▲ A horse stands on Eoseungsaengak (top) and images from the exhibition (below). Photoscourtesy Cho Gaewon (top) and Jeju National Museum (below)
A display of centuries-old manuscripts and drawings entitled “Korean horses: Galloping across Space and Time” is open at Jeju National Museum until Dec. 7. The exhibition outlines the relationship between Korea’s royal horses, or eoseung, and Jeju’s Eoseungsaengak Oreum.
Jeju was once famed for its horses and the farms supplying the best to the Joseon court were called “sanmajang” or “byeoldunjang.” Some of these were bred on Eoseungsaengak, one of Jeju’s oreum, or volcanic cones.
The name, “Eoseung,” meaning “to dedicate a horse to a king,” reflects the oral tradition that the best horse born on the oreum, the “dragon horse,” was gifted to the king. It is not known whether this story is true or not, but it was added by Lee Hyeongsang to the 1702 Tamna Sunryeokdo, the historical Jeju annals.
The exhibition showcases images of the king’s horses as displayed in Joseon dynastic records. The records, called the “Uigwe: The Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty" (1392-1910), were added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2007 and cover the 600 years of the dynasty. The records include representations of the Joseon royal horse and three of the Joseon royal chariot.
One of the most memorable images is of King Jeongjo’s mother, Hyegyeongguk Hong, who is seen visiting her father Sadoseja’s tomb on her 60th birthday in 1795. The visit showcased the authority of the king, including plenty of nobles and lavish displays of wealth. As many as 1,779 people and 779 horses completed the 1.5 k.m. from the palace to her hometown in Hwasung City, Gyeonggi Province.
The image shows the king mounting a white horse symbolizing both regality and diety on the battlefield, although his image has been erased following tradition. In later days it became Korean custom to ride a white horse on wedding days and other special events.
Tue-Fri 09:00~18:00/Sat, Sun and national holidays 09:00~19:00. (Open until 9 p.m. on Saturdays between March and October). *Closed: Mondays (If Monday is a national holiday, it is closed the following day) and New Year’s Day (Jan. 1).
By bus: Jeju City Hall Ⅱ #1 (toward Jungangno) Ⅱ Goeunimoreu [20 mins]. (Jeju City Tour Bus from City Hall or the airport also stops here.)
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