OWL Magazine Korea

Gangneung Ojukheon, Municipal Museum Special Exhibition ‘Faces that Speak to Me’

One of the historically significant places representing Gangneung is “Ojukheon.” Ojukheon is both the birthplace of the renowned scholar Yulgok Yi-I and the ancestral home of his mother, the distinguished Shin Saimdang. Shin Saimdang’s image is featured on the current 50,000 KRW bill, while Yulgok Yi-I is depicted on the 5,000 KRW bill, marking a unique case where both mother and son are concurrently featured on banknotes.

“Revisiting Ojukheon in 2023”

During my 1-night, 2-day trip to Gangneung in 2022, I revisited Ojukheon. It felt like a familiar place, possibly because I had visited it with my friends on a school trip during high school. Since it had been quite a while, memories from that time were a bit hazy.

Nevertheless, during my 2022 visit, I made sure to take various photos, so the memories hadn’t completely faded. Having visited in 2022, I returned again in 2023.

This time, it wasn’t just a casual visit. I went with a group of U.S. State Department scholarship students. As the program was nearing its end, we chose to conclude it with a sort of graduation trip to Gangneung, with Ojukheon as our first stop.

“Cultural Commentary at Ojukheon”

At Ojukheon, there are cultural guides who offer commentary. There are several cultural guides available, and if you make a reservation in advance, a guide will be assigned to provide commentary at the scheduled time. However, please note that the commentary is conducted in Korean, and reservations should be made online.

This time, I decided to request a cultural commentary. Since it wasn’t a casual visit and I was with U.S. high school students, I wanted the guide to provide the students with accurate information. The commentary lasted for about an hour, but it was an extremely hot day. Since it was the peak of summer in August, a heat advisory had been issued.

Normally, the commentary involves moving around both indoors and outdoors, but due to the extreme heat, the commentary primarily took place indoors.

“Special Exhibition at Municipal Art Museum: ‘Faces that Speak to Me'”

After exploring the permanent exhibition at Ojukheon and the Municipal Art Museum, our last stop was the special exhibition hall. On that day, an exhibition titled ‘Faces that Speak to Me’ was being held.

The ‘Faces that Speak to Me’ exhibition ran from June 29 to August 31, 2023, and since we visited on August 5, we had the opportunity to view it. Here is some information about the exhibition:

‘Faces that Speak to Me’

Portraits of Five Hundred Arhats from Changnyeongsa Temple

‘Nahan’ is an abbreviation of ‘Arahan.’ Arahan is the transliteration of the Sanskrit term ‘arhat’ or ‘arahant,’ referring to a practitioner of Buddhism who has attained complete enlightenment, having extinguished all mental defilements.

‘Obaek Nahan’ refers to the five hundred disciples of Sakyamuni Buddha, who propagated the teachings of the Buddha while traveling around India. After the Buddha’s passing, they gathered together and compiled his teachings.

To honor them, statues of Nahan were created, and they were thought to have been enshrined before the year 2001 at Yeongwol Changnyeongsa Temple. These statues of Nahan, presumed to have been enshrined prior to the Nahan statues, depict various postures – some with closed eyes, deep in thought, smiling, troubled, meditating, holding an alms bowl, reciting scripture, or with both hands lowered – showcasing a wide range of expressions.

“Nahan Displayed in a Dark Room”

The Nahan exhibition was displayed in a dark room. We could see various expressions of Nahan, and this place also marked the end of the Ojukheon commentary.

This visit to Ojukheon, followed by the Nahan exhibition at the Municipal Museum, marked the official start of our Gangneung trip.

For more information about other places at Ojukheon, you can visit the link provided above for “Ojukheon.”

“Gangneung Ojukheon Municipal Museum”

  • Address: 24 Yulgok-ro 3139beon-gil, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
  • Phone: 033-660-3301
  • Operating Hours: (Daily) 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Last Admission: 5:00 PM)
  • Closed: Open year-round
  • Website: https://www.gn.go.kr/museum/index.do