After my Jeju trip, I took a two-day trip to Seoul. I haven’t been to Seoul very often since it’s far from Busan and the transportation can be fairly expensive. So I took this opportunity to visit some sites I had been wanting to see for a long time. The first of these was the National Museum of Korea, the first floor of which houses an exhibit on Korea’s 2,000+ year history. The exhibit begins with the first evidence of human civilization on the Korean peninsula and runs all the way through the modern period. Below I have written descriptions for some of the objects I photographed, but I didn’t remember information for all of them.
On the steps of the National Museum of Korea.
The view of Namsan and N Seoul Tower from the museum.
Stone tool remnants from the Paleolithic period (10,000+ years ago).
Pottery from the Neolithic period (3,000 to 10,000 years ago).
Stone daggers from the Bronze Age (2,500 to 3,000 years ago).
A gold crown ornament from a Baekje kingdom tomb (6th century).
A mural painted on the wall of a tomb from the 6th century. It depicts the Black Tortoise and Serpent, one of the Four Guardian Deities, a pantheon of four divine beasts believed to be related to the four cardinal directions, the four seasons, and the twenty-eight major constellations. They are also said to ward off evil influences and ensure the harmony of yin and yang energies.
Small Buddha figures. Buddhism was introduced to Korea in the 4th century.
Believe it or not, these were coffins!
A model showing horse tack from the Gaya Confederacy (1st to 6th century).
A magnificent gold crown from the famous Silla kingdom (5th century). The crown was discovered in a king’s tomb. It has the shape of antlers and is decorated with curved pieces of jade.
Gold earrings from the Silla kingdom (6th century). The patterning on the earrings is formed with gold thread and hundreds of minuscule grains of gold, demonstrating the sophistication and artistry of Silla jewelry-making.
A gold crown cap ornament from the Silla kingdom (5th century) resembling a flying bird with outstretched wings. This ornament would have been folded vertically and attached to a crown cap.
Another piece of gold headware from the Silla kingdom that would have indicated high social status.
An earthenware vessel from the Silla kingdom (6th century), shaped like a horse and rider. It has holes in both ends so liquid could be poured out. The outfits of the horse and rider give scholars information about the culture and customs of the period.
Stone representations of two zodiac animals from the 8th century, the period in which the Silla kingdom had control of the majority of the Korean peninsula.
Loved this picture of a little boy making notes in front of a stone dragon head. This head once decorated the palace of the capital city of the Balhae kingdom. Dragon heads like this one were usually inserted as an extra layer between foundation stones to enhance the grandeur and visual impact of buildings. These dragons were also meant to keep away evil spirits.
The museum’s collection is quite extensive and I practically had to power walk through some portions to make sure I saw everything. I would love to go back again and spend more time.
A stone coffin from the Goryeo dynasty (10th to 14th century). The exterior is decorated with relief engravings of the Four Guardian Deities. The Buddhist tradition of cremation had become the norm by the time of the Goryeo dynasty and the use of stone coffins became widespread during this period.
Ceramic teapot or pitcher.
Highly decorated flute instruments.
Seated Buddha statue.
The oldest extant book printed with movable type, from the Goryeo dynasty (13th century). Since I’m a graphic designer, this really interested me. This was printed with the first metal movable type system hundreds of years before Gutenberg’s printing press.
A metal type specimen of a Chinese character from the Goryeo dynasty.
A replica of the throne room in Gyeongbokgung Palace, the capital of the Joseon dynasty (14th to 19th century).
One of the earliest “world maps” produced in Korea. The largest land mass on the map is China.
A diagram of acupuncture points.
A geomancer’s compass. Geomancy involves divining the flow of spiritual energies within a place and was used in Korea for the construction of temples, palaces, and other buildings.
Another acupuncture diagram.
Statue of a pensive Bodhisattva, striking a classic contemplative pose that is quite common in Buddhist sculpture. The pose is derived from the Buddha contemplating the nature of human life.
More intricate flute instruments.
A fish-dragon-shaped pitcher from the Goryeo dynasty (12th century). This pitcher is celadon, a type of ceramic with a pale jade-green glaze.
A celadon incense burner from the Goryeo dynasty.
A beautifully simple ceramic vase.
As the evening sky began to darken, I stopped off at Namsan Park and hiked the two kilometers up to N Seoul Tower, which provides a beautiful 360-degree view of the city. I watched as the sun slowly disappeared below the horizon and the lights of the city came on one by one. Unfortunately, I had to wait nearly two hours to get out of the tower since there is only one elevator that lets people go back down and the tower was absolutely packed with people.
Sunset over Namsan, a mountain in the heart of Seoul, with N Seoul Tower on the right.
A view of N Seoul Tower with dragonflies in the air.
There are thousands of locks that couples leave at the base of N Seoul Tower.
It’s a long way home from here!
The view of Seoul from the tower observatory.
My first day in Seoul had come to an end. The next day I would visit two important royal palaces.