The Baekje Cultural Land and Naesosa Temple

When Stella and I finally got on Korean time, we were ready to take our first trip (albeit small) to some of the neighboring temples.  Our first jaunt was to the Baekje Cultural Land near Buyeo.  A fellow Air Force spouse had mentioned this complex and considering it wasn’t a very long drive (just a little over an hour), we decided to check it out.  Our second trip came the following weekend to Naesosa Temple in the Byeonsanbando National Park, south of base.

Baekje Cultural Land

Baekje Cultural Land took five years of planning and twelve years to build, opening in the fall of 2010.  The cultural land portrays the history and culture of Baekje (BC18 ~ AD 660), one of Korea’s ancient kingdoms, and is situated in Buyeo-gun county in Chungcheongnam-do Province.  The whole complex is rather large – about 1.5 square miles – and you can certainly tell a lot of work was put into making the lands historically accurate as well as beautiful. It’s considered a history theme-park, which I believe is an interesting concept.  Several times a year, they put on cultural reenactments and provide historical tours.  However, it is also attached to a very nice outlet mall, so I guess if you aren’t really into the whole history thing, you can get your luxury shopping on. :)

Entrance into the cultural land from the outlet mall

Entrance into the cultural land from the outlet mall

Entrance gate woodwork

Entrance gate woodwork

Based on the ancient architectural plans, the royal palace (Sabigung) was recreated, complete with the royal throne.

Sabigung Palace panorama

Sabigung Palace panorama – recreation of the royal palace

Close up of the Sabigung Palace entrance

Close up of the Sabigung Palace entrance

B and Stella from the inside of the complex. The doors frame the other structures perfectly. It's like they planned it or something :)

B and Stella from the inside of the complex. The doors frame the other structures perfectly. It’s like they planned it or something :)

So much work went into creating the traditional woodwork and painting

So much work went into creating the traditional woodwork and painting

Every time I see intricate painting on a ceiling like this, I think back to the story of the Sistine Chapel and how Michelangelo went blind painting in an upside down fashion like this.  I know the two are completely different, but it’s incredible to think of the hours and effort it took. It looks like very tiring work, but the result is magnificent.

Just beautiful....

Just beautiful….

The royal throne

The royal throne

Nothing like a temple selfie

Nothing like a temple selfie

The Neungsa Ocheung Moktap is a 5-story, 38 meter high pagoda, which is also part of the larger complex.  A stone reliquary, which was a national treasure, was believed to be buried in 567 A.D. and the pagoda was erected on top of it.

Sectional drawing of the pagoda

Sectional drawing of the pagoda

The 5 tiers

The 5 tiers

I liked the traditional gender characters :)

I liked the traditional gender characters :)

Naesosa Temple

For our second trip, we took a little slower route from the base, heading along the large seawall to the west of us and down into the park.  Byeonsanbando happens to be the largest national park in South Korea, but other than the fact that it was heavily forested, I couldn’t really tell it was a “park”.  There weren’t any strict confines or a particular entrance to the area.  However, the particular spot where Naesosa Temple lies is pretty spectacular.  The temple is nestled in a valley, surrounded by an impressive mountain outcropping.

Path leading up to the temple with the mountains in the background

Path leading up to the temple with the mountains in the background

This was actually my favorite structure in the complex (it's not the actual temple. This houses the large drum)

This was actually my favorite structure in the complex (it’s not the actual temple. This houses the large ceremonial drum.)

The lantern courtyard

The lantern courtyard

It provided some pretty awesome shade.

It provided some pretty awesome shade.

:)

They are so colorful …it’s hard to take a bad photo of the lanterns

Each one had a prayer / well-wish attached

Each one had a prayer / well-wish attached

Naesosa Temple was built by Buddhist Monk Hye-Gu in 633 AD during the Baekje Dynasty and was rebuilt by Monk Cheong-Min in 1633 during the Joseon Dynasty.  Just before the temple itself are four gods called Sacheonwangsang that “guard” the temple inside a gate-like building.

The structure that houses the gods

The structure that houses the gods

The roof of the "gate"

The roof of the “gate”

Sacheonwangsang god

Sacheonwangsang god

Sacheonwangsang god

Sacheonwangsang god

Sacheonwangsang god

Sacheonwangsang god

Sacheonwangsang god

Sacheonwangsang god

Naesosa Temple (usually there is a banner hanging from the metal structure out front)

Naesosa Temple (usually there is a banner hanging from the metal structure out front.)

It's still an active place of prayer

Inside of Naesosa Temple. It’s still an active place of prayer.

From the Templestay website:

“There’s also a fascinating story concerning the colorful Dancheong (decorative painting) in main temple building. After construction of the Buddha Hall was completed, one artist came and volunteered to paint the interior, under the condition that nobody look inside the hall for a period of one hundred days. On the 99th day, a young monk who couldn’t restrain his curiosity any more peeked inside the hall, and saw a golden bird grasping a brush in his mouth and flying around, painting the interior. Surprised at his appearance, the bird stopped his painting and flew away, so even today one side of the hall is left bare and unpainted.”

The unpainted interior

This is the painted side, but as you can tell, it has not been touched up like a lot of the other temples in the area

The Naesosa temple isn’t just a tourist site or even a religious structure.  It actually offers templestay as well – a type of retreat / hotel where you can stay with the monks, practice their traditional prayers / ceremonies and participate in meditative hikes.  It is said to restore both the mind and body.  That’s something I could get behind!

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