A small but noble pantheon of divinities symbolizing Buddhist philosophy and aestheticism, Seokguram is a structure of sublime beauty. Overlooking the East Sea far ahead beyond the mountain ridges from the southeastern tip of the Korean Peninsula, Seokguram stands as a proud testimony to Korea`s brilliant tradition of classical Buddhist sculpture. The eighth-century cave temple is a structure of beauty culminating religious belief, science and fine arts.
Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon
Janggyeong Panjeon, two storage halls at Haeinsa Temple, are the repositories for the Tripitaka Koreana, which consists of 81,258 wood printing blocks, and records the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) version of the Buddhist canon. With more than 52 million Chinese characters precisely rendered, it is the oldest and most comprehensive Buddhist canon existing in the world today. Its religious significance aside, the Tripitaka Koreana, preserved in impeccable condition, testifies to the outstanding achievements of medieval Koreans in science and technology, especially printing and publishing.
Jongmyo, the Royal Ancestral Shrine, was dedicated in 1395, three years after the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) was established. It enshrines the spirit tablets of its kings and queens. The elaborate memorial rites and the music, which accompanies them called Jongmyo Jeryeak, were designated by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Ceremonial reenactments of the Joseon ancestral memorial rites are conducted on the first Sunday of every May at Jongmyo.
Changdeokgung Palace Complex
Changdeokgung Palace was first built in 1405 and was reconstructed after being burnt down in 1592 during the Japanese invasion. The palace itself is a masterful work but particularly noteworthy is the garden at the rear (Huwon), also called the Secret garden (Biwon), which is widely acclaimed for its beautiful landscaping. The garden comprises almost three-quarters of the 405,636 square meter palace grounds and is tastefully laid out with all the essential elements of a traditional Korean garden: picturesque pavilions and halls, lotus ponds, uniquely shaped rocks, stone bridges, stairways, water troughs and springs scattered among dense woods.
Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, was constructed over 34 months in Suwon, south of Seoul, in the late eighteenth century. The fortress incorporated the very latest construction technology, theories of military defense and aesthetic principles to create the most advanced military stronghold Korea had ever known. It stretched over mountainous terrain, around an urban center and through flatland and included four major and several minor gates, command posts, observation towers, battlements, guard posts and bunkers. Most of the 5,743-meter exterior fortress wall still remains.
Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites
The Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites are the location of hundreds of stone dolmens, which were used as grave markers and for ritual purposes during the first millennium B.C., when Megalithic Culture was prominent on the Korean Peninsula. The megalithic stones are invaluable because they mark the graves of the ruling classes. Pottery, comma-shaped jewels, bronzes, and other funerary artifacts have been excavated from these sites. Excavation at the sites did not begin until 1965. Since then, multiple digs have been sponsored and an extensive program of recording and preservation has been carried out by the Korean government.
Gyeongju Historic Area
Gyeongju Historic Area contains a remarkable concentration of outstanding examples of Korean Buddhist art, in the form of sculptures, reliefs, pagodas, and the remains of temples and palaces. Gyeongju and its surroundings have inherited traces of the ancient Silla Kingdom. The center of the town and its suburbs contain many royal burial mounds and Buddhist remains which preserve this apogee of art and culture.
Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes
Hallasan on Jeju Island and the island`s lava tubes together comprise three sites. They are Geomunoreum, regarded as the finest lava tube cave system anywhere, with its multicolored carbonate ceilings and floors and dark lava walls; the dramatic, fortress-like Seongsan Ilchulbong crater rising out of the ocean; and Mount Halla, Korea`s highest mountain, with its waterfalls, varied rock formations and small crater lake. These sites of outstanding aesthetic beauty also bear testimony to the history of the planet, its features and the processes that formed our world.
Source: Korean National Heritage Online