Apr 052015

Yesterday, we went on another walk with the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch (www.raskb.com), this time “From Temple to Spaceship: A Walk Through Dongmyo and Dongdaemun” led by David Gemeinhardt.  It was a great walk and David had a lot of interesting comment.

Dongmang Arbor

Dongmang Arbor

From the Dongmyo metro station (exit #2) we headed up (this is Seoul:  Up) to the Dongmang Arbor, which had a fantastic almost 360-degree view of the neighborhood.    The view didn’t photograph well for me, due to the trees that your mind screens out but the camera doesn’t, and as David pointed out, in a few weeks the leaves will completely block the view.

Temple interior (note Su-nim prostrating)

Temple interior (note Su-nim prostrating)

Next we walked down the otherside of the hill to the Myogaksa Temple.  Not very big, but lovely.  David says that it’s quite unusual in having both male & female monks.  A female monk, the Su-nim, gave us a lecture on Buddhism & told us a bit about the history of the monastery & about the small Black Buddah in nook in the rock-face in the courtyard (see picture).  She said the Zen Master could see the dragons & phoenixes, and so predict wet or dry weather.  She could not do that, but could see our personalities & auras.  But the most interesting part was the start, which was more about Buddhism as such — while I’d expected some of that (similarly: get a tour from a priest, get a few parables…), I’d not expected it to be so interesting.

Interior of the shrine to Guan Yu (taken through the permanently-locked barred entrance).

Interior of the shrine to Guan Yu

After that, we headed down to the DongGwanWangMyo Shrine, in the middle of the Flea Market (which is actually across the street from the metro stop where we started).  It’s to Guan Yu, a Chinese deity who (while an actual historical figure) got his start as a character in the historical novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  As Werner Herzog would say, Even Dwarves Started Small.  A bit spare, like so many shrines & palaces here, but the shrine compound seemed to be a place where people come to sit & chat.  Compared to the hustle & bustle of the flea market that surrounds it, the shrine is an oasis of quiet (and has convenient toilets to boot).  The shrine itself is permanently locked, but you can look through the wooden bars at Guan Yu’s statue.

Oh yes!  These places really ARE the same the world over.

Oh yes! These places really ARE the same the world over.

After a bit of time wandering around the flea market (which also has some nice antique shops in addition to the usual stuff in fleamarkets the world over… we’ll be back!), we headed over to Dongdaemun Gate and then on to the “DDM”, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza.  (See here for my earlier posting on the DDM.)

Conclusion:  Another great walk from the RAS-KB.


 Posted by on 05 Apr 2015

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