Bongeunsa

The first in a series of two

In the south of Seoul, in the district of Samseong, I visited the monastery and temples of Bongeunsa.  The suffix “sa” indicates temple.  The monks of this place have been instrumental in steering South Korea towards Zen-Buddhism, which has unified the faith.

One of the temples. The two-storey architecture is unusual.

The symbols in Buddhism are many though there are two of central importance.

The tri-unity on this temple indicates, with top sphere, the Sakyamuni Buddha, that is, the first and the founder.  The second indicates the Word, that is, writings that have come down from the earliest years between 600 and 500 BC.  The third is the devotee.

Most Westerners would be taken aback by this symbol because of its misuse in modern history.  It rattled me for a moment to see it around the neck of a kindly little old lady.  It designates health, physical and spiritual, the cornerstone of Buddhism.  In the West this age-old symbol was reversed, literally and figuratively.

Sacred art plays a big role in Buddhism.   The kinds of colours used are called tanch’ông which suggests to me that they are not random but have specific values.

 

In the creation mythology of Korea the supreme god Hanunim places the universe on the backs of elephants and the elephants are placed on the back of the tortoise.  This little monument tells of this.

(c) Will van der Walt 

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2018

 

My photographs

 

See also

Mitasa temple 09.09.12

Temples of South Korea  12.03.13

Three days at a temple  2.5.17

 

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Bongeunsa

The second in a series of two

At the entrance portals I saw these paintings of warriors.  This is significant for Bongeunsa.  The monks of these temples fought valiantly at the time of the Japanese incursions in Korea during the early 1590s.  It was a time of unparalleled destruction.   The valour was evident too, at the time the occupation of North Koreans during the civil war of the 1950s.  The monks stayed standing.

One of the most beautifully decorated things was the drum and the drum room.

In this space there was too, a Silla bell.  These bronze bells were cast more than a thousand years ago in the Three Kingdoms period.  They have a particularly resonant sound.

I could hardly believe the refinement of the temple decoration.  This provided a framework for paintings of episodes in the life of Buddha.

It was strange to see the world of Bongeunsa against the starkly modern backdrop of the Samseong skyscrapers.  Perhaps the closest a South African comes to this is the Castle against the highrise buildings of Cape Town.

(c)  Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2018

 

My photographs

 

See also

Mitasa temple 09.09.12

Temples of South Korea  12.03.13

Three days at a temple  2.5.17

 

CANICULE

The French word for heat wave which, up to now, I haven’t known or known about.  There has been no need.  But the last two weeks have been the hottest I’ve experienced in France.  It might well be the hottest weather that anyone under forty has known.

I remember the heat in Durban — thick, wet and clinging.  Elsewhere in South Africa the summers are dry.  The Côte d’Azur is different from France:  when it’s snowing in the rest of the country, the day is sunny here; while France was getting the brunt of the Saharan heat sweeping up through Portugal and Spain, with temperatures soaring to 40°C, the Côte d’Azur reached only 34°C.  But, make no mistake, the thickness, the wetness, the clinging are there.

Everything wilts

The meteo on TV keeps promising change.  At the beginning of the third week we have begun to wonder at their competence.  Each day we draw the curtains to live in stygian gloom. We get the roof fan turning. We switch on the air-conditioner.  Our supply of chilled mineral water is dwindling. I walk around the apartment in my Australian underpants;  Claudie is too hot to notice.

This year long-standing weather records have been surpassed globally.  Sceptics are having a harder time in persuading us that climate change is a hoax.  Will we see winter again?

The tight smile of the air-conditioner

At nine minutes to four — yes, let it be documented — the first hot drops of rain began falling on the place below our apartment window.  As I write this evening, there is a cool breeze bringing benediction to the passage and to our rooms.

Place Charles Cros – note the rain puddle

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

9th August, 2018

 

My photographs

 

 

Christian images in South Korea

The first in a series of two

The Christian images in South Korea were often very different to those one would, perhaps, see in Europe.  The history is profoundly different and in fact there were still extensive persecutions of Christians in the late-19th-century.  But persecution seldom achieves its aim and the art of the faith bears witness to this.

I visited the Myongdong area in central Seoul where there is a traditional gothic Catholic cathedral.  The Stations of the Cross, cast in bronze, were unusual and powerful.  I have no idea who the artist was.

Outside in the grounds of the Cathedral was this huge granite head, almost two metre high.  Note the three symbolic nails.

In a shop selling Christian symbols and paraphernalia I saw this crucifix.  I would have wanted to remove the price tag.

Against the cityscape was a figure of Christ the Redeemer.

(c) Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2018

 

My photographs

 

 

 

 

More Christian images from South Korea

The second in a series of two 

In Daeso, the small town where I taught for a year, was a small Catholic church and in the first heavy snowfall I took these images.

In Samseong, in the south of Seoul, I saw these modern stained glass windows in a Presbyterian church.

In the town of Anseong, I passed a factory where all kinds of public statues were being made by sculptors.  I found this image memorable.

 

(c) Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com 

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2018

 

My photographs 

 

 

Some Buddhas in South Korea

In the National Cultural Museum at Ichon in West Seoul there is a remarkable collection of Buddhas, some formed from stone, others from wood and bronze.   Their diversity speaks of a long and rich history.

This rather severe bronze Buddha has an open left hand, for the healing and salvation of devotees.  It must be remembered that the word Buddha refers as much to a historical person as it does to spiritual attainment.  The original Buddha, the historical personage, is called Sakyamuni Buddha in South Korea.


This figure represents the state between outward action in the world and the inward spiritual process.  The hands are not at rest as the rest of the body is  The hole in the forehead was probably filled by a jewel at some point.  The visage is radiantly serene.

With the left hand upward in the act of salvation the figure has a background of flame, representing the attainment of spiritual ecstasy.  I have never understood the style of hair in Buddhas like these, assuming, of course, that the rough coverage does represent hair.

Perhaps it is only the lighting, but this figure feels to me to be in the process of isolation from the world – a cold height of infinite peace.  It is interesting how often the visage of the Buddha is androgenous:  perhaps it is the embodiment of yin and yang, the two polarities of each soul.

This Buddha feels more Indian, Thai or Indonesian in that he has been given four arms.  The multiplicity of arms, I’ve seen in Hindu figures, represents the sometimes contradictory functions of the god.  This is atypical for South Korea.  Devotees have told me that the Buddha is not seen as a god, though there is respect, honour and reverence.

I am not sure whether this figure was intended to be a Buddha figure.  I was struck, as I’ve often been, by its delicacy and by the strength of its devotion.

(c) Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2018

 

My photographs

 

Buddha of the Rocks, near Andong

 

 

Some (more) Buddhas in South Korea

The second in a series of two

This bronze head of the Buddha illustrates considerable skill:  closed eyes can so easily represent repose and passivity.  These eyes do not.  I feel the inward process in the way the figure has been made.  Again, the androgyny is present, perhaps so that the contemplative may never rest in one polarity of being.

In this much-weathered visage the inner joy and even humour cannot be mistaken.  This, the implication is, is a solitary state, entirely spiritual and not dependent on any other being or thing.

I am amazed at how Greek or Italian this face is.  The inner state often mirrored in th visage of the Buddha has been replaced to a certain extent by an intellectual certainty, something with a sharp edge.

This Buddha is at the Bongeunsa monastries in South Seoul.  As a standing Buddha he has his left hand open for the salvation of humankind.  What the square headdress is about I couldn’t say.  He stands about three storeys high in a beautiful green setting.

It would seem that Buddhists have their sentimental side as well.  Interesting to see the adult face of strong serenity in the face of the baby.  This was a little way from the previous figure at Bongeunsa.

(c) Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2018 

 

My photographs

Buddha of the Rocks, near Andong

 

 

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