TicketSeolleung (선릉) and the Jeongneung (정릉) are royal tombs in the Gangnam district of Seoul. Most people, including myself simply refer to the whole place as Seolleung (pronounced more like Son Young). Getting there couldn’t be much easier now that the station of the same name has a Yellow Line link. From Seolleung station take exit 8 and continue up the road for about 5 minutes.You can also get there from Samseong station exit 5. From the COEX it is about 10 minutes walk, but beware – there is only one exit to this park so you may have to walk round the entire  park if you arrive from the COEX side.
There are many tombs and shrines dotted over the whole of Korea, and especially Seoul. If you’ve been in Korea for some time you may become jaded by the conventional 5 colour beams from the typical religious architecture.  The tombs and stone statues here are similar to those found in other areas. What differs is the location. Seonjeoneun is hidden away behind the huge office buildings and hotels of Gangnam. It’s also on a hill and surrounded by parkland. Without the tombs I’m pretty sure it would have been developed by now.  After visiting a few times I realized that many people come here simply to escape the city. The human scale of this part of Seoul is particularly overwhelming with some of the biggest skyscrapers in the city and some of the biggest traffic jams. Indeed, the gigantic COEX centre is less than 10 minutes walk from here. So if you don’t like history, and you’re not interested in Joseon era tombs, you can still come here to relax. Although you will still have to pay the 1000 won admission fee – well worth it!

Seonjeongneung contains the burial mounds of three important royals of the Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1910). They are: Seongjong (1469-1494), his wife Queen Jeonghyeon, and King Jungjong (1506-1544).The red gates as you come in are common to many shrines and tombs, the red symbolises holiness. You will also see the taegeuk (as seen on the Korean flag). The taeguk is usually called by its more famous Chinese name – yinyang. However, in Korea I recommend calling it the taeguk as it is a symbol of national pride.

Another interesting feature are the stones paths leading up to the ceremonial buildings. They are spirit roads allowing the dead kings or queens to journey unimpeded into the after life. Apparently you shouldn’t walk on the slightly elevated path because it might impede the spirit of he kings. The lower paths are for humans. Whether this is true or not I don’t know, but in a country which has been conditioned by neo Confucianism I would treat such places with more caution. Whether you are royalist,Confucian or something else, I think it’s always better to respect the dead, especially of they were important enough to deserve such shrines and tombs

What strikes me the most after visiting this place, and reading about it,are  the similarities between other cultures and the manner in which they treat the deceased. You may notice the monkeys on the eaves of the buildings, these ‘Japsangs’ are to ward off evil spirits in the same way you can find gargoyles on the corners of older Catholic Churches. In addition to this, you can find the stone statues of the departed monarchs who serve as guardians in the afterlife. In this case they are soldiers and animals but  similar customs could be found in Egypt, on the steppes of Russia and even in the burial sites of Anglo-Saxon nobles like in Sutton Hoo.

If you plan on going to this park then it can be done on the same day as the COEX and Bongeunsa temple. The following photographs were taken on two separate occasions so you may notice the grass and sunlight are different.

DSC_0091 Gang&Jam (37) Gang&Jam (35) DSC_0100 DSC_0103 DSC_0107 DSC_0109 DSC_0110 DSC_0112 DSC_0121 Gang&Jam (33) Gang&Jam (48) Gang&Jam (44) Gang&Jam (41) Gang&Jam (39)

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