Two weekends ago, I went for a hike with two Korean friends, Ruby and Cha-Cha (her Korean name is Chan-Hee). We went to Bogyeong-sa temple in the Northern region of Pohang, nestled in the foothills of Mt. Naeyeonsan. It was beautiful. The weather was clear, the sun was bright, and the breeze was cool. A few trees had just begun to change their color. There were so many people out enjoying the weather! I was amazed at how crowded the trail was. Koreans love to hike, I have been told.
As always, it felt good to get out of town, but I was particularly happy to at last locate this particular temple and hike. I had been trying to get there on my own for weeks, with little success. One of the local buses goes to it, but not on every run. I couldn't figure it out! I'm lucky to know some cool Koreans who were interested in some fresh air and good exercise. As leaves are popping even more now, I plan to make another excursion to the mountains to see them in full force.
This temple is well known in Pohang because of the beautiful surrounding area, including the hike with its twelve waterfalls, many gorges, and beautiful bridges. Walking across an awesome pedestrian suspension bridge, I looked down to see the water pooling below, so clear and clean. From far above it was easy to see into its crystal depths.
The temple itself was built in 602 (C.E.), during the Silla (seel-ah) period. The "Silla" period (57 B.C.E.-935 C.E.) was quite important in Korea, and signs of it still remain today. Silla refers to the first time in its history that Korea was unified as one kingdom, bringing an end to the era of three separate kingdoms. The Silla period was a time when Korea flourished, and stood out as one of the most advanced cultures in the world.
I'll briefly mention that Korea has a centuries-old special relationship with China, mostly one of great respect. Silla was closely connected with the Tang Dynasty in China, sent many of its students to Tang schools, and at this time was given the significant Chinese designation of "flourishing land in the East." The Silla capital, Gyeongju, the "city of gold," is just 30 minutes outside of Pohang! Now often referred to as the "museum without walls," Gyeongju is an historical treasure I plan to visit quite soon. If the Bogyeong-sa temple is any indication of the Silla architecture and beauty, I can't wait to see a whole city full of the same. Despite some casualties of history, much of Gyeongju remains intact.
Korea has so much beauty, and I'm just beginning to explore it! I can't wait to see more!