Gyeongung Yangijae (養怡齋)

Brief Introduction

Yangijae (養怡齋) is an educational facility for students. It was registered as National Registered Cultural Heritage No. 267 in 2006 in recognition of its value because its basic structure remains intact (Figure. 1). Yangijae is located in Jeong-dong, Jung-gu at the centre of Seoul. The nearby heritage sites also include Gyeongung Palace, the British Embassy, and Seoul Anglican Cathedral (Figures 2 and 3). Yangijae used to be connected to the Gyeongung Palace but today it is separated by a boundary wall.

Figure 1. Yangijae (養怡齋) (Source: http://www.heritage.go.kr/)
Figure. 2. Map of Gyeongung Palace drawn by the Japanese governor-general in 1910 (Source: Hong, 2010).
Figure 3. Yangijae and its surrounding heritage sites (Source: Google Earth)

Historic Development of Yangijae and its Significance

Latest Modern Educational Institution Built by Daehan Empire

The Daehan Empire constructed Yangijae in 1906 as a modern educational institution for the children of the imperial family and aristocrats [4]. The academy performed this function between 1906 and 1910, when Japan annexed the Daehan Empire.

Official Office for Anglican Church of Korea

In 1912, the Japanese governor-general lent the building to the Church of England. Mark Trollope, the bishop of the Church of England, (Figure 4) and William M Royds, vice-consul of the United Kingdom in Seoul, signed a lease with the governor-general. Since then, Yangijae has largely been forgotten because it belongs to the Anglican Church of Korea and there are restrictions on residents’ access [1].

Figure 4. Mark Trollope, The bishop of the Church of England in Seoul in 1910
(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Trollope)

Historical Importance of Yangijae

Yangijae was created as a new educational facility to fulfil Emperor Gojong’s vision of modernising the Daehan Empire through education. Through educating children of nobility in Yangijae, the emperor sought to set an example for other newly built public schools and ultimately motivated the general public’s desire to study modern subjects, such as maths, foreign languages, and geography (Hong, 2010).

Stonewall Walkway around Yangijae

Seoul Metropolitan City Government, the Cultural Heritage Administration of South Korea, and the British Embassy of Seoul established the stonewall walkway around the British Embassy, Seoul Cathedral, and the Yangijae in 2018 [1]. The stonewall walkway allows visitors access to nearby major tourist attractions, such as Gyeongungung Palace. This path and its popular hotspots are harmonised by pretty cafes and trees on both sides of the wall, making it a popular area for local couples (Sung and Kim, 2017). This path is also associated with Former Seoul Supreme Court Building which I will explore on another page (https://minksunghertiage.com/2021/02/24/seoul-metropolitan-art-gallery/). The detailed information relating to the stonewall walkway can also be found in the blogpost of Former Seoul Supreme Court Building.

Implication

It seems to me that many people still do not know what Yangijae is. When I found Yangijae at the corner of Seoul Anglican Cathedral, a tour guide informed other tourists that Yangijae is a place for nun to sleep and pray. This is wrong information and makes people misunderstand Yangijae. To understand the historical value of Yangijae, I think it should be understood together with other nearby heritage sites.

Yangijae’s primary heritage narrative is associated with the history of the Daehan Empire (1897–1910) and the role of emperor Gojong (the first emperor of the Daehan Empire). There are a number of relevant cultural heritage sites nearby that should be explored together because of their shared histories, such as Deoksugung Palace (the emperor’s residence), the Anglican Church of England in Seoul, and Geongbukgung Palace.

Another value of Yangijae is the location itself. In particular, the popularity of the stonewall walkway around Yangijae is likely to continue due to the beauty of the space. This is a place where people can go to feel relaxed. In the area there are a lot of gigantic high-rise buildings, such as the departments of government buildings and traffic congestion makes me feel drained every time I go through the area. If Yangijae can offer a local resident, like me, a relaxing place, Yangijae will have considerable potential to be appreciated further by local residents.

© 2021 Minki Sung

Footnotes

[1] Dong-A Ilbo Digital News Team. (2015) Request to fully open Deoksugung Stonewall Walkway, what will the British Embassy say?. Dong-A Ilbo [online]. 6 January. [Viewed 25 September 2020]. Available from: https://news.naver.com/main/read.nhn?oid=020&aid=0002721410.

[2] Hong, S.M. (2010) Reconstruction and Structure of Gyongungung Palace around the Gwangmu Era. The Journal of Seoul Studies, 40, pp.25−74.

[3] Sung, J.Y. and Kim, S.K. (2017) Interpretation of the place discourse of Deoksugung Doldam-gil through News Big Data. Digital Contents Society, 18(5), pp.923−932.

[4] The Gyeongungung Construction Report. (1906) Seoul: The Daehan Empire.

[5] Yuk, S.H. (2011) A study on the education of imperial family in the Korea Empire. Korean Studies, 19, pp.609−638.

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