By Cpl. Yi JungUkMarch 22, 2015
City life is hectic. It is especially hard to maintain a balanced life when you're living in a densely populated megalopolis like Seoul. Congested traffic, skyscrapers piercing the skyline, and the never-sleeping streetlights keeps a man from inner peace. For serenity and tranquility people seek for parks or massages, but there's a better option here in Seoul.
Cheong Gye Cheon is a stream. It is eleven kilometers long (6.8 miles), and flows into the Han River. What is so special about it? It is an artificial stream, but it is as natural as it can be. Along and inside the stream are three hundred and eight types of plants, twenty-five different species of fish and thirty-six types of birds. But most importantly, it flows through and across the numerous skyscrapers and streetlights in the capital; definitely not an easy sight to see in other countries.
The history of Cheong Gye Cheon goes back all the way. During the Joseon Dynasty, the stream was an important venue for people to socialize. It was where they did their laundry and do the dishes, while during the summertime it was also a place to entertain. But it wasn't forever. The Miracle of the Han River, the unbelievably rapid industrialization of the country had its side effects. The stream was contaminated with waste and litter, and it was no longer a venue for the people. It was shrouded by a highway - which was absolutely more necessary to a growing metropolis than a polluted stream- by 1967.
For thirty-six years, until the year 2003, the stream remained undercover, under a pathway. The city had a dead stream in its closet. It was by the year 2005 when it finally regained its title as a venue for the people, a moment of peace in the hectic city. Thanks to a policy of the then Seoul Mayor, two years of construction allowed for the stream to reveal itself to the citizens once more. Though it may be artificial, it has been very carefully designed to resemble a stream at its natural state.
The stream since 2005 started providing numerous benefits to the city. Besides the environmental benefits, - ranging from reducing the average temperature and microscopic dust levels - Cheong Gye Cheon now stands tall as one of the best tourist attractions of the nation. It has countless merits not only for citizens, but also for tourists to be entertained with.
Being a stream that flows across the northern half of Seoul, walking along the Cheong Gye Cheon itself allows a visit to most of the national treasures. Walking distance from the stream's origin are Gyeongbok Palace, Gwanghwamun (the gate of the palace), and the city hall. No more than five minute of jogging from there will lead to the Boshingak, a giant bell that is rang every New Years Eve to celebrate the coming year and give a farewell to the previous one. On the way also is Jongmyo, the tomb of the emperors of the Joseon Dynasty which has been registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage at 1995.
Besides leading to different tourist attractions of the city, the stream itself also provides a mesmerizing sight. Being an amazingly 'natural' artificial stream, Cheong Gye Cheon greets the visitors after dark with bright fountains shining of LED lights. Laser performances are also held occasionally to entertain the citizens, but the best of the stream is November, when the annual Lamp Festival takes place.
The most important aspect of Cheong Gye Cheon, though, is that it has become a shelter for the hard-working adults, a reminiscence of the hometown for the elderly, and the best place to cuddle for lovers.
City life is hectic. It is especially hard to maintain a balanced life when you're living in a densely populated megalopolis like Seoul. Congested traffic, skyscrapers piercing the skyline, and the never-sleeping streetlights keeps a man from inner peace. And whenever they are tired, people here give a visit to Cheong Gye Cheon. Why not give it a try?