A few weeks ago Chris and I were invited to a traditional music and dance festival in the small town of Goryeong, just a 40 minute bus ride from Seongju. Goryeong is a super tiny town, but I am so surprised that it doesn’t make an appearance in more guide books, as it is filled to the brim with cultural and historic goodness. Goryeong was once the site of the Daegaya kingdom, and the city today is surrounded by hills that are covered in odd lumps. These lumps may give the hills the appearance of a sleeping dragon, but they are actually tombs, called Sunjangmyo, relics from a period where nobility was buried alongside their closest advisers, important goods, and even common people accompanying the nobles into the afterlife to care for their needs. These tombs date all the way back to around 42 CE, and so for a history nerd like myself, Goryeong was a must see!
The town has 3 amazing museums, one of which, the museum of Daegaya Royal Tomb, houses an incredibly detailed replica of the biggest tomb excavated. As the museum is shaped like the tomb itself, walking inside and on the walkways suspended above the replica really makes you feel like an archaeologist exploring a dig. One of the best parts about visiting Goryeong is the fact that you can walk up into the hills and explore the burial mounds. It really is quite a surreal experience, especially if you find yourself amongst the mounds on a cold and wet day like we did. The Daegaya museum is also impressive, housing a large range of pottery, weaponry, literature, art, and jewellery from the Daegaya era. Some of the gold pieces are so intricate that today’s goldsmiths still cannot understand how they were created.
The third museum is the Ureuk Museum, and although we did not get to visit it on our trip, it is certainly on the bucket list for next time. Ureuk was a great musician and the inventor of the traditional Korean instrument called the Gayageum. This beautiful stringed instrument has the feel of a horizontal harp, and is one of my favourite instruments of all time!
We were lucky enough to take in the sound of Gayageums at the 94th Korea Maestro’s Music and Dance Concert that evening. The concert was exquisite, and included traditional dances of mourning and celebration, sword and fan dances. The dancers moved in such precise and subtle ways, their arms seeming to float above and around their bodies without effort. Even if you are not a dance fan, the costumes alone should get you excited to see Korean traditional dance! The Munhwanuri building that housed the concert is great to visit by itself, with a gorgeous theatre, and gardens to explore.
If you ever find yourself in South Korea, don’t only stick to Seoul and Busan. Make sure you wonder a little off the beaten track to Goryeong. You’ll definitely get your history and culture fix! Info: Goryeong tourism