The Eunuch Cemetery in My Backyard
Subway: Changdong (Lines 1, 4)
Distance hiked: 3.17 km
Total time: 1:03:40
It’s ironic that the first mountain I hiked in this country lost its status as a mountain. But as the one that instigated this project, as well as the one that is on the same street as the National Art Studio, it deserves to be written about. Choansan used to be a eunuch cemetery during the Joseon dynasty, where the deceased of the very interestingly named Department of Eunuchs were buried. Choansan is on the northeastern side of Seoul, and so the tombs mostly face west, facing the palace. It is said that this was so they could still honor the king even beyond death. It is designated as Historic Site No. 440.
As it was my first hike in Seoul, it was also the first time I encountered what would be typical of a South Korean hike: exercise machines, picnic areas, groups of ajumma and ajusshi hiking together, and the occasional pet—always a dog, and often small. Having small forests of trees around me after two months of living in busy, busy Seoul was a magical experience. Rays of light that penetrated through seemed almost ethereal. On separate occasions, I followed an elderly couple and a group of three ajumma who were all very familiar with the trails. While it became obvious I was following them, as I was the only other human being in some parts of the trail, they forged on, intent on reaching the end.
Before this, I had only hiked one other mountain in my life, and so I slipped because of my inappropriate footwear and winced at the branches tearing at my clothes. We were still in the final days of Korea’s long winter, and I could feel the chill biting through the exhaustion of my new mountain legs. But I was exhilarated—I needed more adventure and realizing that there was one here in my backyard made me wonder, was there more?