Now that we were back at my friends house south of Seoul it was time to to go up and check out this fascinating and humongous city…..but the question is where to start in such a large city (6th largest metro area in the world)? For us it is a very easy answer, go see a World Heritage Site and then check out the area around it. We do this because almost always if something is deemed a World heritage Site it is for a reason and well worth the time to check it out. This goes for National Parks, regardless of the country, as well.
Well, Seoul has six different ones within, or very close to the, metro area and the first one we went to was Jongmyo Shrine, which is the oldest and most authentic of the Confucian royal shrines to have been preserved. Dedicated to the forefathers of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910), the shrine has existed in its present form since the 16th century and houses tablets bearing the teachings of members of the former royal family. Ritual ceremonies linking music, song and dance still take place there, perpetuating a tradition that goes back to the 14th century.
This shrine was huge and gorgeous!!!! When it was first built in 1394 to house the spirit tablets of each king and his queens, it was considered the longest building in Asia. Sadly the Japanese burned it down during their occupation in the Seven Year War (1592-98), but the current buildings were rebuilt in 1601. All the spirit tablets were saved because they were hidden in a commoner’s house.
An interesting, and frustrating, traveler tip is that the shrine is open on Monday, but not Tuesday. While the palace (which I will write about in a bit), that is RIGHT next door is closed on Monday, but open on Tuesday. Uggg. Just go the rest of the week and see both in the same long day. Haha