Sunday, March 27, 2016

Philippino Easter

Wishing you all a Blessed Easter. The images below were taken inside a church in Vigan, Philippines.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring Tidbits

This past Sunday, I went for a walk, hoping to capture the first colorful signs of spring here in Seoul. My sinuses were the first indicators a few weeks ago, indicating that the trees definitely are pollinating. The first forsythias and wild violets could be spotted. Tomorrow I head out for the Philippines, where I'll be attending a conference. By the time I return the following Sunday, I expect to see the beginnings of some colorful tree blossoms. Once they start, my camera will be quite busy... 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Relief Carvings at Prambanan

The relief carvings at Prambanan were beautifully carved. This one was one of my favorites; I love the tender intimacy between the two figures.

Many of the relief carvings are very narrative and retell the story of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Another wall was adorned with relief carvings of Brahmin sages and devatas. 

Inside the three main temples devoted to Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, one can still find some sculptures. They are in various states of preservation; many have heads and/or limbs missing. It was quite dark inside the temples, making hand-held photography (especially with limited time) a bit more tricky.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Jigsaw Puzzle at Prambanan

Along with the Buddhist Borobudur temple nearby, the Hindu complex of Prambanan competes for the distinction of most important site on Indonesian Java. Both have deservedly earned the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage site. Borobudur is the world's largest Buddhist temple and Prambanan is the largest Hindu complex in Indonesia and one of the largest in Southeast Asia. 
Just as the Borobudur temple struggled with natural calamities, the 9th century Hindu Prambanan complex faced a devastating earthquake and volcanic destruction already in the early 11th century. Combined with the shift of political power at this time, Prambanan was largely abandoned. A subsequent major earthquake in the 16th century caused further collapse, at which time the temple became swallowed up by the jungle. In the 17th century, a British surveyor rediscovered the site, but it wasn't until the 1930s that proper restoration really began. An earthquake in 2006 caused severe damage to the temple and the surrounding area, including the destruction of 300,000 homes and the loss of over 6,000 lives. 

Efforts have been made to rebuild some of the 240 temples within Prambanan, but it is unlikely that all can or ever will be restored. Some of the blocks were taken by locals for construction materials and many of the statues were stolen. Financial support is always a need.
The tour guide I had within the complex also had worked on the restoration effort. He described how each block was numbered, moved, and regrouped. Restorers utilized the traditional interlocking method for reconstruction. Concrete was also used to strengthen the structure. In the quest for authenticity and accuracy, it will take some time to complete the individual projects.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Wedding Gowns and Dwarapalas

On our way to the UNESCO World Heritage Hindu temple of Prambanan, we stopped at some smaller temples, including Candi Plaosan. Built around 825 AD, this Buddhist temple was gifted by a Hindu prince to his Buddhist princess wife from another dynasty. Although comprised of 174 buildings of varying sizes, many of the structures suffered significant damage during the 2006 earthquake. 
Despite its proximity to Prambanan (about 1 km northwest), it lacked the large crowds, enabling ease of exploration.

Two massive Drawapalas serve as guardian figures in front of the two main temples at Plaosan.
Flanking the outer walls of the main temple are beautiful carvings of Bodhisattvas. Some of the carvings reminded me of those at Tamil Nadu's impressive Thanjavur Hindu temple, except that the color of these stones were much darker than those in India. 

Inside the main temples, portions of sculptures remained, although some were headless. 

During the time I was there, Plaosan became slightly more lively when a wedding party arrived to take a few photos. Although many of the members were dressed in jeans, the bride was dressed in a Western gown and the groom in a white Indonesian outfit. As in other places, several people came up to me, asking if they could have a photo taken with me. 

Having had a chance to explore most of the site, we now were ready for the granddaddy of them all - Prambanan.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Out for a Test Drive

On the way to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Prambanan, we came across this short procession. My driver said that these bullock carts were going to be used for an upcoming celebration, and so the drivers needed to get experience navigating on the public roads. I certainly didn't mind this colorful Indonesian traffic hold-up. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Resiliency of Bamboo

As I walked through the temple grounds, the snow-laden bamboo branches captured my attention. Prior to living in Asia, I had associated bamboo with growing in tropical places, not also in those that received snow. Yet even in heavy snowfalls, the bamboo proves resilient. In Daoism philosophy (present in Korea and China), bamboo is considered a symbol of longevity, flexibility, and durability. In Japan, the bamboo plant is revered for the same attributes.  Although bamboo can bend quite deeply under the heavy pressure of snow (and even look as if it will break), the bamboo proves resilient, snapping back upright in defiance.

When challenges and adversity come our way, perhaps we could take some lessons from the bamboo. These slender stalks have a higher tensile strength than steel. I doubt that even the massive trees of the Pacific Northwest can match that. Although we may not be the biggest, wealthiest, smartest, most popular, or showiest person on the block, Christ has made us like bamboo. We may sway deeply in the wind or bend rather severely, but if we hold steadfast in our faith in God, we will not break. As Philippians 4:13 reads, "I can do all things through Him who give me strength."

Monday, March 07, 2016

눈 Patterns in the Snow

If autumn leaves and spring blossoms can create beautiful patterns, why not snow? 
An exploration of Bongwonsa Temple, focusing on winter patterns. 

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Snow Queen and the Frosted Bushes

As I glanced outside my window, it was as if a voice beckoned me, calling me to come out and meet her. Mesmerized with the scene before me, I obliged, casting aside my work obligations and letting my artistic instincts take over. Knowing that I didn't have a lot of time before nightfall emerged, I headed to one of the nearest picturesque spots - Bongwonsa Temple
Here, a female white statue welcomed me, like a snow queen amidst the frosted bushes. 
The main temple and surrounding forest was all painted in the same wintry white - quite a stark contrast to the pink blossoms I painted there in spring.  
The snow queen did her magic here as well, enveloping the already tranquil scene with an extra layer of calmness.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Winter Wonderland at SFS

A little tour around  Seoul Foreign School this past Sunday
Middle School and SFS Gate

High School, Gate, and Elementary School (behind gate)

New Gate near the parking structure

Lyso Center (left), new gate, British School, parking structure

E-dong residential building
D-dong residential building

Road towards G-dong