Architecture

Korean Neo-Confucian Academies

The primary consideration of the setting of seowon was the association with the venerated scholars, whether it be their place of teaching or studying or their home or gravesite. The second factor to be evaluated is the landscape, which was equivalent to the venerated scholars’ interpretation of the universe. Most components of the nominated property were built amid scenery that offers views of mountains, rivers, creeks, or fields harmonized with the surrounding environment. This is because the venerated scholars generally opted for a naturally inspiring place for studying and cultivation of mind and body. On some occasions like Museong-seowon,sarim’s places of residence were taken into account when buildingseowonsince facilitating their social activities and maximizing their influence were deemed important.

The major elements of the shrine, lecture hall, dormitories, and pavilion are the creative outcome of the Korean interpretation of Neo-Confucian concept into architectural type.

The veneration area is a place for the veneration of distinguished figure, and is placed at the innermost of the central axis. Buildings are composed of a shrine, veneration preparatory chamber, and storage room for utensils and vessels used for rites. Spiritual tablets or portraits of venerated scholars and an observance altar are found inside the shrine, although the composition of the altar, its location, and the procedures for the veneration differ fromseowontoseowon.

The learning area includes a lecture hall, dormitories, and a library. The lecture hall is mainly manifested in a four or fivekan (kan is a traditional unit of measurement of Korean architecture, referring to a space between the two supporting columns of traditional structures) with a threekan space in the middle composed of an open floor. The remaining twokanare used for bracketing ondol rooms.

The interaction area features a pavilion in the typical architectural form forseowon. Pavilions reflect a unity of Korean traditional floor culture that provides a venue forsarim’s social activities of discussion and nature appreciation.

Sosu-seowon

Korean Neo-Confucian Academies

Even though the architectural layout had not yet standardized and crystallized, Sosu-seowonwas equipped with all the necessary architectural elements required for a private Neo-Confucian academy. What had been determined as essential elements of architecture inSosu-seowonbecame fundamental for those established in later periods. Using a minimum degree of adornments combined with Korean traditional techniques,Sosu-seowoncreated the original form for a lecture hall, shrine, and dormitories. Korean traditional architectural styles incorporating the floor culture that was popular during the 16th century were applied to the buildings.

Namgye-seowon

Korean Neo-Confucian Academies

Namgye-seowon is small in size compared to other academies, as evidenced by the one-kanondol rooms and one-kanopen floor in the veneration area. Nevertheless, the academy is fully equipped with the requirements for aseowon. Moreover, it provided the first version of the typical building arrangement. The dormitories equipped with open pavilion floors are the original example of an interaction area within the learning area.

Oksan-seowon

Korean Neo-Confucian Academies

Oksan-seowonwas the first academy in Korea to adopt a pavilion as a part of its interaction facilities inseowonarchitecture. Mubyeonnu pavilion serves dual functions as a boundary between the learning and interaction areas and a connecter with the nearby landscape. This concept had a significant impact on subsequently-establishedseowon. The pavilion takes a rectangular form of seven-by-twokan with a hipped roof. The middle threekan of the second story is an open wooden floor with two one-by-twokanondol rooms on each side. The remaining one-kan on both sides are formed into decks to provide a better view of landscape. The nature-friendly pavilion visually incorporates the surrounding mountains, creek, and fields with its open structure connecting the interior and exterior of theseowon.

Dosan-seowon

Korean Neo-Confucian Academies

Dosan-seowon's buildings are innovative in the way that the veneration and learning areas are aligned asymmetrically. The shrine is off to the left of the central axis where the ground is naturally elevated to display the internalization of architectural theory of propriety interpreted by Korean Neo-Confucianism. Therefore, the shrine was established off the central axis to exhibit its high status. This asymmetrical layout of shrine and lecture hall is evident in neighboring seowon, including Byeongsan-seowon. Jangpangak repository of printing woodblocks uniquely adopted an open floor plan, which was mostly displayed in pavilions. Such an attempt suggested a whole new level of maru architecture that started from lecture halls or pavilions and evolved out into libraries. Instead of having two ondol rooms on its sides, Jeongyodang lecture hall has only one and defines a new style

Piram-seowon

Korean Neo-Confucian Academies

As Piram-seowonis located on flat land, it could not create a visual hierarchy by utilizing sloping topography. To overcome this limitation, the buildings for the lecture hall and two dormitories were deliberately placed to face the shrine in order to demonstrate the significance of veneration tradition. This is why the lecture hall of the academy, unlike other lecture halls, turns its back on the entrance door. As such, Piram-seowonbecame a type forseowon established on flat land.

Dodong-seowon

Korean Neo-Confucian Academies

With creative decorative arts such as turtles and dragons carved onto the stylobates of the lecture hall and refined patterns on the blocks, Dodong-seowon seeks to augment the possibly over-restrained architecture ofseowon. The turtles on the left and right of the stylobates are intentionally engraved upward on the left and downward on the right to indicate which way is for coming and which for going. The dragon is closely related to the river in front as a symbol for preventing floods. The units of the compound are placed in a hierarchical order and carved with various patterns to overcome their rigidity. Within the shrine, the lines of a poem written by the venerated scholar are engraved on the wall, with an additional depiction of wall paintings on both sides of walls. Such artistry provides evidence of Dodong-seowon’s excellence in the ornamental aesthetics of seowonarchitecture.

Byeongsan-seowon

Korean Neo-Confucian Academies

Byeongsan-seowon is the testament of utilizing the best of surrounding landscape of mountains and water. Mandaeru pavilion is the pinnacle of architectural achievement where river and mountain in front, andseowonbuildings are completely unified. Composed of seven-kan (app. 23 meter wide) with a hipped and gabled roof. Eachkan offers each different scene to create absolute harmony with nature. It creates a sense of oneness that brings the natural landscape andseowon together. Mandaeru is the maximized example of pavilion architecture, which was first introduced in Oksan-seowon.

Museong-seowon

Korean Neo-Confucian Academies

More participants inseowon had influenced the decision of Museong-seowon’s setting, thereby locating the academy within the village. Most buildings are built in an open structure towards outside to cut through the entire area. The characteristic of such setting is an exceptional and unique example among the nine components. Museong-seowon has served as a center in the province and the only academy in the region to survive the nationwide demolition ofseowon in the 19th century.

Donam-seowon

Korean Neo-Confucian Academies

As a place for practicing propriety, the academy pursued a noticeable innovation in the form of architecture. The representative case is Eungdodanglecture hall, where a place of veneration propriety was transformed into a perfect structure of a theoretical architecture. Gabled roof with five-kanwidth and three-kan depth and each side designed in 8 ja, all identical, Eungdodang is the largest in size among the existing lecture hall in the nation. The upper column of wooden pillars is touched with colors and refreshing design, providing extra energy to the large and heavy form of the lecture hall. The floor plan was devised by Kim Jang-saeng, who described the related contents in diagrams in his collections. Architectural theory reflected in Eungdodanglecture hall had a significant impact on neighboring seowon. Discussions and literary works on yehak had been unraveled centering Eungdodang. A varied number of documents preserved in the library of Donam-seowonwere indeed prepared and written at Eungdodang.