Week 3: Our first trip to the countryside

Gwangju Travel Blog

 › entry 4 of 33 › view all entries
Songgwangsa Temple buildings ascending the mountain.
 

Justin's student Dr. Lee and her husband Dr. Huh arrived at our apartment early Saturday morning to take us sightseeing in the countryside.  Our first top was the Memorial of Dr. Jae Pil Suh, the first Korean to receive his medical degree in the United States.  In 1892 he returned to Korea and established the first Korean newspaper.  He fought for Korean independence from China and  continued to  fight after the Japanese Occupation began in 1910.  He eventually became the first Korean to gain American citizenship and practiced medicine in Philadelphia for 30 years until his death in 1951.

 

Our next stop was Songgwangsa Temple in Suncheon City.  The temple was founded approximately 1200 years ago.

How precious are we... apparently in the Bronze Age cavemen wore sunglasses :)
  It has undergone numerous renovations especially after the Korean War (1950-1953) when all of the main buildings were destroyed.  The monastery has produced 16 National Masters and continues to be one of the principal training centers for Korea's Zen Order.

 

After a wonderful lunch  of (you guessed it) RICE and about 20 veggie side dishes we went to a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring dolmens (stone monuments or tombs) dating back to the Bronze Age, approximately 3000 years ago.  There were replicas of the dugout homes used by the long ago residents of the Korean Peninsula as well as over 100 dolmens which, when discovered, contained shards of pottery, bronze arrow heads and spear points, beaded jewelry and  human skeletons.

 

After walking around the site in the blistering heat we finally retreated to an air-conditioned modern art museum followed by a visit to the Tibetan Museum of Jeonnam Province.

The Lotus Flower, one of the symbols of Buddhism.
  The Tibetan Museum was opened in 2001 for the appreciation of Buddhists and Non-Buddhists alike.  An ambassador of the Dalai Lama has stated how meaningful this museum is since there are no museums such as this in India or Tibet. 

 

One thing that caught our attention inside the museum was a display with photographs of Tibetan villagers dismembering their dead and feeding their remains to vultures.  It is their belief that during our lifetime we depend on nature for our nourishment so after we die it is our duty to give our flesh back to nature in order to repay our debt.

 

Just up the mountain from the Tibetan Museum was Daewon Temple.  This temple was much smaller than Songgwangsa but it had its own distinguishing characteristics.

Buddhists make a pile of rocks when praying. This one has a mini Buddha head on it.
  Throughout the complex were miniature Buddha statues with red hats.  I'm not sure what the red hats symbolize but they were too cute :) 

 

By the time we were done walking around Daewon we were getting a bit peckish so Drs Lee and Huh took us to a "rainbow tofu" restaurant.  It was packed!  I wasn't sure what they meant by rainbow tofu but when our first course came out we found ourselves dining on bite-size pieces of fried tofu that were definitely cream, rose and lavender colored.  We also enjoyed a delectable bowl of pumpkin soup and for dessert we had a bowl of noodles complete with a big lump of shaved ice, milk, and sugar.  During the summer Koreans love eating these soupy noodle  slushies.  I for one have never eaten noodles with ice but it wasn't too shabby. 

 

After a long day of eating and sightseeing we began the drive home, but not before we stopped by a roadside stand selling fresh peaches.  Right behind the vendor were extensive rice paddies bordered by a large grove of peach trees.  The scenery was beautiful and so was the delicious fruit :)

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Songgwangsa Temple buildings ascen…
Songgwangsa Temple buildings asce…
How precious are we... apparently …
How precious are we... apparently…
The Lotus Flower, one of the symbo…
The Lotus Flower, one of the symb…
Buddhists make a pile of rocks whe…
Buddhists make a pile of rocks wh…
One of the 4 Guardians of Songgwan…
One of the 4 Guardians of Songgwa…
A mini temple guardian at the step…
A mini temple guardian at the ste…
The two of us sitting on the Songg…
The two of us sitting on the Song…
Inside the smallest and one of the…
Inside the smallest and one of th…
Gwangju
photo by: jegs76