Ibike Korea People-to-People Program



Photo essay: Sangju to Gimcheon


Sangju to Gimcheon (34mi, 55km) Beautiful rolling countryside and farmland.
Points of Interest:  beautiful hills, rivers and valleys, locations significant in the Korean War

  Heritage house, Korea Heritage house, KoreaJust out for a morning ride, and here is a house that is more than 400 years old!  This house was built in 1601 by Jo Jeong (1555-1636), general of the militia during the Japanese invasion, 1592. It was moved to the present site in 1661. Originally, the complex of buildings had 40 bays (space between two columns).  Currently, the main building, guest house and a building for ancestral ceremonies remain.
  rice farm, Korea Grape orchard, Koera Persimmon orchard, KoreaThe vast and intensive agriculture continued. Between the rearranging of the terracing, the mountains and the village settings the view change every few hundred meters, mile after mile.  Amongst the group we started to have jokes about how many photos we took of rice fields.  We wanted to remember them all. New in this section was large orchards of persimmons and grapes.
  Primary school, Korea Statue of studens at primary school, KoreaPoking around in a village during a snack stop, there was a school across the street.  Schools are common.  South Korea has a 98% literacy rate.  And school architecture is not distinctive -- it seems like most rural primary schools are constructed from the same architectural drawing.  But tucked up under the trees next to the gate of this school was a delightful sculpture of students.  I should check to see if there is art next to the gates of other schools.
  colorful whirly-birds, Korea The next section of the route was generally flat farm land, with the occasional lake/reservoir, village or small town.  One thing that caught my eye was a fanciful park, that amount other things, was lined with colorful whirly-birds.
  Gimcheon recycling center At the edge of Gimcheon we passed the recycling center. This brings into focus how remarkably trash free the country is.  We didn't see landfills.  We didn't see trash left out for pick-up.  There is no trash along the road sides. Public trash cans are common, but they are never full.  In general the economy seems to function at a high level without creating a lot of trash, and that which it does create is disposed of stealthly.
  Gimcheon market

Cabbage, Gimcheon market

Kimchi, Gimcheon market Dried fish, Gimcheon market Mushrooms, street vendor, Gimcheon market Vegetables, street vendor, Gimcheon market

It was pretty quiet on the afternoon wander through this market.  A variety of shops were open, but there weren't many shoppers. Certainly the staples were available: kimchi, dried fish and mushrooms.

It may have been the time of day because traffic on main street was also light.  The traffic picked up at rush-hour.

  Puma and Adidas store, Gimcheon Bakery, Gimcheon, Korea Shops in downtown GimcheonThe sidewalk traffic was much heavier out on the main street. Like in most decent size towns in Korea, consumers have have access to a variety of international product.  Gimcheon has shops Puma, Adidas, Nike, North Face and a dozen other international manufacturers. Almost every block in the central city had a boutique bakery as well.  I would venture to say that the amount of bread and sugar in the average Korean diet is increasing.
  macDonald's delivery scooters, Korea

School girls, Gimcheon

Railway station yard, GimcheonOn the topic of transport modality, Gimcheon has several: MacDonald's delivers orders by motor scooters. 

The train tracks run through the center of town and the rail yard is active with trains passing through.

In the afternoon the sidewalks are crowded -- largely with groups of school girls in uniform.  It seems likely that there are some girls schools in the area.  Woman bicyclists, GimcheonThe merchants are happy because they don't seem shy about going into the shop and spending money.

Bicycling by locals is rare, but there were a few.

  Light fixtures in the parking lot of the train station, Gimcheon Street scene of a side street, Gimcheon Here are a couple of additional street scenes:

The light fixtures in the parking lot of the train station (left).

Looking down a side street across from the train station (right).

  Jikjisa Temple is in the mountains southwest of Gimcheon. The temple was founded in 418, during the Silla Dynasty. The name of the temple originates from the teachings of Seon (Zen) Buddhism, "Pointing straight into the mind to see the true self, to achieve Buddhahood." It has been renovated every two or three centuries since then, until it was burned down during the Japanese invasion of 1596. Reconstruction was started again in 1602 and lasted 60 years.

The temple has many classic features of Korean Buddhist temple design.

  Iljumun, One Pillar Gate, Jikjisa, Gimcheon, Korea The lower part of the temple grounds features a "cleansing" stream, and there is a beautiful wooded lane leading to the Iljumun, One Pillar Gate. The gate is in one line / plane. It signifies you are passing from the ordinary world to a more spiritual realm. They are decorated with cosmic patterns (stylized lotus).

Bongwangmun, Guardian gate, or Phoenix gate, Jikjisa, Gimcheon, KoreaThe second gate is the Bongwangmun, Guardian gate, or Phoenix gate. It is of Hindu origins. Honors the four Divas. As devotees of Buddha, these figures guard Buddhist cannons (Dharma) and are the protective deities over monks and the faithful. Collectively they guard the whole universe: Jiguk Cheonwang (diva) (lute, the strings of which control wind, thunder, hail and other weather) rules over the east. Gwangmok Cheonwang (dragon and jewel -- royalty and wisdom) rules over the west. Jeungjang Cheonwang (sword) rules over the south, and Damun Cheonwang (pagoda) rules over the north.  At the center of the four quarters is Sumisen.  Samisen is where Buddha lives -- a temple is symbolic of Samisen, therefore, if one passes this gate he or she is likely to enter the world of Buddha.


The third gate is Haetalmun, Gate of non-duality, Enlightenment Gate, Nirvana Gate, Liberation Gate. Oneness -- there is no difference where we make judgments and see differences. There is no difference from the mundane world and the spiritual world.


The bell pavilion has four instruments.  The Beopgo, Dharma drum, to call all living beings of the land.  One end has the hide of a female cow and the other of a male cow. The Mokeo, wooden carp-shaped slit drum, symbolizing the trainees meditating without sleep, and is beat to call all living beings underwater.  The Wunpan, flat metal cloud-shaped gong is beat for all of the forlorn wondering spirits, animals and living beings in air.  The Bumjong, large bronze bell is beat for all the living creatures in hells.  This are played before prayers, calling all things to listen. The bell is struck 28 times every morning (representing the 28 realms of hell) and 33 times in the evening (representing the 33 realms of heaven.)

  The are a number of shrine, with unique characters distributed around the main temple grounds:
Birojeon (Thousand Buddha Hall),  Myeongbujeon (enshrine Ksitigarbha Bodhisativa, the Ten Kings and minor attendants), Samyeongkag hall (enshrines the portrait of the great Buddhist priest Samyeong)

The highest temple in the main compound is often the Temple of the Mountain God. It can be identified by the presence of a tiger. It is adapted from traditional Korean religion.

  Birojeon, Thousand Buddha Hall, Jikjisa, Gimcheon, Korea Birojeon, Thousand Buddha Hall, Jikjisa, Gimcheon, KoreaJikjisa is one of three temples with a Birojeon. The others are Magoksa and Daeheungsa. Birojeon is alternatively called the Thousand Buddha Hall. In the front is the Vairocana triad statues, consisting of Vairocana Buddha, Bhaisajyaguru Buddha and Nosana Buddha. They are flanked by a thousand Buddha. Among the thousand Buddha is one baby Buddha. It can be found in the third row, behind the Vairocana triad statues (right).
  Samyeongkag Hall enshrines the portrait of the great Buddhist priest and warrior monk Samyeong. With the outbreak of the Japanese invasion in 1592, he mobilized a righteous army of monks. The monks under his leadership played a critical role in turning the course of the war. At the end of the war Samyeong went to Japan to negotiate the release of Korean prisons of war. He succeeded in repatriating 3,500 captives. He is honored for his spiritual, military and diplomatic achievements.

Outside of the temple compound is a plot of buda or stupa. A stupa is a pagoda where ashes or remains of Buddhist saints or monks are placed.  Most of these stupa are bell-shaped. The decoration on the stupa indicate when the stupa was dedicated. This was a common practice for monks that lived in the area during the latter part of the Joseon Dynasty.

From the stupa area is a road that leads up into the hills to a half-dozen Ams or hermatiges.


Most temple systems in Korea are built and located is such a way so as to receive the magical energy of its surrounding landscape. The mountain from which they are constructed upon will have what's known as three 'Hyeol' - an upper, central and lower plateau.  The 'Gi,' or energy lines that run down the southern slope, will pass trough all three of these plateau and major larger monastery will be built on the lower Hyeols, with its hermitages scattered above on the central and upper Hyeols.  The upper hermitages supposedly have higher refined levels of spiritual energy, allowing those that live in them closer access to the energies of the mountain and heaven.  The lower level purports a more balanced and powerful energy, hence the construction of large stabilized headquarter temples at the foot of the mountain.

  Unique to Jikjisa is a site museum of Buddhist art. There are sculptures, manuscripts, tapestries, ceramics and other decorative pieces, set is a calm, spacious, unhurried hall. It would be helpful if more of the descriptions were bilingual.

Sangju Goryeong

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