Naju, Dyed in Indigo Blue
By Shim Hun-chul
When morning breaks through the indigo sky, Hwangpo sail boats come and go on the Yeongsan River. At various points along the riverside, an abundance of fresh specialties lure visitors, which is presumably how the area came to be in the past. People from small islands nearby came with their sea catches to trade for the land's grains, as Naju city was the nation's foremost granary.
Naju embodies the past and present cultures that have risen and fallen along the Yeongsan River. Located in the midwestern area of South Jeolla Province, it is divided by the Yeongsan River, one of the four main rivers in Korea. There are two mountains near Naju, Mt. Geumseong, in northern Naju, and Mt. Wolchul, in the south.
Visitors can tour Naju and visit four different areas; the remains of an ancient fortress that surrounded Naju, the Yeongsan River area, Naju lake and ancient tombs.
Many cultural relics are scattered along the fortress site, as Naju was the center of the Jeolla provinces since the Goryeo Kingdom (A.D. 918-1392).
The fortress, one the best known in the region, was originally 3,300 meters long. Visitors can only find remains and traces of it today.
Near Yeongsan river, people can catch a glimpse of other cultural relics and experience agricultural life. Visit the Natural Dyeing Cultural Center and learn more about the indigo plant, common in the area. At the Naju Image Theme Park, the site of many television dramas, there is a ferry where you can find Hwangpo sail boats. There's also Yeongsan port market, one of the first marketplaces in Korea, and a lighthouse. A traditional five-day market can still be found in the area.
At Naju Lake, one can enjoy breathtaking views and explore Buddhist relics. Visitors can find the Cheolcheon-ril Seokbul Standing Statute at the main building of the Bulhoe Temple, which houses beautiful architecture from the late Joseon period (1392-1910).
For more modern fun, visit the Jungheung Gold spa and resort, which has the biggest water theme park in the Jeolla provinces.
The ancient tomb section offers hints of the culture during the Mahan Kingdom period (194 B.C. -A.D. 205), which was present before the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C.-A.D. 660) and expanded near the Yeongsan river. At the Bannam Tomb, items such as shoes and crowns made of gilt-bronze, which was designated National Treasure No. 295, were found as well.
For more information, visit. http://www.naju.go.kr/02en (English) or call (061) 330-8108.