Dwellings


The architectural form of graceful, sloping roofs whose edges are slightly raised like the wings of a crane presents an original beauty that can be seen only in Korean-style houses. The hip-saddle roof, which forms a beautiful contour in line with the geographical and natural features of the country, its environment and the national emotion and taste of the Korean people, is a basic form of tiled roof and gives an impression of majesty and lightness. It is symbolic of Korean architecture. Typical examples of Korean architecture are the Grand People's Study House in the central part of Pyongyang, which has big granite pillars and 25 blue-tiled hip-saddled roofs overlapping in the shape of a flight of cranes in the blue sky, the People's Palace of Culture, the Pyongyang Grand Theatre and the Okryu Restaurant.

The ondol heating system is integral to traditional Korean dwellings. Similar to the Roman hypocaust system in the ancient West, the heat from the fireplace in the kitchen is led through flues under the floor to heat the living quarters. The traditional way of relaxing at home for the Koreans is to relax on a matted- or papered-floor room, and not lounge on beds, couches or chairs. In an ondol-heated room, the place nearest to the fireplace is the warmest part of the room and the place furthest away is the coldest. Old people like to sit on the warmest part of the floor. It is a revered custom among the Koreans for guests to be given the seat of honour (the warm place nearest to the fireplace in winter and the cool part of the room in summer). It is considered good manners for younger guests to decline the seat of honour.

As the Koreans live in ondol-heated and papered-floor rooms, people take off their shoes outside before entering the room.

The ondol-heating system typical of the Korean nation and having a long history, is now widely used in the highrise buildings in cities.

In olden times people chose as sites for their houses places surrounded by hills in the east, west, south and north, which were supposed to be guarded by the Blue Dragon, White Tiger, Red Bird and Turtle-Serpent, respectively. In addition, a stream or river should complete the auspicious site by flowing in front on the south side of the house. This aspiration, enshrined in the ancient superstitious practice of geomancy, reflects the modest desire of the Korean people to lead happy lives in houses built on fertile places which command pleasant views and are inhabited by good-hearted people. The thatched huts, in which the common people of Korea had lived for thousands of years have been pulled down in the rural villages of Korea. Nowadays, people live in neat and charming modem villages. However, care is still taken to build multi-storeyed apartment houses on the south-facing or sunny sides of slopes, in deference to ancestral tradition.

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