Andong Busy Preparing to Welcome Queen Elizabeth II

Article excerpt

History comes alive in this small inland city as it is often referred to as the home of Confucian tradition and aristocratic culture in Korea. Ancient temples and brick pagodas also testify to a past when Buddhist culture flourished in the area.

The secluded charms and the splendor of the surrounding countryside attracted some of the greatest artists and thinkers of Korea's successive kingdoms and dynasties such as Silla, Koryo, and Choson. All told, it is the showcase of 237 beautifully preserved national treasures, more than any other city in Korea.

However, snubbed by the ancient historic splendor of Kyongju in the same province, Andong has not been given much attention as a historic region endowed with the rich cultural heritage that shapes the very philosophical foundation of modern Korea.

In addition, the fact that it was not located far from Korea's spinal railroad connecting Seoul and Pusan has prevented tourists from visiting the city more often.

News that Andong has been chosen as the only city Queen Elizabeth II will visit outside of Seoul has provided a new perspective to the city among people. Both Korean people and foreigners are seeing this town that was ``obscure'' up to a few weeks ago in a different light, and Andong is increasingly popular as the word of the Queen Elizabeth's upcoming visit spreads. Mirroring the heightened awareness of the city among the public, a record 12,000 tourists visited the folk village from the last weekend holidays through Arbor Day Monday, according to the Hahoe Folk Village Administration Office (Tel. 0571-854-3669) yesterday.

The Queen will visit the Hahoe Folk Village and Pongjong Temple, among other cultural sites, in the city. On the way to the hillside temple, it is said the Queen will drop by a traditional marketplace of agricultural products. ``The queen seems to be curious about how Korean people actually live and perhaps hopes to observe it through the visit to the marketplace,'' said Lee Kyung-rak, Andong's vice-mayor.

The Queen's first stop in Andong on April 21, is to be the medieval community from which the modern city of Andong originated some 800 years ago, the Hahoe Folk Village. Nestled in a S-shaped curvy plain along the upstream of Naktong River, it is the home of some 113 roof-tile aristocratic residences and 84 thatched dwellings for low class people of the Choson Kingdom (1392-1910).

Flanked by a rocky cliff rising steeply across from the river in front and a wall of pine tree forests and rugged mountains in the back, the picturesque village sits like a giant lotus floating in a pond. Due to its geographical advantages and the devotion of posterity, the medieval village escaped the destruction of wars and remains a perfectly-preserved jewel from the past dotted with houses dating back to centuries.

The buildings' architectural techniques, styles and location provide valuable information in the study of typical ``yangban (Confucian literati)'' houses in the early and middle Choson period. Upper class houses are located in the center and thatched dwellings of the lower class on the outskirts, while two pavilions sitting on the cliff overlook the town across from the river.

Last year, the government bid to include the medieval village in UNESCO's World Heritage list, the coveted status for the world's cultural assets which possess landmark significance in human civilization. However, the effort has yet to bear fruit.

The village was a clan community of the Pungsan region-originated Ryu clan since the late 14th century. …