Yesterday I moved 91km southeast to Gyeongju and had a rest day before getting up early to explore today.
Often called the ‘museum without walls’, there is no argument that Gyeongju deserves the title as the ancient capital city of the 1,000 year long Silla Dynasty. At its peak, the Silla Dynasty controlled two-thirds of the Korean Peninsula between the 7th and 9th centuries. Till this day, several artifacts and cultural treasures remain in Gyeongju soil. In fact, Gyeongju is home to not just one, but several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 31 National Treasures!
While Egypt might have pyramids, Korea has tumuli. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this area comprises of natural hilly terrain. Instead, they are burial mounds of the Silla Kingdom’s elite ruling class. Gyeongju’s Tumuli Park consists of 23 large tombs, the most famous being that of Cheonmachong and Hwangnam Daechong.
Donggung Palace sits at the northeast edge of the Royal Silla family’s main palace grounds and used to be the Crown Prince’s palace. After the fall of Silla, the site was abandoned and forgotten. However, as part of Gyeongju’s renovation project for historic sites in 1974, three palace buildings were restored and the pond was dredged. The excavation brought to surface almost 33,000 relics from the Silla Dynasty, such as everyday items, jewellery, bronze figures of Buddha, pottery and so on – offering a glimpse into life in ancient Silla.
The pond was believed to be named Anapji Pond throughout the Goryeo and Joseon period until a piece of pottery with the letters ‘Wolji’ (moon-reflecting pond) was excavated; hence, uncovering the true name of the pond.