After being pleasantly awoken by the early morning temple bells, I checked my condition with a quick mental scan to see if I could pry myself up for morning ceremony and decided it best to go back to sleep. A few hours later, we had a slightly less peaceful awakening when the guest house owner banged on our door to deliver our breakfast. As much as we still weren’t ready to get up, it was fun. The Jeolla provinces are famous for good food. Bibimbap was invented in Northern Jeolla, one of Korea’s most famous dishes. The food itself isn’t really different from anywhere else, but it just tastes different, somehow. The kimchi is usually older, stored underground for weeks, or even months, giving it a special flavor that really depends upon the beholder to decide if it’s tasty… I like it though!
We slept a bit more, but I was eager to get out and go back to the temple. I knew EunBong would still sleep for at least a few more hours, so I woke her up to let her know I’d be going for a hike, and I’d be back in a while.
Like many mountain temples, the trail into the mountain passes by the temple. I took the chance to walk the long away into Daeheungsa, passing through the first temple gate, past the group of Budo, containing the sari of Zen Master SeoSan and a group of monks who followed him into battle during the invasions of the late 16th Century.
The trail took a short loop through some tree, then opened itself to the temple, sitting beneath Durungsan.
Before entering the temple courtyard, there was one more gate to pass through, the Liberation Gate.
Usually, this is where the Four Heavenly Guardians would be found, but in this gate, there were two child-like figures, with hair pulled up in two buns, often seen accompanying Gwan Sea Um Bosal. I’m just realizing now that I’ve never learned what there names are, but they remind me of little Zen cupids. On the right was one holding a pink lotus and seated on an elephant, and to the left was one holding a blue lotus, perched on the back of a tiger. Even with all the incredible temples and Dharma Halls I’ve visited, all the exquisitely crafted Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, I immediately feel in love with this little gate.
After admiring every detail inside and out, it was time to keep going. Just through the gate was a panel with a map of the temple and trails. In the image, I noticed the central peak of the mountain was circled, and the words, “Bucheonim gaseum (Buddha’s breast)” was written. I found it amusing but a bit odd. It wasn’t until I came back with EunBong later in the day that she pointed out the other peak was called Buddha’s head, and later, looking a my photos, I realized the third one was Buddha’s feet. Once it was pointed out, it was really amazing to look up at the mountain and see the Buddha reclined above. But at this time, not knowing about the rest of the anatomy, I was feeling a bit bashful to go trekking all over the Buddha’s breast!
But I continued on, anyway, past the construction of the new museum, past the bronze statue of SeoSan Daesa, sitting with his stick and tea bowl, and past the rest of the temple complex.
The trail began lined with bamboo grass, Camellia trees, and sun light. I hadn’t seen green since Fall, but all the Camellia trees were full of rich green leaves. My eyes very much enjoyed the color! Not to mention that Korea can be a very hazy country, enough that on some days the sun hardly seems to cast a shadow, but the air was unusually clear, making distinct lines of light and dark (maybe not helpful for skillful-view, but wonderful for photography!).
A few minutes into the trail, I came across a path of scattered stones heading off to the side. Immediately reminded of another of my mom’s favorite poems that she recited to me when I was young, I decided to take the road less traveled…