The Kimchi-ite: A 1000-Year-Old Temple In The Middle Of Seoul

Exiting Sadang Station in Seoul, you can immediately tell it is one of the busiest stations in South Korea; throngs of people are everywhere, pushing and shoving their way in and out. Outside the station are dozens of alleys with neon lights going up four stories, advertising barbecue restaurants, bars and karaoke rooms. Lines crisscross the sidewalk for buses that will take people home to the suburbs. It’s near unimaginable that not far behind the station, up an unassuming hill, is a tranquil Buddhist temple.

This colorful door panel is one of many dragon pieces on the temple doors.
Gwaneum Temple (관음사) was established shortly before 900 A.D. by the Jongye Order in order to harness the power of the mountain’s feng shui. It sits halfway up a mountain, amongst trees, streams and hiking paths. The only reason I even knew it existed is because a friend of mine found it accidentally when he was lost. While the temple was established well over 1,000 years ago, most of the buildings on the site were built in the 1970s, with a few dating to the 1920s.

The interior of the temple where respects are paid and people meditate.

A new statue sits atop a pedestal as a place for self-relection.

These ornate, carved flowers add amazing colors to the temple doors.

The colors used in the art and architecture of Korean temples are always striking, and separates them from temples in other parts of Asia. Almost exclusively, four colors are used: teal, blue, orange and red. The main doors are guarded by large, carved, wooden dragons – a theme here that would continue throughout the grounds.

Dragons are a continuous theme throughout the temple grounds, as seen in this artwork on a temple wall.

Carved dragon heads protect the temple entrance.

A view from the top with Seoul Tower in the distance.

After spending an hour slowly exploring the temple grounds, I turned to walk back to the station when I was presented with this magnificent view of the city. There are certainly many places to check out the Seoul cityscape from above, but this one was unexpected and without the crowds that too commonly accompany Korean attractions, making this perspective one of my favorites.

Be sure to check out all the other Kimchi-ite posts here.

[Photos by Jonathan Kramer]

Asian architecture photographed by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Asian architecture, like the architecture from most other areas of the world, is a tourist attraction. I would go as far as to say that the way we build, collectively, seems to provide at least a small token of insight on the way we operate, collectively. Architecture shows us how people work, relax, create, eat, play, sleep, and live. It shows us what works for people, aesthetically and functionally, and this changes depending on where in the world we are. Asian architecture, if I may make a broad statement, is fascinating to me. And photographer Jonathan Leijonhufvud has helped me understand why. Trendland.net recently published a photo set by Leijonhufvud, featuring Asian architecture. Check it out here.

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