Delve deeper into Korean culture by visiting Gyeongju and its Cheomseongdae Observatory. Gyeongju, South Korea, used to be the capital of Silla (an ancient kingdom that existed from 57 B.C. to 935A.D.). It is described by some as an open air museum and this is shown by a visit to Cheomseongdae Observatory and other nearby attractions and relics. In fact, UNESCO designated Gyeongju as among the world's ten most historically significant sites.
The structure was built by Queen Sandok-yowang (of the Shilla Kingdom) in 646 A.D. The Cheomseongdae Observatory's is 9.4 meters tall and 5.17 meters in diameter. Located west of Manwoldae, the observatory has the distinction of being one of the world's oldest observatories and also one of the well-preserved relics of the Shilla kingdom. Archeologists acknowledge the ingenious design and cultural significance of the observatory.
Indeed, the tower has a fascinating design. The structure is made of 366 pieces of stones. It has a square base with 12 stones and 30 layers covering the walls. The 12 stones represent the months of the year while the 30 layers represent the days of the month. The uppermost square in the base has its corners pointing in the north, east, west and south. On top of the base are stones of hewn granite that create a bottle-shaped, cylindrical tower. This design also point out the Chinese influence in Korea, particularly the symbolism of the circle (heaven) and the square (earth).
Going upwards, as you look at the layers, you will find that between the 13th and 15th layer, there is an entrance that faces south. This entrance can probably be reached by a ladder. Other features include the windows, which are built with their size, angles and direction pointed in such a way to enable the astronomers to observe with accuracy the time of the 24 sub-seasons. The observatory housed instruments that, during their time, were considered to be sophisticated astronomy tools that help in the study of the seasons, the stars and the weather.
The corners that point to the north, east, west and south are said to have helped the astronomers make their observations. These observations include obtaining the time of the astronomical sunrise, sunset and noon.
Aside from the observatory, you could also make use of your visit to the island by dropping by Tumuli Park (where you can find Shilla's burial grounds for their nobility. It has 20 such tombs.), AnapjiPond (a pleasure garden for Shilla royalty), Punhwangsa Pagoda (which is on of Korea's oldest structures) and the Sukkaram Grotto (which houses the Sakyamuni Buddha's stone image seated in all his serenity and is a great place for reflection). You must also drop by the Pulguksa Temple, which is by far the most popular in Korea and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. It ranks as one of the finest Buddhist shrines in Asia and is a testament to the artistry and culture of the Shilla dynasty. The temple's name means 'Land of Happiness'. You can also view an extensive collection of Shilla artifacts at the Gyeongju National Museum.