Golgulsa Temple

After the weather and the massive amounts of people made beach day a less than peaceful proposition, we decided to visit a temple instead.  This was a great idea.  The thing to do in Korea is to zig when every one else zags.  Cloudy and hot beach day?  Go to a temple.  Chuseok weekend?  We're going to the Park Hyatt in Busan where the rooms are like half price because everybody else will be at Grandma's sleeping on the living room floor.
We ended up at Golgulsa temple with maybe a half dozen others wandering the grounds and climbing the rocks to get to the Maya Tathagata Buddha.  There was a light rain that we could hear in the trees but never really felt, and when the sun started to set behind the mountains and clouds, everything got a beautiful golden shine to it.  Like most of the temples in Korea Golgulsa was founded a really long time ago by monks.  Some time in the 6th century.  Like many temples there are monks that live on the grounds and like many temples, Golgulsa has a templestay program where visitors can spend the night and live a monks life, if only for one day.  Unlike other temples in Korea, Golgulsa is famous for Sunmudo, a kind of zen-related martial art that's meant to clear the mind and heal the body.  There are a bunch of beautiful bronze statues and lots of unique artwork celebrating the temples Sunmudo traditions and roots.  It's unique and cool.  Plus if you do a templestay, you will get to participate in a little Sunmudo.  If you're into that kind of thing, check out http://sunmudo.net, one of the few awesome English language websites I've come across in Korea, and book a templestay.  Golgulsa is on Highway 14 southeast of Gyeongju, and a place I highly recommend.  As always, here's 10 pictures and some foolish comments.

I've never been to a temple with a statue of a dog, but Golgulsa must be famous for them.  There were a couple real living dogs on the grounds and this rock guy.  The sign was in Korean, so I'm not sure what the deal is.
Here's what you come to see, the giant buddha carved into the rock.  There are also a bunch of tiny caves filled with Buddha's, unique and cool.  There's another stone-carved Buddha in Gyeongju, but it's behind glass and I think they frown on photographs.  This one's right out in the open.

Very cool to see close-up.

This cave had a couple dozen small Buddha statues in it.  

I'll have to figure out who this guy is, it looks like he has a pet tiger.

At most temples you will find stones like this one, with names painted on them.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles come to temples to write students names on them and pray for them to do well on tests.  Most temples have stacks and stacks of these stones.

Golgulsa has some awesome statues, like this gentleman who stands outside the entrance.

One of the bronze Sunmudo statues.  Very cool statues.  I'll post the rest at zacharythomas.smugmug.com

I love these big open spaces, so rare in Korea.

Golgulsa is a great Korean temple and one of my favorites.  From the top of the mountain looking down is a spectacular view of the surrounding hills and valleys.  We've decided to head back in the fall when the leaves start to change and all that color comes in.  Next week we're hoping to head to Ulleung-do, the tiny island off the coast, which is supposed to be stunning.  We can't wait.

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