Category Archives: Statues & carvings

Cycling Routes Gyeongju history Ruins & remains Sites to see Statues & carvings Temples & shrines tips for tourists

Gyeongju Cycling Courses and Maps

Gyeongju Cycling Map

Gyeongju Cycling Map

Gyeongju is really a great place for cycling.  The countryside around Gyeongju is fairly flat and dozens of cement farm roads weave their way through scenic rice paddies and rustic villages.  Cycling’s also the fastest way to visit the dozens of ancient Silla tombs, temples, relics and ruins scattered outside of the city.  Not to mention, you can rent bikes for the day at both the train and bus stations and the bikes are usually in fairly decent shape too.   When I first started this blog I’d planned on posting a lot more on different cycling routes in the area.  Unfortunately, aside from one or two early posts, that never really happened.  To be honest, I’ve probably been on a bike once since my son was born two years ago (a sad fact I hope to soon change). read more »

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Video: Buddha’s Birthday at Bulguksa, Tongdosa and Sinseonsa Temples

 

Since we’ve been on the topic of Buddha’s Birthday lately, I thought I’d post a few HD videos shot at a few of the Buddhist temples around Gyeongju this year on Buddha’s Birthday, aka Seokga Tansinil (석가탄신일). Rob Fioretta, my coworker at Gyeongju University, was kind enough to share with me the video he took of the lantern parade at Gyeongju’s famous and historical Bulguksa (불국사) Temple that night. The lantern parade on Buddha’s Birthday is my favorite time to visit Bulguksa (in fact, it’s one of the few times it’s not filled with hoards of screaming school kids and bus tours) and the atmosphere there is very magical. I’ve been three times since I moved to Gyeongju, though I haven’t shot any new video since 2008. The quality of that old video is pretty lo-fi, so thanks Rob for the update ;-) read more »

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Buddha’s Birthday at Sinseonsa (신선사) Temple on Mt. Danseoksan (단석산)

Miruk Grotto at Sinseonsa Temple, Mt. Danseoksan, Gyeongju

Miruk Grotto at Sinseonsa Temple, Mt. Danseoksan, Gyeongju

Like many things in Gyeongju, I’ve been meaning to write about Mt. Danseoksan for a while, but I’ve been too busy to get around to it.  However, celebrating Buddha’s Birthday, or Seokga Tansinil (석가탄신일), yesterday at the ancient stone grotto of Mirukgul (미룩굴) on Mt. Danseokan has given me the best reason I’m probably going to get.  Located about 10 km south-west of Gyeongju City, Mt. Danseoksan is officially part of Gyeongju National Park and is famous for its history, legends and natural beauty.  Literally meaning “Split Rock Mountain,” Mt. Danseoksan is, in fact, named after one such ancient story involving the famed Silla general Kim Yu-sin. read more »

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Gyeongju Videos on the Korean Heritage Channel

 

The other day I was rummaging around on Youtube for videos to fill out a playlist on Gyeongjublog’s fledgling Youtube Channel and I stumbled across some amazing videos on something called the Korean Heritage Channel.  I know I use far too many superlatives on this blog already, but this channel features some of the best promotional videos I’ve seen produced on Korea.   Some might say that’s wouldn’t be too difficult considering the schmaltzy overdubbed travel schlock typically broadcast on Arirang.  However these videos are of a different class entirely.  They’re each brief 2 to 3 minute long vignettes of rich HD footage tastefully edited together with traditional music and subtitled commentary.  read more »

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Wierd Gyeongju: The Wooden Fish Knocker of Bunhwangsa (분황사) Temple

Wooden Fish Knocker, Bunhwangsa Temple, Gyeongju

Wooden Fish Knocker, Bunhwangsa Temple, Gyeongju

As one of the few architectural structures left standing from the Silla Dynasty, Bunhwangsa (분황사) Temple is one of the “must see” historical sites in Gyeongju.  Built in 634 C.E. by order of the legendary Queen Seondeok (선덕여왕), Bunhwangsa is most famous for its three-tiered pagoda.  Originally built as seven or nine tiers, the pagoda was badly damaged during both the Mongolian Invasions of the 13th century, when the neighboring Hwangnyeongsa Temple (황룡사) and nine-story pagoda were burned to the ground, and again during the Hideyoshi Invasion of 1592.  Curiously, the pagoda was built in “imitation brick” style, meaning that Silla workmen actually took the time to carve stones into the shapes of bricks to imitate the brick pagodas then fashionable in China.  Seems to me like it would’ve been a lot easier to make it out of actual bricks, but I’ll leave the debate over that minor detail up to the historians. read more »

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Slideshow: Autumn in Namsan-dong (남산동) Village

Muryangsa Temple, Namsan-dong, Gyeognju

Muryangsa Temple, Namsan-dong, Gyeognju

To be honest the Korean urban lifestyle doesn’t really do much for me.  Sure, I sometimes miss the art and culture, the night clubs and the convenience.  But after living in London, Berlin and Barcelona, there’s really not anything new that I get out of big cities in Korea.  All it takes is a walk through one of the many quaint and quiet farm villages near Gyeongju to remind me why I like living with the Korean countryside so close at hand.   One of my favorite places to visit is Namsan-dong (남산동);  a string of farming villages just 15 minutes outside of town tucked in the shadow of Gyeongju’s historic Mt. Namsan (남산). read more »

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Off the Beaten Path: The Standing Buddha (마애불얍성) of Mt. Maseoksan (마석산)

Standing Buddha of Mt. Maseoksan, Gyeongju

Standing Buddha of Mt. Maseoksan, Gyeongju

Hidden away above a small farming valley just south of Mt. Namsan, the Standing Buddha (마애불얍성) of Mt. Maseoksan  (마석산) is the epitome of “off the beaten path.”  In fact, for a long time the only reference to it I could find was a mark at the bottom of the regional map published by the Shilla Cultural Society.  I found absolutely nothing about it in any English guidebooks or online and very little when I ran searches for it in Korean. So, of course, for a guy like me that’s all the more reason to check it out and see what’s there.  Happily, I discovered one of those numerous hidden gems that are scattered around Gyeongju. read more »

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Exploring the Mysteries of Mt. Nangsan (낭산)

Mt. Nangsan, Gyeongju

Mt. Nangsan, Gyeongju

If you’re visiting the Gyeongju National Museum and happen to look east over the highway you might notice the outline of a hill on the far side of the train tracks.  From the looks of it you wouldn’t guess this low ridge (often describe as looking like a silkworm) was in fact considered one of the most sacred mountains of the Shilla Dynasty. As such, it’s home to numerous ancient relics and features in a number of stories and legends from the Shilla Era. read more »

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Ancient Buddhas of the Shilla Dynasty: Part 2

Continued from Part 1…

Avalokitesvara Relief, Mt. Namsan, Gyeongju

Avalokitesvara Relief, Mt. Namsan, Gyeongju

Avalokitesvara: The Bodhisattva of Mercy

One of the key differences that evolved between Mahayana (Northern School) and Theravada (Southern School) Buddhism is the former’s belief in Bodhisattvas, or “Bosal” (보살) in Korean.  These are highly enlightened beings who have vowed to postpone their final enlightenment until all sentient beings on earth have been awakened.  Most Bodhisattvas are simply humans who’ve taken the Bodhisattva vow.  However, some are considered to be god-like spiritual beings with great compassion and power, who Buddhists can petition for aid and refuge in times of suffering. read more »

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Ancient Buddhas of the Shilla Dynasty: Part 1

Sakyamuni Buddha, Golgulsa Temple, Gyeongju

Sakyamuni Buddha, Golgulsa Temple, Gyeongju

Looking at the history of Gyeongju, it’s hard to underestimate the importance of Buddhism to the ancient Shilla Dynasty.  The acceptance of Buddhism by the Shilla in the 5th century C.E. brought an increased cultural exchange with China.  This coincided with the military rise of the Shilla Empire which ushered in the “Golden Age” of the Shilla Dynasty.  This cultural renaissance saw the construction of many architectural marvels, like Bulguksa Temple (불국사) and the nine-story Golden Dragon Pagoda of Hwannyeongsa Temple (황룡사), and creation of great artistic masterpieces, such as Seokkuram Grotto (석굴암). read more »

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