Dosan Seowon (도산 서원) is a Confucian academy, surrounded by some of the most gorgeous countryside that the area can offer. The academy was established in 1574, in honour of Yi Hwang, a well-respected Confucian scholar also known as Toegye. It no longer functions as a place of study, but a refurbishment in the 1970s gave back the tranquillity of its original raison d’être: this was a highly important study place during the Joseon era, and the only one outside Seoul, for those who wished to pass the notoriously hard tests necessary for governmental officials. Opposite the main entrance, you may notice a little man-made hill topped by a traditional-style shelter; the stele underneath once marked an important spot for the government exams, with the original location somewhere towards the bottom of the lake that you pass on the bus in. As you enter the complex, beyond the flower gardens and up the steps are two libraries whose nameplates are said to have been carved by Toegye himself; the buildings were built on stilts to keep humidity to a minimum. Further on are structures that were used as living quarters, the main lecture hall, and a shrine to Toegye, though this last one is usually closed off. Passing back down under a cloak of maple – which flames roaring red in late autumn – you’ll find an exhibition hall detailing the great man’s life and times, as well as an astrolabe for measuring the movements of celestial bodies.
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