Reading Shanna’s blog lately, and enjoying her discovery of Korea, I thought I’d give out-of-the-way hints. I’ve been in a gazillion places in Korea – and while I don’t have that many pictures since my travels were done, ahem, in the 20th Century, it might still be interesting.
Songgwangsa is a Buddhist temple from the Chogye monastic order 曹溪禪宗. According to the remaining records, Songgwang-sa was founded by Zen Master Hyerin in the late Shilla dynasty. It is my favorite temple in Korea (I’ve been there 7 or 8 times), for a few reasons:
- It’s in Chŏlla-do, near Sunch’ŏn, nearby Chiri-san. It’s a lovely region, away from the hustle of the cities.
- It’s a friendly temple – there are even foreign monks studying there. Visitors can arrange to stay overnight and experience a little of the Buddhist life.
- It’s a beautiful temple per se, very well maintained, and very peaceful – if you can avoid the crowds that plague it sometimes, ransom of the success I bet.
- It has some cool artefacts – I remember seeing some hPhags-Pa script in the 선보각, #24 on the map below. The language geek in me had a little orgasm right there… 🙂
- The food at the restaurants below the temple is great – like in any self-respecting restaurant in Chŏlla-do.
I shamelessly copied the maps provided on Songgwang-sa’s own website for reference. Go visit their site and get a better idea of the place. But nothing can replace going there.
A similar pic of 大雄寶展 was on my desktop for years. I need to find my own pics…There it is!
So the question is: WHO IN BOTHERATION REMOVED THAT TREE? Grrr.
How to go there?
It’s pretty easy – although it takes forever. This is based on sliiiiightly dated info (I haven’t been to Songgwang-sa in ages). You need to get first to Gwangju’s Bus Terminal. That’s the easy part! Go either to Kangnam Express Bus Terminal or the East Seoul Terminal (동서울 터미널/강변역). There’ll be buses to Gwangju every 5 minutes, give or take.
Then, when you arrive in Gwangju – looking it up on the web I see they have improved the building and renamed it uSquare. Ridiculous much? Anyway… Last time I did this I went from the long-distance section of the terminal to the “local” section, bought a ticket for the “direct” bus to Songgwang-sa and was on my way. I see here that the schedule hasn’t changed 🙂 There’s 5 buses per day each way. So you should leave from Seoul very early – 5am or so – so that you can get the first bus to the temple. It’s REALLY worth it. You’ll arrive before lunch and will be able to enjoy some quiet. Then lunch at one of the restaurants, get a bus back to Gwangju and go have some duck soup (오리탕)!