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- images from  KYERYONGSAN -

featuring

the Tonghaksa- and Kapsa Temple





The name, - Kyeryongsan -,  means something like "Rooster-Dragon-Mountain" because the ridge, - seen from a distance -, really does looks as the back of a dragon with a roosters head.
The ridge consists of 16 peaks, of which the highest is Chonhwangbong of 845 meters.

Of Koreas many magnificent National Parks, I do not consider Kyeryongsan to be particular scenic compared to what Korea otherwise has to offer when it comes to spectacular scenery.
However,- the Kyeryongsan area do have several unique cultural and historical sites spread over the valleys and mountain slopes, - like famous temples Kapsa and Tonghaksa -, and it is indeed a pleasure to hike the many mountain trails along crystal clear streams, vertical walls and several waterfalls.
Therefore, - if you are in the neighborhood, - and if you have time -, it is very much recommended to stop for a couple of days at this place and take some hikes through the valleys, climb a few peaks, - eventually cross the mountain range from one side to the other-, and pay a visit to some of the temples and other cultural and historical sites on this magnificent mountain.

Here are some of my impressions from a visit to Kyeryongsan mountain way back in August 1997, when I happened to pass through, - and decided to stay for a while - - -

Please enjoy - - -  :-)
 
 


Kyeryongsan
View of the Kyeryongsan ridge,- as seen from Kwanumbong (816 m)
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- a view into the Tonghaksa Valley, -  again seen from Kwanumbong Peak -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- the Mita-am temple complex,- on the trail up the Tonghaksa Valley -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- on the trail -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
Nammaetap- or "Brother and Sister" Pagodas.
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

Along the trail up to the Kumjandi Pass, - and near the top of Pirobong Peak-, you will find these two pagodas from the Shilla Dynasty, although they are built in typical Paekche style. They are the Nammaetap pagodas-, or "Brother and Sister" pagodas.
There is a good story behind these pagodas.
They were built in memory of the Buddhist monk Sangweon, who lived a simple life on the Pirobong mountain, where he spent his his time meditating and studying the Buddhist scriptures.
One winter day a friendly tiger, - who obviously felt pity with him -, came to his cave, carrying on his back a young girl from the village in the valley, deep below the mountain.
Being a monk, Sangweon did not want to have a wife, but since the snow and ice on the mountain prevented all attempts to take her back to her village, she was forced to stay in his cave all winter.
During that long and cold winter, they lived together without touching each other, and soon she became very impressed by the wisdom and insight of Sangweon, who spent the time teaching her Buddhism and meditation, and when spring time finally came to the mountain, she did not want to go back to her village again.
Therefore they continued to live together, and eventually they both became well known scholars of the Buddhist teachings, and they stayed together for the rest of their lives, - like a brother and sister - - -
When they died, they were so highly respected for their wisdom and insight into to "how things are", that two pagodas were built to their honour,- and those two pagodas can be seen on the mountain to this very day near the place where they lived their simple lives in peace and harmony with nature, and in isolation from the greed, desire and corruption of the "outside" world - - - -
 
 




Here a wonderful painting of the tiger bringing his "gift" to Sangweon - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)






Today there are still Buddhist monks on the Pirobong mountain.  Just besides the "Brother and Sister" pagodas there is a hermitage called Cheongryang-am.
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- here the hermitage Cheongryang-am -
- looks more like a farm house, - but it is actually a Buddhist hermitage -
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- and if you are ,lucky, you can see the lonely monk tending his vegetable garden -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)






Shortly after the Cheongryang-am hermitage and the Nammaetap pagodas you reach the Kumjandi Pass, and from here the trail goes downwards to the very old Kapsa temple.
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- the the Kunjandi Pass -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- one of the rocky walls of the Kumjandi Pass -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- view from the Kumjandi Pass -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- the trail to the valley below and the Kapsa temple -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
On trail down from the Kumjandi Pass towards the Kapsa Temple, you pass the Yongmun waterfall - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
The Yongmun falls are by no means big or impressive, but it is a very lovely spot, - and as you can see on this picture -, it is also a great place for a meditative moment in harmony with the universe -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- a final view of the lovely Yongmun falls -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
At the end of the trail you are rewarded with the very old Kapsa temple - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)






The Kapsa Temple dates back to the Shilla period and as such it could well be over 1000 years old. That does not make Kapsa the oldest temple in Korea, since the oldest one is the Shinhung-sa built in year 652, which makes Shinhung-sa not only the oldest Zen Buddhist temple in Korea, but in the whole World.
Not even in China they have anything that can match it, but the problem is, - like with so many other temples-, that no or very little structures are left from the original construction.
But not so with the Kapsa temple!
At the Kapsa, some of the buildings are supposed to be the real thing!
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- the very old Kapsa temple -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- inside one of the halls of the Kapsa temple -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- departing from the Kapsa temple -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- up on the Kyeryong mountain ridge again via the Kumjandi Pass -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- more from the top of Kwanungbong, - and hikers enjoying the view towards the valley below -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- a view of the Tonghaksa temple deep down in the valley below -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- the impressive great hall of the Tonghaksa temple -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- the bell tower of the Tonghaksa temple -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 


Kyeryongsan
-  the great hall of the Tonghaksa Temple -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

In spite of its beauty, harmony and great setting, the Tonghaksa is not a very old temple since it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, - last time in 1953, after it was destroyed during the Korean War.
However, - still it dates back to year 724, and today it is one of the very few temples in Korea where female monks are trained in Buddha's teachings, and it is truly wonderful to hear 150 voices chanting the mantras in the quiet valley - -
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- an excellent example of "Dan Chung" paint work on the Tonghaksa Temple -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

Dan Chung painting is an old Buddhist art based on the Yin Yang "Theory of Five".
According to this theory, the World are made from 5 elements, - wood, fire, earth, gold and water.
These 5 elements each have a colour attached the them, as well as a direction in the universe.
They are:
Wood = Green = East,  Fire = Red = South,  Earth = Yellow = Center,  Gold = White = West,  and Water = black = North.
Therefore, - when painting the temple woodwork, only these 5 colours are used, - and no others - - -
In that way, Dan Chung painting serves two purposes, - one being the purely symbolic, - and the other one is simply for protection of the wood structure.
 
 


Kyeryongsan
- let's finish with a shoot of a vertical wall, where trees seem to grow directly from the rock surface -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 

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    Updated:  June 22nd. 2003
                   Dec. 30th. 2004
                   July 5th. 2006
                 March 2.2008