Insadong (인사동): traditional artwork, teashops, and ancient pagodas

During Chuseok, I visited a neighborhood called Insadong in Seoul and words cannot express how much I enjoyed this neighborhood. Insadong is a district well-known for art galleries and tea shops. In fact, according to wikipedia, Insadong has 40 percent of the nation’s antique shops and art galleries as well as 90 percent of the traditional stationery shops.

Hanji (한지) is Korean traditional homemade paper and all of the art pieces you will see below are made out of hanji, including the gorgeous lamps. You can’t tell from the photo, but the entire lamp is made of paper and it’s very light. In one of the stores, we found lamps that were covered in old-style paintings of Korean women at leisure. The artist, who was also working in the store, told us that the lamps depicted Korean women frolicking during an old cultural holiday that is no longer recognized, but that used to be celebrated. The holiday was especially important and unusual given the extreme patriarchal tendencies of old Korean culture. I tried to google this holiday when I got home, but so far, I have been unsuccessful at finding further information about it. I guess I’ll just have to return to Insadong and hope to run into that same artist with the story.

I really loved hanji art and I’m excited to return to Insadong and purchase some. There’s also countless traditional tea shops. rice wine bars, and really affordable food in Insadong.

In addition to shopping, Insadong also has a lot of art museums. While M and I were searching for a restroom, we also stumbled upon one such museum that boasted having the world’s smallest book and also the world’s largest book. We took a peek inside and found that they were indeed telling the truth.

Not to be missed on a trip to Insadong is Tapgol (pagoda) park, which is at one end of the shopping district street. Tapgol park is a beautiful little tree-filled park with a huge colorful pavilion for resting, but also, Tapgol park is host to Wongaksa Pagoda, a 12 meter high pagoda that was first constructed in 1467 (National Treasure No.2).

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