If you’re into the arts and culture scene like i am, you’ll find the stretch of Insadong a perfect way to spend an entire afternoon navigating the streets and uncovering the host of museums and galleries concentrated there.
During my one month stay in Korea, I visited many a gallery, shrine and museum but this post is dedicated to the Mokin Museum – a quaint and cozy museum with wooden dolls on display.
So I don’t lose you, Mokin are carved and painted wooden figures of people, animals and decorative motifs that were used to primarily decorate funeral carriages, sangyeo [creepy, I know!], but are also featured in other local ceremonies and even the occult arts.
The three story-building caught my eye with its somewhat out of place facade, lined with stability wires and dried up vines the building looked almost abandoned except for the fresh coat of paint on the door.
I would assume that the facade would be lush and green in summer time [you can see traces of the vines that creep and cover the facade in the image above], reminiscent of cottage huts back when in the old English country.
Not accustomed to what I’ve come to learn as Korean hospitality [Singapore, you’ve just got to pick up the standards man.. Korea’s not the first country to have wowed me with their service and hospitality], I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a cup(s) of hot tea as we explored the museum. Trust me, nothing feels better than a warm cuppa in the bitter cold of winter in Korea.
As we combed the corridors and rooms, we discovered that the 3-storey building with a garden houses over 3, 000 wooden dolls. In certain rooms, the Mokin gave me the chills but I pressed on intrigued by the fine handiwork of craftsmen back when tools were less sophisticated.
As i mentioned earlier, the Mokin were most commonly used on a funeral bier as it symbolises the deceased’s journey to the next world. Taking on various shapes and forms, including a person, dragon, tiger , phoenix, you’ll notice on close inspection that the under area of the Mokin are shaped to fit the hearse.
Hanging from the walls of the museum is an array of masks known as guimyeon, also known as the face of a goblin. These masks are placed on the front and rear of a hearse to protect it from evil spirits.
Mokin is not the only reason to visit the Mokin Museum as there are multiple rest areas within the space for you to hide away from the bitter cold in winter/ warm of summer and sip on the free flow of coffee, tea or juice. I really enjoyed the rooftop garden which offers a bird’s eye view of Insadong as you calculate the miles you’ve covered on foot. I never fail to amaze myself at the distance I cover on foot while on a holiday.
Directions are listed below. Tips and details on Mokin Museum as follows:
Operating hours: 1000 – 1900 hours
Admissions: Over the age of 19: ￦5,000, 18 years old and under: ￦3,000
Tip: Foreign language guides are available but be sure to make reservations in advance. Languages include Japanese and English so do give them a ring to book your guides!
Directions: Get off Subway Line #3 at Anguk Station and go out of Exit #6 and walk straight to reach the main street of Insa-dong. Follow the Insa-dong Main Street about 200 meters and on the left you will see a yellow ‘ㅆ’ sign. This is the Ssamzi Space Building. About 70 meters into the alley with a sign of Mokin Museum in English and Chinese across this building is the Insa-dong Information Center. A few meters before you reach this center, you’ll see the Mokin Museum to your right.