Korea's Religious Places - 2.4.5 Byeongsan Seowon (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)
|Understanding Korea Series No.6|
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|* Piram Seowon (Jangseong, Jeollanam-do)||* Byeongsan Seowon (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)||* Donam Seowon (Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do)|
Byeongsan Seowon (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)
The Byeongsan Seowon is located near Hahoe Village, which together with Yangdong Village was recognized by UNESCO in 2010 as a World Heritage Site. The scholar-official honored in the Byeongsan Seowon is Ryu Seong-ryong, who was the prime minister during the Japanese Invasion of 1592.
The most striking thing about the Byeongsan Seowon is its namesake. Byeongsan means screen mountain, which means that the mountain looks like a standing screen, such as one finds set up in a home, with eight or ten panels, with art or calligraphy on each panel. Indeed, on the far side of a gentle curve of the Nakdonggang River stands a mountain ridge of uniform height that undulates in and out, just like a standing screen. In harmony with the mountain on the opposite side of the river, stands the seowon facing the center of the mountain screen with a long building facing the mountain, mirroring the reach of the mountain from side to side, longer than most premodern buildings. But the beauty of the building is the second story, an open-air pavilion where one can sit and discuss some arcane doctrine, recite poetry, or just look out at the beautiful river and mountains.
One enters the compound through a three-tier gate, but it only has one door. This is a bit unusual because almost all such shrines have three doors. Inside the gate, one walks through the bottom floor of the two-story pavilion and climbs stairs into the main courtyard. Behind you now is the upper deck of the pavilion, open on all four sides with a great view of the surrounding scenery. The rest of the compound is like other seowon, with lecture halls and dormitories on the sides, and the ritual space behind the school. One variation might be worth mentioning. While most seowon, like nearly all hyanggyo, are lined up on a central axis, the shrine space at the Byeongsan Seowon is off-center to the right, as is the shrine at the Dosan Seowon. But at the Oksan Seowon and most seowon that developed later, symmetry is the rule, with the main buildings lining up on the central axis.
The main figure enshrined here is Ryu Seong-ryong, who, as prime minister, helped guide Korea through the perilous years, 1592–1598, of the Japanese invasion. His diary is one of the treasures of Korean historians; wherein, he recorded in detail Korea’s fight against the invaders.