Ibike Korea People-to-People Program



Photo essay: Sangnam to Sangwonsa

    (55mi, 90km) 30km of dirt road over a mountain to reach an isolated temple.
Points of Interest:  Odeasan Nat’l Park, Sangwonsa monastery
  Jang-seung, "Korean totem poles" Jang-seung, "Korean totem poles"Jang-seung, "totem poles," usually locate in male-female pairs at the entrance to a village on the mainland.  They are smiling scary! They have a dual purpose; the smile is suppose to welcome friend and the grin is suppose to to scare off evil.  In this case they lined the roadway.
  habitat of "Brachymystax lenok" This is the habitat of "Brachymystax lenok," a rare freshwater fish of the trout family that lives only in northern Asia and Korea.  In Korea, it lives in clean cold water in a limited area in Kangwon-do Province south of the DMZ. This area has been designated a preservation area to protect the fish. Naerin River.
  dirt road in Odaesan National Park dirt road in Odaesan National ParkThis is our one major stretch of dirt road (25 km).  It started out packed and reasonably smooth.  Most of the way to Duroryeong Pass (11 km) is was a consistent grade and quite ride-able.  There are short stretches that are rocky and steep so it is convenient to dismount and enjoy a forest walk for a few minutes.  The worst sections are on the first few kilometers of descent, south of the pass, where the surface was loose gravel and rock and also deserving of a relaxed pass off the bike.
  This gaggle of well accessorized mountain bikers zipped past us with empty on their way down.  A few minutes later, as we labored up the hill with our loaded, modest bikes, they passed us again, packed into dust raising vans on the way back up -- presumably to sprint down another mountain road someplace.
  K'inpokdeanol (steam), Odaesan National Park Trail map, Odaesan National ParkK'inpokdeanol (steam) (left), Odaesan National Park.  Duroryeong Pass is the trail head for several trails leading to mountain temples, hermitages and peaks (right).
  Miruk-am, a small hermitage, Odaesan National Park Miruk-am, a small hermitage a few kilometers south of Duroryeong Pass. Odaesan National Park.
  Sangwonsa (temple) Sangwonsa (temple), descending from Duroryeong Pass and from across the valley.  Part of Zen Buddhism is to reach enlightenment by get in touch with your Buddha, pure self, by shedding all of the distractions you have accumulated since birth.  Often temples and hermitages are situated in isolated locations with few new distractions.pagoda, Sangwonsa (temple)

It is said that in 705 AD two Shilla princes, Poch'on and Hyomyong, came to the Odea Mountains to pray to Manjusri Bodhisattva* and built a hermitage here.  Pochon later established the Chinyowon prayer temple on this site.  (*A being who aspires to perfect enlightenment in order to save others.  Manjusri personifies wisdom and is often depicted holding a sword which he uses to cut through the veil of ignorance.)

  bicycle parking, Sangwonsa (temple) Sangwonsa (temple)We were granted permission by the monks to overnight (pre-arranged) at Sangwonsa (temple).  We were given bicycle parking, just outside of our dormitory.  The rooms were "ondol" and had no accessories, except for electric lights.  As is expected of guest we participated in the major activities during our stay.
  Korean temple bell, Sangwonsa This bell, believed to be the oldest and most elegant of Korean's bells, was cast in 725, during the reign of Seongdeok-wang (r. 702-737) of Shilla (57 BC - AD 935), and brought to Sangwonsa in 1469.  The dragon-shaped suspension ring, the flue pipe beside it that protrudes from the body of the bell to set its tone, and the ornamental nipples below the shoulder of the bell are features typical of ancient Korean temple bells. Of special note are the apsaras, or heavenly maidens, that are mingled with the arabesque designs of the bands around the nipples and around the top and bottom of the bell.  The hitting points are marked with a lotus petal design.  The faces and flapping robes of the apsaras between striking points well reflect the realistic sculpturing of Buddhist artists of the early eighth century.
  Sangwonsa (temple) water fountain (drinking), Sangwonsa (temple) Sangwonsa (temple) Sangwonsa (temple)
  Architecture of Sangwonsa Sangwonsa (temple)Most of the buildings at the temple fall into two categories; living quarters and those used for prayer.  There are a number of shines used for pray.  We joined the monks for their first prays of the day at 3 a.m. They then do chore, have breakfast at 6 a.m. and then study or pray in one of the shrines for the morning.  The juxtaposition of nature, the multiple graceful rooflines of the building, the changing light and the ambiance of activity (including chanting), generates a spiritual aura.
  Architecture of Sangwonsa

Architecture of Sangwonsa

Sangwonsa (temple)Basic temple etiquette:
  • Generally be quiet
  • Wear long pants
  • Don't enter a temple or room directly in front of Buddha, use a side door (some senior monks are given this privilege.)
  • Remove you shoes, but no bare feet (wear socks), when entering a temple.
  • Pay your respect to Buddha by bowing three times
  • Don't take pictures while inside a temple
  • If you eat a meal, eat all the rice you take
  Architecture of Sangwonsa Sangwonsa (temple)Part of a monks existence is to live simply.  Some of the most enlightened monks are noted for owning only their robes and a cup.  Without trying to reconcile it, I noted the temple had a coffee machine and telephones, the business office used computers and the monks traveled in SUVs.


JeongmyeolbogungThe Jeokmyeolbogung is the sanctum of the temple.  The Sarira (mineral pieces left in the ashes of the cremation of a Buddhist master) of the Buddha were placed here.  This is one of the five most important Jeokmyeolbogungs in Korea.  Legend says that the Buddhist monk Jajangyulsa brought back the Sarira fo the Buddha when he returned from China.  He enshrined them in the Jeokmyeolbogung.  The legend survives and Jeokmyeolbogung is revered as a resting place of Buddha remains.  People make special pilgrimages to this temple.  It is a steep two kilometer climb from the nearest road.

Sangnam Jeongseon

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