Tag Archives: legends

Buddhist culture East Sea Gyeongju hiking history Stories, legends & people Temples & shrines tips for tourists

Going to the River: Girimsa Temple (기림사) and Yongyeonpokpo Waterfalls (용연폭포)

Yongyeonpokpo Waterfalls, Girimsa Temple, Gyeongju

Yongyeonpokpo Waterfalls, Girimsa Temple, Gyeongju

About a month ago a friend on on Facebook asked where around Gyeongju you can “go to the river.”  Unfortunately I’ve been a bit distracted with writing my Master’s thesis over the last month, but I hope to post on a few places to “go to the river” around here while there’s still some of the summer left. There are actually a number of nice swimming holes and lovely picnicking spots by the rivers around Gyeongju which we go to almost every weekend, if the weather’s nice. 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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More Dangsan Namu (당산나무): KTV Documentary in 4 Parts

Since we’ve been on the subject of Dangsan Namu (당산나무) lately, I posting a KTV documentary I found on Youtube about Korean Dangsan Namu.  The documentary is in 4 parts, though unfortunately only the first and second seconds have English subs.  Even so, parts 1 and 2 are enough to a give a sense of the rich variety of legends surrounding the Dangsan Namu in Korean folklore.  Part 2 even includes details on the traditional village ceremonies honoring the Dangsan Namu on Daeboreum (대보름), which I talked about a few weeks ago.   Unfortunately my Korean’s not good enough to make much sense of the Korean narration in parts 3 and 4, but I’m including them below anyways.  If any Korean speakers would like to chime in with a summary in the comments section, I’d definitely appreciate it ;-) read more »

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Gyeongju history Stories, legends & people

A Pictorial Timeline of Gyeongju History

Photo of 3-Tiered Pagoda of Bunhwangsa Temple (from www.gjucc.co.kr)

Photo of 3-Tiered Pagoda of Bunhwangsa Temple (from www.gjucc.co.kr)

As part of another project I’ve got in the works at the moment, I put together a brief timeline of the history of Gyeongju which I’m posting it here with some photos. I hope that clearly and concisely portrays the dramatic thousand year rise and fall of the Shilla Dynasty and is subsequent rediscovery and preservation in the 20th century. It’s far from complete, but I’ve tried to include links to posts that flesh out the details a bit more. Heck, if folks think it’s good enough, I might even include it as a permanent page to be updated as I post more links. In the mean time, let’s start way back at the beginning: read more »

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hiking history Sites to see Stories, legends & people Temples & shrines Ulsan

Museum and Memorial Shrine of Patriotic Martyr Park Jae-sang (박제상 기념관)

Park Jae-sang Memorial Museum, Ulsan

Park Jae-sang Memorial Museum, Ulsan

Taking advantage of a break in the cold weather, the other weekend I piled into the car with some friends and took off to explore the mountains south of Gyeongju (not to mention my wife was putting the finishing touches on her Master’s thesis and needed me out of the house).  I’d managed to score an English tourist map of Ulsan, on which there’s marked the “Historical Remains of Park Je-sang”  about 15 minutes south of Gyeongju  just of off N.R. 35.  Nothing else was said about who this Park Je-sang was or why he was worth remembering, so I figured he must’ve been a small-time Confucian scholar with a few stone tablets propped up in his honor.  Still, I was itching to explore some new territory and decided to check it out. read more »

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Zen Legends- Part 2: Bodhidharma (달마) and the Severed Arm of Dazu Huike

Continued from part 1…

Painting of Bodhidharma and Dazu Huike, Heungryusa Temple

Painting of Bodhidharma and Dazu Huike, Heungryusa Temple

Usually built in the mountains, a lot of folks enjoy visiting Korea’s Buddhist Temples for their relaxing atmosphere and serene architecture.  Appropriately, most temple buildings are decorated with mystical portraits of Bodhisattvas, pastoral images of the Ox Hearder Parable, or scenes from the life of the Buddha.   Occasionally though temple visitors come across violent or gruesome paintings that clash with the otherwise tranquil vibe.  In one such image, you might find a monk bowing before a grumpy-looking figure seated in a cave, offering him a severed arm on a leaf!  This bizarre and unsettling image actually depicts a famous legend about the Bodhidharma (달마), the First Patriarch of Zen Buddhism (Kr. Seon or 선, Ch. Chan) and the awakening of his successor, Dazu Huike. read more »

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Zen Legends- Part 1: Why the Bodhidharma (달마) Came From the West

Portrait of the Bodhidharma (from atlantica.hangame.com)

Portrait of the Bodhidharma (from atlantica.hangame.com)

In Korean Seon (선) Buddhism (Ch. “Chan”, Jap. “Zen”) practitioners often meditate on paradoxical or nonsensical riddles known as koans (공안 or “ kong-an” in Korean) to gain insight into the nature of thought, perception and reality.  One of the most famous of these riddles is “Why did the Bodhidharma (Kr. “Dalma” or달마) come from the west?”  The Zen master Zhaozhou answered, “The cypress tree in front of the hall.”  I‘m not sure about that myself, but thankfully the mundane answer is a bit more simple.  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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Book Reviews: Winter Reading from Seoul Selection Bookstore

Front cover of “Korean Tea Classics”

Front cover of “Korean Tea Classics”

Seems like it’s been ages since I’ve posted any book reviews here on the blog.  But last month I scored a passel of books from Seoul Selection Online Bookshop for a bit of light reading over winter vacation.   Not to get to promotional here (and no, I’m not getting paid for this), but if you’re looking for books about Korea, Seoul Selection is a great resource.   They have a knack for carrying a lot of books that simply are not available on Amazon or whatthebook.com, not to mention they self-publish a lot of titles which sell for very reasonable prices.  So without further adieu, here are a few books that might help you while away your time in front of the space heater this winter:

“Korean Tea Classics” by Hanjae Yi Mok and the Venerable Cho-ui:  Ever since my friend and local tea aficionado, Don Baumhart, published his two-part introduction to the Way of Tea in Korea here on this blog, I’ve made a point of exploring more of Korean and East-Asian tea culture.  Turns out this year Seoul Selection has made the timely decision to publish English translations three classic Korean tomes on tea and tea culture:  “Rhapsody to Tea” by Hanjae Yi Mok (1471 – 1498) and “A Chronicle of the Spirit of Tea” and “Hymn in Praise of Korean Tea” both by the Venerable Cho-ui (1786 – 1866).  In fact it was Ven. Cho-ui who earned himself the nick-name Dasan or “Tea Mountain” was responsible of the revival and restoration of the tea ceremony in Korea.  Translated by Brother Anthony of Taize (author of “The Korean Way of Tea” ) among others, this book is not simply a dry, academic  translation of obscure historical texts.  Rather it is an object de art itself, with impeccable design and choke full of beautiful color pictures of tea, ceramics, temples and ancient paintings.   Plus, for students of classical Chinese, the original “Hanja” is printed alongside the English.   Not merely an obtuse historical artifact, this book would be of interest to anyone with a love for Asian tea culture, and of course it’s a lovely accompaniment to a lazy afternoon sipping tea. read more »

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Gyeongju hiking history Korean culture Stories, legends & people tips for tourists Wierd Gyeongju

Wierd Gyeongju: Queen Seondeok and the Legend of Vagina Valley (여근곡)

Map of Yeogeungok Valley, Mt. Obongsan

Map of Yeogeungok Valley, Mt. Obongsan

Yup, you read that right.  About 17 km west of Gyeongju on the north face of Mt. Obongsan (오봉산) is a little valley that goes by the name of Yeogeungok (여근곡).  This literally means “Jade Gate” Valley which, you might not have known, is actually a euphemism for female genitalia.  Just why the ancient Koreans dubbed this valley just that is clear to anyone with a basic knowledge of human anatomy and a bit of imagination. read more »

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