician and renowned doctor, in the 16th to 17th century. People often say there has been no traditional Korean medicine (TKM) doctor greater than him since. The encyclopedia was registered at UNESCO as part of the ‘Memory of the World’ register in […]

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Stargazing in Ancient Silla – the Cheomseongdae

by Matthew Jackson 18 October 2011
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Cheomseongdae, the world’s oldest surviving observatory, features a great deal in tourism material, and even if you haven’t been to Korea or the Gyeongju area, you will probably have seen it. You will also, if you are like me, have been somewhat underwhelmed by its rather modest appearance, which if anything does it less justice […]

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Is there a doctor in the peninsula? – Heo Jun and the Donguibogam medical textbook

by Matthew Jackson 26 August 2011
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Known as one of the greatest books in the history of Eastern medicine, the Donguibogam was composed by Heo Jun, a court physician in the early 17th century, and is today included as part of UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Despite the huge advances in medicine since that time, it is still referred to by doctors […]

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The Changdeokgung’s Secret Garden – A Part of Nature

by Matthew Jackson 18 August 2011
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There was a series by Monty Don a while ago called Around the World in 80 Gardens. The East Asian segment was naturally devoted to Chinese and Japanese gardens. It is pity Korea was missed out, as the gardens of Korea have a distinct and unusual ethos. Koreans feel that nature has been good to them. […]

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Rediscovering the Lost Kingdom of Baekje

by Matthew Jackson 3 August 2011
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History, according to the saying, is written by the victors. The unification of the three kingdoms of Korea under Silla in 668 AD solved the problem of constant war in the peninsula, but created a significant problem for modern day historians, in that very little of the culture and heritage of Baekje (BC 18~AD 660) […]

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The Changdeokgung’s Injeong Hall – Welcome to the Rock Show!

by Matthew Jackson 20 July 2011
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When I visited Changdeok Palace in Seoul, my attention was naturally focussed mainly on the buildings themselves. One of these buildings is the Injeong Hall (Injeongjeon), which was used for important celebrations and ceremonies. The unassuming forecourt one walks through to enter the hall was been designed with great care, but for the unsuspecting observer […]

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Live Long and Prosper – Food Advice from Old Choseon

by Matthew Jackson 4 July 2011
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Traditional fermented dishes such as doenjang and Kimchi form the basis of the Korean diet. It is a known fact that the inhabitants of cultures and regions which have fermented milk products as part of their daily diet (e.g. the Caucasus) tend to live longer. In the case of soybean-based dishes such as doenjang, the […]

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The Life and Teachings of Master Wonhyo

by Matthew Jackson 13 June 2011
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The life of Master Wonhyo (617-686 A.D.) is a typical Korean paradox. He was a scholar who composed over 100 works on Buddhist philosophy, whose influence in scholarship and teaching was felt in China and other surrounding countries. He is acknowledged today as the foremost figure in the history of Korean Buddhism. And yet, many […]

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The Turtle Ship

by Matthew Jackson 25 October 2009
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There is a story that when the nascent Korean shipping industry was attempting to raise capital, Barclays asked what the Koreans could provide in the way of security for the loan. The Korean executive is said to have taken a 500 won bill from his pocket, which featured the turtle ship of Yi Sun-sin, and […]

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Golden Earrings of Silla

by Matthew Jackson 9 September 2009
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Along with the famous Golden Crown of Hwangnam, the tombs of Silla contained many other, less immediately eye-catching objects of beauty. An example is the golden earrings, one of the literally thousands of accessories such as necklaces, rings, belts and shoes that were buried with the dead kings and queens in Kyongju, capital of the […]

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Korean heritage at UNESCO

by Philip Gowman 16 August 2009
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Korea is rightly proud of some of its heritage, much of which has been given official recognition by UNESCO. For those of you who like lists, here are the various items of Korea’s tangible and intangible heritage which have been so listed. Also included below are links to any LKL articles on these treasures. (1) […]

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