Have you heard the Mischelin guide? It is the most well known guidebook which is published by Tire company Mischelin in 1900. Actually the Mischelin is the renowned magazine that grades restaurants, which of the grading system is called 'Red Guide'. It hasn't been a long since it adopted the 'Green Guide' system which now grades the tourists' attraction. Well, it became sensational that Mischelin Co. will publish a 450 page of 'Mischelin guide-Green'.
The number of places in Korea mentioned in Mischelin guide are 23. There, we can find a rather unexpected name among other familia names, Dolmen Museum, which is located in Gochang, Jeollabuk-do. There are few people know where the Dolmen museum is actually located. In addition, not many people know that the dolmen is such an attractive place to visit. Isn't it good enough to visit this place? You will be surprised to know that it recorded the highest score, three stars. Gochang has the old heritage but it doesn't mean that it stuck in the past. Let's travel to Gochang.
Gochang Dolmen Museum
Dolmen is more than an tomb in the dim past. But before we begin, we need to learn the history of dolmen.
It first appeared at around the time when the Stone Age was shifting to the Bronze Age. Various tools and weapons used to be made of stone before the era, however, the number of people who got an access to bronze and copper increased, they became more powerful than the others who didn't have those tools. As the bronze and copper enabled them to have power to control the others, the concept of hierarchy, ruler, state were born in their society.
Dolmen was made to visualize the death of rulers. Goindol, Korean name of Dolmen, was originated from the word 'Goida' that means 'support(something heavy on it)'.
In December 2000, Gochang Dolmen was listed in the UNESCO World Natural Heritage. Since then, as part of an effort to preserve and maintain the dolmens, the government built the dolmen park and museum. You can't have the experience anywhere else but in Gochang.
There are so many attractions in the Dolmen museum. Dolmen museum provides not only an overall introduction of dolmen, but also the glimpse of the life of those days. You'll see the old ancestors' life in the hut, and also learn how they buried the dead, how they cremated, and how dolmen was created. There are the prehistoric village, yard and dolmen model for experience next to the museum. You can try dragging a real size stone for building up the dolmen, putting the logs on the bottom.
It is 30 minutes distance between the museum and the dolmen sites. You can take a sightseeing train if you want. There are 30,000 dolmens in Korea and 2,000, which is 10% of the total number, are in Gochang. When you stand up on the dolmen field, you'll be amazed at their existence over 3,000 years.
A beautiful temple of Goryeo dynasty, Seonun Temple and Dosolam
There is a poetry 'Seonun-sa(temple) East' written by Seo Jeong-ju born in Gochang. Here is his poetry.
"I went to see camellia of Seonun-sa but it was too early to see. I just saw camellia of last year that remained in the song by the bar hostess in her Yukjabaegi rhythm" He wrote it with sorrow for unseen camellia. There is a song 'Seonun-sa' sung by Song Chang-sik. He praised the beauty of camellia. Like this, Seonun-sa is a beautiful but hidden attraction of Gochang.
As it appeared in literature and songs, Seonun temple has a unique beauty with beautiful nature. In particular, Seonun temple is famous for the beauty of camellias. Camellia wasn't planted for beauty, but for preventing the temple from fire. But they soon reached up to 2000 and have changed the forest into a beautiful hills. The Camellia forest represents the beauty of Seonun temple which is filled with red flowers in spring.
In addition, the scenery of the temple including the main building and Sumakjae will make you feel good, even carrying the scent of the temple. Also temple bell is enlisted as tangible cultural heritage of Chungcheonbuk-do. When you go up for half an hour after looking around Seonun temple, you will meet the magnificent beaut, Dosol-am. There you will understand why ancestors considered Mt. Seonun as another Mt. Geumgang, which is the most beautiful mountains in Korea. You will be fascinated at its rocks and trees. Do not miss the landscape in summe as well!
Maaebul, a carved buddha in mountain rocks, is the finest in Dosol-am enlisted as a national treasure No. 1200. It is overwhelming to see it which is embossed and engraved in harmony. 15.6 meters high and 8.48 meters wide of massive Maaebul is one of three carved buddha in size in Korea. There is a shrine in the pit of its stomach. In general, a shrine is used to store buddha statue or holy things. However, people believed that there was a secret book telling the kingdom's destiny in shrine. One day, an officer of Dong-hak, Son Wha-jung took it out. We still don't know whereabouts. It would be quite interesting to see Maaebul, imagining the event. After looking around Dosol-am, you will see a 600 year old pine tree which is a natural heritage No. 354. This is the end of journey to Seonun temple. There is a saying that there could be someone who has never been to Seonun temple, but no one visits only once, which means you would come again anyway.
Living together with past and present. Gochang's fortress and festival
Did you know three old fortresses in Korea? Haemi- fortress, Nakan- fortress, Gochang- fortress. Haemi- fortess is well-known for history that many christians sacrificed their life. Nakan- fortress is well known for cool staying over place. However Gochang gives you a different image from the history. Actually, Gochang fortress was built by commoners to defend Korea from Japan. After the era, Gochang fortress was abandoned so many years but fortunately restored in 1976.
When it was repaired, the stone from nature was used in order to bring in the nature itself. It's not completely restored but a guest house, jail and several buildings were built, which is quite breezing to travellers' mind.
When you walk along fortress of the Mt. Seonun, you will feel the fragrance of mountains and the magnificent huge landscape of mountains.
There are some nice roads. We can enjoy flowers and trees such as pine trees and bamboo trees. Gochang has a festival every year. Gochang has a big festival of Bokbunja in June. It also has a big festival of Watermelon in July. There is a saying that if you have Gochang- watermelon, you can't try any watermelon. Gochang watermelon is better than any others. Why don't you come over to the festival?
Gochang the 'hometown of nature, culture and happiness' where history stays alive
'Home town of nature, culture and happiness' is the slogan of Gochang. You will finally understand why the Michelin Guide included the dolmens of the Bronze Age, and the Seonun temple and Dosolam of Buddhism culture in the Goryeo dynasty.
Indulging in a variety of attractions of the Joseon Dynasty of Gochang is attraction itself. Gochang has the history and big event everyday. From the prehistoric Dolmen to modern day festival, Gochang has so many attractions.