Winter in Korea – Part 1

Classes have started up for me again, and while the workload isn’t too much, I did find myself having some difficulty finding time to blog about my most recent trip to Korea. Thankfully, it’s Friday now, so I can fit in some quality blogging time to share my journey with you guys. Hurrah!

While most of the trip was spent in Seoul (where my brother lives), our family did get the chance to go on a 4-day trip to the other regions of Korea. Some of the places we visited were Daejeon (though this was primarily to pay our respects to my grandparents who are buried there), Jeonju, Namwon, and Suncheon. It was nice to get away from the hubbub of busy Seoul life, and to immerse ourselves in all the natural and cultural beauty that other regions of South Korea had to offer.

Near Daejeon is Gyeryongsan National Park (계룡산국립공원). In addition to being a natural refuge for eleven different endangered species of animals, the park is also home to numerous Buddhist temples, including Sinwonsa (신원사), a temple first built in the year 651 during King Uija’s reign of Baekje, one of the old Kingdoms that existed from 18BC – 660AD.

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To get to the temple grounds, we had to walk up a winding mountain path. I say mountain path, but it was all asphalt where we would be walking, which was nice since it was already really cold and I didn’t want to be exerting myself too much physically going uphill. Along the path were small signs with reflective texts hung on the many trees. It was fun to stop very so often to read them and meditate as we were approaching the temple.

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There were many small piles of pebbles that people had stacked on the walk up to the temple. In Korea, pebble stacking is done near Buddhist temples (or really, anywhere that has a large number of stones laying around) as a form of meditation, worship, or asking for good fortune or health.

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There is no ONE building in Buddhist temples; rather, the complex is comprised of several buildings, all with different names and serving different purposes that may have changed over the centuries. This building is called Gil-Sang-Am (길상암), and I’m not entirely sure what its purpose is…I think it is one of the many meditation halls? Not sure.

We noticed that in front of one of the small stone pagodas in front of a temple building was a rather impressive collection of Buddha figures. It was interesting to think about how the practice started, and kind of adorable to think of all these people climbing the mountain path, with small plastic Buddhas in tow, to join the rest of the Buddha dolls.

I’m not particularly religious in any way, so when I go to Buddhist temples, I think of it more as a meditative and artistic experience. Which is why I really love old Korean architecture; the paintings done on the underside of roofs and supporting columns are so intricate and detailed, and most of all, a labor of love.

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As we reached the top of the temple path, the sun was just starting to set over the mountain-tops, resulting in this beautiful view.

As we headed back down the mountain path, we took another route (this one not encased in asphalt). It was nice to start off our vacation with a small breather, courtesy of Mother Nature.

We then headed off to Jeonju to spend the night, but I’ll save that for another post.

Signing off,
Marie

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