In our history of Korea, which position does our beautiful city of Busan have? As South Korea’s second largest city, Busan is a very important place in the history of Korea. We can see the vestiges of our five-thousand-years history. So we decided to visit these vestiges in chronological order.
A garbage dump or bonanza, Dongsamdong Shell Midden
Dongsamdong Shell Midden, located in Yeongdo Island, proves that humans have lived here since prehistoric times. Shell midden is a heap of garbage from people who lived near the seaside or riverside. But, unlike its name, garbage, it is a very important monument showing the life of the past. Not only are there shells and fish bones, there are many remains of the New Stone Age like tools made of stone or bone unearthed in the midden. Even Shell masks, the representative relic of the Neolithic Age, were also unearthed in the midden. We can see these masks along with other relics in Dongsamdong Shell Midden Museum next to the midden.
Nowadays, the area around the midden is a field facing a seaside. The scenery of the area is so beautiful that we can see many people who stroll around the midden. Following the trail on the field under the setting sun, feel the ancient spirit in the salty sea breeze.
The legacy of ‘Iron Kingdom’ Gaya, Bokcheondong Ancient Tombs
Walking along a road behind Naeseong Elementary School after leaving Suan subway station, you can see a big hill. The hill is Bokcheondong Ancient Tombs. The ‘tombs’ are a cemetery of nobles of ancient times.
Tombs usually discovered in the Busan and Gyeongnam area and are the representative relic of Gaya, known as the ‘Iron Kingdom’. Like the name ‘Iron kingdom’ where plenty of iron tools with ornaments including very sophisticated gold crowns and gold earrings were excavated and well preserved in Bokcheon Museum next to the hill of the tombs. All around the hill, low hanging trees are planted in a rectangular shape to mark each place for graves where relics were excavated.
The Bokcheon Museum looks like a grand fortress built to protect the spirit of Gaya. Even though the Gaya kingdom was physically destroyed, the spirit of the kingdom is still very much alive in Bokcheondong.
The temple holding millennial history, Beomeosa
Beomeosa is the biggest temple in South Gyeongsang Province with Haeinsa and Tongdosa, founded by Great Master Euisang.
According to a geography book of the Joseon Dynasty <Sinjeungdongkukyeojiseungram>, a gold colored fish descended from heaven and swam in a well, resulting in the name Beomeosa, the temple of gold-colored fish, and the location Geumjeongsan, the mountain of the golden well.
As the temple is secluded at the foot of the mountain, you should take a bus up a twisting mountain road after leaving Beomeosa Subway Station. It is still as full of fresh air and the spirit of Geumjeongsan from the entrance of the temple as it was 1,000 years ago. The temple is also a sacred place of Buddhism where many high priests like the Great Master Wonhyo trained. Moreover, the greatest state occasion of Goryeo Dynasty ‘Palgwanhoe’ has been held in place. The shrine is a stronghold, which Great Master Seosan used when he fought against Japanese army during Imjin-oe-ran (the seven years’ war against Japanese army) The patriotic spirit of monk soldiers is continued as Seonmudo, the Buddhist martial arts. This martial arts have been passed down in Cheongryeon-am, a little temple attached to Beomeosa.
The trace of our ordeal,
Busan Modern History Museum and Provisional Capital Memorial Hall
The area of Jung-gu and Seo-gu, known as old downtown, is the representative cultural center of Busan. Also the place is fraught with the bitter memory of modernization. By going through Gukje-sijang (the most representative and traditional market in Busan), we can see a small museum. This is the Busan Modern History Museum that was the building of the Oriental Development Company during Japanese Colonial Era. Oriental Development Company is the company founded by the Japanese empire to dominate the land and market of Korean and was the stronghold of economic exploitation. Even after the liberation from Japanese rule, the building of the company had been possessed by the US Army and was reclaimed by our government in 1999. The building was recreated into today’s Busan Modern History Museum.
Let’s turn our eyes to our Bumin Campus. Behind the campus, there is the Provisional Capital Memorial Hall, the place filled with the tragedy of national division. When Seoul fell to North Korea’s invasion during the Korean War, Busan became the provisional capital. At that time, the government building where the former president Lee Seung-man stayed is now Provisional Capital Memorial Hall. The building, the heart of Korea during the war, is a humble three-story brick building hidden in a small town and seems to show the desperation of the Korean government at that time.
There are plenty of the vestiges of our history full of ordeal and glory in Busan. Let’s visit these historic sites.