Korea's Confucian Academies, called Seowon in Korean, were built throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. They served as schools for scholars to study and improve by following Confucian principles. There are many of these centers of education throughout Korea, with UNESCO recognizing Sosuseowon Confucian Academy, Namgyeseowon Confucian Academy, Oksanseowon Confucian Academy, Dosanseowon Confucian Academy, Piramseowon Confucian Academy, Dodongseowon Confucian Academy, Byeongsanseowon Confucian Academy, Museongseowon Confucian Academy, and Donamseowon Confucian Academy in 2019. These nine sites are exemplary in their universal value, promoting and continuing traditional culture.
Sosuseowon Confucian Academy was the first of these schools in Korea. It received support from the nation as an official academy of learning, with the academy signboard coming as a gift from the king. It was founded under mid-Joseon dynasty Confucian scholar Ju Se-bung (1495-1554). This academy is unique for placing the two study buildings of Jikbangjae Hall and Ilsinjae Hall together.
Dosanseowon Confucian Academy was established in 1574 to honor Toegye Yi Hwang, one of the nation's most important scholars. The academy features simple, humble construction to help scholars focus on the teachings and works of Toegye Yi Hwang. The main lecture hall is connected with a shrine and annex building.
Byeongsanseowon Confucian Academy originally started during the Goyreo era as Pungakseodang School. It was renamed Byeongsanseowon when the school was moved to the current location in Andong. It is a prime example of the early style of construction for Confucian academies, with a lecture hall, memorial hall, student dormitories, and a dining hall. The school overlooks Nakdonggang River, showing a strong harmony with the surrounding nature.
Donamseowon Confucian Academy was founded by Sagye Kim Jangsaeng (1548-1631). The name was given in 1660 by King Hyeonjong (1641-1674). These nine UNESCO-designated seowon are just some of the few Confucian academies that survived the seowon purge led by Heungseon Daewongun.