Gyeongju is *the* place to learn about the ancient Silla kingdom. That’s because Gyeongju was once called ‘Seorabeol’, which meant ‘capital’, and it was the capital of the Silla kingdom from when it merely controlled six villages in 57 C.E., to the time that Silla controlled the entire Korean peninsula, until the fall of Silla in 935 C.E. Gyeongju, of course, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Over the course of all of those centuries, Silla had a lot of kings, queens, princesses and princes, and they all died. Yes, every single one. None are alive today. That meant something had to be done with all of their dead bodies.
The Silla royal family at some point started using cremation, but before then they buried their dead in chambers and then built earthen mounds to cover the chambers, forming grassy little hills.
Many of these tombs have been excavated, and fantastic treasures, such as highly detailed golden crowns, have been found. Many of these treasures are on display at the Gyeongju National Museum.
One of the tombs in Tumuli Park, Cheonmachong (Heavenly Horse Tomb), is open to the public, though all of the treasures have already been taken out.
When I saw my first tombs, I thought ‘Cool, ancient dead kings and queens are inside these mounds’.
Then I saw more royal tomb mounds in yet another tombs park.
Then I saw even more royal tomb mounds.
These tomb mounds sprout up all over the city like mushrooms!
I admit, by the time I left Gyeongju, I was no longer fascinated by royal tomb mounds. However, I have yet to visit another city where ancient royal tombs could be found in practically any corner.