Monday, June 13, 2016

Yeungnam-jeilgwan: Daegu’s Gateway to History (Literally)

I’m an ardent fan of the Daegu Tour Stamp Trail (this year is my sixth time trying to finish it), but I think it sometimes overlooks some of the coolest, most scenic places in the city. Exhibit A: Yeungnam-jeilgwan (the Yeungnam Main Gate) out in Manchon.

It stands there glowing in the evening sun, dominating its landscape (which is really saying something – it’s next to the Hotel Inter-Burgo). There’s a major street running nearby, yet the gate remains fairly tranquil, even with visitors. But I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s take a look at what the gate was long ago and where it came from.
*Image source:

As you can see above, the gate had seen some tough times. Actually, the gate in that photo has long since been destroyed. It was one of four gates around the fortress of Daegu. (Cool, right? Daegu was a fortress!) The wall connecting them was earthen, but the gates were stone and beautifully ornamented wood. Built in the 18th century, they stood until the early 20th century when, in an advanced state of neglect, they were torn down by Japanese colonial administrators to make way for modern roadways and a larger transportation grid.
The current gate is many kilometers from its original location, which today would be somewhere in the south central part of downtown. And of course it’s not the original gate; it’s a 1980 reconstruction based on the old gate but larger and more commanding to behold.
In the past, guards and officials would patrol the fortress gates, keeping a tight grip on who could enter and leave. There are no living guards here today, alas, but there are some amusing replicas who seem much more easy-going than their historic counterparts.
It doesn’t lead anywhere except the hillside sloping to the Geumho River beyond, but pass under the gate’s arch to take a peek at a massive,colorful muralin the traditional Korean style, swirling with dragons and heavenly winds.
You’re free to climb to the upper platform and check it out. It’s made using traditional methods (brick, wood and mortar, though you’ll notice some iron bolts and plates, just in case). Walk around and see the city roll away for miles in each direction. One of the best sunsets you’ll get in the city!
The platform’s ceiling is an intricate pattern of colors and shapes. Imagine the talent and patience it would take to create this centuries ago! They really earned their dinner that week.
Take a peek through one of the arrowslits – narrow spaces between stones that allowed sentries to safely look out across the landscape or archers to send arrows darting out at would-be assailants. There are no enemy armies now, just traffic going over the bridge, but you can use your imagination.
And on the other side you might see a family or some friends gathered for a picnic or, like in the photo below, a raucous drum session followed by an even more raucous makgeolli session.
And as you leave, take a little time to walk through Mangwoodang Park across the street. It’s not too large, but it’s full of monuments to war heroes and large trees that give excellent summertime shade. The park itself honors General Gwak Jae-u, a commoner who raised an army and won glory during the Imjin War with Japan in the 16th century. You can see his figure,cast in metal, towering over the park today.
Yeungnam-jeilgwan is easy to reach from 2.28 Park downtown. From the bus stop at the northern edge of the park, take the Rapid Bus 5 (급행5) to the Mangwoodang Park bus stop (망우당공원). A taxi ride from the same spot takes about 8,000 won.
Or, if you have an afternoon to kill, go to Ayanggyo Station on the subway red line (line #1). Walk southeast along the Geumho River and pass by several parks, Dongchon Resort (a tiny amusement park) and several cafes before getting to Yeungnam-jeilgwan at the end. Just follow the river – you can’t miss it!

Yeungnam-jeilgwan (영남제일관)

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