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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Korea 2013: Gyeongju Chapter 4

Bulguksa Temple

The boys were rather tired from their long walks the day before, so by the time we got to the first site of the day, it was almost 11 in the morning. Bulguksa Temple was designated as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and we were excited to see it. Korea Tourism had a long write-up on the place, and I have reproduced an extract of the page here:


Bulguksa Temple is the representative relic of Gyeongju and was designated as a World Cultural Asset by UNESCO in 1995. The beauty of the temple itself and the artistic touch of the stone relics are known throughout the world. 


Bulguksa Temple was built in 528 during the Silla Kingdom, in the 15th year of King Beop-Heung's reign (514-540). The temple was originally called ‘Hwaeom Bulguksa Temple’ or ‘Beopryusa Temple’ and was rebuilt by Kim Dae-Seong (700-774), who started building the temple in 751 during the reign of King Gyeong-Deok (in power 742-765) and completed it in 774 during the reign of King Hye-Gong (in power 765-780). Upon completion, the temple’s name was changed to ‘Bulguksa.' 


Bulguksa underwent numerous renovations from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), but was burned down during the Imjinwaeran War (the war following the Japanese Invasion, 1592-1598). 


Reconstruction started again in 1604 during the 37th year of King Seon-jo’s reign (Joseon Dynasty) and was renovated about 40 times until 1805 (during the reign of King Sun-Jo, 1790-1834). After this time, the temple suffered serious damage and was often the target of robbers. 


In 1969, the Bulguksa Temple Restoration Committee was formed and in 1973, Mulseoljeon, Gwaneumjeon, Birojeon, Gyeongru, and Hoerang (all of which had previously been demolished) were rebuilt. Other old or broken sites (such as Daeungjeon, Geungnakjeon, Beomyeongnu and Jahamun) were repaired. 


We realised that the temple was situated at the top of a mountain, which required a half-hour taxi ride from our abode. One reason for the beauty of the place was its location high above the ground. The other reasons lay in the natural beauty of its surroundings.

Lots of stairs to climb, but our elder son was far from deterred.
Picturesque view of the main building from beneath its bridge entrances.
Posing for a picture at the main temple complex.
A blast from the past.
The temple grounds were truly magnificent in and of
themselves; especially in autumn with the fiery leaves.
The littler one and Daddy survey the grounds.
An Autumn Sonata moment.

Shilla Millennium Park

Rather tired by our walk around the temple grounds, we took a taxi to our next destination, the Shilla Millennium Park. We had read quite a bit about the park, that it was a re-creation of the time in history where the Silla Kingdom ruled most of the Korean Peninsula. The park was also said to be the site where a number of Korean period drama serials had been filmed. Indeed the premises were quite spectacular, and when we watched the drama serial "Emperor of the Sea" after returning home, we could almost imagine walking on the very set that it had been filmed.

Our welcoming party at the Shilla Millennium Park.
The highlight of the visit was a spectacular show recounting the legend of
how the Silla Kingdom was able to rule for 1,000 years.
With spectacular martial arts and swordfighting displays, it was a real
delight for Daddy and the older son.
And what better ending to the show than a massive naval battle including
explosions and water spout eruptions!
Actual set where the Korean period drama "Queen Seondeok" was filmed.
Our elder son was clearly at home there.
It began to rain heavily during our visit, so we
sought refuge in a craft hut where Z (and his Mummy) got
to do some traditional craft work.
Z making his little Korean "house".

Adventures in Play

While the sudden downpour of rain did not kill our spirits, it certainly ruined whatever chance we had to watch the final martial arts performance of the day, as the show was cancelled due to bad weather. Determined to let the rain spoil our last day in Gyeongju, we headed of to what had become our favourite indoor refuge in Korea - Homeplus. This retail store is not only known for good discounts, we also realised that each of the outlets is linked to an indoor playground. For more on indoor playgrounds and our thoughts on play, you may refer to an article that we wrote following our visit to the various indoor playgrounds in Korea here.

The ball-pit area with Z's favourite ball machine.
Working hard to channel the balls into the vacuum pump.
Our boys thoroughly enjoyed the sand-play area. And when they were done,
there was even a staff who helped to vacuum away residual sand.
With shelves upon shelves of toys and manipulatives, it was clear why
we enjoyed the indoor playgrounds in Korea so much!
Our younger son was clearly in his element - we think he
might become a famous chef one day!
Tired by a full day out, we finally called it a day, and made our way back to our lovely abode. 

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