A look at King Suro’s tomb under a clear blue sky in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do
Hello Again Everyone!!
Not wanting to go shopping with the wife and her sister, I decided to head over to the neighbouring King Suro’s Tomb. Much like Eunhasa Temple, also in Gimhae, I had visited King Suro’s Tomb in 2008. And a few years later, it’s still as beautiful as ever.
King Suro is said to have founded the Gaya (or Garak) Kingdom in 42 A.D. in the south-eastern corner of the Korean peninsula. As the legend of King Suro goes, he was the first of six princes born from eggs that had descended down from the sky in a golden bowl wrapped in red cloth. Being the first born of the six, he helped lead in the formation and foundation of the Gaya Confederacy. He married an Indian princess from Ayodya, named Inhuh. After being married she changed her name to Queen Heo Hwang Ok, and she had ten children with her king. Purportedly, King Suro died in 199 A.D., and every fall and spring there’s a memorial ceremony for the king.
King Suro’s tomb occupies a central spot in the city of Gimhae. As you first approach the tomb, you’ll be greeted by a stately gate and traditional bricked wall. Passing through the gate with a Yin and Yang symbol on it, you’ll enter into beautifully manicured grounds. There is a red gate supported by two poles that have the royal crest on it. After passing through this you’ll come to another gate. This gate is a two storied gate with intricate paintings and wood carvings. After passing through this third gate, you’ll finally enter the main courtyard that houses the tomb of King Suro. Straight ahead, and walled behind another traditional wall with an ornately designed entrance gate, is King Suro’s tomb. The tomb is similar to the ones found in Gyeongju. Standing guard in front of the tomb are pairs of court officials and soldiers. And immediately in front of these four figures are animal figures of a bear, sheep and horses. At the front of the tomb is a stone table and memorial tablet with the words “Garaka King Suro” inscribed on it.
The tomb is surrounded by extensive grounds; however, most of the other buildings on the grounds are non-descript. The most memorable of these buildings is a building to the right of King Suro’s tomb. Inside are a pair of portraits depicting King Suro and his queen, Queen Heo. In addition to these portraits are the King and Queen’s spirit tablets. One noteworthy sculpture that sits in the courtyard at the tomb complex is a granite sculpture of six eggs surrounded by twin dragons and a watchful turtle. This sculpture was once housed near Queen Heo’s tomb, but was later moved to be closer to King Suro’s tomb. This sculpture symbolizes the imagery behind King Suro’s birth.
Other than the tomb and the hall that houses the portrait and memorial tablets of King Suro and Queen Heo, there’s a collection of buildings to the left of the tomb in an adjacent complex. Also, there’s a row of shrine halls to the right of the tomb that house the memorial tablets of the second through to the ninth kings of Gaya.
Admission to King Suro’s tomb was free for me, however, the official website says that the tomb is a mere 700 won to visit. Either way, it’s a pretty reasonable price to see Korean history.
HOW TO GET THERE: Now that the Gimhae subway is up and running it’s a lot easier to get to King Suro’s tomb. You can take the Busan subway line, and transfer over to the Gimhae light rail line. Get off at the King Suro stop. Follow the signs east for about 10 minutes. King Suro’s tomb will appear on your left.
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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. While not as artistically appealing, or religiously significant as a Korean temple, King Suro’s tomb is steeped in Korean history. The grounds that house the tomb are beautifully maintained as is the tomb itself. The stone sculptures out in front of the tomb are beautifully rendered as are the paintings inside the memorial hall that house Kin Suro and Queen Heo’s memorial tablets. While the tomb isn’t as extensive as the ones in Gyeongju, King Suro’s tomb certainly is well worth visiting.