25 July 2016

경주 ♡ temple run

It's been literally months since I uploaded the first part of my day in Gyeongju and seeing that today, a year prior, I was already in Korea makes it even more obvious that it is about damn time to continue this series.
Today I want to talk about our adventureous trip to Hwangnyongsa and Bunhwangsa, as well as our night trip to Cheomseongdae and other sites around Gyeongju. This post will be really picture heavy, but as always, I will try to include some information about the sites I visited, as well.
And since I can't recall the last time when I visited so many historical sites on one day, I came up with that rather corny headline - I hope you don't mind...

After visiting Cheonmachong in Tumuli Park (you can read up on that here) we took a cab to Hwangnyongsa. Unfortunately I expected what I had seen on photos - like that one - before and couldn't find the pagoda - naturally since it's not there anymore.

Hwangnyongsa, or Hwangnyong Temple is a former Buddhist temple in the city of Gyeongju.
Completed in the 7th century, the enormous 9-story structure was built entirely with wood with interlocking design and without iron nails. It had a standing total height of 80 meters, making it the tallest structure in East Asia and the tallest wooden structure in the world at the time of its construction.
The pagoda stood until it was burned during a Mongolian invasion in 1238.
The temple site in a valley with other important sites like the Gyeongju National Park, about 140 meters from Bunhwang Temple (that we visited too), was excavated in 1972, revealing the temple layout and covering 40 000 artifacts.
I kind of wish I knew earlier to look for flat stone layouts across the wide field next to Bunhwangsa, instead of being tricked and disappointed by deceiving photos, that promised a pagonda I couldn't find hints of upon arrival.

Anyway, walking around Bunwhangsa was really nice too, I enjoyed the decorations that were still up because of Buddha's birthday that had been celebrated in all temples only a couple of weeks before and the atmosphere was calm and peaceful, eventhough it was still really hot.

Bunhwangsa (literally "Fragrant Emperor Temple") is a temple complex from the Old Silla era of Korea. Located in Gyeongju, the temple is recorded to have been built in 634 under the auspices of Queen Seondeok (who was the first reigning queen in Silla). Today the temple is stilll used by a small group of worshipers but in its heyday, the temple covered several acres and was one of the four main temples of the Silla Kingdom used by the state to ask the Buddha to bless the kingdom.

Before we walked back to the Bus Terminal and Tourist Center, where my boyfriend's mother had ordered tickets for a bus tour for us, we ate some lunch in one of the small restaurants that lay rather unobtrusively by the roadside, across from the remains of the temple complex.

The bus tour started during night fall and listening attentively to the guide was becoming harder for me because I was exhausted and tired from all the things I already saw during the day.
The air cooled down though, which made it easier for me to recover a bit from my fartigue and in the end I understood more than I had expected at first - it's a good feeling to be surprised by your own language skills, by the way.
We passed some bigger complexes that they have built hotels around before we arrived at Donggung Palace and the Wolji Pond.

Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond (formerly named Anapji). Wolji Pond is an artifical pond in Gyeongju National Park, that was part of the palace complex in ancient Silla.
It was constructed by order of King Munmu in 674 CE.
It has an oval shape - 200m from East to West and 180m from North to South - and contains three small islands.

Because all remaining pagodas and also the trees on the sides of the pond get illuminated at night, the whole scene emitts a magical kind of atmosphere. The cool air after a hot summer day just added up to a wonderfully peaceful enviroment that was really worth a watch. The crystal clear reflection on the pond's surface alone make me remember the minutes spent there fondly.

After that stop, we continued our tour to other destinations around the Gyeongju National Park.
Gyerim, a small woodland would have been really interesting too, but it was already too dark to make out anything when we arrived there.
My personal highlight, after Wolji Pond was Cheomseongdae.

Cheomsongdae is an astronomical observatory. Its name means star-gazing tower in Korean. Cheomseongdae is the oldest surviving observatory in the world. It dates to the 7th century. It was designated as the country's 31st national treasure on Dec 20, 1962.
The tower is out of cut granite and was built during Queen Seondeok's reign - the queen I mentioned before, who is said to have encouraged a renaissance in thought, literature and arts in Silla. She is also said to have build Cheomseongdae as mean to share the knowledge of astronomy with everyone.

My personal reasons to be so obsessed with this: A) this queen was the bomb. B) the sole thought of people thousands of years ago already being fascinated by stars and in the know of astonomical phenomena is one of my favorite things.

We walked up to another village with traditional houses and an old bridge that used to have historical significance but by this time I was already too tired to actually pay attention and translate in my head.

Anway, the trip to Gyeongju was really interesting and I got to see a lot of amazing things, though my first impression of Gyeongju admittedly wasn't the best.
If you have the chance to visit Gyeongju and are interested in history, this city might turn into a gold mine for you.

I hope you enjoyed this really long  posting. 
In the next part of this series, I'll talk about how I got to know my boyfriend's best friends and what kind of inanities we came up with during our trip to Gapyeong and Namiseom Island.

Any questions? Ask in a comment below.

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