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“From Fusan to Wonsan by Pack-pony” by Rev. H. O. T. Burkwall: A Turn of the Century Missionary’s Travelogue of Gyeongju

Old Photo of Silla-era Royal Tombs, Gyeongju

Old Photo of Silla-era Royal Tombs, Gyeongju

In the course of my Masters research, I’ve sometimes run across interesting tidbits of Gyeognju history that are completely off-topic which I file away for future blog posts.  Here is one such tidbit: a brief  travelogue written by perhaps one of the earliest westerners to visit Gyeongju; the awesomely-named missionary Rev. H. O. T. Burkwall.  Rev. Burkwall’s account was printed in the January 1903 edition of the “Korea Review” (pp. 18 – 22).  The “Korea Review” appears to be one of the earliest English-language academic journals devoted to Korean culture, history, religion and literature and was published between 1901 and 1905 by the Methodist Publishing House in Seoul.  For those interested, .pdf files of the whole 5 year run of the “Korea Review” are currently hosted online by Royal Asiatic Society of Korea. read more »

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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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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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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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Itinerary: 10 Days in Gyeongju

Tongdosa Temple, South of Gyeongju

Tongdosa Temple, South of Gyeongju

Not to become a broken record or anything, but most tourists just bounce down to Gyeongju for a long weekend, hit up the big tourist sites, and head home Sunday night. It’s a shame really. You can barely even scratch the surface of what Gyeonju has to offer in 2 days. To finally prove what I’ve been harping on so long, I’ve cooked up a 10 day itinerary for visitors to Gyeongju. That’s right: over a week and a half of things to see and do in the area.  If you don’t have 10 days, feel free to pick and choose what suites your liking.  But here are some ideas for exploring a deeper side of Gyeongju and Korea as a whole. read more »

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Top 10 Ancient Stone Buddhas (석불) of Gyeongju: Part 2 of 2

Buddha Boulder of Tapgol Valley, Mt. Namsan Gyeongju

Buddha Boulder of Tapgol Valley, Mt. Namsan Gyeongju

Continued from Part 1:

5.  The Buddha Boulder (부처바위) of Tapgol Valley (탑골): Tucked behind the quaint beauty of Oknyeongam Hermitage (옥룡암) in Tapgol (pagoda) Valley is a large rock outcropping covered with Buddhist carvings.  There are dozens of cryptic images including meditating Buddhas, flying Devas, pagodas, and even winged lions!  The quiet magic of Oknyeongam Hermitage and the mystery of Buddha Boulder make Pagoda Valley one of my favorite spots on Namsan.

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Top 10 Ancient Stone Buddhas (석불) of Gyeongju: Part 1 of 2

Maitreya Buddha of Samneung Valley, Gyeongju

Maitreya Buddha of Samneung Valley, Gyeongju

One of the cool things about Gyeongu is that it’s literally covered with ancient stone Buddhas from the Unified Shilla Dynasty (통일 신라), most dating back to around the 7th or 8th centuries C.E.  Very little is generally known about the sculptors who chiseled out these masterpieces way back when, though they were probably carved as a form of Buddhist meditation practice.  Heck, every mountain around here has at least one ancient Buddha on it and Mt. Namsan (남산) has at least a few dozen.

If you’re a history junky like me, or you’re just looking to do some hiking or sight-seeing, here are my personal top 10 ancient stone Buddhas of Gyeongju.  As this post has snowballed into something bigger than I’d planned, so I’m splitting it into 2 parts. Here are 10 through 6 on my list.  I’ll be posting my top 5 here in a day or two.

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