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Golden Week Day 2: Sunday, Cultural Sunday

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Anderson, Senior Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Original Post Date: 4/30/13 from Tokyo, Japan – on one week break from school travelling in Seoul, South Korea)

13:37 – Upon re-researching all of the places I wanted to visit around Seoul today, I came to the realization that nearly everything is well within walking distance of each other (about 5-10 minutes). After arriving at Jongno 3(sam)-ga Station I headed to Jongmyo Shrine (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and went on a tour that only cost about $1 (~1000 KRW). I learned about some early Korean history and facts that are central to this place. For instance, from the entrance to various parts of the shrine there is a tiered walkway with the center tier marked off as a place that people cannot walk on because it’s for the spirits of the royals to walk on (the shrine is dedicated to them). Also, there are two ponds with a circular island in the center that represents the Earth and the square that surrounds it represents the universe. One pond had a beautiful 150-year-old Juniper tree in the middle.

Cultural Excursion Map

Map of Jongmyo Shrine

I’m at Unhyeongung Mansion, a former residence of an important figure, doing a 30-cent self-tour and it’s amazing! I can’t even imagine living in such an open-air residence. Just inside, an older woman walked up to me and asked where I am from. I told her the US and then she invited me to a traditional Korean wedding at 14:00. She said, “I hope you will enjoy it!” I hope so too because I fear that people will think I’m strange for being an underdressed, unofficial guest.

14:20 – I can’t understand what’s being said but what I can comment on is the ceremony and the ritualistic nature of the wedding. It feels like religion is deeply embedded within the rites. The bride’s dress is really colorful and bright while the groom’s outfit is dark and stoic. No one seems to have a problem with my being here. Besides, I’m not the only person who wasn’t officially invited; many have come and gone already. The official is an older man with a sweet chanting voice and I think the female MC is narrating what he says.

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Bride and Assistant

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Bride and Groom Before Their Family

Two ladies assist the couple and, like all weddings, the photographers are swarming them. Periodically everyone starts laughing – this isn’t a purely solemn ceremony. The bride has had her hands in her sleeves for the most part, only taking them down from in front of her face to perform the rites and again to hug each of the mothers after the couple bows to salute the parents. I wish them all the best. I’d never have seen this in my lifetime. After a long day I’m satisfied and happy that everything worked out. There probably won’t ever be a reason for me to visit Seoul again and I’m determined to make the best of my three days here.

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