UNESCO World Heritage Site #28: Joseon Dynasty Tombs

The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty are one of the ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Korea. The site comprises 40 tombs scattered around in 18 locations. They are all in Seoul or Gyeonggi-do, except for one in Yeongwol (Gangwon-do).

Jeff and I used Korea Tourism’s great guide to the tombs to find one that was convenient. We ended up going to the site which has both the Seolleung Tomb and the Jeongneung Tomb (called collectively Seonjeongneung). Why? Because it’s close to the metro not far from Gangnam.

At first, there was a nice amount of English translation on the signs, so for instance we knew that Seolleung is the tomb of King Seongjeong, the 9th king of the Joseon Dynasty. He became king at age 12 and died at age 37. He made some important governmenty things.

We even knew where to walk, and where not to walk.

But then, suddenly, the English ran out. Like this cool thing above. I have no idea what it is or what it’s for, because the description was Korean only.

I didn’t get to learn what the figures next to the tomb were, or why they faced the way they did.

I don’t know what this sheep is for, either.

I can’t be sure what they buried with the body in the Joseon Dynasty. Was it similar to the burial practices of the Shilla Dynasty, which I learned about in Gyeongju? This place didn’t tell me.

All I really know was that the tombs weren’t busy that day, and we were able to relax in the peaceful old forests in the park.

There was a small museum on the grounds, which also had very little to no English. We accepted the fact that there were many things about this place to learn. Even the ‘English pamphlet’ we were given was half in Korean.

This particular tomb site is not particularly impressive, although it is pretty and is a nice escape from the city. Read up about Joseon Dynasty tombs beforehand, or just accept the fact that you’ll be looking at stuff you don’t know much about.


  • Location: Get off at Seolleung Station (line 2) exit 8. Walk straight for a bit and you will see the tomb park on your right.
  • Hours: 6:30 AM to 9 PM. Closed Mondays.
  • Admission: A whopping 1,000 Won (about US$0.86).

3 thoughts on “UNESCO World Heritage Site #28: Joseon Dynasty Tombs

  1. Bryan

    “But then, suddenly, the English ran out. Like this cool thing above. I have no idea what it is or what it’s for, because the description was Korean only.”

    Not sure how useful/relevant this will be…

    It’s written in classical Chinese. (Basically the Latin of East Asia — if it’s old and important, it’s written in classical Chinese.)

    First line:
    Easy one — “Korea” (lit. “morning fresh country”). Trivia: modern day North and South Korea are 北朝鮮 and 韓国, respectively.

    Second line:
    Not so easy. First four characters are rather straightforward: “region, excess, internal, king” (“king of a very large region” or something along those lines.) Final two characters have me beat. Based on context, possibly a name?

    Third line:
    “upstanding, ?, queen, ???” Old-form characters + weird styling + characters outside the standard set for Japanese. I can’t even begin to decode most of this.

    Still, with that I would hazard a guess that it’s the grave marker for the king’s wife. (While I translated it as “queen”, 后 has a more literal meaning of “wife of the emperor” — the semantics may or may not matter.)

    Okay, I’m done. 失礼しま~す!

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