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Silla Sightings Over the Namhan River
For Lee Yang Hoon, King Jinheung (540-576) comes to mind as he visits an ancient Korean battleground
Lee Yang Hoon (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2005-04-07 17:20 (KST)   
Danyang Rest Stop is on the Seoul-bound lane of the Jungang Expressway, which runs through the inland areas of the Chungcheong and Gyeongsang provinces. Unlike many rest stops, it's located rather far off the expressway, so its quiet and considered a good place to stop.

Perhaps because it was built recently, its facilities are rather clean. More than anything, however, the rest stop leaves one with a deep impression perhaps because from there, one can enjoy a half-day's trip exploring Korea's ancient history.

Danyang Rest Stop is located in Habang-ni, Danseong-myeon, Danyang County, North Chungcheong Province. As one can tell from the name, this was the location of the Silla kingdom's Jeokseong Mountain Fortress, the site of fierce fighting during the territorial struggles of the Three Kingdoms era. It's also an area where Silla, having conquered what was originally Goguryeo territory, commemorated its victory, even joyfully erecting a stone monument in tribute.

Jeokseong Mountain Fortress
©2005 Lee Y.H.
When you enter the rest stop, the mountain you see right before you is Seongjae-san. Wrapped around the summit of the mountain is Jeokseong Fortress, one of Korea's representative "mountain top-style" fortresses. Visible from afar, you can feel how solidly it was constructed. The fortress was constructed both inside and out with natural, even stone. It's about 920 meters in total length.

The wall of Jeokseong Fortress was built of densely packed, flat natural rocks.
©2005 Lee Y.H.
To the north is the Namhan River, while to the east, Juknyeong Stream, and the west, Danyang Stream, both of which flow into the Namhan River. A peak surrounded by waterways on three sides, it's a natural defensive fortress. It's also a strategic transportation point, with boats traveling upstream along the Namhan River and the overland route continuing up toward Juknyeong ridge.

Ondal Mountain Fortress, located in nearby Yeongchun-myeon, Danyang County. Perhaps because it was built at around the same time as Jeokseong Fortress, there are many similarities between the two.
©2005 Lee Y.H.
From Jeokseong Fortress and, a little further to the south, Ondal Fortress (also a mountain fortress), Silla was able to take the Han River basin and make its way all the way to Hamgyeong Province, but the joy Silla earned as a result of the fortification must have been hard to express simply in words. One can get an idea how overjoyed Silla's King Jinheung (540-576) must have been from the Jeokseong Monument.

The monument proclaims the area as Silla territory, and showers praise on a local by the name of Yaicha, who showed loyalty to Silla during the course of the struggle. The monument includes Yaicha's reward, and says that any one showing similar loyalty would be rewarded just the same.

Monument pavilion inside the fortress
©2005 Lee Y.H.
It's as if you can still hear the proud bellowing of that great conquered and sovereign King Jinheung, who closed the book on the Seorabeol (the old name for Gyeongju) era -- when Silla was confined to a small piece of the peninsula -- and through incredible energy endlessly expanded the kingdom's border almost effortlessly.

The monument also confirms the names of a number of figures familiar to us from history like Gen. Lee Sa Bu, who subjugated Ulleung Island, and Gen. Kim Yu Shin's grandfather, Kim Mu Ryeok. An academic team from Danguk University discovered it on January 6, 1978. Prior to that, hikers used it to knock the dirt off their shoes. It's located inside Jeokseong Fortress, which is just five minutes from the rest stop.

Jeokseong Silla Monument, National Treasure No. 198
©2005 Lee Y.H.
If you look out from atop the densely packed fortress wall upon the ripples of the meandering Namhan River, one thinks of the bellowing laughter of King Jinheung and the proclamation by Goguryeo's Gen. Ondal, who said, "I won't return until I've retaken our land to the west of Gyerip-hyeon and the Jungnyeong ridge!"

A three-story stone pagoda of Hyangsan-ri, Gagok-myeon, Danyang County. Treasure No. 405. You can see it for free, too.
©2005 Lee Y.H.
The day comes to a close over the stone pagoda.
©2005 Lee Y.H.
Thinking how this path, heading up to Seoul via Wonju, was once a fierce battlefield where thousands of men and horses engaged in a heated territorial war, one can really enjoy some ancient historical tourism!

Nowadays, there are few places you can visit for free. In that regard, if you want to get out of town, it's worth paying a visit to Danyang Rest Stop. You can even throw in Ondal Fortress and the stone pagoda of Hyangsan-ri in the same trip.
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