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Saturday, 16 November 2013

Confucian Confusions in Korea, Part VI: Muyang Seowon, Gwangju Gwangsan-gu


Muyang Seowon (Hanja: as seen on the picture) is located at 26 Sanwol Avenue 21st Street/Sanwollo 21beon-gil, Wolgye-dong 535-1 beonji, Gwangju Gwangsan-gu. The name for Muyang Seowon originates from the word Mujinjiyang, which means 'the sunshine of Mujin'. Mujin is the original name of Gwangju. The word Muyang was formed by the combination of Mu from Mujin and Yang, the Chinese word for ‘sunshine’. The name shows the Confucian scholars' desire to make the function of the Confucian School more meaningful. 

Originally, the Confucian School was the place where young students were trained and performed the ancestral rites for the famous scholarly masters. Even if it was not an educational institute such as a village school or Confucian school, its function extended not only to education but to much more as well. Muyang Academy functioned as a shrine for ancestral rites and education. Muyang Seowon was built by the Tamjin Choi Clan, a family favored by national Confucian scholars in 1927. 

There are five portrait scrolls of Janggyeonggong Choi Sa-jeong, a famous subject of the Goryeo dynasty, and his descendents Sonam Choi Yun-deok, Geumnam Choi Bu, Munjeolgong Yu Hui-cheon and Chungnyeolgong Na Deok-hyeon. Janggyeonggong Choi Sa-jeon was a Royal physician during the reign of King Injong of Goryeo Dynasty. He was a very faithful government official, so much so that he was buried in King Injong’s own tomb. Sonam Choi Yun-deok was banished to Gwangsan because he refused to take a government position when the Joseon dynasty was established. He taught that the true example for a scholar to set for his descendants was to not enter government service, not build shrines in their houses and not have much land. Geumnam Choi Bu, who lived during the reign of King Seongjong, edited the historical chronicles from the beginning of the Silla period to the end of the Goryeo dynasty and was famous for a certain document he entitled Pyohaerok. 

Pyohaerok was written after Geumnam had travelled across the domains of the Ming dynasty and had returned back home after passing through Jeju to attend to his father's funeral. Munjeolgong Yu Hui-cheon is the son of Choi Bu's daughter, who wrote Diary of Yu Hui-cheon (miam ilgi). Chungnyeolgong Na Deokheon was a grandson of Geumnam and did many great things for the country while Lee Gwal was causing riots. 

Muyang Seowon enshrines five scholars. Immediately upon entering the hall are two antique buildings placed face to face. There is an auditorium with a traditional Korean tiled roof in the shape of a Chinese character “八” (meaning eight) which has five rooms at the front and two rooms on the side. The shrine has a gambrel pattern and three rooms at the front and two rooms on the side. There are two gates into the Itack hall, one on the left side called the Habi gate and one on the right side called Habin gate. The main entrance is the Habin gate. After passing through the Habin gate, there are rooms for learning and sleeping on the right side and a library on the left side. 

Muyangsa temple is built on high ground and surrounded by a fence. The Samoh gate, also called the Naesam gate was made to pr entry into the shrine without permission. We can see rare sculptured faces of ghouls on the right side and the side of Samoh gate on the left. For this reason, visitors are very careful when they enter or exit by that way. 

There are many convenient facilities such as a broad square, a parking lot and a pavilion in addition to the Confucian School. Massive trees rise around the Confucian School, boasting its power like Confucian scholars keeping their great thoughts. These days, the place is loved as rest area for visitors. Muyang Seowon was designated as Gwangju Metropole Cultural Properties No. 3 in 1987. Muyang Seowon holds a religious service on the sixth day of the ninth lunar month every year. People who want to learn about Confucian School and a sacrificial rite need to choose the right day to visit.