In my eyes, East Asian traditional architecture appears to be exotic, loaded with history and mystery. In Korea, the traditional houses are called hanok. Koreans are known for their appreciation and efforts made to preserve historical heritage. As I mentioned in my last article, Koreans pay attention to nature and symbols when they make hanbok (traditional clothes) or when they erect buildings.
The location of the house was extremely important in old Korea. Baesanimsu is a principle that stresses out the importance of surroundings when building a house. In the back, there should be a mountain, and in front of the house a river. Cardinal points also play a key role and they can even determine one person’s destiny.
Hanoks could be classified according to the status of their landlord. Yangban (aristocracy) and Jungmin (middle class) enjoyed more spacious houses with pretty tiled roofs while the common people used to live in smaller houses, with rice straw roof.
It is not only about aesthetics but also about utility.
Hanoks are known to be pretty, but it is not only about it. First of all, they are environment-friendly, because the materials used are soil, rocks, timber, wood, paper. The paper used for hanok`s windows is called hanji made by the mulberry tree and its utility is to make the house breathable.
For me, the most interesting part of a hanok is that it was made to keep a cooling temperature during summertime and heating in winter. Winters in Korea can be harsh, but thanks to ondol which is a floor heating system one can bear the minus degrees. In the same time, summers are hot and humid, however, hanok is also equipped with daecheong, a cool wooden floor.
Hanok in modern Korea
Futuristic buildings with modern architecture are common in Korea. However, the hanoks survived the passage of time and they are well taken care of by Koreans. It is pretty common to see coffee shops, hotels and restaurants in hanok style buildings. Even though inside they have modern facilities, on the outside they look exactly like 100 years ago buildings.
In recent years, a trend of the revival of hanoks took over the Korean architecture. This trend started to attract numerous tourists who opt to book rooms in hanoks or to participate in tea ceremonies that are held in the traditional houses to make the atmosphere even more authentic.
I must warn you that is very expensive, one night in a hanok can cost $70, even $150. I have booked one night in Jeonju and I paid only 40 $ because I went during the Lunar Year where there were not many tourists. So if you really want to rent on a budget you should keep your eyes on the sales.
However, if you think you can not sleep on the floor or you cannot pay that much, you can rent a hanbok and visit, Bukcheon, Jeonju or any other hanok location and take wonderful pictures.
Best preserved and worth visiting Korean traditional villages:
1. Hahoe Folk Village, a traditional village from the Joseon Dynasty located in Andong
2. Namsangol Hanok Village located in Seoul
3. Jeonju Hanok Village, located in Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do is one of the largest Hanok districts in Korea with over 800 hanok houses located in Jeonju
4. Bukchon Hanok Village, in Central Seoul
5. Oeam-ri Folk Village in Asan, Gyeonggido
6. YangdongFolk Village, a traditional village from the Joseon Dynasty located near Gyeongju the former capital of Silla (the first Korean dynasty that unified the country)
[Photos will be added later on]
7. Korean Folk Village located in Yongin, Gyeonggido