Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hwa-am Temple and Daesoonjinrihoe

Yesterday, Masuro paid me a visit and we went to Hwa-am Temple.

On the way there, we were never lost but we were often not where we planned to be. I dont navigate nearly as well as I thought.

Eventually, we reached the temple. Hwa-am Temple is next to Misi-ryeong tunnel, a little north-west of Sokcho. It is a small temple in a beautiful location. It was quiet although there are many Condos nearby; in the tourist season, I have seen many busses and cars jamming the narrow road reaching the temple.

On this quiet day, we just drove right to the temple grounds. Masuro pulled out his big-ass camera and we toured the temple. Upon reaching the three local gods shrine (Chil-seong, San-shin and the other guy), colorful, of a pleasing shape and in a natural mountain valley with a river in the background, Masuro took a photo of semi-coiled piece of rusted fence wire.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge.

Hwa-am Temple has its own fire truck- they've learned from Naksan, I guess.
Masuro at work.

Later we hiked to a big boulder above the temple. The trail beyond was closed to grounds recovery. I scrambled about on the boulder and learned how old and cowardly I have become.

The view from the boulder.

On the way home, we passed a big and ugly condo and Masuro commented that when Koreans build western-style architecture, the results are mixed at best. They seem to do very well at traditional Korean architecture. (Send your complaints to---). At that moment, we saw the roofs of a large temple over the trees lining the road.

Nothing to do with the story; just some funky cabins.

I had heard of the place and knew it wasn’t a Buddhist temple exactly but didn’t know what it was. In we went. We were stopped at the gate by men with traffic batons and Masuro asked in Korean if tourists were welcome. They nodded and let us in but the atmosphere was beginning to coalesce around us. Two men, with good English, met us when we parked, welcomed us and invited us to look around, requesting we not take pictures at certain areas. So, in we went and still didn’t know what this place was for.The Main entrance gate.

Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of the future)

The grounds were huge and empty.

The grounds were huge and empty. Although we saw bags from some group –visitors, students, fugitives, who knows, we only saw a few individuals, wearing a badge and quietly watching us. In front of the Buddha of the Future, a man told us about Daesoonjinrihoe. Jesus and Buddha both have prophecies for return. This religious group believes they had a joint incarnation in Korea and are/is expected to return again. There may be a Dao connection in this fusion religion as well.

The buildings were huge, well decorated and in a pleasing style – much as Masuro had said. Still, the constant observation, the welcome without much explanation and the tag I was asked wear while on the grounds made us feel uncomfortable. Everyone was as pleasant as could be but I just felt a little like I had visited some Montana backwoods compound.

As we left, we were invited to return in early May, when the flowers bloom. The grounds are fantastic and despite my irrational discomfort, I hope to get the little guy and Kwandongwife there for the flowers.

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