Guknyeongsa and its golden buddha statue

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Do you stay in Seoul and you don`t want to travel to far to enjoy the beauty of a Korean temple in the mountains ? Well, trust me ! Guknyeong temple in Bukhansan National park is the place to go.

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On a beautiful autumn weekday, half November, my wife and I took the early subway from Pyeongtaek to Seoul. It took almost two hours to arrive at the Gupabal station (line 3 – orange) where we got on a bus to the Bukhansanseong Information centre.

It was almost lunchtime and we decided to have lunch first at one of the local restaurants .
One hour later we entered Bukhansan National park, Seoul`s hikers paradise.
We decided to take the paved road which is quite easy to walk up to a certain point.

On our way we passed Yongamsa (영암사) a small temple , the Daeseomun gate (the west entrance of the Bukhansan fortress) and Muryongsa (무량사), an other smaller temple.

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At a certain point the paved road stopped. We followed the 국녕사 signs which lead us on a forest trail up the hill. Approximately an hour after we started our hike from the Bukhansan Information centre we were able to catch a first glimpse of an amazing golden buddha statue.

We stepped up on the last stairs that lead us to the temple grounds.  From time to time we stopped to take a look at the impressive Buddha statue. Even though it is just a statue it has something …. but what ? Something magical ? Something mysterious ?

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The golden buddha statue is 24 meters tall and is considered as the tallest seated buddha in Asia. The statue is surrounded by huge glass wall with ten thousands of smaller buddha`s, most of them are donated by buddhist people who want pay contribution to their beloved family members who passed aways.  Their names are written at the bottom of each statue.

We were one of the few visitors at the temple complex and it was a wonderful experience to be here. We sat down near the temple bell for more than an hour and we enjoyed the  peaceful surroundings, a couple of playing squirrels and some knocking woodpeckers.
Life can be simple but beautiful.

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Suddenly a man who just left the main hall, came to us and showed us a big smile. He was very interested to know where we came from and so we had a small talk. He didn`t seem to be a monk but he said he comes here daily on foot. He lost his beloved wife to a chronic disease and so he devoted himself to come here every day to take care of the temple.

Since there were no other visitors or monks he told me I could ring the bronze bell.
And so I did. Standing on the platform and ringing this giant bell was great ! As soon as I rung the bell I felt the vibrations spreading energy all over my body. The bell sound was carried along deep into the mountains. What a wonderful experience !

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The man asked us to join him on the way back down. We kindly accepted his offer.  First he had to finish some small jobs. About 30 minutes later we followed him on the way down, but not without making a deep bow to the impressive buddha.

Half way down we decided to spend some more time in the park and so we said goodbye to our temporarily guide. We enjoyed looking at the solid rocks, the crispy autumn colors of the maple trees and the crystal clear water effortlessly trying to find its way in the valley.

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A trip to the mountains is often mind refreshing. But this time it was also very touching.
I will never forget the man who lost his wife and devoted himself to come to Guknyeongsa on foot every day.  I wondered if would ever be able to do this in a similar situation. Who knows ?

Look here for more pictures of Guknyeongsa : FLICKR.COM/K-MOOD

Busses #34, #704 or #8772 run regularly to Bukhansanseong Information Centre.
Just make sure you are on the correct side of the road, depending whether you take exit #1 or #2 at the station.

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