Tour Through Time: Stop 12: Sonjuk Bridge

After a brief 6 miles from the North-South Divide we arrive at Kaesong’s Sonjuk Bridge. This stone bridge was built in 1290, is 8.35m long and 3.36m wide. It was originally called the Sonji Bridge and is the assassination site of Jeong Mong-Ju.

Jeong Mong-Ju was born in Gyeongsang in 1337 during the Goryeo Dynasty. His pseudonym “Po-Eun” means “hidden treasure”. In 1350 when he was 23 he became a civil servant, passing his exams with the highest marks achievable. In 1367 at the age of 30 he taught Neo-Confucianism at the Gukjagam as well as holding his position in the government and being a servant of King U.

As King U had been placed on the throne by an anti-Ming group led by a High Government Official who had assassinated the former King, the Ming Dynasty became suspicious of the legitimacy of King U. 14 years into his reign the Ming established a command post in Northeast Korea which Goryeo saw as a threat. Soon a Ming envoy entered Goryeo and demanded a large area of territory be returned to them. General Choi-Yong convinced King U to send General Yi Seong-Gye and his army to attack the Ming’s, despite a previous government policy of never attacking neighbours. General Yi marched to meet the Ming but when he saw the size of the opposition he decided to turn them around. He marched back to the capital, stormed the palace, de-throned the King and banished General Choi-Yong. After using, exiling and murdering a couple of puppet Kings, he finally installed himself as King, thereby ending the Goryeo Dynasty and beginning the Joseon Dynasty.

Jeong Mong-Ju was fiercely loyal to the Goryeo Dynasty but King Yi Seong-Gye still thought highly of him. The King’s son, Yi Bang-Won, held a banquet for Jeong Mong-Ju to convince him to forget his loyalty to the former Dynasty. He recited a poem to him, saying “What if one goes this way, or that way? What if arrowroots of Mt. Mansu be tangled together? Tangled likewise, let us prosper for hundred years”. However, Jeong Mong-Ju replied “Though I may die and die again a hundred times, That my bones turn to dust, whether my soul remains or not, Ever loyal to my Lord, how can this red heart ever fade away?”.

Yi Bang-Won ordered his assassination, and on his way home from the banquet, on 4th April 1392, Jeong Mong-Ju was ambushed by five men and brutally murdered with an iron hammer. King Yi Seong-Gye is said to have lamented his death and rebuked his son for his actions because Jeong Mong-Ju was highly regarded by the common people

His death later came to symbolise unwavering loyalty. A brown spot on one of the stones is said to be his bloodstain and becomes red when it rains. Bamboo also grew at the site where he was killed. As “juk” is the Korean word for bamboo the bridge was renamed the Sonjuk Bridge and was closed to traffic in 1780 as a national monument. Over the years various other monuments have been erected near the bridge including two lion-turtles in the Pyonchung Pavillion opposite, one erected in 1740 by King Yeongjo and the other in 1872 by King Gojong, both housing a stone tablet (stele) upon its back.

We mark our arrival with 6 glute bridge variations before continuing 27 miles south to a burial site.

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