Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Andong, Capital of Korean Sprit : Toegye Trai

Tourists walk along Toegye Trail, which follows the Nakdong River, last month. The Korea Tourism Organization selected 13 walking courses in the area in order to promote “green travels” — including this pathway noted for its prior use by scholar Toegye — and a special event was held for 30 locals and foreign participants to explore the routes.

Blue skies. Sounds of a warbling bird. The river’s water flows leisurely. A stork stands perfectly still above his rippling reflection. Following the sunlit sparkle of the river, a narrow path gives off the fragrance of rich soil and grass with each step.

The hot breath of the city stands no chance here. A refreshing breeze between the sky and the green grass envelopes the road and its travelers - a touch light enough to create the brief illusion that one might be a wise sage living alone in nature.

What thoughts did the wise scholar Toegye have when walking along this path, long ago- In order to promote important tourist destinations along the country’s four major rivers, the sites of a major restoration project now underway, the Korea Tourism Organization has created several green cultural excursions near the waterside.

This idyllic Toegye Trail on the Nakdong River in Andong is one of those courses.

Andong, where the recently-named UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hahoe Village is located, could be called the capital of the country’s ethics culture. It’s a place where a taste for the morals of ancient scholars remains in full flavor, where justice and courtesy survive.

Toegye (1501-1570), also known as Yi Hwang, was a mid-Joseon Dynasty scholar who is often recognized now as the face on the 1,000 won bill. After holding public office, he built a Confucian school where many underwent intense study.

Although there are many great leaders from Andong, it was Toegye who went on to become the foundation for Korean moral culture.

If Germany’s Heidelberg has the Philosopher’s Walk where the likes of philosopher Immanuel Kant once meditated, then Korea’s Andong has Toegye Trail.

Following the Nakdong River, the longest in the country, the trail stretches all the way from Dosan Seowon (Toegye’s school) to Chongryang Mountain in the southeastern Youngnam Region.

Having built the school in his hometown of Andong, though the great scholar gave all his energy to the school he built to train younger generations, he still found the time to find peace atop the mountain. People say that Toegye’s presence still lingers in the surroundings, helping to create that enchanting ambiance of absolute peace.

Continuing down the path that winds along the curves of the river toward the mountain, the scenery expands like a beautiful folding screen.

At the foot of Toegye Trail Observatory and following the slight incline toward the start of the river, the scenic Gasongri Village in Dosan-myeon is only three kilometers away. If you keep going, you will come across Byeokryeokam Cliff, Kyungam, Haksodae and Micheongjangdam (observatory).

The sites along Toegye Trail have become well-known destinations for those looking to get away. There are so many people; it’s hard to keep track of the number of travelers. For more information, visit www.tourandong.com or call (054) 856-8013.

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