Saturday, February 28, 2009

RAS Tour: Geumsansa ("Gold Mountain Temple")

The second half of last Saturday's tour with the Royal Asiatic Society (previous post on the Jeonju Paper Museum here) took us to Geumsansa, or "Gold Mountain Temple," which was a major spiritual center in the Unified Silla era (7th-10th centuries BC) and is currently a head temple (think cathrdral, you Catholics out there) of Korean Buddhism's traditional Jogye order.

In many ways, Geumsansa is an entirely typical restored Korean temple. The colors, as always, are brilliant and the designs intricate, which always struck me as odd--considering how the Korean Buddhism is so closely related to Zen, I would expect simplicity. Not that I mind too much, since the Korean-style decorations are often pleasantly mesmerizing.
The real gem of Geumsansa, aside from the various "National Treasures," which all pretty much look like interchangeable pieces of eroded stone (I don't really know enough about Silla history and sculpture to understand why they're unique), is the three-story prayer hall, the only one of its kind in Korea.
Inside, the three towering, gold-plated Buddhas achieve an effect similar to that seen in many Tibetan Buddhist prayer halls, such as that found at Yonghe "Lama" Temple in Beijing. (Previous post) All in all, an impressive effect. Too bad you can't take photos inside!

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