The hyanggyo (local Confucian school) was a local educational institution in the Joseon Dynasty, which taught local students Confucianism and kept tablets of China’s and the Joseon Dynasty’s Confucian scholars. At that time, each local Confucian schools played a pivotal role as an educational institution in nurturing talented people throughout the Joseon period.
There remains Dongnaehyanggyo Local Confucian School in Dongnae, Busan, which only had one teacher and 70 students, according to the Gyeongguk daejeon (Grand Code for State Administration). It originated in the Banhwaru Pavilion, which used to guard the local Confucian school, as well as serve as the main gate (the tallest gate). It showcases hyanggyo’s gate pavilion’s best architectural features in the late Joseon Dynasty. Today, it is preserved in good condition and takes pride in high academic value. It is appropriate to use the right and left entryways when you enter and exit, respectively.
The hyanggyo’s center is the Myeongnyundang Lecture Hall, a lecture hall consisting of a daecheong (large main floored room) in the middle and ondol rooms (underfloor-heated rooms) in the east and west dormitories called dongjae and seojae, respectively. Inside, you may hear Confucian students repeating after their teacher. The daeseongjeon (main hall) is where rituals are held in honor of Confucian saints and sages, whose tablets—including Confucius and Mencius—are also kept up to date.
The custom of planting ginkgo trees in local Confucian schools began to commemorate Confucius, China’s most revered philosopher, who taught his disciples at a ginkgo altar. The ginkgo tree in Dongnaehyanggyo Local Confucian School is believed to be more than 200 years old, indicating the school’s long history.
The hyanggyo’s universal layout is well preserved in Gijanghyanggyo Local Confucian School, which Sesimmun Gate welcomes you. The school’s name comes from its three-bay lofty gate and indicates its strong and stern atmosphere, showing Confucian students’ fidelity.
The Punghwaru Pavilion—meaning “edifying local customs”—showcases a hipped-and-gable roof, preserving the architectural style of the late Joseon Dynasty and making it architecturally worthwhile. In particular, the vivid dancheong (multicolored decorative painting) captures the viewers’ attention. The Myeongnyundang Lecture Hall of Gijanghyanggyo Local Confucian School consists of a daecheong (large main floored room) and the east and west dormitories. Looking at the unobstructed floor and Confucian students devoted to their studies, you’d feel as if you were part of them. Stacked stone walls protect the daeseongjeon (main hall) from rain and wind. This hall keeps 27 Confucian saints’ and sages’ (including Confucius) tablets, with commemorative rituals held twice a year.
Hyanggyo’s embrace the breaths of Confucian students who were devoted to their studies while learning the saints’ and sages’ wisdom. Entering the courtyard, you’d feel as if you traveled back in time, isolated from the contemporary world for a while. Why not enjoy walking and feeling our ancestors’ sentiments in the serene hyanggyo?