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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Chilbaek Uichong, Geumsan, Southern Chungcheong: Tales of 700 Martyrs during Imjin Invasion

Chilbaek Uichong or also known as the Tomb of 700 Martyrs (Hanja: 七百義塚) is a graveyard for 700 Righteous Soldiers of General Jungbong Jo Heon of Joseon Dynasty who died during The Second Battle of Geumsan - a part of Japanese Imjin Invasion which occurred on August 18th 1592, according to Lunar Calendar. It is located at Uichong-ri san 52-1 beonji, Geumseong-myeon, Geumsan County, Southern Chungcheong Province.

Chilbaek Uichong is tomb for seven hundreds of martyrs headed by Jungbong Jo Heon and Venerable Monk Yeonggyu who gloriously died for his chastity at the Second Geumsan Battle against Japanese invasion forces. Since the end of June in 1592, there are about 15,000 soldiers of Japanese forces stationed in Geumsan, including Kobayakawa Takakage (小早川隆景) and Ankokuji Ekei (安國寺惠瓊) to watch for a chance of invasion to Jeolla Province. 

At this moment, Jo Heon, the chief of royal troops swore to fight with Japanese forces for death while joining the monk troops of Venerable Monk Yeonggyu and commenced hostilities in Yeongonpyeon, Geumsan on August 18 in the morning. Meanwhile, the seven hundreds of martyrs, including Jo Heon and Monk Yeonggyu - did all died for their chastity and the Japanese forces suffering from great damage gave up the invasion to Jeolla Province and withdrew from Geumsan. 

On Aug. 22 of the year, Park Jeong-ryang and Jeon-Seung-eop, the disciples of Jo Heon, gathered corpses, made a tomb and referred it as ‘Chilbaek Uichong’. Later in 1603, they erected 「Jungbongjoseonsaengilgun Sunuibi (重峰趙先生一軍殉義碑)」and then built shrine and memorial tablet in 1647, and granted land for Jongyongsa shrine (從容祠) in 1663. In Jongyongsa, the memorial tablets for the privates of Jebong Go Gyeong-myeong who died at Nunbeol Battle and Byeon Eung-jeong at Hwengdangchong Battle are placed besides the seven hundreds of martyrs.

Under the rule of Japanese imperialism (1910~1945), Japanese Government destroyed the Jongyongsa and blasted Sunuibi. The Jongyongsa and Uichong had been rebuilt with a donation of people in the County in 1952 and Jongyong as and Sunuibi were newly erected after its area was expanded in 1970. The memorial hall built in 1976 is stressing the spirit of national defense of the seven hundreds of martyrs.