The city of Andong may have been forgotten by Korean youth, but its famous village still has a pretty important reputation culturally. Hahoe Village (Village Enveloped by Water) takes its name from the river, which flows around the town’s perimeter.

The village is located in the foothills of the mountain, if I had visited earlier in the day I would probably have hiked up to the opposite mountain to take a shot of the village panorama. Instead I ended up with a dark river and shadowy mountain.

The ‘Ha’ is short for river and ‘hoe’ means to turn around. Dark river in the shadow of a cliff.
Another view over the Hwacheon river.

When I arrived to the village (not the main village, but where the locals live modestly) I found it fairly deserted as I wandered around to find some water. I found a fridge and took a bottle out, but nobody was around to charge me for it. So I walked around a few houses nearby, passing drying roots and spices until I found the house owner and gave her some money.

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Local housing.

In general, wintertime is not the best season to travel to Korea as the days are short and the temperature is below zero. However, wintertime here is quite different from winter in Europe. It’s less damp and instead you experience a more dry cold, and even though temperatures can drop seriously low the sky is always blue. Wintertime was ideal for me for me as there were very few visitors, which was great as I cannot stand crowds.

Walking to Hahoe Village around the mountain.

The scenery on the way to village was quite nice with the backdrop of the mountains and river. When the village was founded its location was chosen in relation to specific criteria; the surroundings had to be able to provide both physical and spiritual nourishment to its inhabitants.

The lonely Byeongsanseowon Confucuan Academy.

In the gaps between the rivers, mountains and villages the locals cultivate crops. The fields are spread out across the yellow rocky landscape creating interesting pictures and patterns.

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Crops.

Similarly to Fenghuang in China, where the village has been kept in a wonderful condition thanks to its location. Hahoe is surrounded on three sides by the river and the mountains and the fact that the houses are still occupied by descendants of the original families means they have been well maintained over the centuries.

Today the village is an important part of Korean culture, because of its well preserved traditional architecture, valuable books and folk traditions (i.e. Haha Mask Dance Drama art, which is a shamanist rite honouring the communal spirits of the village).

Field nearby the village.
Field nearby the village.
The Hahoe Folk Village.
The Hahoe Folk Village.

The village has retained a style of architecture that has been lost elsewhere in South Korea due to rapid modernisation and development. The tiled-roof residences of the town’s more wealthy residents and the more humble thatched-roof homes preserve the architectural style of the Joseon Dynasty.

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Buildings with tiled roofs and courtyard with modern cars of the more wealthy residents.

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Humble houses with thatched roofs and courtyard.

Many of these houses were already listed as national treasures before the whole village was then recognised as a World Heritage Site.

As I strolled through the narrow streets I witnessed the beauty of the residences of the village’s head families, pavilions, study halls, Confucian academies, as well as the thatched-roofed houses, formerly used by commoners. It became easier for me to understand why the landscape of mountains, trees and water surrounding the village had inspired so many poets.

Sunset drops red colours on sandy and rocky landscape.
   More Hahoe Village photography