Monday, November 30, 2015

Daeungbojeon Hall, Seonunsa

Monk in Daeungbojeon hall, Seonunsa Temple

Friday, November 27, 2015

Geommmu Sword Dance, Korea

Geommu dancer

The Geommu sword dance has its origins in the martial arts and is considered one of the most ancient forms of Korean royal court dances.

According to the Asia-Pacific Database on Intangible Cultural Heritage:
"Geommu is said to have long history of more than 1,300 years since 660 in ancient Shinra Dynasty. A story about its origin is as follows: A seven-year-old boy called Hwangchang went into Baeckje Kingdom's Royal Court in disguise where he killed the enemy King with a sword while performing Geommu before him. He was arrested and was executed. On hearing of his heroic deeds, Shinra people made his mask and performed Geommu with it in honour of him. There are some other records that indicate Geommu has been a mask dance at least until the end of Koryo Dynasty although it now has changed into an elegant female dance without masks.
The basic rhythmic pattern used in Jinju-Geommu are Yeombul, Taryeong, Jazeun (fast)Taryeong according to tempo. Usually, 8 female dancers perform in various formations and groupings. Especially, its delicate sleeve movements are attractive. Although its martial character has been much diluted as it became a court dance repertory, it still keeps the dynamic spirit of ancient martial dance in its techniques and composition. Jinju-Geommu has been designated as Important Intangible Cultural Treasure No. 12 in 1967."

Color Pencil: Lotuses and Lattice, Bongwonsa

My latest color pencil drawing Lotuses and Lattice, Bongwonsa

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Travel Thankfulness

Seonunsa - South Korea
School is out for the rest of the week - I finally have a chance to take a breath. I am sitting in my cozy warm apartment just steps away from my classroom. With the cold wind and even a few flurries in the air, I was thankful for such a short commute. Our faculty Thanksgiving lunch was started with a prayer and Thanksgiving song, sung first in English and then in Korean. This evening I'll attend another one with some friends, and yet another one tomorrow. So wonderful to be in the company of colleagues, celebrating a holiday where we just begin to touch on the many blessings heaped upon us by our Lord and Creator.   
The Great Wall - China

I'm in my 16th year teaching internationally. What incredible places I've had the opportunity to travel in and to teach. I'll never tire of the incredible beauty that God has created - such diverse landscapes, how He faithfully causes the seasons to happen each year, providing renewal in so many ways. 
Shekhawati - India
Angkor Wat - Cambodia
To explore incredible man-made wonders with friends - and even have a little fun.
Kashmir - India
To meet locals and put a personal side on travels, even if we can't speak the same language.
To witness such generosity and hospitality, freely giving and sharing what little they have. 
Timbuktu, Mali
To witness far-flung places at a time when it was safe to do so. 
Sirogojno, Serbia
To shop with friends and share new experiences.
HaLong Bay - Vietnam
To be able to fly during holidays, transported to a new world and arrive back at school, refreshed.
Taj Mahal - India
To see some Wonders of the World and UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Penang - Malaysia
To view unique crafts being created, including those that are slowly disappearing.
Ella - Sri Lanka

Monday, November 23, 2015

Seonunsa Streams and Autumn Foliage

When hiking through Seonunsa, I just couldn't help myself. Such incredible autumn foliage, echoed in the streams along the path. Even the rains couldn't dampen my excitement of the beauty around me.  

Just think of how these scenes would have looked if the skies would have been under clear skies or during the "golden hour" of late afternoon...

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Gangnam Autumn Reflections - times ten

Fall in Gangnam, Seoul - even better when seeing it multiple times through multiple reflections and even reflections of those reflections. It's good to preserve such memories for those upcoming dull and dreary winter days.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Drops of Autumn Pearls

The last several weekends have been wet ones in Korea. Unfortunately, this coincided right with some peak autumn colors. My plans for capturing the leaves with early morning or late afternoon light went right out the window. 

Equipped with a rain jacket, I took a few photos of some of the trees on our school campus. I loved the complimentary colors of this image.

 Raindrops collected and beaded up on the branches like pearls.

Even the puddles had their own beauty.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sunday Morning Walk to the Temple

After a couple of rainy weekends, the sun briefly came out on Sunday after church. Although I had plenty to do, I felt compelled to at least go for a quick walk through the nearby woods and local temple. Perhaps by next weekend, the brilliant autumn trees might be devoid of their magnificent leaf display.

What a difference several weeks made; trees that were must beginning to turn colors were now just past their prime.  

Pathways were carpeted with warm-hued leaves. The collection grew as the gentle breeze loosened more fiery-colored leaves, fluttering to the ground.
Yellows spotted by the door on the freshly-painted temple building were echoed in the nearby trees.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Visit to Cheong Wa Dae

On this very dreary Saturday morning, two colleagues and I toured Cheong Wa Dae, which means "The Blue House." The executive office and official residence of the President of South Korea, Cheong Wa Dae is set amidst a beautiful landscaped grounds. 
It got its name from the 150,000 blue tiles adorning the roof. Each was individually baked to ensure durability of over 100 years.  In the background is Mt. Bugaksan; however, the mists of the rain enshrouded the mountain.

We reserved a tour spot over two months ago. Passports were required, and a security screening was conducted at the time of reservation and a physical one repeated upon entrance into the grounds upon leaving the required shuttle bus. I had to leave my zoom lens at the security check. My colleagues and I each were given an English translation player, as the tour was only in Korean. Schoolchildren comprised most of those on the tour. 
Before our English narration was even completed for each stop, we were herded to the next stop, always accompanied by tall, handsome security men in black suits. At one stop, we were given permission to take photographs in a certain direction, which included the umbrella-shaped bansong tree. One of the guards offered to take our photos, so we obliged.

At the reception hall, about 20 minutes after the tour started, we were asked to give back the required number tag around our necks. It was then that we realized that the tour was over. Another security person arrived with my zoom lens and our passports. 
So long, Cheong Wa Dae!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Seoul Lantern Festival 2015

Yesterday evening I attended the Seoul Lantern Festival with some friends. Although I don't typically like to attend events during a school night, past experience convinced me that this was the only feasible time to go to such a popular event. 

When we arrived prior to dusk, I was so pleased to see that we could walk right in the entrance and down to the Cheonggyecheon Stream. Contrast that to last year, when the decision to attend on a Friday night resulted in a packed wait in line for well over an hour and a mob of people pushing down by the stream. Not a very ideal photography scenario!

This year, we started at the far end where the first set of hanji paper lantern sculptures were geared towards kids. Cartoon characters popular in Korea, as well as some of a more international flair. 
There were also some lantern displays with an advertising component and still others of different countries, including one of Mount Rushmore. It felt a bit out of place, but rather interesting to see such an iconic piece of Americana down in Seoul.

My favorite ones were of a traditional theme. The throne room of Deoksugung Palace was particularly impressive, in its scale, detail, and sculptural aspects. 

If you're in town this month, do be sure to come and visit the Seoul Lantern festival. The display will be up until November 22.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Splashes and Canopies of Color

What a wonderful thing it is to live right next to such a beautiful campus. Although Yonsei University is an impressive campus at any time during the year, its well-maintained grounds is particularly notable during the fall and spring. In the fall, I look forward to seeing "my tree" (pictured above in the left side of the photo) blaze its tiny maple leaves in fire red.

By the old Tudor-style buildings, Gingko, chestnut, and maple trees abound. The vines on the buildings also turn crimson red, adding to the warmth of the scenery.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Glow of the Chestnut Leaves

It was a good feeling to have finished with report cards. Stepping outside of school, I saw how beautiful the late afternoon lighting was. So I did what any good photographer would do - dumped my school bag and grabbed my camera. The neighboring campus of Yonsei University did not disappoint. The warm "golden hour" sunlight dappled on some maple leaves near one of the older buildings. As it was on a steep slope, I decided to approach it from the bottom. As I walked on the narrow support wall, I spotted more photographic opportunities.

The chestnut leaves rustled gently in the breeze, strongly illuminated by the low sun. The glowing yellow leaves with a fairy dust of red Japanese maple leaves against the dark bark created a canvas only God could paint.

Even the various warm hues of the chestnut tree made for a great shot. Needless to say, I took a few more photos in this spot, observing the wonderful interplay of light and color.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Buddha Blessing the Persimmons

The Mireuk Daebul (Buddha of the Future) sculpture at Bongeunsa Temple appears to be blessing the persimmons. This autumn fruit is a Korean Buddhist symbol of transformation.
Prior to coming to Korea, I had never tasted a persimmon. I prefer them dried. Interestingly, I read that the high quality fruits come from branches that have been grafted onto another persimmon tree. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Out for a Morning Drink

As I walked through the main gate of the Bongeunsa temple, my eyes were drawn to movement at the stream to the left of the path. Just as with my spring visit, a creature was enjoying pleasures of the water. Perhaps it is because of the cat that the birds are not present to enjoy a bath...
Bongeunsa Temple - May 2015

Monday, November 02, 2015

Bongeunsa Temple - Pinks and Oranges

Now in my fourth year living in Seoul, I have had the opportunity to revisit places in different seasons. This weekend I revisited Bongeunsa Temple to see how it had changed since last spring.

The dominant spring hues of pink and white were now replaced by varying oranges, yellows, and not-changed-yet greens. The colors weren't as intense as I'd hoped, but they were still enjoyable to behold. The morning was a cool, but very sunny one, the air incredibly (for Seoul) clear. This made the lighting feel very dynamic and full of contrasts.

Although it was a quick visit this time, I was glad to have come back to view the transformation. Which season do you feel best compliments the temple structures and statues?