Gwaneum Temple

My buddy Junior is slowly walking the length of Seoul Subway's Line 2 whenever he has time. When he was walking around Seoul National University as night fell, he accidentally came across a small temple amongst the mountains. He wanted to come back again during the day time and when he did, he brought me along.

Gwaneum Temple (or Gwanseum-sa) is in the southern part of the city, in the steep hills of Gwanak Mountain. We set off from Sadang station, a hub like many others in Seoul. Block after block of tall buildings containing a spattering of restaurants, bars, karaoke rooms, convenience stores, motels and seizing neon lights. Having to walk through bus lines with hundreds of people waiting to catch a ride to one of the many suburbs. But as we got further from the station, things got quiter, sparser and greener.

It was a steep walk, but well worth it. It was calm, quiet and beautiful. There was never more than 4 other people at the temple with us.

Korean temples are easily distinguishible by the use of vibrant yet basic colors, notably the almost pastel greens.

The door panels were a fantastic display of colorful dragons.

The temple was established in 895 AD during the Shilla Dynasty in order to harness the land's energy via feng-shui. The buildings currently on the site have a scattered history, erected here and there ever since 1924. The grounds today are culmination of a 30 year master-plan to rennovate the temple, completed in 2007.

Buddha statues are tucked away everywhere, some subtle and others not.

There is a contrast here with such a calmly beautiful place that has taken its time to be realized, compared to the dense and rapid urbanization of Seoul. Gwaneum provides a great view of both.