A view of two of the three pavilions at Anapji garden in Gyeongju
Hello Again Everyone!!
With the new car, my wife and I have been heading up to Gyeongju a lot lately. With Gyeongju only being a 45 minute drive from Yangsan, it’s made Gyeongju extremely accessible and enjoyable. This time, we decided on a couple places we hadn’t visited in a couple years as well as one new temple we hadn’t ever visited. So this trip included Bulguksa Temple, Bunhwangsa Temple, Anapji, and Heungnyunsa Temple. This entry will be about Anapji with an entry on Heungnyunsa Temple to soon follow, as well as updated pictures from Bulguksa Temple and Bunhwangsa Temple. So without any further ado, here’s Anapji!!
Across from Banwolseong site, the principal palace used by Silla rulers, is Anapji. Anapji, also known as Imhae-jeonji, is/was a pleasure garden. Anapji was first constructed in 674 A.D. by King Munmu to commemorate the unification of the Silla Dynasty during the previous decade. And in 679, the villa Dong-gung was built on the pond’s west side. The lotus pond, roughly shaped as the Korean peninsula, allowed the King to survey his “country.” Water is fed into the pond through stone channels from the South Stream on the far side of Banwolseong site. Three artificial islands were created in its middle. There are also 12 “mountains” placed on the edges of the lotus pond. Rare trees, flowers, animals, and birds were raised on the site. And only 300 years after Anapji was built during the peak of the Silla Dynasty’s power, the kingdom was abdicated by King Gyeongsun to the king of Goryeo, king Wang Geon at Anapji.
The three buildings that now stand on the edge of the pond at Anapji were rebuilt between 1975 and 1976 during an extensive restoration. In fact, during this restoration over 30,000 items were taken from the pond’s muddy bottom. Many of these items are now on display at the neighbouring Gyeongju National Museum. Also, there is a beautiful small-scaled reproduction of what the garden, buildings and all, use to look like inside one of the three pavilions at Anapji. Besides the three pavilions, there are numerous foundation stones littered across the lawn indicating where former buildings stood at Anapji. These foundation stones are a good indication of just how majestic Anapji formally was. Past these foundation stones, the three newly built pavilions, and the hordes of students and ajummas that regularly visit the garden, you can get some amazing pictures of the buildings as well as the pond itself from the north side of the pond. In fact, there is a beautiful path that circumnavigates the perimetre of the pond. Take the time and walk this path as there are numerous places you can get amazing photo ops of both the pavilion structures as well as the pond and islands that inhabit it.
HOW TO GET THERE: Anapji is easily accessible from the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal. And as a part of a walking tour of the downtown historical sites of Gyeongju, including Daeneungwon (Tumuli Park), Chemseongdae Observatory, and Banwolseong Palace site, you can visit Anapji. In fact, Anapji is directly across the street from Banwolseong Palace site. It’s easy to get to, and makes for a nice half-day walking trip around downtown Gyeongju. But remember, because it’s so easy and accessible to get to, that it will also be really busy as well. So either go early or later. Anapji is open from 9a.m. to 10p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday. The entrance fee to Anapji is a very reasonable 1,000 won.
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OVERALL RATING: 9/10. Even though it’s on the smaller size compared to Bulguksa Temple or even Banwolseong Palace site, it is truly a beautiful place to visit and is perhaps the greatest example of the beauty the Silla Dynasty were capable of creating. Beautiful pictures of the pond can be taken from nearly every angle. So if you’re visiting, and if you haven’t already heard of this Silla garden, make sure you add it to a very lengthy list of places to visit in Gyeongju.