July 13, 2011 11:46
Baekje Cultural Land in Buyeo, South Chungcheong Province, affords a rare glimpse of one of the ancient kingdoms that prospered in the southwestern part of the Korean Peninsula.
Buyeo was the capital during the late period of the Baekje Kingdom, which lasted from 18 B.C to 660 A.D. The city also served as a repository for Buddhist culture and was considered one of the most sophisticated Buddhist sites in East Asia.
The entrance to Sabi Palace, at the center of the compound, is a perfect example of how the buildings have been constructed using popular architectural techniques of the time. Visitors can admire the painstaking handicraft that has gone into decorating the entrance's eaves and wooden pillars with beautiful lotus flowers and dragon motifs.
The palace's main hall stands some three stories high in an expansive space where visitors clad as monarchs busy themselves posing for photographs. Performers add more local color with their stage show at Cheonjeong Hall, which tells the story of Baekje's Seodong (later King Mu) and his love affair with Princess Seonhwa of the neighboring Shilla Kingdom.
Next to the palace sits Neung Temple, which features a 38 m-high wooden pagoda built in the same style as the recovered original. Unlike stone pagodas, this elegant piece of woodwork is composed of fluid lines that soften the structure and add a sense of naturalness. The components fit seamlessly together while the top of the pagoda comes in the form of a pillar surrounded by a circular gilt ornament that lights up under the sun.
The theme park also offers visitors hands-on experience at its folk village, which demonstrates typical dwelling of the period and scenes culled from the daily lives of the Baekje people, from nobles to military personnel and commoners.
"I like this place because I can see a collection of relics and remains in one place," said a tourist. "I feel like I'm right there in the kingdom, as the exhibit cover all aspects of the period."
At a nobleman's home, guests can enjoy traditional games free of charge such as arrow-throwing, yutnori (a board game using four sticks) and neolttwigi (an archaic seesaw).
An hour's drive from the park takes visitors to Gongju and the tomb of King Muryeong, the 25th ruler of Baekje. It is the only royal tomb from the Three Kingdoms period whose occupant has been identified. The arched interior is meticulously composed of layers of bricks engraved with lotus flowers that bestow on it a feeling of regality. In the interests of better preserving the site, visitors are not currently allowed inside, but a model of the tomb shows how it looked at the time of excavation.
Having feasted your eyes on such archaic scenes, it is now time to fill your empty stomach on "lotus leaf rice." This signature rice dish, which comes wrapped in a lotus leaf and is served with a dozen side dishes, is a traditional delicacy that has been handed down over the centuries. If you unfold the steamy green leaf, you can find an assortment of eight multicolored grains inside the rice, such as pine nuts, chestnuts, jujubes and pumpkin. One spoonful will soon disperse the flavor of the leaf across your palate and leave you hungering for more.
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