What a beautiful day! Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is probably the most famous (and as the sign says, the most beautiful) Korean Buddhist Temple, as it sits on the coast on the Sea of Japan, and is about a mile from our hotel, luckily. Tours bring people all the way from Seoul just to see it. Isn’t the first photo of the site from the viewing area just so beautiful? You can see the entrance bridge, the pagodas, some statues, and the Sea of Japan. It was first built in 1376 by the great Buddhist teacher, Naong. In 1970 it underwent some restoration work. We were fascinated by the gorgeous painted roofs, the impressive statues, the 108 (!) stairs going down to the temple (yes, we had to climb back UP), and all the color and vibrancy. The temple complex was free to enter, and even on a cloudy day, was crowded.
We won’t describe each photo, as they are all taken in the temple complex and will wash over you, but we will point out a few things. If you can read the fine print in the third photo, a pagoda as you enter the first of the 108 steps, it is titled Traffic Safety Prayer Pagoda. We suppose that that does not date to 1376! The fifth photo is neat because it evokes the feeling of ancestral benevolence…in Catholic theology, it would be the Communion of Saints, honoring family, friends, and all who have gone before us and are watching over us. People were throwing coins, trying to land them in the lower statue’s basket. Nobody could!
We loved the fat pigs when we saw them, but didn’t realize until we were on our way back that their backsides were also photogenic! There were lots of dragons on site, including one in the Zodiac parade of 12 statues. As you can see from the Zodiac message board, it is noteworthy that these statues have animal heads and human bodies. There are also a number of Buddhas. You can see the one labeled Buddha of Granting a Son, with its well-worn belly. The giant fat gold Buddha is the one for Luck and Prosperity. The Reclining Buddha, which always looks like a woman (from our past viewings in Myanmar and Thailand), is the Buddha of Nirvana. The statue in the photo that is third from the bottom is the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.
Do you see the statue of the glaring man who looks like an angry Moses? There wasn’t a sign to tell us what it was, so we asked our hotel staff if they could tell us what it says on the bottom of the statue. They were all baffled, until one said, “we can’t read it…it’s in Chinese!” So, wanting our blog to be complete for our readers, we didn’t give up. We installed a scan and translate app that translates photos. It told us that the text said, “I am dizzy.” !! We don’t think so!
The golden Jijang bosal statue is shown next to last in the photos. He is said, in the Korean Buddhist tradition, to help the transition into the afterlife. His name is chanted during funerals. The last photo was a sign we saw in several places on the property. While we can’t read the Korean warning, we know exactly what it signifies!