Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Discover Korea #7: Gyeongju (THE EAST Campaign in Association with Korea Tourism Organization)

Gyeongju is an administrative division of South Korea and one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Korea.
It lies in the far southeastern corner of North Gyeongsang Province, on the coast of the East Sea.
Nearby cities include the industrial centers Ulsan and Pohang.
Numerous low mountains, outliers of the Taebaek range, are scattered around the city.
Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla.
The Silla kingdom arose at the turn of the 1st millennium, and ruled most of the Korean Peninsula by the 7th century until the 9th centuries.
For the reason, Gyeongju is often referred to as ‘the museum without walls’ because of its historical treasures, many of which are outdoors such as royal tombs, old Buddhist temples and pagodas, rock-carved Buddhas, and many others.
In addition, a vast number of archaeological sites from this period remain almost intact in the city.
Today Gyeongju is a typical medium-sized city sharing the economic, demographic, and social trends that have shaped modern South Korean culture.
While tourism remains the major economic driver, some manufacturing activities have developed thanks to its proximity to major industrial centres such as Ulsan.
Gyeongju is connected to nationwide rail and highways, which facilitate both industrial and tourist traffic.

Gyeongju is a major tourist destination for South Koreans as well as foreign visitors.
It boasts the 1000 years of Silla heritage with vast number of ancient ruins and archaeological sites found throughout the city, which help to attract 6 million visiting tourists including 750,000 foreigners per year.
The city government has parlayed its historic status into a basis for other tourism-related developments such as conferences, festivals, and resorts.
Many Silla sites are located in Gyeongju National Park such as the Royal Tomb Complex, the Cheomseongdae observatory, the Anapji royal pond garden, and the Gyerim forest.

Gyeongju National Museum hosts many important artifacts and national treasures that have been excavated from sites within the city and surrounding areas.
Much of Gyeongju’s heritage are related to the Silla kingdom’s patronage of Buddhism.
The grotto of Seokguram and the temple of Bulguksa were the first Korean sites to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995.
In addition, the ruins of the old Hwangnyongsa temple, said to have been Korean’s largest, are preserved on the slopes of Toham Mountain.
Various Silla-era stone carvings of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are found on mountainsides throughout the city, particularly on Namsan.
A significant portion of Gyeongju’s tourist traffic is due to the city’s promotion of itself as a site for various festivals, conferences, and competitions.
Every year since 1962, the Silla cultural festival has been held in October to celebrate and honour the dynasty’s history and culture.
It is one of the major festivals of Korea.
It features athletic events, folk games, music, dance, literary contests and Buddhist religious ceremonies.
Other festivals include the Cherry Blossom Marathon in April, the Korean Traditional Liquor and Cake festival in March, and memorial ceremonies for the founders of the Silla Dynasty and General Kim Yu-sin.

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