Monday, July 23, 2012

Carved in Stone (동해, pt. 2)

Our Donghae weekend vacation continued on Friday afternoon with a visit to the Mureung Valley (무릉 계곡), a region about an hour's drive from our hotel. It's a park with lots of intense hiking trails and some absolutely beautiful landscapes (경치, kyongchi) that were great to photograph (remember, 사진 찍는것을 좋아해요!).

The purpose of our visit was a continuation of a cultural workshop on Buddhism that we'd sat through earlier in the afternoon. But before we arrived at the Samhwasa Buddhist temple (삼화사), everyone was distracted by this gorgeous portion of the river that we happened across first.
You're looking at a giant slab of rock (people in the photo for comparison) sticking out of a river with Chinese characters carved into it. The biggest are in the center of the photo, but beneath it are hundreds more names in a smaller size.
The river grew very shallow around this giant slab of rock, such that most of it was exposed, dry, and walkable. Carved into the rock in many places, in 한자 (hanja, Chinese characters) large and small, were hundreds of Korean names and family names. I never found out why they were there, but it was very cool to walk around and try to read them. I even found my own family name, 鄭, which in Korean is 정 (jeong, or Jeong/Jung/Chung)! It was fairly common, as were 金 (Kim), 李 (Lee), and 朴 (Park).
Zheng Shou... something! Maybe we're very, very, very distantly related.

After the river -- where most of us wanted to stay forever -- we hiked a bit further up the mountain and arrived at Samhwasa Temple. There was a big drum, a big bell, and a wooden fish instrument used for many ritual purposes in the temple. The big drum immediately made me think of taiko back at Swarthmore. The bell made me think -- oddly, but not that oddly considering Sara, Jason and I bonded over a shared love of Pokémon -- of Pokémopolis and the giant bell that awoke a monster Gengar, as well as the ridiculous looking bell thing to the right. And lastly, the wooden fish was based on an interesting folk tale that involved a monk being turned into a fish with a tree growing out of its back...

Some of us got a chance to ring the bell (eastern bells are rung from the outside, no clapper on the inside), play the drum (in the shape of the Chinese character 心, meaning heart of mind), and knock the inside of the wooden fish. According to the Zen Buddhist tradition, playing these instruments were supposed to generate love and empathy for all living things and the Earth.
Jaeyeon and Bridget try their hand at ringing the giant bell. Everyone and their mother had a camera! Behind them you can see the green and red wooden fish that looks like a dragon.
Another very cool part of the temple was found on the upper level. There were rows upon rows of paper lanterns with what I assume are prayers attached to them. I don't know what the Korean on the lanterns means: 락왕생? If you know, please enlighten me! Regardless, it was a very pretty sight.

[edit] Seven months later... My host parents have informed me that the lantern actually says 극락왕생. I didn't notice the top character first. It means a wish for safe passage into heaven or the afterlife. (극락/geungnak is heaven or paradise, and 왕생/wangsaeng means passing into the next world.)
Paper lanterns with prayers attached to them. I wonder how people feel about having their prayers displayed publicly like this, for anyone to read.
So that was the temple. I enjoyed taking a look around and photographing everything aesthetically pleasing, but I was excited about coming back to this park to tackle one of the many trails the spanned the mountains all around. Below on the left is a photo of me with a pretty part of the river behind me. The next day, I saw a lot of the river... photos to come!
Me at Mureung Valley. Photo taken by Katelyn!
Cecile doing some painting at the temple.

And lastly... a dragonfly! Because there were dragonflies everywhere in the temple, and they kept landing on peoples' heads. But I wasn't quick enough to catch that. Instead, here is one resting on top of a lantern.
A dragonfly! 잠자리 (jamjali)

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