Pung Hyang Suk Jang (풍향숙장)

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This two-story brick building has a lot to tell but offers few clear insight. From what my friend and I could decipher, it was a dormitory/inn with a classroom attached for self-study. The cramped dorm rooms had a kitchen in the front with living quarters in the back. Communal bathrooms were in a separate building out in the courtyard. Come along and see for yourself this beautiful, yet decaying structure.

The building lies near a university, which might give us a clue about its purpose. Perhaps university students lived here for cheap and crammed for exams in the classroom. Signs in the classroom and the hallway appeal for students to live a morally upright life in and outside the walls of the dormitory.

It was hard to photograph, the best way to get the U-shaped building was to shoot a panorama from the roof, as is seen above. I love the red brick/pink trim mix. The colors are amicable together. In the courtyard, some urban gardeners are reclaiming the unused space, which is a common practice here in Gwangju.

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When we wondered the hallways, I imagined in winter time students hurrying to get into their rooms. Thes bare-bones, uninsulated hallways would act as coolers, intensifying the bitter weather outside.

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The door that leads to the detached bathroom. We couldn’t find where the showers were.
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All rooms were labeled in Chinese characters. This is room 5 in the lower center of the building.

Rooms were left in various states of desertion. Some were completely empty, others filled with rotting trash. In one room with less offensive odors,  we came across a room filled with Buddhist paraphernalia. The walls were decorated with hanja script, individual characters with Korean translation underneath. Sharing the wall was a Buddhist calendar and a small shelf with once housed an altar.

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Here is an example of each room’s layout.
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In order to enter the living quarters, most people had to duck or crawl to enter.

And now we approach the highlight of the building, the study area. This place alone is worth the visit. You could comb the books and gaze at the pictures over and over again. Books are organized by a wide range of subject and date back from as early as the 60’s. Later books end around the early 2000’s. Is that when the place met it’s demise? What captures my attention are the short, flimsy wooden benches that reflect yesteryear Korea. Without further adieu, here is a panoramic of the room.

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Pictures on the walls include landscape settings and a composer in the midst of a performance. Were these meant to be a respite from long study sessions? In the corner where the library is located, hangs a stained poster commemorating Arbor Day. Sitting on a desk, lies an old chalkboard eraser cleaner. To be honest, I was taken aback by it’s old-fashionedness, I had never seen anything like it before. Only through observation and the old college try, was I able to discern its purpose. In a corner, sits a neglected easel with step-by-step instructions for writing hanja.

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A chalkboard eraser cleaner fits multiple erasers for cleaning.

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The hanja (Chinese characters) on the left reads “Buddha Mind”.
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The Chinese characters for the garden, big, entrance, under, ten, and life.

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A map with an interesting romanization of Korean I hadn’t seen before.
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I had never seen  or  translated as  “Jeon Ra Nam Do” or “Jeon Ra Bug Do” before.

Coming across this place was a real treat. As I am always on the lookout for abandoned schools. This place is a rich mine full of interesting artifacts that are worth a few hours of investigation.

 

 

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