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Seven Sacred Sites In Korea

May 27th, 2010 by

Bulguksa - meaning “Temple of the Buddha Land”, this temple in the North Gyeongsang province of the country is a fine example of Silla architecture and houses no less than seven sacred objects. Bulguksa has been restored several times in its history and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A double-sectioned staircase acts as entrance to the temple complex, built with 33 steps to correspond to the 33 steps to enlightenment.

Bulguksa Temple

Photo courtesy by Larry Johnson:

To get to Bulguksa, take a temple-bound bus from Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal and ride for 40 minutes.

Namsan -the holiest of Korea’s five sacred mountains, the 494-meter high Namsan is home to many temples, monuments, shrines, royal tombs and pagodas. Najeong Well, for instance, is the mystic birthplace of King Park Hyeokgeose, the founder of the Silla dynasty. Legend says a chieftain of a nearby village found an egg besides the well, from which emerged a boy who was destined to become king. Other monuments are the sitting stone statue of Buddha in Mireuk Valley and the sitting image of Bodhisattva carved into a stone wall at Sineonam, both designated as national treasures.

Namsan is located in the center of Gyeongju National Park. It is accessible by bus from Dong Seoul Terminal and other selected bus stations.

Seosu-seowon – the oldest seowon, or private Neo-Confucian academy, in Korea, first established during the Silla period. Seosu is the only seowon that survived the Seowon Abolishment of 1871 and is now a National Treasure of South Korea, entertaining 800,000 visitors every year.

Seosu-seowon is found in Yeongju City, North Gyeongsang Province, and can be reached by bus from Yeongju Bus Terminal.

Ojuk-heonBlack Bamboo Pavilion is the birthplace and dedicated shrine to the country’s second-greatest Neo-Confucian scholar “Yi Yulgok”, whose visage appears on the 5,000 wan note. It also honors his mother Shim Saimdang, an accomplished woman considered to be the ideal traditional Korean lady and whose face appears on the 50,000 wan note. Ojuk-heon served as an upper-class residence during its time and is comprised of many rooms such as library, kitchen and living quarters. The place reflects the uncluttered simplicity of Korean homes, and the grounds include many gardens, pathways and sculptures for quiet contemplation.

Ojuk-heon lies along Hwt. 7 on the northern outskirts of Gangneung City.

Doseon-gul Cave – named after Doseon, one of the four great Buddhist masters of Korea and founder of the Pungsu-jiri  geomancy. The entrance is a narrow passageway between two large boulders, which leads to a  triangle-shaped shrine where candles, figurines and incense burners are placed. Doseon-gul Cave is located in Seseongam Hermitage (Hermitage of the Four Sages), a small Buddhist temple at the foothill of sacred Mt. Jirisan.

Doseon-gul Cave is 3.5 hours away from Nambu Bus Terminal in Seoul, through non-stop bus.

Gyeongju City – one of the most visited tourist destinations in the country, Gyeongju is known as “The City Without Walls” for its many heritage sites, ruins and archeological excavations. Those who follow the Koreanovela Queen Seon Deok will recognize Gyeonggju when it was formerly called Seorabeol. The city was the capital of the land during the Silla Dynasty and possesses Yangdong Folk Village, Gyerim Petrified Forest, Tumuli Park and Namsan Mountain.

Gyeongju City is located in Gyeongsangbuk Province, just three hours away from Incheon International Airport via fast rail.

Bell of King Seongdeok – a 3.33-meter high bronze bell commissioned by King Gyeongdeok for his father, King Seongdeok. This is the largest extant bell in South Korea and a magnificent example of Silla-era craftsmanship; when rung, the bell can be heard from as far as 40 miles away. A tubular sound pipe at the top of the bell, a trait unique to Korean bells, helps the sound reverberate, while the hanging loop on top called the yongnyu is decorated to look like a dragon’s head. Legend has it that a baby girl was sacrificed to complete the sacred object, and when rung, the bell sounds like “emille”, the Silla word for “mother”.

The Bell of King Seongdeok is located in Gyeongju Museum.

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