Gwangju Local School (Hyanggyo) comes into view 50m past the alley opposite Seohyeon Church located at the back of Gwangju Park in west downtown. The place looks like a country woman who appears blushing and waiting for people to welcome. People who are not interested in that place can pass by without noticing it because it is such a quiet place. The role of Gwangju Hyanggyo is a Confucian School, and was designated Gwangju City Tangible Cultural Properties No.9 in 1985. It was originally located under Jangwonbong Peak, Mudeung Mountain in 1398; however it was transferred to Dongmyeong-dong because of a tiger's attack. However Kwon Supyeong, who was a governor of Gwangju County, built the building at Ku-dong where it is today, because it was damaged in a flood in 1488. After that, it was burned by the Japanese army during the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1597. Fortunately Kwon Ilje conserved the memorial tablet placed in Daeseongjeon in a safe place to avoid disaster. The tablet was enshrined after the building was reconstructed. Seong Hyeon left a record of the transfer of the Hyanggyo at that time. When it was being built, people helped eagerly, as if working on something of their own that belonged to them. It is said the size of the completed Confucian School building was similar to the present size of Daeseongjeon, Dongseomu, Myeongryundang, Samajae, Dongseojae, Jeonsachung and others. These days, Gwangju Hyanggyo Confucian School plays the role of sanitation facilities for modern people exhausted by worldly affairs. Gwangju Hyanggyo Confucian School operates cultural programs which reflect the life of the common people and lecture on the Chinese characters that embody Confucian ideas, such as loyalty and filial piety. The school also performs religious services. Seokjeondaeje (a big sacrifice to the ancestors of a clan) is one of the religious services in Gwangju Hyanggyo Confucian School. Local officials, Confucian scholars and citizens open the ceremony at the Hyanggyo and Seongkyunkwan (the government office which had Confucian education in the Joseon dynasty) in spring and fall twice a year. This ceremony, which is held only in Korea, was designated as Important InTangible Cultural Propertiess No. 85. The lecture for the Chinese characters is an educational program in Hyanggyo divided into beginner classes and intermediate classes, according to students' abilities. Basic Chinese characters such as Sajasohak, Chugu, Hakeojib and the Thousand-Character text, Myeongsimbogam and the deep Chinese writings such as Sohak, the Great Learning, Jungyong, the Analects of Confucius, Daedonggimun, and Mencius are being taught at Yangsajae and Myeongryundang. There are Confucian programs for workers on weekend and students of vacation such as the loyalty and filial piety class, the calligraphy class and the Eastern philosophy class, as well as the Kwanhonsangjae (four ceremonial occasions: coming-of-age, marriage, funeral, and ancestor worship ceremonies). The traditional wedding ceremony is a program that represents the cultural life of the citizens. The ceremony enables people to know about the worth of developing, inheriting and preserving Korean culture. It is held four or five times every week. It is also inexpensive, because the school has noncommercial purposes. Classes for traditional etiquette, the art of ceremonial tea-making and Pyebaek (salutations offering to the Clan of the bridegroom by the bride) are held, as well as customs for the life of new adults, offering diverse festivals through the coming-of-age ceremony of manhood and womanhood. In addition, there is the commendation ceremony for the dutiful son, daughter and daughter-in-law and the reception for elders who are patterns of others through filial piety and good conduct in the regional society. Hyang-gyo also carries out classes on loyalty and filial piety and courtesy for tourists. The role of the Hyanggyo is more various than one might expect. It is enough for the Hyang-gyo to remind people of remembering the past and looking to the future. In a time of internationalization and globalization, the place brings people back to learn the roots of Korean culture and the identity of Korea, which can easily be lost. It also plays a role as an indicator for the future.
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