Destination: Uireung (Seoul)

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I blogged about Uireung over a year ago, as the sort of place one stumbles across while looking for something else. With my Joseon-Dynasty tomb quest now in full swing, it’s high time for a revisit.

Located in Seoul, Uireung is easy enough to reach; while it lacks the sereneness of the more rural tombs, it’s an excellent starting point to learn about the historic elements.

I blogged about Uireung over a year ago, as the sort of place one stumbles across while looking for something else. With my Joseon-Dynasty tomb quest now in full swing, it’s high time for a revisit.

Located in Seoul, Uireung is easy enough to reach; while it lacks the sereneness of the more rural tombs, it’s an excellent starting point to learn about the historic elements.

As with many other tombs, the 비각 (bi-gak, or ‘stele shed’) houses a carved reminder of the buried’s accomplishments.

King Gyeongjong is the James A. Garfield of Joseon Dynasty kings. (For my wonderful non-American readers: 20th American president from March 1881 – September 1881, served as president for 80 days, assassinated, and recognized as doing almost nothing of importance during his leadership).

Although a fellow blogger has an excellent recounting of Gyeongjong and his parents, little can be said about him as the country’s leader. Born of King Sukjong’s consort in 1688, the king was so thrilled to have a son that he was named Crown Prince at two years old. The consort, 장옥정 (Jang Ok-jeong) was promoted to 희빈 (hui-bin, or ‘Grand Concubine’), which caused some angst between the different factions of the court. Queen Inhyeon refused to adopt Gyeongjong, and was demoted as a result. The consort was promoted again, to Grand Concubine Oksan (옥산 대빈, ok-san dae-bin), but in 1694, the Queen and consort reverted back to their original place. A new law was also passed, stating that no royal consort can be promoted to a queen.

In 1701, Queen Inhyeon suddenly passed away, but King Sukjong had a dream. In his dream, the queen came to him – wearing bloody clothes – and wordlessly pointed the finger toward the consort’s apartment. It was here that the consort was seen shooting arrows into an effigy of the queen. In response, the king poisoned the consort and killed her companions.

After the consort had been poisoned, she told Gyeongjong that if she was going to die, so was he. As you might guess, Gyeongjong resisted – he’s only 13-14 years old, and the future king, after all.  The consort then struck his penis with a piece of wood, making him faint and eventually making him impotent. The king suffered (as you might) for the rest of his life, and never fathered a child.

Two months after Gyeongjong became king, he appointed his half-brother (the future King Yeongjo) to handle the kingdom – talk about a lame duck. After four years of being king, Gyeongjong passed on, leaving King Yeongjo in charge.

Although it’s unclear from this picture, the tombs are situated front-and-back, not side-by-side. In the world of geomancy / feng shui, the latter would be preferable, but the former was chosen presumably to not change the natural environment any more than necessary. Not pictured is the front tomb, the tomb of Queen Seonui.

If reading that interesting historic tale was fascinating, I’m sorry to inform you that you won’t see any reference to it at the tombs themselves. I’ll go on record as saying that these are fascinating stories, yet all we see at the tombs themselves are some basic historical data. If you’re more interested in walking around a peaceful place with plenty of nature? Well, then, this historical stuff can wait.

I love the conflux of patterns, colors, shapes – this, of course, is seen in most palaces and tombs.

Like most Joseon Dynasty tombs, there’s plenty of story to read about if you’re interested – just don’t expect to find it at the tomb itself. I owe thanks to an acorn in the dog’s food for the above historical references, and a thanks to the historical sources he cited.

Ratings (out of 5 taeguks): How do I rate destinations?
Ease to arrive:


Foreigner-friendly:

Convenience facilities:


Worth the visit:

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe – 2011

This post was originally published on my blog,Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.

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