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Finding Our Traditional Housing... [Myungwon Folk House]


A traditional Korean house stands peacefully near Kookmin University's back gate. It is Myungwon Folk House, designated as Seoul Cultural Asset No. 7. Myungwon Folk House, originally house of Joseon yangban (aristocrat) Han Gyuseoul, was moved to its current location in the 1980s. Now affiliated to Kookmin University, it is an open space used to spread traditional tea ceremony and offer experience of traditional culture. Activities in this space make it possible to experience how our ancestors acted and straightened and developed their minds.

Panorama of the Myungwon Folk House Archetype of Joseon Yangban (Aristocrat) Housing

The old house of aristocrat Han Gyuseol is a typical house of the upper class during the Joseon dynasty. The tall main gate, symbolizing the high standing of aristocrat Han Gyuseol, is taller than the houses next to the gate – a height tall enough for the palanquin to pass through. Also, the tall gate, shed and rooms, constructed continuously aside one another, along with the wall has a defensive function.

After entering the main gate, two inner gates can be seen. One gate leads to the sarangchae (detached house) and the other to the anchae (main building). The sarangchae has a floor headed toward the east inner gate and the room is on the west side. It was used by the male house owner or to serve visitors to the house. It was also used as cultural purpose as well. That is, as a space where the house elders educated their children or a space where the noblemen discussed academic matters.

The anchae (main building), biggest and central space of the house, is constituted of main room and main floor. The main room is where the lady of the house lived. It is a personal space closed and unopened. It is located in the north, most inner part from the main gate. This is a reflection of the sign of the times when the women were restricted in going outside. In the past, the anchae was a space where important household matters such as childbirths and deathbed moments took place. Now it is used for tea ceremony classes and other various events.

You can also find 1) haenrangchae where the household servants lived or where the grain was stored; 2) byulchae where daughters lived before marriage or which where young boys studied to read and write; 3) gwang (shed) where households or other various objects were stored. Ancestral shrine enshrining ancestral tablets, pavilion closely related with the pond, and chodang used for rest are preserved as well.

Harmony with Tea

Fully bringing in the sense of season without any separate device is probably one of the special features of traditional Korean housing. In the Myungwon Folk House, you can feel the different attractions of the four seasons through the natural scenery of the house. It is definitely not common to find such a peaceful traditional Korean house in the cold and gray city. And what if our traditional 'cha (tea)' is added to the attractions of the traditional Korean house?

'Darye (tea ceremony),' a popular course currently provided at Myungwon Folk House, has a long history. A tea ceremony course opened in 1982 as a Kookmin University liberal arts course has come down to the current 'darye' course. Once a week, students taking this course head to the Myungwon Folk House, the place where the class takes place. 'Darye' refers to the manners centered on drinking tea. That is, etiquette or behavior and the atmosphere and knowledge centered on harmony with tea. Students not only learn the knowledge regarding traditional Korean tea but also collect their thoughts and learn to harmonize with tea. Lee Seungman (Business, '04), who actually took the 'darye' course last year, remarked, "It is a great privilege of Kookmin University students to be able to have a historic traditional Korean house near campus. However, it is a pity that not many students know about it. Through the darye class at Myungwon Folk House, I became interested in our traditional tea, something I had almost no knowledge before then. My interest in Korean traditional tea still continues. I think the course will last as an unforgettable experience during my college years."

'Darye' A space built only for comfort and function is not all good. Through the Myungwon Folk House that we meet just outside of the Kookmin University's back gate, we can easily feel the old we had forgotten for quite a time and the nature become one. If you haven't been to Myungwon Folk House, why don't you go right away? It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and with prior reservation you can see the inside of the sarangchae. The Myungwon Folk House is closed on Sundays and holidays. Admission is free of charge.

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