March 27, 2010

Unjusa (운주사)

Korea is a mountainous country. The northeastern areas of the peninsula have much larger peaks in greater numbers. Some 1,500 years ago a monk, realizing this imbalance, wished to build many pagodas and statues of Buddha in the southwest in order to prevent the land from capsizing. The monk Doseon (도선국사), firmly rooted in geomancy, beckoned stoneworkers from heaven to help complete this task. The goal of a thousand pagodas and a thousand Buddhas was set for the temple Unjusa. Upon completion this balance would be achieved. Sadly, during the final construction of the last two statues a rooster crowed and called the workers back to heaven.
Those final two statues (Wabul (와불)) are immense and lay atop a mountain on their backs. When you enter the temple grounds statues of Buddha large and small are everywhere. Large pagodas stand on flat land as well as on hillsides. The fact that this fragile ancient construction still stands is more wondrous to me than the pyramids of Egypt.
Somehow this geomancy is reconciled with astronomy. Many say that the temples layout echoes the night sky. There are several discs which mirror the big dipper in proportion. Most striking to me are the three large pagodas in the central valley of the temple grounds. To me they represent Orion's belt. The location of the other pagodas seem to represent Rigel, Betelgeuse, and beyond. Someday I will learn cartography and test my hypothesis.
Apart from the science is the spiritual experience. Taking a hike through Unjusa will without doubt alter your state of mind. A sense of peace and wonder was infused in me that is still locked inside.


dan haugh said...

Cool blog. Glad you started it and good to see Korea from an American's (you'll never shake that title, no matter how hard you try) perspective.


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