Temples of South Korea

What has art to do with the soul?  My upbringing would have said nothing.  The Buddhist and Catholic child would have marveled at a different world and different set of values. My year in South Korea brought this home to me.

Yuongpyeongsa and Buddha

Yuongpyeongsa and Buddha


It is colours that struck me first –  the roof beams a palette of primaries, lovingly, painstakingly, applied.

Bongeunsa portal roof

Bongeunsa portal roof

Inside, as always, the Buddha figure is central, in bright gold overlay, often with two bodisattvas, flanking. Westerners need perhaps to be told that the genuflections of Buddhists do not imply worship, but respect and honour.

Gyeongju interior

Gyeongju interior

Temples are almost all built in the curled roof tradition, iconic for the East. Inside there are tapestries, sculpture and paintings that illustrate the life of Buddha or parables, together with sacred paraphernalia like the mutak, a wooden instrument that is struck to structure services.

Magoksa portal roof

Magoksa portal roof

Approaching the temples the pilgrims go through portals, also beautifully decorated.  At some temples there are protective structures that shelter Silla bells.  The Silla bells, about a head taller than a person, were cast in the Three Kingdoms period (circa 500 – 1000  c.e.)  It is a special moment to hear the bell being struck by the wooden beam made for the purpose.  On one such bell, were engraved the words To be heard at the ends of the earth.   And it’s true – years later I still hear it here in South Africa.

  A Silla bell at Bisan-ri

A Silla bell at Bisan-ri


© Will v.d.Walt

July, 2007 – June 2008








3 Responses to Temples of South Korea

  1. What striking, wonderful images ..but of course Art has everything to do with the Soul … it is in the Heart of Creation. That post renders your emotions … it is a very remarkable one. thank you for sharing…

  2. Kenneth Margo says:

    Enjoy them .Keep em coming.

  3. Marie Reinecke says:

    Precious memories!

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