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Dodong Seowon Confucian Academy

Nakdonggang Bike Path
Learn about Dodong Seowon Confucian Academy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Dodong Seowon Confucian Academy (도동서원; map) sits at the bottom of Jindeung Mountain (진등산; map) 30 kilometers south of Daegu along the Nakdong River. 

Its name, “Dodong,” translates to “teaching” (/dō/; ) from the “east” (/dōng/; ). (Korea is “east” of China.)

Built in 1568, Japan burned Dodong Seowon to the ground during the Imjin Wars (1592~1598). Korea rebuilt it in its present location in 1605.

The academy was a Seowon (서원), a private preparatory school and a Confucian shrine that trained Yangban (양반), Joseon Dynasty’s (1392~1897) ruling elite. Among many subjects, these academies taught Hanja, Korea’s complex, Chinese-based writing system that kept rich families rich.

In 2019, UNESCO gave the title of World Heritage Site to Dodong and eight other Seowons because they show how Korea borrowed Confucian ideas and design from China and adapted it to local culture.

The government designated Dodong’s simple gable roof, shrine, auditorium, and tile decorated walls national treasures in 1963.

Over 400 years ago, the academy’s founders planted a ginkgo tree (은행나무) in Dodong’s courtyard. Confucius started this tradition to give future generations of scholars arborous shade to study under.

Today, find the same mighty ginkgo turning vibrant in summer and sprouting green in spring, tired limbs held aloft by log supports.