7 March 2016

부산 ♡ Haedong Yonggungsa

After falling sick, like I usually do during semester break, I'm still struggling to recover from the feverish state I spent yesterday in. But since I feel a bit better today already, I resumed the work on my term paper and didn't want to cancel today's update.
I hope that I can work on scheduling a couple of the upcoming updates soon, so that I don't need to stress about content anymore - I just didn't have the time to work let alone think about this the last two weeks that have been rather busy. Whatsoever, it's time to start into this new part of last summer's adventures in Korea. 
You can find an overview for my time in Busan here.

After visiting Haeunda Beach in the evening of our arival in Busan, my boyfriend, his mother and I got up early the next morning to visit one of the popular temples around Busan.
Before our departure from Seoul I did some research on places I wanted to visit and this Buddhist temple turned out to be my top favorite destination.
I'm really happy that one of my boyfriend's uncles agreed to bring us there by car.
However there are traveling directions on the visitkorea page, that I will share here with you, if you want to go to Haedong Yonggungsa via public transportation:

Haeundae Station (Busan Subway Line 2), Exit 7.
Take Bus 181 and get off at Yonggungsa Temple (용궁사).

 Since Haedong Yonggungsa was one of the places I looked forward to seeing the most, I took a lot of photos and want to include as many as this article can bear with, to give the best allround impression that you can get from that temple by just looking at photos on a screen.

Haedong Yonggungsa is a Buddhist temple that was built in 1376 by the Buddhist teacher Naong during the Goryeo Dynasty. It's one of the few complexes that are set on the seaside and a rather large one. Destroyed during the Japanese invasion it had to be rebuild in the late 1930s. 

As you could already guess from the directions, it's rather close to Haeundae Beach, about which I talked before so that it is extra popular among tourists because of its easy accessibility.
We went there on the 1st of August, when the celebrations for Buddha's birthday were over, but the stream of tourist was still huge (I read that most of the visitors come around Buddha's birthday because all temples are wonderfully decorated with laterns and there are extra festivities) and everyone outdared the harsh sunlight and heat that the day brought to visit the beautiful temple.

The first thing you see upon arival are small stands were you can buy food and other small souvenirs. My boyfriend's mother bought me a sun hat because it was super hot that day and we ate ssiat hotteok, a local speciality that I fell in love with.
Ssiat Hotteok is a form of sweet, filled pancake. I remember eating hotteok only filled with honey in Tokyo's Korea Town two years ago already, but ssiat hotteok is different because it's additionally filled with sunflower seeds. It's so good. We actually bought another share when we came back from the temple.

The next thing you'll see is a line of warrior statues, that guide the entry of the temple. Each of them represents one animal of the Chinese zodiac, so of course I had to pose with the dog, while my boyfriend was photographed with the horse warrior.

Haedong Yonggungsa literally means 'Thaw Dragon Palace Temple'. 
I think it makes absolute sense to have the word dragon in the temple's name, considering the heavy dragon imagery that you find on the walls and roofs of the buildings in the area, crowned by the dragon statue in front of it.
Also, in Korean mythology, quite alike to what you find in Japan and China, dragons are connected to water. They are said to live in bodies of water, are able to summon clouds and rain and were mostfly helpful for humanity. 
Over time the depiction of them as guardians grew eventhough there are other mythical creatures with that duty like Seoul's symbol, the Haechi - just to name one example.

However, it is not what monk Naong called the temple when it was founded. How the beautiful seaside temple came to its current name and what it was called before, is a super interesting story, which my boyfriend's mother tried to explain to me but because my Korean isn't as good as I would like to say, it was really hard and the actual sense of what she said - as well as surprise about how much I actually was able to understand - only came later, when I put a bit of research into it.
Tony Kitchen on the Korean Language blog put together a really clear explanation, that you can read here.

"If you want to know your past, look at what you have now.
If you want to know your future, look at what you do now."

Literally everything about this place was breathtaking and incredibly fascinating. I was even able to block out all the other tourists that were walking around everywhere and was able to enjoy our trip to the hideout at the sea. We seeked shelter in a small kiosk for a while and ate ice cream together, able to look over the sea and even looking back now I can confirm that being able to visit this temple was one of the trip's highlights.

Do you like to visit temples or other historical and/or religious sites?
Tell me in a comment below.

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