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Blog Reboot Summer 2013

Gyo-dong Folk Village, Gyeongju

Gyo-dong Folk Village, Gyeongju

To start off my first post in almost a year, I’d like to apologize to all those folks who’ve posted comments and questions to this blog over the last several months.  I’ve basically been busy as hell this last year, so I hope to breath a second wind into the blog here over the next few months (time willing).  Over this last year, I’ve written the first draft of my thesis for my Masters in Buddhist Studies which, incidentally, involves research into the Silla  Kings Beopheung and Jinheung.  Also, I’ve coauthored a three part series on Gyeognju’s Mt. Namsan (click here to read part 2 and part 3) for the Jogye Order’s English language quarterly, Buddhism and Culture, plus an academic article surveying the life and work of the famed Silla monk, Ven. Wonhyo.  As of last February I changed both my job and  MA program.  Most importantly, however, this last March our second son was born, so everything non-essential has gotten pushed to the side since then.  I hope all the commentors that I’m just now getting back to would be so kind as to forgive this weary grad student, teacher and father for the late reply. 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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Gyeongju hiking history Sites to see Stories, legends & people Temples & shrines tips for tourists

Choi Jae-u (최제우), Yongdamjeong Pavilion (용담정) and the Donghak Peasants Revolution (동학농민운동)

Yeongdamjeong Pavilion, Gyeongju

Yeongdamjeong Pavilion, Gyeongju

The 19th century was a dark time for Korea (and sadly just a prelude to the horrors to come in the 20th century to come).  Korea was still a feudal agrarian society and the nobility of the Joseon Dynasty had become bloated and corrupt, exacting heavy taxes and conscripting forced labor from the peasantry.  Foreign governments with imperialist ambitions were constantly vying for power on the Korean peninsula.  And to make matters worse, the country was plagued by droughts, natural disasters and famines which lead to widespread suffering and civil unrest among the peasantry.  Considering the average farmer was lucky to live to 30, it’s not surprising this malcontent boiled over into full scale uprisings against the landlords and the rich on more than one occasion. 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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Arts & crafts Buddhist culture history Stories, legends & people Temples & shrines

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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Arts & crafts Buddhist culture history Stories, legends & people

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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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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Downtown Events Gyeongju history Korean culture Sites to see Top 10

The Quiet Beauty of the Gyeongju Cultural Center (경주문화원)

Front Gate, Gyeongju Cultural Center

Front Gate, Gyeongju Cultural Center

Downtown Gyeongju can sometimes seem a mess of cars, cluttered streets and concrete buildings.  Yet tucked behind the Police Station, is the quiet oasis of the Gyeongju Cultural Center (경주문화원) with its lovely traditional architecture and serene gardens.  It has a relaxed, unassuming sort of beauty and, although it’s not quite Bulguksa, it’s home to a fair bit of local history in its own right. read more »

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Gyeongju Weekend Events: G20, Golgulsa Festival & Moonlight Walk

 

G20 Comes to Bomun Resort (image from english.yonhapnews.co.kr/)

G20 Comes to Bomun Resort (image from english.yonhapnews.co.kr/)

Bomun Resort G20 Summit

This weekend is going to be a bit crazy around Gyeongju.  There’s a lot of stuff going on, and some of it sounds pretty cool (and some of it not really).  For starters, we’ve all heard about the G20 kicking off in Seoul, but you might not know that there’s a separate G20 summit going down this weekend at Gyeongju’s own Bomun Lake Resort.  This summit is reserved solely for the C.F.O.s of the member countries and will focus primarily on tweaking the nuts and bolts of the global economy. read more »

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