A man pensively looks around the Seondangchae quarter of Okyeonjeongsa in Andong, North Gyeonsang Province.

/ Korea Times Photos by Shim Hyun-chul

A Night of Centuries ― Old Manor

By Shim Hyun-chul
Staff Reporter

Serenity fills the space, without a note of desolation. Only the draft passing through the lattice windows disturbs the silence. Warmth seeps in through the heated ondol floor and the cozy scent of burning firewood, comforting the tired limbs. Perhaps this is how it felt to be a noble scholar back in the days.

Chirping birds announce day break. After watching the sun rise in the backyard one is greeted with a homemade meal.

Hahoe Village, located in Hahoe, Pungcheong-myeon, North Gyeongsang Province, is designated Main Folk Asset No. 122. The Nakdong River flows through in an “s” curve, giving the village its name. The village’s traditional Korean charms ― “yangban” or nobleman houses and Buddhist temples ― attract many domestic and foreign tourists every year. A few years ago, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 73rd birthday here with a big traditional meal.

Spending a night at a “hanok” (classical Korean house) is one of the best ways to experience the local tradition. The hanok is neither fancy nor grand in scale; its beauty lies in simplicity, elegance and how it becomes one with nature.

Many houses in the village offer homestays, and among them is the 423-year-old Okyeonjeongsa. Designated Main Folk Asset No. 88, it belonged to 16th-century Joseon (1392-1910) civil minister-scholar Ryu Seong-ryong, also known under the pen name Seo Ae. Okyeonjeongsa was built over 10 years from 1576 and 1586, and Ryu began living here in 1605 when his main residence in Haehoe Village was destroyed in a flood. It is here where he penned “Jingbirok” (National Treasure No. 132), a memoir of the Japanese invasion of Korea of 1592.

Okyeonjeongsa is located in western Buyongdae, across from Hahoe Village. It got its name from the environs, where the waters are pure azure. Okyeonjeongsa is different from conventional aristocratic residences, which are comprised of large family quarters and ancestral shrine. It is an independent edifice that embodies Ryu’s scholarly ventures. It is comprised of two main spaces, and currently Kim Sang-cheol and his wife Jeong-heui oversee the place.

Three quarters of Okyeonjeongsa are used for the homestay program, including Sesimjae, which was used as Ryu’s library. The Seodangchae is where Ryu composed “Jingbirok” and where the film “Untold Scandal” starring Bae Yong-joon was shot.

The homestay program is available all year round, except for one day in November designated for making kimchi. A visitor’s log, filled with comments and messages, provides some interesting anecdotes. Okyeonjeongsa is dubbed “the eye” of Hahoe Village, and thus also provides a great view of the town.

“I’m touring Korea for 10 days and I feel lucky to spend a day here. It’s really beautiful and I particularly like the ondol floor,” said Patricia Bethel, a Canadian tourist.

Most visitors make a two-day, one-night stay. Reservations can be made online. It is recommended that bookings are made 90 days in advance. For more information visit http://www.hahoehouse.co.kr.



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