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Traditional Korean Residence

A traditional Korean house is called 'Hanok'. Hanok sought to create a living space based on the coexistence of nature and humans. Accordingly, the natural aspects of a traditional Korean houses range from the structure's inner layout to the building materials which were used. Another unique feature of traditional houses is their special design for cooling the interior in the summer and heating the interior in the winter. Since Korea has such hot summers and cold winters, the 'ondol gudeul,' a floor-based heating system and 'daecheong,' a cool wooden-floor style hall were devised long ago to help Koreans survive the frigid winters and to make the sweltering and humid summers bearable. These primitive types of heating and air-conditioning were so effective that they are still in use in many homes today.

Principles of Positioning Hanok
Traditional houses in Korea have been heavily influenced by the natural environment. The location of a house was selected according to the tenets of the ancient art of geomancy, also known as Feng Shui, which determined a site's natural energy forces based on its geographic features. The philosophy of 'baesanimsu,' which stipulated that houses should face water and have mountains in their background was also a strong consideration.

Layout of Hanok
The internal layout of a traditional house was based on Confucian ideas so there were separate residences based on class, sex and age. Living quarters were divided into a high-, mid- and low sections through the use of separate buildings or the erection of small walls. The higher section consisted of the anchae (the main building) and the sarangchae (the men's sitting room) was used by the elite yangban class. The lower section, which was located closest to the main gate, served as living quarters for the servants. The mid section was attached to the jungmun (the inner gate) and was used by middle-class household managers.

Composition of Hanok
A yangban residence had various types of living quarters for its residents. The living quarters consisted of the sarangchae, the building reserved for the head of the house hold to reside and receive guests in, the haengnangchae, which were servants' living quarters, the anchae, the inner living quarters for the head woman of the household, her children and other women, and the sadangchae, the shrine to honor the spirits of family ancestors. Each section was separated by walls with gates, such as the jungmun, which allow access to other sections of the house. The main gate of the soseuldaemun is connected directly to the sarangchae, but the anchae was hidden behind the jungmun (the inner gate) so that it couldn't be seen from the outside. The shrine was surrounded by a separate set of walls, an indication of its sacredness.

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A soseuldaemun is a large main gate with a high upper roof. It indicated the social class of the house owner and served as a symbol of yangban homes.

Sarang Daecheong (wooden-floored halls of the sarangchae):
The daecheong of a high class residence is a space which connects rooms. Sarang Daecheong served as a place for social functions, receiving guests and for dinning in the summer. Both sides of the hall were usually decorated with sabang tables that had celadon ceramics and antiques on them.

In traditional yangban houses, the sarangbang was the main room of the sarangchae, where the head of the household lived and received guests in addition to taking meals, reading, contemplating, and engaging in artistic activities.


Saetdam and Jungmun (small walls and inner gate):
The traditional yangban residence was divided into the 'inner' quarters used by women and the 'outer' quarters used by men. The sections were divided by erecting small walls in a large countryyard or using separate living quarters, and people accessed the other sections through a jungmun.

The anbang was the center of the residence, where the head woman of the household ran various aspects of the household, especially those relating to clothing and food. It mostly contained various types of wardrobes and chests that stored clothes and bedclothes. It also contained other furniture, small household items and folding screens.

The andaecheong consisted of the anbang and the geonneonbang, where the head woman of the houlsehold and any daughter-in-laws lived. It was furnished with a wooden rice chest, cupboards, a table used for ancestral memorial services, a small table with an incense burner, chairs, and candlesticks.

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Giwa (Korean tiles) and Roofs
Giwa was a criterion for distinguishing nobles from commoners. They were used to build yangban houses. The roof shapes of yangban included the soseul jubung (a combination of a paljak jibung and a gabled roof), the paljak jibung (a /\ shaped roof), the ujingak jibung (a hipped roof) and the matbae jibung (a gabled roof).

During this time, the kitchen was either attached to the anbang, the women's living space, or built 75cm-90cm lower than other rooms, which had an 'ondor' heating system. In this heating system, flat stones underneath the floor (called gudeul) were heated by warm air that flows from the kitchen fireplaces through the ducts which were built under the rooms.

The jangdokdae is a terrace where small and large onggi (crockery and clay ware) were placed to store and ferment various foods. The jangdokdae was situated in a clean area near the kitchen. This placement was chosen because it could get plenty of sunshine and ventilation to preserve foods and maintain freshness.

A sadang is a shrine where ancestral tables were preserved. It was located in the innermost area of the residence, where it was thought to receive the energy of nearby mountains. Usually memorial tablets of family ancestors from the previous four generations were kept in the shrine.

Traditional Houses by Region
Traditional Korean houses varied slightly by region. The differences were the result of adaptation to the region's natural environment. Local construction materials were used and houses were designed according to regional climatic forces, such as strong winds and heavy snow, which were common in certain areas.
Houses in the central and southern provinces were mainly thatched roof houses made of straw, while in Jeju-do, most of the houses were thatched roof houses made of stone and straw ropes. Both Ulleungdo and Gangwon-do contained the neowajip style house, a shingled house which was made from oak trees. The Ulleungdo area also had tumakjip houses, which were constructed from logs and mud. Houses of commoners also had different shapes according to their region. For instance, houses in the northern area were 'ㅁ' shaped while houses in the southern and middle were '11" and 'ㄱ' shaped.


Gangwon-do Neowajip
Neowajip, a wooden shingled type of house, is a traditional house which was found in the region of Gangwon-do. In the mostly mountainous province, it was difficult to grow rice, so houses were made of logs, which were easily found in the vicinity. Neowajip houses were roofed with shingles made of oak tiles sliced directly from the trees.

Ulleungdo Tumakjip (log cabin)
Tumakjip houses, also called gwiteuljip, were built by settlers on Ulleungdo. These houses were constructed by overlapping logs and filling the gaps with mud. The outside of the structure was covered with udegi and woven eulalias to block the wind.

Jeju-do Thatched-Roof Houses

On jeju-do, where strong winds and typhoons frequently occur, houses were mainly built with stone and straw, and straw ropes were used to secure the roof and prevent it from being blown away by winds. Unlike other regions, the walls here were made with both mud and stones.

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Information provided by Korea National Tourism Organization.


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