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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Confucian Confusions in Korea, Part XIV: Dosan Seowon, Andong, Northern Gyeongsang


Dosan Seowon (Hanja: 陶山書院) was established in 1574 in what is present day 154 Dosan Seowon Lane/DosanSeowon-gil, Toegye-ri 680-beonji, Dosan-myeon, Andong, Northern Gyeongsang Province, South Korea, in memory of and four years after the death of Korean Confucian scholar Toegye Yi Hwang (1501-1570) by some of his disciples and other Korean Confucian authorities. Yi Hwang had retired to the location in 1549 and begun construction on the facility, a private Korean Confucian academy offering instruction in the classics and honouring the sages with regular memorial rites. This ancient academy was royally chartered in 1575 by King Seonjo.

The Old 1000 won: Toegye Yi Hwang with his KISSABLE LIPS! No doubt about it!
Like other Korean Confucian academies, Dosan Seowon serves two purposes: education and commemoration. The site was well known in Korea as one of the leading academies and was home to the Toegye School of Thought for over 400 years. Although the educational function of the facility has long since ceased, the commemorative ceremonies have been and are still held twice a year.

The Dosan Seowon complex consists of "Dosan Seodang" (lecture hall), which Toegye built and where he taught his students and where a tablet reading "Dosan Seowon", that was a gift from King Seonjo, still hangs, "Nongun Jeongsa," (dormitory for the students), and "Jeongyodang," (square lotus pond).

Dosan Seodang is composed of three parts; an exposed floor, a large room, and a kitchen. As Toegye was not wealthy, it took him four years to complete the construction of this building. A small signboard reading "Dosan Seowon", whose calligraphy Toegye he himself wrote, still hangings on one of the pillars at the end of Dosan Seodang.

Looking carefully at the Dosan Seodang floor, you will see an extension made of wooden planks. One of Toegye’s students, Jeonggu, recommended that Toegye extend the building's floor to accommodate more students. But although Toegye turned down Jeonggu's recommendation, Jeonggu and his fellow students hastily attached wooden planks to the floor while Toegye was out. Consequently, this part of the floor is not very elegant in construction and appearance.

The garden is small but Toegye dug a small square pond called "Jeongudang" in the eastern part of the compound where he raised lotus flowers, and planted apricot trees in the western part. Toegye used to call apricots, bamboos, chrysanthemums, and pine trees his "friends", but he loved apricot trees most.

Toegye Yi Hwang is represented on 1000 won note (Series 2006), the lowest domination in Korean Republic Won. On the observe view shows Toegye Yi Hwang with Seonggyungwan in the Present-day Sungkyunkwan University Seoul Campus while the reverse view of this note shows the painting entitled 'Yi Hwang at Dosan Seowon' by Korean Painter, Jeong Seon (1676–1759).