Far-Southwestern Neo-Confucian Academy
in Hwangryong District, Jangseong County of South Jeolla Province
one of Korea's 9 Greatest Seowon, now on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List
|As it looks today, a National Treasure and primary site of Andong City tourism
|The Front Gate, considered to be outstanding Joseon Hanok architecture, as a two-story building with a
large open pavilion as its upper floor where the whole complex can be viewed by those seated within, and
also the way that it is colorfully painted, almost as-much as a Buddhist structure, unusually-so for a Seowon.
Gyeongjang-gak 敬藏閣 경장각, the Honored Concealment Shrine-Hall, houses a bamboo painting bestowed by
King Injong (r. 1544-45) upon great scholar Kim In-hu as a special honor, thanking him for having been his tutor; they
had remained very close. When Injong was a young prince there were two accidental-seeming fires in his room,
making him fear that malevolent rivals were plotting against his life. After surviving those, he started painting
scenes of bamboo trees and rocks, "cooling" symbols for protection [members of the Ship-jangsaeng]. It is said
that he sent this painting as a metaphoric message requesting continued concern, assistance and support. Kim
In-hu wrote an encouraging poem on its lower-left corner and sent it back to the king, demonstrating his continuing
loyalty to him. As monarch for his two brief years, Injong remained attended Kim's lectures in Hanyang whenever
possible on evenings and then discussing the various topics with Kim for hours afterwards. This painting was
awarded to the Seowon from the royal collection upon its foundation in 1590.
The signboard naming the Gyeongjang-gak was calligraphed by King Jeongjo (r. 1776-1800) as a further honor to
Seonbi Kim. This shrine also contains Neo-Confucian books printed here in the 18th Century.
Piram Seowon was established in 1590 on the south side of forested hills called Hwangryong-san [Yellow
Dragon Mountain] and facing the upper Jangseong River, just west of the main town of Jangseong County,
South Jeolla Province (south of Naejang-san National Park, west of Damyang, NW from Gwangju City). It was built in 1590
to memorialize the great seonbi scholar and occasional government official "Haseo" Kim In-hu (1510-60), and
has remained the center of traditional scholarship in western Jeollanam-do for over four centuries. Its name
Piram or P'il-am 필암 筆巖 means "Writing-brush Grotto", which seems to be a Neo-Confucian version of the
Daoist concept Dòngtian, a "Grotto-Paradise" or mountain-haven for study/practice, Dongcheon in Korean;
see the bottom of this page on China to understand this. The suffix Seowon 書院 서원 means a Private Academy.
This compound was constructed here (just two years before the Imjin Japanese Invasion), by Pungsu-jiri principles.
|View straight-back from the upper-pavilion of the Front Gate
The open courtyards are more spacious than in other seowons. During the Imjin Japanese invasions of Korea
(1592-98) this academy was razed, but it was rebuilt in 1624 and has remained in good condition until now, and
is protected by the Cultural Heritage Protection Act. This academy was originally named "Kim In-hu Seowon"
in 1590, but in 1662 the royal government granted it a charter that changed its name to Piram Seowon, with
farm-lands and slaves assigned to ensure its continued prosperity. This was the only seowon in Jeolla-namdo
to survive the national shutdown and destruction of in 1871, ordered by King Gojong's ultra-conservative and
destructive father and regent, known to history as the Daewon-gun.
|The main lecture hall Cheongjeol-dang 清莭堂 청절당 -- front, interior, rear.
|Jindeok-jae House for the Resident Teachers
|Arrow-Gate (signifying a royal presence) and a royally- commissioned biseok monument
|Eastern and Western Dormitory Halls
|The surprisingly small Shrine at the rear that houses the spirit tablet of "Haseo" Kim In-hu;
semi-annual ceremonies are still conducted here for him, by his clan-descendants.
Kim In-hu 金麟厚 김인후 took as his ho or scholar/pen-name "Haseo" 河西 하서, which means "river-west",
with that "river" often meaning the Yellow River in the most classical Chinese, and note that the Chinese
Empire's original capital Xian was located "west of the Yellow River"; the allusion is probably not accidental.
"Haseo" was a contemporary of "Toegye" Yi Hwang, "Yulgok" Yi I, "Shinje" Ju Se-bong and "Hoejae" Yi
Eon-jeok at the philosophical peak of Korea's Third Golden Age -- it is notable that all those others were
active in southern Korea's eastern areas [Yeongdong, or Gyeongsang and Gangwon Provinces, former Shilla Kingdom],
while Kim was the sole venerated sage of the rival southwestern region [Honam, or Jeolla Province, southern half
of former Baekje Kingdom]. He was widely recognized for his organizing of the theories of Neo-Confucianism,
and also as a great poet, leaving a famous set of 48 Sijo poems about the nearby and famous Soswaewon
scholar-garden in Damyang County. He taught a royal prince who became by King Injong (r. 1544-45) and
many other teenage boys of the national aristocratic clans who later became prominent seonbi scholars and
government officials, in his private academy in the capital Hanyang (now, downtown Seoul) and down here
in his hometown Jangseong (location of his residence or teachin-room is unknown). He symbolizes the
expansion of influence of the vital Sarim ["forest scholars", rooted far from the capital and thus uncorrupted by it]
movement in that era. He was the only scholar from the southwest region to become one of the Eighteen
Korean Sages enshrined in the Mun-myo of the Seonggyun-gwan royal-national college in Seoul.
Most of the photos on this page were provided to me by my Cultural Tourism student 왕승현, and she appears
in a few of them. She wrote, "UNESCO designated this and the other eight seowon as World Cultural Heritage
Sites of outstanding universal value to human civilization with sufficient authenticity, under Criterion 3 which is
to be 'of unique and exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition and a civilization which has disappeared.' I think
that it qualifies with more than that; with Criterion 2 in that its landscape and architecture is outstanding, and
with Criterion 4 in it demonstrates a crucial interchange of human cultural development, as it represents Korean
Neo-Confucianism that flourished after being brought from China, and with Criterion 6 matches as it represents
the Neo-Confucian spiritual teachings as an educational tradition." She was disappointed with the lack of other
tourist visitors to this important site, the lack of a guiding docent, and the shabby condition of a few parts -- but
then-again, she did visit in early May of 2020, during the great corona-virus crisis we had that spring!