Gyeongju Nam-san NW Corner
O-neung Tombs,
Na-jeong Well  and
Poseok-jeong Garden
Great Historic Sites of Shilla Kingdom
The O-neung 오릉 [Five Tombs], claimed to be the original and oldest royal tombs of the Shilla Kingdom
These are, supposedly, the final resting places of the first few monarchs of Shilla, who launched its
history over two millenniums ago. The royal personages allegedly to be buried here include: King Bak
Hyeokgeose, progenitor of Korea's "Park" clans and founder of Shilla by uniting the six tribal clans,
and his wife, Queen Aryeong; the 2nd monarch, King Namhae; the 3rd monarch, King Yuri; and the
5th monarch, King Pasa.  To the east of these royal tombs lies Sungdeok-jeon Shrine, which holds
the ancestral tablet of King Bak Hyeokgeose.  Behind the shrine is the Aryeong-jeong Well, said to
be the birthplace of Queen Aryeong.  This area is also famous for viewing autumn leaves in October.

In reality Shilla probably became an organized tribal-federation proto-state "Jinhan" in the Gyeongju area
in the 4th Century, and a "kingdom" with all of North Gyeongsang Province as its territory in the early
6th Century;  these tombs were built *much* later by Confucian officials to honor the mythical "founders".
This is the preserved site of the Na-jeong Well (no water-source remains) where the Six Tribal Chiefs
found the egg that contained Shilla's first king.  According to the myth recounted in the
Samguk Yusa,
there were six districts of this proto-state, each with its own capital village and chieftain of divine origin,
who had descended to a sacred mountain-peak from Heaven.  It says that in 57 BCE (traditional date,
false) the six leaders gathered on or near Geumo-bong, the southern summit of what is now known as
Gyeongju’s Nam-san,  probably on the rocky 400-m northwestern peak now called Jeonmang-dae, to
try to select or find a king, so as to upgrade Jinhan to a kingdom (what became known as Shilla), in
order to enhance social order.  They saw a white horse fly down from Heaven and kneel here by this
Na-jeong Well near the lower northwestern slope of that peak; when they hiked down there, the horse
disappeared, but they found a large blue egg.  The egg soon cracked-open and a spectacular baby
boy was found hatched within, and that baby grew-up to become proclaimed Shilla’s first king, named
Bak Hyeokgeose and entitled "Geoseogan."   The Samguk Yusa says that the chieftain of the fourth
district, involved in this auspicious foundational event, was the first-known progenitor of the Korean
Choi Clan.  The Great Sage "Go-un" Choi Chi-won is said to have paid homage to his ancestors at
in the late 9th Century; therefore a memorial stone for Choi was placed there in the early 20th century.
The
Yangsan-je Shrine with the Sobeol-dori-gonggi-jeokbi Stele Monument now stand within the Na-
jeong compound to commemorate the beginnings of the Gyeongju Choi Clan.
Poseok-jeong [Albalone-Stone Pavilion] is a small site with the ruins of a royal garden, in-between
the O-neung / Najeong area and the Bae-ri
Sambul-sa / Samneung area, on the NW side of Nam-san.
It is believed to have been built as an entertainment venue, a "pleasure-garden" for Shilla royalty and
aristocrats sometime during the late 9th century, a period of severe decadence and decline.   Some
scholars even think there was an entire adjunct palace here, like the "Dong-gung" / Anapji complex.

All that remains today however, are the stone foundations of a winding canal in the rough shape of an
albalone mollusk sea-snail, whose rich, flavorful meat that has long been considered a highly prized
culinary delicacy of the Korean elite.  Historians believe that this was modeled after the garden where
renowned Chinese calligrapher Wang Xizhi (307-365) played drinking-games with his friends.  They
believe that this canal was used for a drinking game in which wine-cups were slowly floated through it,
and participants were required to write or recite an original poem before the cup arrived before them;
or else they would not be allowed to quaff it.  The 22m-long channel was designed with many curves
so that the speed of the wine-cups would vary according to their shapes and the amount of wine they
contained.  Similar drinking games are known to have been played in ancient China and Japan,
although few such sites have been found.

According to evocative legend, the last real king of Shilla, known as Gyeongae (r.924-7) was drinking
in debauched revelry here with friends, when a squad led by Gyeon Hwon
(rebellious Shilla general
who had crowned himself king of "Latter Baekje") burst in and massacred all present, thus effectively
ending the kingdom that had lasted for six centuries (nearly a millennium according to myth).  Some
records say that KIng Gyeongae committed suicide rather than be captured and forced to submit. His
tomb is on another foot of Nam-san.  Gyeon Hwon placed Gyeongae's nephew Gyeongsun on the
throne as a weak puppet, which lasted 8 years before both surrendered to Wang Geon who then
founded Korea's Goryeo Dynasty.  So, Koreans feel that tis site is infused with sad tragedy....
Aryeong-jeong Well next to the Oreung Tombs;  the Sungdeok-jeon Shrine, which holds
the ancestral tablet of Founding King Park Hyeokgeose, is seen over the wall behind-left.