We spent many a weekend hiking through the mountains, which comprise approx. 2/3 of the land area of South Korea, especially since Korea has great weather most of the year: cold but sunny in the winter and warm and sunny days throughout most of the spring and fall. Only the summer can be unpleasant, since it is very hot and humid with lots of rain. We often arrived unexpectedly at some beautiful temple nestled in the mountains. The reason for their locations was that Confucianists and Buddhists had fought with each other sometime around the 15th century, the Confucianist won and thereafter Buddhists mostly retreated to the mountains, where most of their beautiful temples are located today
However, one beautiful temple was also located in the mountains that had been founded in 802. It burned down many times, except for one building, Janggyyeong Pangjeon, which houses the Tripitaka Koreana. It is comprised of more than 80,000 wooden blocks with Buddhist texts carved in classical Chinese characters and was finished in 1251. It is the most accurate version of the Tripitaka in East Asia, and versions of it in China, Taiwan and Japan are based on it. It had a close call during the Korean War when a pilot was instructed to bomb it, since there was information that guerillas were using it as a base. The pilot refused, and it was later discovered that the head monk had persuaded the guerillas to leave beforehand.
“Each block was made of birch wood from the southern islands of Korea and treated to prevent the decay of the wood. The blocks were soaked in sea water for three years, then cut and then boiled in salt water. Next, the blocks were placed in the shade and exposed to the wind for three years, at which point they were finally ready to be carved.”
The building housing the blocks is so well constructed that they are in perfect condition after almost 800 years. In 1970, a modern facility was built for the blocks, but they soon had mold and the project was abandoned. Animals, birds and insects do not go into the building, for which no explanation has been found, at least by non-Buddhists.
Entrance to the temple grounds (if I remember correctly!)
The building housing the Tripitaka
A friendly and knowledgeable monk, who explained several aspects to us (and whom we met again by chance in Seoul months later)
Nuns at the temple
There is also a nunnery, a bit higher up
Koreans on an outing to the temple: Koreans were once known as the people who wear white.
I imagine that you do not see many people dressed like this in Korea today: what a shame!
An idyllic location