South Korean has some old villages which have preserved their pre-industrial architecture, and the most famous is Hahoe Village, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s about an hour away from downtown Andong by bus, and is part of Andong “City” (note: some ‘cities’ in South Korea, including Andong “City”, are acutally rural counties with an urban core).
Hahoe is within a bend of the Nakdong river, and the name means ‘River Turn-around’ – the name is written in hanja (the Korean version of Chinese characters) as 河回.
The village was established about 600 years ago during the early Joseon dynasty to serve as the home of the Yu clan.
The most famous member of the Yu clan, who was born in Hahoe village, was Yu Sengryong. He served as prime minister during the Japanese invasion of Korea which started in 1592. He supported his friend, Admiral Yi Sunshin, the brilliant naval commander who many people credit with saving the Joseon kingdom from Japanese conquest. Yi Sunshin fought in at least 23 naval battles, and was never defeated.
Hahoe has both straw-roofed and tile-roofed houses. The straw-roofed houses were traditionally for the commoners, and the tile-roofed houses for the yangban (the scholarly elite of the Joseon kingdom).
This location was selected partially because the Yu clan considered the surrounding scenery to be beautiful, which was important for cultivating scholars.
The village has a “folk play yard” which include giant swings which people stand on, not sit on. South Korea has quite a few ‘standing’ swings.
The highest point in the village has a 600-year-old zelkova tree, which is believed to be the home of the goddess ‘Samsin’ who governs pregnancy and childbirth. Thus, the tree is known as ‘Samsindang’, and is treated as a sacred place.
Hahoe village also has some impressive pine trees, though I don’t remember if they have any specific stories attached to them.
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom actually visited Hahoe village on her 73rd birthday, and planted a pine tree.
Most of the houses are privately owned and require invitation to enter, but some of the historic yangban houses are open to the public, though one may not enter the rooms (in order to preserve the buildings).
I like these brick walls and gates.
One could spend a lot of time examining the fine detail of these houses (or taking photos of them).
The above photo is from the Chunghyo Residence, which was built after Yu Seongryong’s death in honor of his virtues.
In the above photo, inside the gate of this residence, you can see a little internal wall in front of one section of the house. Korean Confucianism advocated for the separation of the sexes, which meant that yangban house had different wings for men and women. The women’s wing sometimes had a small wall in front to emphasize their modesty and seclusion from outsiders’ gaze.
Just outside the village are vegetable fields, such as the fields around Hahoe church in the photo above.
The village has several ‘pavilions’ where the yangban could relax.
Buyongdae Cliff (shown in the picture above) is across the river from the village, and inspired much poetry.
After taking the ferry across the Nakdong river, visitors can see a few more pavilions, a Confucian academy (which was under renovation when I visited).
The highlight of crossing the river is going to the top of Buyongdae Cliff and looking at Hahoe Village from above.
Hahoe Village is one of the most recommended tourist sites in all of South Korea, and rightfully so. Anyone with an interest in traditional Korean culture should visit.