Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mt Maisan (Horse Ear Mountain) and Haeinsa Temple

The day after buying suits and Hanboks for the wedding we went on a road trip to Busan. I was originally planning on using the KTX, but Jihyeon's father insisted on joining us and driving his car. It meant we could stop at a Tapsa (at the foot of Mt Maisan aka Horse Ear Mountain) and Haeinsa Temple (a famous temple housing over 80,000 wooden printing blocks of Buddhist scriptures). The trip from Iksan to Busan takes between 3 and 4 hours on the international expressway (depending on traffic), but by the time we took detours and stopped at the two temples we didn't get to Busan until 9:30 that night. 

I sat in the back with my knees around my ears next to Jihyeon. 

One of the many tunnels we passed through on the way to Busan. It is a fantastic highway. One minute you are on a bridge passing high above the trees in a valley with an amazing view, the next you are driving through the mountain. 

Sorry about the lines in the picture. I snapped this out the back window of the car. That is Mt Maisan (aka Horse Ear Mountain) in the distance. 

Another shot of horse ear mountain, this time out the side window. 

Tapsa Temple (Mt Maisan)

We finally arrived only to find we were at the northern car park. If we wanted to visit Tapsa temple without climbing over the mountain we needed to go to the southern car park. Below is a map of the park. There are a number of hiking trails that go around the mountain. If I have time I will go back and check them out. 

My entry ticket. 

Before heading to Tapsa temple we had a break in a rest shelter and ate fried chicken and watermelon. 

An annoying old lady was busy talking on her phone and didn't want to move so we could all sit together at the table...

I am not sure about the northern entry, but at the southern entry there are a stack of restaurants and nick nack shops set up along the path way to the temple. Yum, duck. 

A pond filled with water lilies. 

A temple on the path to Tapsa temple. 

As we walked along the path I looked back to see another temple high in the hills on a rocky outcrop. 

These poor guys were getting squashed left right and center on the path. 

A small lake along the way...

Where you can hire duck boats.

It was pretty hot walking to Tapsa temple so I decided to follow Jihyeon's fathers lead and refresh myself in the stream by the side of the road. 

And we finally arrived. The stone pagodas around Tapsa Temple were built by a Buddhist hermit layman called Yi Gap Yong. In 1885 (at the age of 25) be came to Mt. Maisan to meditate and cultivate himself. Over the next 30 years he constructed, single handed, as many as 120 conical stone pagodas, all without mortar. Many years after Yi Gap Yong started his project, the site became a Buddhist Temple and Yi became an ordained monk. 

Thanks to the person who took this crooked photo.

This is a statue of Yi Gap Yong. 

and here is a photo of him.  

View from the top of the hill. 

Inside the temple.

All around the temple among the stone pagodas were bowls of water. The bowls of water are left there for the gods or peoples ancestors. People then pray for the things they want (help their children in school, money, health, etc). 

A random flower hanging over the path. 

After poking around the temple and having an ice cream, we headed back to the car. 

Note to self. Driving into the lake = bad. Thanks captain obvious. 

You can see some giant gold fish (about 30cm long) in the lake. 

We walked back through the shops.

Random flower out the front of one of the many shops lining the path. 

We then jumped in the car and headed off to Haeinsa temple, but before we got too far we pulled over so i could snap Jihyeon next to this giant pink flower that was next to the road. 

Haeinsa Temple

It rained really heavy on the way to Haeinsa Temple, but by the time we got there it had started easing up a bit. Haeinsa Temple is most notable for being the home of the Tripitaka Koreana, the whole of the Buddhist Scriptures carved onto 81,350 wooden printing blocks, which it has housed since 1398. The temple was first built in 802. Legend says that two Korean monks returned from China, Suneung and Ljeong, and healed King Aejang's wife of her illness. The grateful king ordered the construction of the temple. 

Korea has seen a lot of unrest over the years (various Japanese invasions and the Korean war) so it is amazing that the temple has survived. During the Korean war UN forces were ordered to bomb Haeinsa with four bombers. However, at that time Kim Young Hwan, Leader of air Force pilots, was worried about the loss of the temple and did not obey the command. Due to his lack of action, haeinsa weathered the crisis and did not experience the bombing. 

Thanks to all the rain we had earlier in the day, the river was very muddy. 

Trekking up the mountain under our umbrellas. 

Photo Zone!

Finally, we reached the entry to the temple. 

Prayer/wishing lanterns. You write your prayer/wish on a piece of paper and tie it under the lantern (for a small fee). 

This seems to almost be a prerequisite of temples in Korea. I am yet to go to a temple that didn't have fresh spring water close by. 

Communal drinking cups resting on the edge of the stone trough. 

And finally we reached the main courtyard. 

The prayer building.

Inside the prayer building. 

Misty mountain panorama from the top of the stairs. 

Some patterns in the paving stones around the temple. 

More misty mountains.

This structure sits just behind the main prayer hall and is what houses the 81,350 wooden printing blocks. In 1970, a modern storage complex was built utilizing modern preservation techniques, but when test woodblocks were found to have mildewed, the intended move was canceled and the woodblocks remained at Haeinsa. It is a testament to the original builders.

Sadly, since the 2008 arson incident on Namdaemun gate you are no longer allowed inside the building. Here is a picture of inside the building courtesy of Google image search. 

The building faces southwest to avoid damp southeasterly winds from the valley below and it blocked from the cold north wind by mountain peaks. Different sized windows on the north and south sides of both main halls are used for ventilation, utilizing the principles of hydrodynamics. The windows were installed in every hall to maximise ventilation and regulate temperature. The clay floors were filled with charcoal, calcium oxide, salt, lime and sand, which reduce humidity when it rains by absorbing excess moisture. The roof is also made with clay and the bracketing and wood rafters prevent sudden changes in temperature.

They put a couple of the printing blocks on display which was nice. Each block is made of birch wood from the southern islands of Korea and was treated to prevent the decay of the wood. They were soaked in sea water for three years, then cut, then boiled in salt water. Then, 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. After each block was carved, it was covered in a poisonous lacquer to keep insects away and was framed with metal to prevent warping. 

Every block was inscribed with 23 lines of text with 14 characters per line, Therefore, each block, counting both sides, contains a total of 644 characters. Due to the consistency of the carving style, it was originally believed that a single man carved the entire collection but it is now believed that a team of thirty men did the job. 

We snapped some final photos and then set out on the final leg to Busan. 

We stopped for dinner at a road house along the highway and then finally got to Busan around 9:00.

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