Korea's Religious Places - 2.4.4 Piram Seowon (Jangseong, Jeollanam-do)
|Understanding Korea Series No.6|
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|* Dosan Seowon (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)||* Piram Seowon (Jangseong, Jeollanam-do)||* Byeongsan Seowon (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)|
Piram Seowon (Jangseong, Jeollanam-do)
At the same time that Ju Se-bung, Yi Hwang, and Yi Eon-jeok were flourishing in the Gyeongsangbuk-do area in southeast Korea, and in Jeolla-do in the southwest, Kim In-hu (1510–1560) was leading scholarship on Neo-Confucianism in his region. Eventually, Kim In-hu became one of the eighteen sages enshrined at the Seonggyungwan National Academy in Seoul. He was the only scholar from the southwest to be so honored.
The seowon dedicated to him, the Piram Seowon (sometimes romanized Pilam) was dedicated in 1590, just after the early seowon created in the Gyeongsang-do region. It is located in the heart of the Jeolla-do province area in Jangseong, near today’s regional capital, Gwangju.
Architecturally, one is first struck by the imposing gatehouse at the entrance. The gate building is a large, two-story building with an upper floor and open deck that provides space for discussions as well as a commanding view of the whole complex. Untypically, however, the gatehouse is colorfully painted, almost reminiscent of a Buddhist structure. The rest of the complex is more traditional in its plain paint.
Arranged in the typical school-in-front, shrine-in-back orientation, the courtyards and open areas are more spacious than those at most seowon. There is a large courtyard inside the gatehouse before one reaches the school building. Although the school is in the front, the dormitories are in the courtyard behind the school; whereas, at most seowon, the dormitories are in the courtyard in front of the school.
In the school courtyard, there is an extra building to house wood engravings (blocks engraved with a painting of bamboo) bestowed by King Injong. The building has an added feature: the signboard for the building was calligraphed by a king, King Jeongjo (r. 1776–1800). This speaks to the method of honoring Confucian scholars. Kim In-hu died in 1560, the seowon was dedicated in 1590, and the king sent a signboard 200 years later.
The ritual space, as with most seowon, is separated from the schoolyard with a wall and a three-door gate. The building that houses the spirit tablet of Kim In-hu is relatively small; in fact, it is only slightly larger than the structure built to house the engravings given to the seowon by the king.