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Korean Geographic - Taean Temple in Gokseong, Jeolla Namdo

Korean Geographic - Taean Temple in Gokseong, Jeolla Namdo

Posted April. 23, 2003 22:23,   


The sand alongside the Seomjin River in Gwangyang shines out wearing golden hue. The landscape upstream, however, is quite different. In Gokseong area, the river runs in a small stream creating large flat rocks on the side. The differences must have come from different ways of living in the two areas.

Unlike the magnificent landscape upstream, which is set against great mountains of Giri and Baewon, up here it is more like a creek running through valleys. Aprok in Gokseong is the place where the modest Seomjin meets with its peer Boseong. And not far from the point of rendezvous, there is Taean Temple.

Driving past Hwa-eom Temple, you will find Gu-rye City. Then, take the national route No. 18 in front of the city hall. When you drive about 4 km along the road covered with flowers of various colors on each side, you will find a river on your left side. It is the Seomjin River. Continue driving about 7 km, you will reach Aprok and then Boseong across the bridge. On your left side, you will find Boseong River this time. There is a signboard that says `Taean Temple is 6 km just ahead.`

In fact, you have to drive 7 km to get to the temple from where you are. There are mountains after mountains. The route 840 runs across the valley of mountains. Gokseong means a plain inside a valley and it is true to its name. You go along and you will be on a bumpy road. There your trip to the temple inside the mountain begins.

You have to stop to buy a ticket before the entrance leading to green woods and rocky valleys. The road is unpaved but you can still drive just fine if you want to. It will be better, however, to walk up enjoying the smell of trees rather than driving a car floating dust around.

At the end of the valley, stands the `Neungpa Bridge` connecting the valley to the temple. Leaving your worldly worries behind as you cross the bridge. Now you are about to enter the world of Buddhism. You are supposed to travel on foot from this point. Walk along the 200 meter-long road inside the woods.

There are stepping stones and dark-green shade of trees. It is so green that you feel like getting green water by squeezing out your clothes. Hear birds singing beautifully, too.

And the gate called `Ilju Mun` stands in your way. The name indicates Buddhist teaching of concentrated mind. Look at the left bottom of the wooden pillar. Bees are busy coming and going. Walking up, you will meet pheasants and squirrels. They do not run off. It is because they find few people here around.

Inside the temple, there is a three-story stone tower. It is so quite and you hear only the sound of the bell hanging under the roof of the main hall. You stay all day long, but still it is hard to find travelers. Quietness is the offering of the temple.

`You see many peaks and then a stream running through them. It is a long and hard way. Monks will have peace in their mind here surrounded by scenic landscapes,` said Great Monk Hye Cheol in the end of Shilla Dynasty as he formed a Buddhist school here deep inside a mountain. He was right to choose this place. Watching a tower surrounded by the temple right at the center, you think that this place seems locked in protection of the nature.

Taean Temple is one of the nine temples set for Zen (Buddhist meditation) training in Shilla Dynasty. `Dragons and saints` represent holiness and sprits. Worms and snakes hide under pine trees and shade. Clouds in the sky stop for a while to take a rest. It is cool in summer and warm in winter so it is good for meditation.`

Just as the saying of the great monk, this place has served well for Buddhist mediators for more than 1200 years. Now monks sit still and train themselves as their ancestors did before. Dozens of monks travel all the way to this temple in summer and winter times for meditation.

Taean Temple welcomes and embraces visitors like mother. When you step inside, you feel like being a part of this unworldly world. `Jeokmuk Dang` is a meditation hall for visitors from the outside world. Forget about worldly things and listen to the sound of singing birds, wind, trees and water. Reflect on yourselves just for a moment in Taean Temple in one spring day.