Escape into a peaceful green ribbon of nature away from the hustle and bustle of this huge city.
Cheonggyecheon Stream and Park—a beautiful fresh water stream, right next to big roads full of traffic and lined with skyscrapers.
Parts of Seoul seem to be a collection of endless rows of concrete buildings decorated with an incredible number of colorful signs. The apartment complexes, all seemingly designed in the same Soviet-style blocks, begin to blend together. However, hiding behind the towering high-rises and perpetually crowded streets are many green oases, and Cheonggyecheon is one of those.
Tucked along the stream, this park is often overlooked by visitors, but not by locals. Locals can escape the monotony of city life and find a momentary respite in the almost-hidden shrubbery-lined pathways of this green ribbon. We also found it perfect for escaping the noise and traffic of the city. Just wandering along the edge of the stream, with the soothing sound of gurgling water and fish swimming around, is balm for the soul. Is very restorative. You don’t even have to walk, you can just sit in the shade and enjoy it.
We approached Cheonggyecheonby the stairway 12 not too far from the Euljiro-3metro station and wandered along a fair bit of the path along the stream. Cheonggyecheon is an urban stream nearly 11 km long running through Seoul that once served as a sewage and drainage channel during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Cheonggyecheon was enclosed during the Stream Coverage Project after Korea regained her independence in 1945 as it was considered an eyesore, and was covered in concrete for roads and had an elevated highway constructed along its length.
It stayed like this until being renovated into its present form in 2005. Since this painstaking restoration work was undertaken, Cheonggyecheon has been completely refurbished as a cultural and arts venue, providing various areas for recreation, including the beautiful promenade alongside the stream. The stream passes under a total of 22 bridges before flowing into the Hangang (Han River) and boasts many attractions along its length, notably art works, the most famous being the tile painting of King Jeongjo’s Royal Procession.
It was a contentious restoration, partly due to its cost, but also as many people thought it was unnecessary, and would cause worse traffic flow. However, it has proved to be well worth every won spent on it: it’s become a great park for locals to walk in, relax and enjoy; tourists have also discovered it; amazingly, It provides natural air conditioning, and makes the surrounding areas cooler in summer (and warmer in winter!); and in fact traffic flow is much improved.
Running alongside the Cheonggyecheon walkways is the Banchado of King Jeongjo, the largest tile painting in the world.
Depicting a royal procession, it is made up of 5,120 individual ceramic tiles, each one 30cm square and 2.4cm thick. It was painstakingly reproduced as close as possible to the original in detail, as well as in quality and craftsmanship.
It depicts King Jeongjo in his 9th reign during the Joseon Dynasty, leading a royal procession to visit the tomb of his father at Hwaseong (Suwon) in 1785, escorted by his mother Hyegyeonggung Hong. The original painting, created by famous artists in the Joseon era, including Kim Hongdo and his peers, is 63 pages long in total. The Banchado of King Jeongjo recreates the work on a magnificent scale in this tile painting.
Banchado of King Jeongjo is divided into two major sections: the royal procession; and a street map of Seoul in the Joseon Dynasty called Suseonjeondo. The original Suseonjeondo is a woodblock street map of Seoul produced by Kim Jeongho in 1825 during the late Joseon period. It depicts many details of the entire city at that time, including streets, roads and fortress walls, boasting a high level of accuracy.
One point of interest in the painting is that King Jeongjo is not actually seen, but only the
procession of his mother’s beautiful palanquin. This is because the King’s appearance was limited in paintings due to a strict ancient taboo. It was believed that for spiritual safety the king could not be described or painted in any material form.
The Banchado of King Jeongjo and Suseonjeondo on the tile wall painting are described in Korean and English on information boards so that both local people and overseas visitors can truly appreciate the historic and artistic value of the works of art.
I did write a bit about the tile painting before. See here