When you don’t want to do all the work of touring around by yourself in a new city armed with a good map and a list of “sights to see”, then it’s time to let someone else do the work for you. It’s time to take a tour. While I was in Seoul, a city with a US Army base in the middle of the city…I took advantage of taking several tours hosted by the USO (United Service Organization).The first tour I took was what they called the Historic Sights Tour. So at my appointed day and time, I showed up at the USO and hopped on the little tour bus with 7 other people and our guide and we were off.
The first stop was to visit Jogyesa Buddhist Temple, one of Korea’s most famous Buddhist Temples. It’s located smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. The first Buddhist temple was built here in 1395 during the Joseon Dynasty. The present temple was constructed in 1910.Before you get to this building, you have to go through the entry gate. This gate represents the dividing point that separates the mortal world from the world of Buddha. At the Jogyesa Temple, the gate is guarded by 4 iron statues that stand by each of the four pillars that support the gate.
They hold a sword, a dragon, a wish-fulfilling jewel, a trident, a stupa (a sphere containing relics), and a lute in their hand, all to protect those entering from evil. Each one watches over one cardinal direction. Every temple also has a bridge that crosses over a stream. The bridge represents crossing from suffering over to the joy of enlightenment. One of the first things I noticed were these colourful lotus lanterns with tags attached. Each lantern (and tag) represents a wish. The white lanterns are wishes for people who have died and the colored lanterns are wishes for those still living.While I was there in mid April workers were busy putting up more wire to hold more lanterns. They were getting ready for the lantern festival that is held each May in the celebration of Buddha’s birthday. Also outside the temple, there are several large trees -locust and baeksong trees – which are about 500 years old. The Baeksong tree (below) is actually designated as a National Monument.The main hall of the Jogyesa Temple and the grandest building here is called Daeungjeon (translated means “Hall of the Great Hero)
There are stairs and doors decorated with beautiful flower designs on every side. Inside the building are several statues including the statue of Seokgamoni. He is the central figure to all forms of Buddhism and within most temples, he is the main statue occupying the Main Buddha Hall. The doors were closed on the day I was there, and there is no picture taking inside (and you must also take off your shoes before entering) but if you look closely in the picture above you can see the three Buddha statues through the glass. Outside the doorway is this little elephant guarding the door….or maybe the shoes that are left outside the temple entranceOutside are several statues, including this one of the Baby Buddha (where someone has left a “water” offering on the altar). If you want to make a wish of your own, all you have to do is write down the details of your wish – be it for good health or happiness, or even as simple as good test scores for your children. Then you put your slip and donation into the slot. If you are a true believer, your wish will come true.
This is a replica of the bigger bell that is rung every day at dawn and dusk. There were also several other statues/monuments that were interesting, but I’m not sure of the significance. Like this “wheel”…
Our tour group was ready to go back on the bus to go to our next stop…a palace! Because I have realized that I have a tendency to overshare…maybe it’s because I have hundreds of pictures and I have a hard time choosing..but the palace is going to have to wait until my next post.