London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

The Sancheong World Traditional Medicine Anti-Aging Expo: reaching beyond Korea to heal the world.

Sancheong Expo 2023 banner

The 2023 Sancheong World Traditional Medicine and Anti-Aging Expo (“Sancheong Expo”) will be held in Donguibogam Village, Sancheong County, from 15 September to 19 October 2023. The theme of this healing expo is “Promise of the Future, Traditional Medicine in the World”. Visitors can enjoy health and healing through the experience of traditional medicine from various countries around the world in Sancheong’s great natural environment.

Sancheong County includes the highest peak of Jirisan as well as its Eastern and South-eastern slopes. The area is widely known as the home of medicinal herbs, and more than 1,000 kinds of herb grow there naturally. Since ancient times, Sancheong has protected the health of the royal family through the precious herbs grown on the slopes of Jirisan, and is also the home of the Donguibogam, a symbol of traditional Korean medicine and oriental medicine more widely.

The Sancheong Expo, first held in 2013 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication in 1613 of the Donguibogam, which was included in the UNESCO “Memory of the World” Heritage List in 2009. The Donguibogam is a 25-volume encyclopedia of medical knowledge compiled by court physician Heo Jun. According to the UNESCO website, it developed the ideals of preventive medicine and public health care by the state, which was virtually an unprecedented idea up to the19th century. The Expo is a government-approved international event jointly hosted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, South Gyeongsang Province and Sancheong County, and is now being held again after an interval of ten years. It is expected to be the Province’s largest event in 2023.

The venue for the Expo is Sancheong’s Donguibogam Village, located at the foot of Pilbongsan and Wangsan. It is the location where the Gi of the Baekdudaegan, Korea’s mountain backbone, gathers in one place. In traditional medicine, where Gi / Chi plays a fundamental role in the way our body operates, the body is said to have three Gi reservoirs, of which the main one is the Danjeon (dantian), situated in the lower abdomen. Because of its position on the Korean peninsula and the way the Gi is focused in the area around Wangsan, Sancheong is known as the Danjeon of Korea, strengthening its claim as the home of traditional medicine.

The Expo’s aim is to provide visitors with a unique healing experience organised around four healing themes: traditional oriental medicine; other traditional medicines from around the world; healing in Sancheong; and the future of traditional medicines. The Expo venue is divided into zones that focus on these individual themes, with areas for exhibitions, shopping and events.

Alongside the Expo, Sancheong’s own annual Herbal Medicine Festival, which marks its 23rd anniversary this year, will feature a variety of events. It will take place at the Sancheong IC Festival Plaza for six days from 6 October to 10 October.

Apart the educational and entertaining aspects of the Expo there is a more serious objective: the Expo will be used to further the establishment of various projects such as the Oriental Medicine Anti-Aging Industrial Complex, the Strategic Herbal Medicine Specialised Complex, and the Sancheong Herbal Medicine Industry Special Zone. Sancheong hopes to build on the Expo to develop its local economy as well as strengthening its position as the leading destination for healing and wellness tourism in Korea. According to an official, “We will make it an opportunity to develop into a new growth engine industry in rural areas by expanding the herbal anti-aging industry. We are making thorough preparations to expand into various new industries such as the bio industry, herbal medicine industry, and herbal beauty industry by coming up with a plan to create synergy with wellness tourism represented by the Donguibogam Village Healing Academy.”

A composite image of the Donguibogam village showing some of its main sites
A composite image showing some of the main features of the Donguibogam village

The Expo will include a wide variety of educational, entertaining and engaging events and exhibitions to appeal to a wide range of ages and tastes, and will provide experiences in which people can explore their physical condition and practice mindfulness through nature and traditional medicine: in Sancheong, home of the Three Purities1, where people, mountains, and water exist together in harmony.

About Donguibogam Village: the main Expo venue

The venue for the Expo itself has various outdoor facilities.

Gi Experience Centre (한방기체험장)

The most popular place in Donguibogam Village is the Gi Experience Centre. There are three huge stones here: Gwigamseok, Seokyeong, and Bokseokjeong. The three stones are said to concentrate the best energy in Sancheong, and it is said that if you pray with your head on the three stones (and particularly the Gwigamseok), you will be cured of major illnesses and receive great fortune such as pregnancy or promotion.

A number of tourists cling to a huge turtle-shaped rock
Getting a Gi-boost from the Gwigamseok

Gwigamseok is so called because it looks like a turtle, and it is said that all good things under the heavens are written on it. Park Hang-seo, the head coach of the Vietnam national football team from Sancheong, said he visits Gwigamseok once a year to receive good luck. Last year, he visited it twice. LKL’s editor makes a point of visiting the Gwigamseok whenever he is in Sancheong to get a top-up of Jirisan Gi.

Seokgyeong is inscribed with the Cheonbu Sutra and is meant to reflect the energy from the eastern sun onto the earth to pray for the prosperity of the nation. It has a curious mark on its surface that resembles a Phoenix. The third stone, near the main gate of the Gi Experience Centre, is the Bokseokjeong. Shaped like an overturned pot lid, its name signifies a vessel that holds good fortune.

Donguijeon Hall, which is the main structure of the Gi Experience Centre, is a magnificent building modeled on Seoul’s Gyeongbokgung Palace. Here visitors can experience healing programmes that are differentiated from other areas, such as Gi circulation gymnastics and fragrance bag making, and the most prominent are the herbal heat experience using heated beds and tea therapy using herbal teas.

Maze Park (미로공원)

The new Maze Park (미로공원) is expected to be a popular attraction for the younger generation, being composed of 2,000 cypresses planted in the shape of the Sinhyeongjangbudo (신형장부도 / 身形臟腑圖), Heo Jun’s famous diagram of the human body.

Oriental Medicine Theme Park (한방테마공원)

16th-century line-drawing of a human body
The Sinhyeong-jangbudo

The Oriental Medicine Theme Park (한방테마공원) is based on the theories of Yin and Yang, the Five Elements (음양오행설 / 陰陽五行說) and the Sinhyeongjangbudo, which together comprise the key components of oriental medicine.

The park has two giant sculptures of a bear and a tiger, in between which is a plaza displaying the 12 spirits of the Zodiac and the “Ojang Yukbu” (Five internal organs) Theme Trail which features Information boards that introduce some of the medicinal herbs that are good for each organ.

At first these two sculptures might seem incongruous, but they are fundamental to the history of traditional medicine in Korea because Hwanung, by giving mugwort and garlic to the bear and tiger who wanted to become humans in the Dangun foundation myth, was making the first ever prescription of Korean herbal medicine.

The bear sculpture is hollow, and has a built-in observation deck, allowing visitors to see the entire area through the bear’s mouth.

Map of the 2023 Expo site in Donguibogam Village
Map of the 2023 Expo site in Donguibogam Village

Heo Jun Pilgrimage Trails (허준순례길)

The Heo Jun Pilgrimage Trails, which honours the footsteps of Heo Jun – who compiled the UNESCO-listed Donguibogam medical encyclopaedia – is already a famous healing trail in Sancheong. Of the three courses, the first course starts at the Sancheong Museum of Oriental Medicine (산청한의학박물관) above the Expo Main Hall (엑스포주제관) and covers 1.5 kilometres, passing through the medicinal herb experience theme park, observatory, deer ranch, Gi Experience Centre, cloud bridge, and Donguibonga Main House, taking about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Course 2 is a 0.5-kilometre section from the Gi Experience Centre, anatomical cave, bear statue and pavilion, and Sancheong Museum of Oriental Medicine (산청한의학박물관). Course 3 is a 0.4-kilometre section from the Anatomy Cave to Sancheong Oriental Medicine Family Hotel.

The walking route is tailored for tourists who want to heal their bodies and minds by walking in the pristine forest, so people of all ages can enjoy a relaxing walk and check out the Anatomy Cave, Deer Ranch, and more.

In particular, the Heo Jun Pilgrimage Path has a good combination of sights and experiences, including actual models and three-dimensional exhibits that replicate a traditional oriental medicine room, and a variety of medicinal herbs are cultivated, so if you visit this time of year, you can see various medicinal herbs such as wild flowers, bear jelly, and angelica with your own eyes.

Herbal Medicine Theme Park (약초테마공원)

The Herbal Medicine Theme Park is an ecological experience space decorated with medicinal herbs native to Jirisan. It is expected to be very popular as an ecological education centre for children, as you can encounter rare medicinal herbs that you don’t often see. In addition to medicinal herbs, the herbal theme park consists of an outdoor garden filled with the scent of seasonal flowers, which is expected to be a popular photo zone for couples.

A field of colourful flowers
Herbal Medicine Theme Park (약초테마공원)

Healing Forest (치유의 숲)

The Healing Forest is located on 50 hectares near the oriental medicine natural recreation forest (한방자연휴양림), and its biggest feature is that it adopts a forest healing programme using the themes of herbs and oriental medicine. According to the organisers, a healing garden and medicinal herb trees will also be created to foster differentiated healing tourism that has not been seen at previous expos.

The healing centre, which was recently completed next to the healing forest, offers a view of the healing forest and the distant Hwangmaesan Mountain from its windows. The healing centre is a space where visitors can identify their physical condition through brain wave measurement and stress index measurement, and connect with healing activities based on the results.

Other attractions

Other attractions in the Donguibogam Village include

  • The Sancheong Herbarium (산청약초관), an ecological experience space featuring native herbs from Jirisan. The herbarium is in a large glasshouse and the planting inside is in the shape of the Sinhyeongjangbudo
  • The world’s largest turtle statue. The turtle symbolizes longevity, and the statue is painted gold, symbolizing wealth. It is said that touching the turtle will bring you both wealth and longevity, and its many visitors seem to agree.
  • Mureung Bridge, a suspension bridge that stretches high above the expo venue, offering wonderful views towards Hwangmaesan to the North-East. In spring, the area around the bridge is covered in cherry blossoms, and the night-time landscape illumination provides a unique attraction for visitors to the Sancheong Expo Centre after sunset.
  • The Expo Main Hall (엑스포주제관) and the Sancheong Museum of Oriental Medicine (산청한의학박물관). Here you can learn about the history of Oriental medicine, how Donguibogam has become an item of world cultural heritage, and traditional medicines from around the world.
  • The Anatomy Cave (or Cave of Dissection, 해부동굴), which depicts the first known human medical dissection in which Heo Jun dissects the body of his teacher Yoo Eui-tae to understand better the workings of the human anatomy, carrying out the dying wish of his teacher.

The above text is an edited-down consolidation of various Korean-language press releases provided to LKL by the Expo Organising Committee, run through various online translation tools and supplemented with some additional background material.



  1. The hanja characters for Sancheong (山淸) literally mean Mountain Purity. The original press release text translated here as “Three Purities” reads “3淸” – pronounced “sam cheong”, a play on the county’s name. []

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.