Monday, May 19, 2014

Yonggungsa Temple

Our first stop of the morning was to Yonggungsa Temple. A common pattern during our driving to the different destinations this holiday weekend, the roads were quite congested - particularly so when we got closer to the temple. Unlike most Buddhist temples in Korea which are situated in the protective isolation of the mountains, Yonggungsa is located right above a rocky shore. Founded in 1376, the main temple was carefully restored in 1970, using the same colors as the structures burned down by the Japanese. Typical of Korean temples and other historical buildings of importance, the site was chosen with great care, ensuring that nature and man-made creations harmonized with each other. 

Much like the road leading up to the area, the entire site of Younggungsa was heavily congested. The pathway leading up to the temple site was lined with vendors selling snacks and souvenirs. People stopped to buy treats as well as to take photos of themselves or friends with their cell phones or big SLRs.  I would have loved to have stayed longer, taking the time to appreciate the many structures and scenes from varied vantage points, but this was not possible during the short time allotted for our visit. I read that the temple on the sea shore was particularly beautiful at sunrise, as well as when the cherry blossoms are in their glory. Another time…

Next to the main temple was a large golden laughing Buddha statue with a rotund belly. People were having fun trying to flick coins, believing it good luck if the coin landed on top of the belly. Scaffolding for the rainbow of lanterns obscured the lower portion view of the happy sculpture as well as the lower part of the main hall. Following the canopy of lanterns down the stairs, I headed towards the beautiful stone bridge and walked across its expanse carried along by a sea of people. Up more stairs, I managed to get a beautiful view of the temple perched above its rocky shore line. The turquoise of the water contrasted with the neutral rocks, and furthermore with the rainbow canopy of lanterns. A few lines of single colored lanterns led further up to some stone stupas and higher yet to a large white statue. A truly beautiful scene that begs further exploration.

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