Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Busan, Korea: Markets, Temples, Parks and Korean War Memorials

Busan was worth a couple days of exploration, but there is not that much to say about city.  It is the second largest city in Korea and the country's largest seaport, but does not have the history of Gyeongju or the attraction of the capital, Seoul.  The main draws are the beaches, parks, the fish market, some quaint neighborhoods, and a lovely temple in the mountains on the outskirts of the city.  It is also home to a United Nations cemetery commemorating the casualties of the Korean War.

Local Seaside Park

Memorial to Republic of Korea commando units that fought in North Korea during the Korean War.
Monument to medical support units during the Korean War.
Jagalchi Fish Market


 Gamcheong-Dong.  A small neighborhood which during the Korean War was inhabited by some of the millions of refugees fleeing the North Korean army in 1950.  Over the years, it became a working class neighborhood with narrow, twisting streets and stairways.  More recently, it transformed itself into a something of an artsy neighborhood with colorful murals and craft shops.


Haeundae Beach.  Probably the most popular beach in Korea.  Lots of hotels and restaurants and teeming with young, hip Koreans.  During the summer months, it is no doubt packed with thousands of beach goers.  We were there in May and the city was preparing the beach for the summer onslaught.


UN Cemetery.  Final resting place for about 2300 foreign soldiers killed during the Korean War.  It is the only UN-managed cemetery in the world.


Each of these panels includes the names of the American dead of the Korean War.

Beomeosa Temple.  One of the largest Buddhist temples in Korea.  It was founded in 678, destroyed by the Japanese in 1592-93, rebuilt in 1602, and renovated in 1613 and 1713.  A few things on the grounds, such as pagodas and some of the pillars, are originals from the 600s.



Beomeosa sits in the mountains above Busan and there are numerous trails heading off into the forests from the temple grounds.  About a mile and 500 feet or so up one trail, we discovered another quaint temple with a great view of the city far below.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Gyeongju, Korea: Capital of the Old Silla Kingdom

Greetings:  Been a while, but we are back with some photos from a few trips taken over the past few months.  First up, the city of Gyeongju, which was the capital of the Silla Kingdom (57 BCE-935 AD).  Silla unified two-thirds of the Korean Peninsula for about 300 years from the 600s to the 900s, a period which is thought to be one of Korea's greatest eras of cultural development. As the capital, Gyeongju represented the finest Silla could offer during those glory years.  Today, it is one of Korea's top tourist sites and contains the remnants of many old tombs, temples, palaces, pagodas, and other cultural sites that once represented the best of the Silla Kingdom.  Unfortunately, "remnants" is an all-to-appropriate description for many of the sites as some of the finest examples of Silla's era were destroyed by Mongol (13th century) and Japanese (16th century) invaders, then neglected for many years until they were reconstructed in modern times.  Still, Gyeongju has a great deal to offer for anyone interested in Korean history.  Plus, it was a nice couple days spent away from the hustle and bustle of Seoul.

Royal Tombs.  They were lots of these scattered about the city and its surroundings, but this particular site is on of the more important.  The five tombs on these grounds are believed to include the founder of the Silla Kingdom,  King Baehyeokgeose, his queen Aryeong, and three of the next four kings of Silla.

In the same park is the Sungdeokjong Shrine, which is dedicated to Baehyeokgeose.  First built in the 1400s, it was burned down by Japanese invaders in 1592 and reconstructed in the 1700s. 

Tumuli Park.  The "Heavenly Horse Tomb," named for one of the artifacts found inside it.  The tomb was  was excavated in the 1970s and is now open to the public.  Inside are artifacts (and facsimiles) found from this tomb and the other 22 tombs in the park.

 Cheomseongdae.  A stone observatory built between 632 and 646 and believed to be the oldest in Asia.

Anapji Pond.

The National Museum.  An impressive collection of artifacts.

This bell was created in 771.
Bolguksa Temple.  One of Korea's finest temples.  First built in 528 (and enlarged in 751), it was unfortunately another victim of Japanese invaders, being destroyed in 1593.  It languished for a long time, but was restored in the 1970s by the Park Chung-hee government.  Even for a reconstruction, it was impressive  and surely was once a beautiful and magnificent structure.

One of two Pagodas which survived the Japanese.

Seokguram Grotto.  Up in the mountains above Bolguksa temple is a large seated image of the Sakyamuni Buddha, which was constructed out of huge blocks of granite (that were hauled great distances) in the 8th century.  Unfortunately, the Buddha is encased in a large shiny glass structure and access is rather limited.  This photo was the best we could do.

That's it for Gyeongju.  Next up, Busan.