Saturday, April 20, 2013

Seokgulam Grotto

As the public bus made its way up the steep, winding road, we were glad that we decided to not hike to Seokgulam Grotto, yet another UNESCO site. Colorful lanterns strung closely together lined both sides of the winding gravel road, leading visitors from the parking lot and all the way to the ticketing area of the site. In front of the ticket booth, adjumonie women with their characteristic wide-brimmed sun visors securely fastened with tied tied scarves displayed their snacks for sale - veggies, sprouts, and roasted chestnuts. Hardly the types of snacks/junk food you’d encounter at a stall in the USA. 

According to the short history printed on my 4,000 won ticket, the Seokgulam Grotto is assumed to be built around 751 AD. Considered one of the best Buddhist shrines in the world, it shares the UNESCO site distinction with the neighboring Bulguksa Temple. History states that Kim Dae-Seong built Bulguksa for his parents who were still living at that time, and had Seokguram built for his parents of a previous life. More colorful lanterns led us yet further up the hill until we reached the wooden building with a grass-covered (still brown) mound above it. Prominent “no photography” signs indicated that yet again, we could only look. Once inside the narrow space, we had a limited view of the famous grotto. A single large pane of glass prevented us from getting closer to take in the full view. We could, however, see the 3.48m high Buddha statue carved out of granite, seated on an elevated platform w/ a lotus on top. Surrounding it were relief carvings of some disciples, but many of them were obscured from view.

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