Monday, June 4, 2012

Hello! Back with some more pics, 'cause honestly, this is pretty fun!

The following pics were taken on a humid day in 2008 at Geumsan Boriam Temple in Namhae, which sits on top of Geum Mountain (san means "mountain" in Korean and Japanese), which is not the tallest but is certainly the most majestic mountain in the area. The temple dates back to the Silla dynasty (57 BCE–935 CE) and is considered one of the most important places to pray for good fortune and things like that. Whether or not you are Buddhist, the aesthetic beauty of the place can't be denied. 

Here is a statue of the bodhisattva Gwan-eum, more popularly known by her Chinese name Guan-yin, standing in a lotus. She is the bodhisattva of mercy and compassion. This beautiful statue was made in more modern times and was carved from stone. It is maintained by the monks who live at the temple. Behind her to the right you can see the arches of one of the temple structures, which contains a statue of Shakyamuni himself, otherwise known as Buddha. To the left of the statue are incense sticks that can be burned in the pot on the shrine in front of Gwan-eum. Incense is usually burned in honour of deceased ancestors and loved ones. On the wooden floor in front of her are mats that people can pray on. Traditionally one prostrates oneself and stands up and then repeats this motion three times, but I was told the more times the better.

Here is one of the main buildings of the temple complex. I'm not sure what purpose this building serves but I think it houses a few more statues of the bodhisattva. Either way, it's pretty! One thing I love about Korean temples and traditional architecture is the colours that are incorporated in their decoration. Soft and varied colours seemed to be very popular, which makes for a cheerful yet relaxed tone. In fact, Korean traditional garments and decor are famous for their unique, rich colour schemes.

This reminds me of those traditional Chinese paintings you sometimes see of temples on mountainsides. Perhaps one of the most wonderful things about being there at that time was the mist. Though it's not that tall, there was a misty haze all around the mountain and it was impossible to see below. It was like being in some sort of magical realm. In this picture you can see the outline of one of the temple buildings overlooking a cliff. As you can see, the mist keeps one from being able to see the ground below. Quite breathtaking.

There were a number of these stones on the temple grounds. On the stone is carved, very intricately, Chinese characters. In times past, Koreans used the Chinese script, or Hanja, for writing rather than the now dominant Hangul alphabet (it looks like this: 한글), which was invented in the 15th century by the great king Seijong. Though Hanja is not widely used in Korea anymore it is still mandatory for students to learn it in Korea. I thought it was pretty impressive having such well-carved characters on the side of this giant rock. Sadly, I have no idea what this means; I think the large characters might be names but that's a shot in the dark. It could be a poem or an epitaph -- I really have no idea -- but it certainly looks nice! Another interesting thing in this shot is the woman sitting at the bottom right corner. This rock was located on a little hill that looked out above the temple, and some people where sitting there meditating. Again, quite a majestic site.        

Well, that's all for today. Hope you enjoyed 'em!

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