Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mea Culpa!

You should always pay attention:
Putting up that last post, I realized that my number 6 pick for things to do is listed as Bomunsa. I'm too afraid of the sound of my own voice to listen, but I suspect I owe listeners a major mea culpa: I meant to talk about Bongamsa instead!

Bongamsa is in Mungyeong, and is only open to the public once a year, on Buddha's Birthday. The rest of the time the monks there engage in hard-core study and meditation, and don't want the likes of us coming around and disturbing their practice (note: you can also get in if you're invited for a specific purpose by one of the monks.) When I went on Buddha's Birthday this past year, the monks there seemed to come in two varieties: Those who were annoyed that the place was crawling with hundreds of tourists, and those who seemed to be pleased beyond belief to see and talk with somebody new for a change. One monk would barely answer my questions about the name of a building. I turned around and was accosted by another monk whose fondest wish in life was to show my friend and I every single detail of everything entire temple.
In any case, Bongamsa is absolutely beautiful, and well worth the wait and effort to see it. While you're there, you can check out gads of geeky fun:
  • Stupa of High Priest Jijeung-Daesa (Treasure No. 137),
  • Stele to the Stupa of High Priest Jijeung-Daesa (Treasure No. 138),
  • Three-Story Stone Pagoda of Bongamsa Temple (Treasure No. 169),
  • Stupa to High Priest Jeongjin-Daesa (Treasure No. 171),
  • Stele for the Stupa of High Priest Jeongjin-Daesa (Treasure No. 172),
  • Relief of Seated Buddha (Provincial Tangible Cultural Property No. 121),
  • Bell-Shaped Stone Stupa (Local Tangible Cutural Property No. 135
But why did I mess up and call it Bomunsa? And what about the real Bomunsa?
Well, the slip twixt tounge and lip is probably because I live near and frequently visit Bomun Temple (English link) in Seoul - another temple well worth mentioning because it's not only seperate from the dominant Chogye order, but is the head temple of the only Buddhist order of female monks(Korean link.) The temple itself is on the site of another historic temple, but the current buildings and everything else are all modern construction. Probably the most interesting thing about the temple is their reconstruction of Seokgulam grotto, and a very large 고려 style 답, along with a few significant paintings. They also do temple stays and run some education programs, so go check 'em out.
But when I checked Zen's links, turns out it's not even that Bomunsa! The best known Bomun Temple is on Gangwha-do. I've never been, but here's a photo essay from the English Chosun Ilbo.

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