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]

Photo of the Day (2/14/09)

I’ve dreaded every Valentine’s Day for the past five years, but I guess that’s because I’ve long been unattached on this day, and usually spend my time moping around the house and giving my pug Iris hugs every hour or so to make up for the love I’m not getting.

Also every Valentine’s Day I find time to rummage through all of the cheesy card in the neighborhood drugstore’s Hallmark aisle and gag at the ridiculously romantic lines within. Sometimes I even buy a card for myself — often one that says something like “Loving you is the easiest thing to do” or something completely self-indulgent like that.

Despite my disappointments come this Day of Love, I must say pick-up lines are some of my favorite things. This year, a friend sent along some of the craziest pick-up lines I’ve ever read. So, to you single people out there, wherever you are in the world, you might want to give these lines a try. Go ahead and sidle up to one of the pretty ladies / handsome men at a bar around the corner and have at it!

  • If you were a booger, I’d pick you first.
  • You’re like my dandruff, I cannot get you out of my head!
  • My love for you is like diarrhea, I can’t hold it in!
  • You remind me of a library book, because I always want to check you out.
  • Is your father a terrorist? Because you’re “da bomb!”
  • Excuse me, are you a dictionary? Because you give meaning to my life.

Kidding aside, this photo of red locks in a heart shape comes to us from Styggiti. Couples in South Korea climb Namsan, fasten a lock at the top of the mountain, and then throw away the key as a symbolic gesture of their love for each other. I know couples do this in some parts of China as well.

Happy Love Day, everyone.

If you have some great travel shots you’d like to share, be sure to upload them to the Gadling pool on Flickr. We might just pick one as our Photo of the Day!