Thursday, November 14, 2013

Historic City: Ganghwa Island

Ganghwa Island, incorporated into Incheon metropolitan city from Gyeonggi province in 1995, has been recognized and preserved for it’s important role in Korea’s history, from the prehistoric age to modern times.
Ganghwa is an island in the estuary of the Han River, on the west coast of South Korea. Ganghwa Island is separated from Gimpo, on the mainland, by a narrow channel, which is spanned by two bridges. The main channel of the Han River separates the island from Gaeseong in North Korea.
About 65,500 people live on the island. With an area of 302.4 km2 (116.8 sq mi), it constitutes most of Ganghwa County, a division of Incheon Municipality. About half of the island's population resides in Ganghwa-eup, Ganghwa Town, in the northeastern part of the island.
The island's highest point is Mani-san, 469 m (1,539 ft) above sea level. The island measures 28 kilometers (17 mi) long and 22 kilometers (14 mi) wide, and is the 4th largest island in South Korea.
The major stage of Ganghwa’s history came around the late period of Koryo dynasty. During the national conflict against Mongolian's invasion, the capital was transferred to Ganghwa from Gaeseong for the period of 1232 and 1270.  Ganghwa was deemed a most appropriate refuge to keep themselves safely from the invasion of Mongolian forces. The world famous treasure Palman daejanggyeong, 80,000 sheets of Buddah's scriptures could possibly have been engraved during the invasion.
 The importance of Ganghwa as a refuge shelter had been successively chosen during Chosun dynasty; two incidents Manchurian invasion, Jeongmyo-horan, in 1627 and Byeongja horan 1636 forced King Injo to take refuge in the island, taking advantage of the natural strategic environment to defend themselves from the enemy attack. Thereafter, Ganghwa had accordingly installed many military facilities to meet the pre-requisite of defending capital; castles, military bases, forts, outposts, batteries and beacon fire mounds etc.
In the later period of the Chosun dynasty, a few incidents of the western power's invasion and Japan made the it the most important military base to have the capital fully defended. Historically, it is significant as being the location of separate punitive incursions; by the French in 1866, the United States in 1871, and the Japanese in 1875 when Korea was emerging from isolation.
Many relics and remains of prehistoric age, Old Stone Age and New Stone Age have been found of their various vestiges in Jangjeongni, Sagiri, Dongmagni. Symbolic huge stone relics of Bronze Age, more than 80 dolmens, were discovered in the vicinity of Bugeunni and neighboring area, of which giant tombs revealed the existence of inhabitants there.
Dangun, the founder of Gojoseon, is said to have made an altar on top of Mani-san and offered sacrifices to his ancestors. His three sons built a legendary Samnangseong castle and relics of Bongcheondae, Bonggaji, Bongeunsa temple, Stone Buddah statue relating to the tales of Bong's family apparently signify the Ganghwa a holy land of Korea and the peoples throughout it's history.
About 70% of Ganghwa's citizens are engaged in farming, mainly rice. Fishery and forestry are other occupations practiced.  Hwamunseok is a well-known traditional fancy matting. Since the Goryeo dynasty (10th -14th centuries), hwamunseok has been produced and exported to China and Japan. The mats are produced in the home handicraft industry.
The Ganghwa turnip is a specialty of the area. It has been cultivated since the 5th century. This is recorded in the 17th -century Dongui Bogam book of oriental medicine.
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