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Korea’s Scholarly Past Resurrected with Rebirth of Hyanggyo and Seowon
Heritage Renewal
Korea’s Scholarly Past Resurrected with Rebirth of Hyanggyo and Seowon
  • By matthew
  • January 7, 2014, 10:17
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A Hyanggyo located in Paju, South Korea. Paju's Hyanggyo was established in 1398, during the reign of Taejo.  It is decorated with elegant detail and uniform design details that are typical of the Hyanggyo period at the time.
A Hyanggyo located in Paju, South Korea. Paju's Hyanggyo was established in 1398, during the reign of Taejo. It is decorated with elegant detail and uniform design details that are typical of the Hyanggyo period at the time.

 

The Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) has come up with a plan to effectively manage and revamp the historical educational sites known as Hyanggyo and Seowon.

Hyanggyo and Seowon are historical education sites. Hyanggyo date back to the Koryo period, while Seowon were originally created later, during the mid-Chosun dynasty. Some were even institutions not unlike the boarding schools of the modern age, and served as centers for education. In these places scholars studied literature and spiritual teachings such as Tao and during the Chosun era, Confucianism.  CHA’s plan involves revamping 230 sites of Hyanggyo, of which 9 are national heritage sites, and 169 Seowon sites, of which 11 are part of Korea’s national heritage.

The sites will be divided up according to the availability of the kind of lodging that blends with the architectural style of the time period.  Those with available lodging will be categorized as accommodation ready, and those without will be labeled as visit-only. They will be divided again into categories that have on-site residents and those without. Those with on-site residents will be called Residential and Self-reliant, and those without on-site residents and only accessible by outside transportation will be tagged Non-residential. Finally, they will be further divvied up according to their proximity to other historical sites.  Sites closer to other historical attractions will be categorized as Historical Liaisons, and those that aren’t will be called Non-Historical Liaisons. Potential visitors will be able to find just exactly the kind of historical institution that they want to visit.

To further promote these historical Hyanggyo and Seowon, public proposals for efficient management will be submitted from local governments and municipalities.  Until 2018, various programs geared at creating thriving sites are under consideration, from which 120 Hyanggyo and Seowon will benefit.  

Nearly 3.7 billion won (US$3.5 million) will be invested publishing a Hyanggyo and Seowon encyclopedia.  A digital library and learning center for continuing education will be designed around them, to continue their heritage.  

Supplemental educational materials and travel-related products dealing with Hyanggyo and Seowon will be published as well.  Through this effort, it is expected that Hyanggyo and Seowon - places dedicated to tradition and history - can resurrect their value through modern-day activities by providing a platform for education and a playground for cultural festivities.

CHA’s plan is two-fold: it aims to breathe life into Hyanggyo and Seowon and shed their dour image, while maintaining their legacy and cultural integrity as historical institutions.  It will build cultural clusters with communities surrounding these places, with a focus on creating a neighborhood-friendly and easily-accessible playground for cultural learning and festivities.