Cherry Blossoms and Buddha

Saturday I went to hunt cherry blossoms on “Kyunghee University’s Cherry Blossom Road” then planned to go to a couple other sites famous for their Spring show of the pink flowers.

The University lies in a corner of Seoul I hadn’t yet explored….I always feel exhilarated when I step on ground my senses have never encountered.

Turns out it was too early for the flowers, though green buds poked out. I was still glad to be in the oasis- so close to the hustle bustle of the city, but quietly tucked in on itself-way less people, much more open space, trees, rocks, and other flowering bushes. The architecture is heavily tilted towards the Western style, its main building supported by columns and flanked by two stone lions.

There were Eastern touches on the details, like lotus flowers and dragons as well as bonsai like pines and sculpted bushes that reminded me of Japanese gardens I have visited.

There was also a small sculpture park, almost hidden amongst a grove of still-bare trees.

I stayed there for quite awhile, getting a bit picture-happy-including snapping photos of what I presume were photography students- I get a kick out of taking pictures of people taking pictures for some strange reason.

It was a great morning and I spent awhile walking around the neighborhood outside the school’s gates before deciding to check out a Buddhist temple and saving the rest of my blossom hunting for next weekend.

I found the temple, Jogyesa-the largest in Seoul- easily enough. Inside are three large, gold Buddhas and the ceiling is covered in innumerable lotus shaped lanterns with red lights. In front of the statues were platters of apples, pineapples, oranges and grapes. People left offerings of rice and water, it also looked as though an attendant of the temple was pouring tea.

I was in the Temple when a monk began playing on a very large round drum, in the Belfry- then hit a fish shaped drum and finally a log-like object was swung forward at the bell 33 times.

Next in the temple, a monk began chanting and playing the percussive instrument that I had heard the Guri Monk play. I stayed and tried to follow the Koreans who stood with their hands in a prayer position and began chanting a series of changing sounds with the monk. Then the bowing began, which has to help make your legs strong and keep you young; the pattern is to repeatedly go from standing bending down on your knees, bowing your head to the floor and standing back up, without your arms, as they are in prayer position again.

The service was about an hour, I left with sore quadriceps to get some coffee, read my new book and then headed home.

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