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Oeam Village, a typical rural town of Korea, is a clan village, home to the Yi family hailing from Yean. Oral traditions have it that it was about 500 years ago when people first inhabited the village site. But according to the records, the village was settled when the Yi clan moved to the site. The first person who settled in the village was Yi Sa-jong, and since his settlement, the village prospered, emerging as a major clan village for the Yean Yi family in late Joseon (1392-1910).
At the back of the village, Mt. Seolhwasan rises in the northeast and the mountain ranges encircle the village from behind. Also, the village faces Mt. Meonjeoksan in front and Mt. Bongsusan to its southwest. To the west, the village is bordered by a broad field, and a stream “Geundaegolnae” flows in between. It is the typical geographical features of a traditional rural village of Korea, having a broad field near the village.
The village was formed on the low hill of Mt. Seolhwasan. Houses are uniquely distributed along the main road, which is divided into many byroads leading inwards. The village seems to have been created sporadically corresponding to natural topographic conditions, but there is an underlaying principle in it: the village was settled along the straight line that connects Mt. Seolhwasan, the guardian mountain in the northeast, and Mt. Bongsusan in the southwest. The village is an oval shape settling in the low hill on the ranges of Mt. Seolhwasan stretching toward the southwest. The ground of the village is progressively higher toward the east and to fit this geographical condition, most houses were built facing southwest, with a few houses facing south.
The spatial composition of the village and houses display how Confucianism, the dominant ideology of Joseon, was settled in the society. Most villages that had emerged naturally went through an overall change at the beginning of the Joseon era, transforming itself befitting the novel ideology. The whole process can be witnessed in the village.
Most houses in the central part of Korea consist of two L-shaped buildings. The buildings are facing each other, creating a rectangular inner courtyard at the center. The characteristic features are well exhibited in the houses of Oeam Village.
What makes this village distinctive is an artificial waterway. The village draws water from the upper valley in the village, creating an eco-friendly environment and ecological landscape. The water has been used for daily life and firefighting, and mountain streams and ponds made using the water elaborate the gardens of houses. The character “hwa (華)” in the name of Mt. Seolhwasan, is a homonym for the character meaning “fire (火),” and the waterway was a symbolic means of balancing out the influence, making it a distinctive feature of the village not found in other places in Korea.
There are many houses showing the typical garden style of late Joseon. The gardens of Champan House, Geonjae Old House, Gyosu House and Gamchal House are regarded highly important and unique, as they demonstrate special techniques and characteristic features of garden construction of the era. Ponds, waterfalls and streams were made using the artificial waterways, and valleys and artificial mountains were constructed with stones and ornamental plants. The gardens are very particular to this village.
Currently, there are 69 households residing in the town, and 38 of them are engaged in farming. The resident population is 192 people in total. More than half of the buildings are thatch-roofed And every year, residents thatch their roof with new straw, and the technique has been handed down by tradition in the village, a work of valuable intangible cultural heritage. All the houses in the village are walled with stones from field, in that stones in various sizes were easily found in the town. Villagers built walls in the field too by using removed stones from the field. Again, this construction is very distinctive and is another special feature of Oeam Village. Champan House and Geonjae Old House are State-designated Important Folklore Materials, and in January 2000, the entire village was designated as Folk Village by the government. Additionally, valuable implements for daily life and intangible cultural heritage are transmitted in the village. Various rituals and offerings for ancestors and folklore events have continued, and traditional foods such as lotus-leaf liquor, food for ancestral rites and rice pancake (buggumi) were recognized unique to the village.
(iii) bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
Oeam Village is a typical Korean traditional village developed based on its natural environment. The tile-roofed and thatch-roofed houses built with traditional materials are mingled, and the traditional technique of thatching the roof with straw has passed down in the village until today.
(iv) be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
Geologically, the village was formed on the stony ground. To secure dwelling places, people constructed a 6 km stone wall, incorporating rocks removed from the earth. In the process of creating farmland, they built walls in the field with stones from the site. This stone construction is unique and an excellent example of local building styles and materials.
(v) be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
To prevent the spirit of fire from Mt. Seolhwasan from disturbing the villages, an artificial watercourse was constructed in the village by creating artificial waterways from a natural stream. The waterways reach almost all the houses in the town, providing water for daily life, gardens and fire prevention. The distinctive gardens of Oeam Village, which use the artificial watercourse, are a representative example of local culture in the Joseon period as well as an outstanding example of using water for residences for intangible and tangible purposes.
(vi) be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria) ;
The clan village of the Yean Yi family, a center for studies and education for years during the Joseon Dynasty, produced many distinguished Confucian scholars including Yi Gan (pen name Oeam), who led a series of philosophical debates in late Joseon. Block-printed books and writings reflecting the thought and philosophy of Master Yi have been passed down through generations, and the traditional bulcheonwi jesa (offerings to ancestors worshipped in perpetuity) for Master Yi and food for the offerings have been transmitted as well. Traditional folk games have also been handed down for generations as the intangible cultural heritage of community.
The original form of a farm village of Joseon has been maintained through continuous preservation work. The development of the village and neighboring area has been limited to keep the authenticity of the old features of the town and its surrounding area. Traditional folk articles for daily use have been well preserved, and customs have been transmitted up to the present in the forms of the Joseon period. The gardens of several noble family houses, constructed in late Joseon, also maintain their original shapes, proving their high authenticity.
The scenery of the village displays the characteristic features of a typical farm village of Joseon, with Mt. Seolhwasan to the back and Geundaegolnae Stream to the front. After being designated as a Folk Village by South Chungcheong Province in 1978, the landscape and customs of the village has been protected. Currently, the village is under government protection as a State-designated cultural heritage.
The tile-roofed houses of the nobility show the typical shapes and technologies of wooden buildings of late Joseon, while the thatch-roofed buildings of commoners display folk methods and styles in the traditional building structure. In particular, the technique of thatching a roof has come down to the present by local residents who recognize it as an authentic intangible heritage.
Oeam Village is a typical farm village, maintaining its original condition compared to other folk villages in Korea. Currently, there are three noble villages (Hahoe, Yangdong and Hangae), two fortress villages (Naganeupseong, Seongeup) and two farm villages (Oeam and Wanggok) in Korea, all of which are designated as national heritage.
Unlike most folk villages in Korea, Oeam Village made artificial waterways to draw water into the houses. This artificial watercourse was constructed to ease the spirit of fire from Mt. Seolhwasan, the guardian mountain of the village according to geomancy, a unique feature distinguished from others. Usually, village walls were built with stones and topped with roof tiles, but all the walls in Oeam were built with stones. The gardens of noble families were decorated much more elaborately than those in other villages. Streams and ponds were made using the artificial watercourse in the village, artificial mountains were built with trees and stones, and ornamental trees were planted. This distinctive garden of late Joseon cannot be found in other villages of Korea.
China — Ancient Village of Hongcun
Oeam Village and the Ancient Village of Hongcun share their geographical features located in the gentle hill with mountains in the background. However, Oeam is a clan village of the Yean Yi family, which has developed naturally along the neighboring area without major transformation. In contrast, the Ancient Village of Hongcun shows the traits of a planned village in that it drew water from the river to make an artificial lake and let the waterways traverse in the village windingly. Oeam Village is a typical farm village in the central parts of the Korean peninsula, which was formed without any major plan of construction, and therefore shows the interaction between human life, nature and community.
Japan: Historic Village of Shirakawa-go
Oeam Village and the Historic Village of Shirakawa-go are similar in that they are naturally developed folk villages corresponding to surrounding geographical conditions. However, Oeam Village shows many differences as it was formed as a clan village for the Yean Yi family. The mingled houses of noble and common families and buildings in various styles also demonstrate its clear distinction with those in the Historic Village of Shirakawa-go. In addition, the village has a strong scholastic tradition, contributing to the development and succession of learning in the central province of Joseon, in particular Neo-Confucianism.
Vietnam: Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An is a trading village located in central Vietnam, where people from Vietnam, China and Japan live together in various types of architecture. Contrary to Hoi An formed based on trade and fishery, Oeam Village is a typical farm-based town.
There are remaining religious elements related to Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, together with a unique traditional religion in the village of Hoi An. Similar to this, people in Oeam Village have kept the tradition of ancestral worship and Confucianism, performing memorial rites and establishing family shrines.