camping in Gwanaksan (part 1; GwanEumSa)


ooooooLast week, my friend Marcus shared a trip he’d taken with Ikumi to Gwan Eum Sa, a small mountain temple, just on the edge of Seoul. EunBong and I have made an effort to do new things on weekends, so it sounded like a nice place to add to the list… At one of the peaks of the same mountain, there is a small shrine I’ve wanted to visit since I first saw a picture of it a few years ago. I asked EunBong what she thought about camping by the temple, and I’d go hiking early in the morning, then we’d make our way back around noon. She’d never gone camping before, so she thought it sounded exciting.

ooooooWe arrived at the temple in the afternoon and, as Marcus said, it was all you could ask for in a mountain temple. I’ve been to nearly all the famous temples in Korea, and though they are each striking in their own way, I’ve grown more and more fond of the lesser known temples, simply because there’s usually a stronger feeling around them. I think this arises from the mind of the people who enter the gate. It was never uncommon during my travels, actually, it was usually the norm, for bus loads of drunken tourist to sweep through the temple grounds. Needless to say, it has a slight affect on the temple experience one walks away with. Gwan Eum Sa has a thoroughly pleasant feeling, as well as the people whom we met there.

ooooooWe explored the grounds, drank from the beautiful fountain spouting water from the mountain spring and cooled our faces. EunBong and Fina bowed before the massive GwanSeumBosal and I made my way into the small shrine for the Mountain Spirit Grandfather beside them. I’ve occasionally mentioned my struggles trying to make sense of the figures of Mahayana. As I sway one way and then another trying to rationalize them, I’ve found several conclusions, none of which really have any influence on what is… I don’t share Marcus’ level of devotion, but in my way, I’ve come to agree with his stating (in reference to the Buddhas and Bodisattvas of Mahayana) that, “it’s simply true.”

ooooooAlthough the Mountain Spirit comes from an age even older than Buddhism, I approached him in much the same manner as I do the statues in the temple. There is definitely an energy that is existent, and a positive, respectful interaction with it can’t do much harm. I bowed three times to the old man with a long white beard, leaning on a tiger’s back. I then lit a stick of incense and asked that he allow us a pleasant and safe stay on his mountain.

ooooooCamping can be a hassle as it is, but lugging a baby (and stroller) along almost made it ridiculous, not to mention that the idea of camping and the actual reality of it were two entirely different things for EunBong. I have to give her credit though, just a few decades removed from starvation and national poverty, I don’t think the term “roughing it” will find a place in Korean pop culture for a long time. As we headed for the trail into the hills, I knew we’d find a decent place. EunBong, though, wondered if I’d lost my mind, leading us all out here for the night… I couldn’t have been anymore relieved when 150 meters up the hill there was a clearing. I dropped everything but the baby (and my camera) and turned to see if EunBong was behind me. She was close enough that if she’d stopped to consider making a dash back to the bus stop, she at least hadn’t thought about it for long! Feeling more assured, I asked her to pick a spot for the tent. Once we got everything set up, relaxed a bit, and ate some food, she really began to enjoy herself. We set our alarm in time to be ready for 4am ceremony and went to sleep.


(this took me two days to compose, I’ll get to the rest when I do…^^ )

5 responses »

  1. Wow! Wonderful! You made it there, and turned it into a family adventure too! Joseph, you are amazing! And such a great post and pictures. I can’t wait for part two! Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us! Marcus _/\_

    • haha, she said yes, but under different circumstances… (I think she meant, not until I buy a car! >_<)
      I thought back to your post about harmony many times, and I believed it saved a lot of unnecessary negative karma, thank you! _/\_

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s