Korea's Religious Places - 2.4.6 Donam Seowon (Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do)
|Understanding Korea Series No.6|
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|* Byeongsan Seowon (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)||* Donam Seowon (Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do)||3. Christianity|
Donam Seowon (Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do)
The Donam Seowon was built to honor the great scholar Kim Jang-saeng (1548–1631) in 1634. In 1660, King Hyeonjong calligraphed the signboard to hang at the main hall. The royal signboard made the Donam Seowon one of the protected seowon that were not destroyed or downgraded during the rule of the Heungseon Daewongun, who, as regent for the king in the 1860s, recognized only forty-seven seowon.
Most noteworthy at the Donam Seowon are the scholars enshrined there. In addition to being the primary seowon to honor Kim Jang-saeng, there are three other major figures enshrined here. Altogether, these four scholars are also enshrined in the Seonggyungwan National Academy. The only father-son pair enshrined at the Seonggyungwan National Academy is Kim Jang-saeng and his son, Kim Jip—Kim Jip is also enshrined here at the Donam Seowon. The other two from the National Academy were distant cousins, Song Jun-gil and Song Si-yeol.
More than their physical features, the buildings, or National Treasures, at this seowon, the unique feature is the family connections of the great sages honored here—two are father and son, and two, although not close family, are from the same lineage. None of the other sages are of the same lineage.
Song Si-yeol is particularly noteworthy. Of all the scholars enshrined in the National Academy, he wielded the most political power. The eighteen honored scholar-officials were more noted for their scholarship than for the particular political office they held. None was a prime minister, with one exception—Song Si-yeol. He not only had the highest office in the land, he held office longer than any other official of those honored in the National Academy or not. He served as prime minister to five kings, holding the highest office longer than any other official. In the end, his political enemies convinced King Sukjong, who was then only fifteen years old, that Song should be driven from office and sent into internal exile. Song’s friends came to his rescue, and he was ordered released and allowed to return to Seoul. However, Song’s enemies rallied and opposed the release, and in fact came up with stronger indictments, such that the manipulated boy-king ordered Song’s execution.
Song was on the way back to Seoul when the king’s messengers arrived with the bestowal of death—the poison for Song to drink, all bottled in fine porcelain and boxed in fine lacquerware. Song was no mere bureaucrat. It was his understanding and writing about Neo-Confucianism that got him installed in the shrine at the Seonggyungwan National Academy, and in several seowon, like the Donam Seowon, around the country.