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Memoirs of Goryeo: Historic Monuments in Kaesong, Part 2 of 2

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Kaesong prospered for 500 years as the capital of Goryeo, the unified Korean Peninsula of 918, named after the founding Goryeo Dynasty. The city sits in a basin enclosed by four mountains, including Songaksan in the north. Two rivers, the Yesung River and the Imjin River, surround Kaesong and serve as a transportation hub. In 2013, the “Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong” were listed as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. The World Heritage Site encompasses the palace, the tomb complex, defensive walls, gates, astronomical and meteorological observatory, two schools (including one dedicated to educating national officials) and the commemorative steles.

UNESCO announced that the 12 Kaesong sites embodied “the political, cultural, philosophical and spiritual values of a crucial era in the region’s history.” Goryeo made Buddhism the state religion and cultivated spirituality, but politically adopted Confucianism as the principle of governing the country. In this way, Buddhism and Confucianism developed together, and this integration is evident in Kaesong’s historic monuments.

Kaesong Namdaemun is a famous landmark, and the structure features a stone base topped by a wooden pavilion. Aside from its role as a gateway, controlling the movements of people in and out of Kaesong, it also served as a clock. Manwoldae was built at the birthplace of Taejo Wang Geon, the first king of Goryeo. Hoegyeongjeon Hall, the central building of Manwoldae, was a two-story building measuring 43 meters (141 feet) wide and 23 meters (75 feet) long.

Situated west of Manwoldae is the Kaesong Chomsongdae Observatory. It served as an astronomy observatory in the Goryeo era. Goryeo Songgyungwan Confucian Academy was a highly regarded educational institution, established during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties. There, they trained government officials in Confucian literacy. The Sonjuk Bridge, Sungyang Academy, and Phyochung Monuments are sites historically related to Jeong Mong-ju, a respected Confucian scholar of Goryeo. The remaining historical relics are the ancient tombs.

May the glory of the Golden Age return to this historic city as we follow the wise teachings of the enlightened Masters, and may peace prevail on the Korean Peninsula and throughout the world.

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