Posted by: rbbadger | May 7, 2009

Geumnyonsa

In the Korean folk village, there is a small Buddhist temple, relocated here from another province in Korea.  As I mentioned, there is a monk in residence there who was engaged in doing his laundry when I visited.  Traditionally, the temples were built on the sides of hills or mountains, though Jogyesa in Seoul, located smack dab in the middle of the city is a big exception.  The reason for this is that for a long time, Buddhists were not permitted to have their temples within the city gates.

As with Jogyesa, the first gate that you go through is iljimun or the one-pillar gate.

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After going through the one-pillar gate, you next come upon the four guardians gate.  Jogyesa does not have a four guardians gate, though it does have the one-pillar gate.  This gate contains four statues of scary looking statues.  These statues are supposedly of the four devas who guarded the Buddha as he left his palace.  Siddharta Gautauma, later known as the Buddha, was originally a prince in India who forsook his heritage as a prince to live the life of a hermit and a beggar.

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Unfortunately, the statues are very big, so it was difficult to photograph them well.  After passing through the gate, you come upon the main Buddha hall itself.cimg0849

The main Buddha hall has an image of Amita Buddha, a popular figure in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Buddhism.  Amita Buddha has, it is said, vowed to save all those who call upon him.  Those who call upon him will be reborn in the Pure Land, the western paradise, where it is said that they will have no hindrances to attaining enlightenment. 

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As you can see, the painting on the various buildings is quite exquisite.  This traditional painting is very expensive now, often costing as much, if not more than the structure being painted. 

If you go up the hill, you can see a very small shrine devoted to the mountain god, a popular deity in Korean shamanism.  Buddhism is generally quite tolerant of shamans, though the monks themselves generally don’t perform ceremonies in the shrines.  The focus of their religious activities is either in the meditation hall or in the main Buddha hall where they perform ceremonies.

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The mountain god, or mountain spirit, is always depicted with a tiger.  There was a time when tigers freely roamed the hills and mountains of Korea, though they have been thought to be extinct for some time.  The shrine to the mountain spirit, located appropriately on a very high point, affords one an excellent view of the surroundings.

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Unfortunately, you don’t often get to come into close contact with the four instruments that are used to announce the times for chanting.  Here, we can see the drum, the cloud shaped gong, and the wooden fish.

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We can also see the large bell as well.

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These four instruments are meant to awake all creatures, humans, birds, fish, and everything else to the Buddha’s teachings.  Because Buddhists believe that one has the capacity to reborn as something good or something worse depending on one’s karma, the monks and the truly devout will not eat meat or fish.  Also, the Buddhist precepts which the monks and some of the devout laity embrace forbid the consumption of alcohol as well.

While I have posted much on Buddhism, I do so an outsider.  While I am interested in having meaningful dialogues with Buddhists, I am not interested in becoming one myself.  To understand something of Korean history, you do have to have an understanding of Buddhism and Confucianism.  So many of the greatest treasures that this country has to offer are rooted in Buddhism.  While Christianity is now a very big religion in South Korea, we can’t ignore how much Buddhism, Confucianism, and even Korean shamanism shaped the culture and the lives of the people here today.

On Palm Sunday, there was a very nice teacher who sat next to me.  She was an American and this was her first experience of Sunday Mass in Korea.  I asked her what she thought of Korea, as she had indicated that she was widely traveled.  She said, “it is the most different place I’ve ever been to”.  And Korea is, to be blunt, a weird place.  Its inhabitants are truly unique.  One of the first European foreigners to travel the length and breadth of the nation, Isabella Bird Bishop, spoke of how her first impressions were ones of great repugnance.  But later, she developed such great attachments to the people that she found parting a great sorrow.

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Responses

  1. Sorry I kind of fell out of the loop. Well, I’m caught up on your posts now. So that lotus flower is a lantern and not just a paper flower? That is really neat!
    I also think it’s cool that you went to the folk village and took the time to climb up to the temple. Sounds like you are learning a lot and having a great time. I’m glad. I enjoyed all the pictures. 🙂
    Love, Christine

  2. […] This image is of the Mountain Spirit.  This is from Geumnyeonsa, a small temple located inside the Korean Folk Village in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province.  You can see photos of that temple by clicking on this link.  […]


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