Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Chungcheong’s Beopjusa Temple

Yesterday, I went to a temple complex called the Beopjusa Temple. It was fantastic. My guide was a student and her daughter. The complex is located on the southwestern slopes of Songni Mountain in North Chungcheong Province.

Before getting to the Beopjusa Temple, we visited the very old Jeongipumsong Pine Tree that is supposed to be over 600 years old. My friend explained that when King Sejo in the mid 1500's was going by in his carriage, the tree lifted one of its's branches so that the carriage could pass underneath. The tree was granted a ministerial title. In recent years, tree disease has claimed some of its branches, but it remains a popular tourist distination.

The temple was founded by the monk, Uishinjosa, in 553 during the Silla Kingdom and is part of the Jogye Order. Although the magnificent temple is dedicated to the veneration of the Maitreya Buddha, it was built with the hope the ancient Korea's Three Kingdoms would be reunified. Current events have shown that this dream may not be possible at this time, but there is always hope.

The temple has a tranquil environment you notice right away or at least I did where there seems to be a harmony between nature and the temple. All around the temple you will find ancient inscriptions carved into big boulders that are simply breathtaking. and are near the pine tree covered hills. It must be mentioned that many of the trees that we saw are much older then the ones we had been seeing in Daejeon and elsewhere and they reached high into the crystle clear air of the surrounding area.

After entering the main gate, the Palsangjeon Pagoda stands five stories high with the huge Golden Maitreya Stature to the left. Both structures took my breath away. Inside and outside the pagoda, the artwork was some of the most magnificant I have ever seen.

It does cost money to enter the compound but a free lunch is provided. There are monks who lived there but there is little interaction with the public; but to be fair there were quite a few people there to see the beautiful structures as Buddhists and non-Buddhists. My friend said she comes often with her mother and have seen larger crowds. We were there because it was a holiday because Korea was holding elections. I thought the lunch was pretty good and is supposed to be the same food that the monks eat.

We met what my friend termed "serious Buddhists" who were people were traveling in groups and visiting all the different Buddhist temples in Korea. They were very pleasant and friendly and answered many of our questions about the different things and terms in the complex. They all seemed to be seniors.

I had a grand time and really encourage everyone who comes to South Korea to visit the Beopjusa Temple because I don't think there is anything like it anywhere else. What a wonderful place Korea is. I am so grateful for my friend and her daughter for taking me to this place.

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