A Quiet Beauty Fills The Air During Visit To Seonam Temple And Monk's Legacy

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A Quiet Beauty Fills The Air During Visit To Seonam Temple And Monk's Legacy

If you want to take in some extraordinary scenery this summer, consider a trip to Seonamsa, Seonam Temple. Here, bright-colored wildflowers of simple beauty compete for the visitor's attention. Watching the small white petals of the buldu-hwa flower float away on the breeze is breathtaking.

But don't worry if you can't make the trip this summer. The scarlet leaves of autumn offer a seasonal highlight.

The temple itself is pretty and sits in splendid surroundings, but the journey to it is even nicer. It takes about 15 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the temple. Old pine trees and cedars form a natural tunnel, casting the dirt track and nearby stream into shadow. On the way to Seonamsa, two bridges arch over the stream, one after the other, and are nicknamed the "rainbow bridges." The first one is relatively small in size, but the second one stands 8 meters.

Hoam, the great Buddhist monk, spent six years constructing these arches, beginning in 1698. He ensured that the bridges would survive the elements by building them out of granite.

Look through the arch of the bigger bridge and you can see Gangseon tower, a two-story structure built beside the stream. The best view is from beneath the arch of the bridge; here you can see the valley and the temple at once.

Now you can understand why the builder insisted on such a risky location for the bridge, rather than finding a safer flat surface: Its beauty is absolutely stunning.

These remarkable feats of architecture has made Seonamsa a national treasure.

The Chinese characters on the bigger bridge read in the Korean rendering seungseon or "ascension to heaven," so the bridge is called the Seungseon bridge. Those on the Gangseon tower read gangseon, meaning "Buddha descending from heaven." After admiring the architecture, you can enjoy a cup of tea prepared by the Seonamsa monks.

You can reach Seonamsa by car or by bus. If you drive, take the Honam highway to the Seungju interchange, then take local highway number 857. When you go 5 to 6 kilometers - you'll come directly to the parking lot.

From Seoul, it is easier to start out by train; take the Cholla line to Suncheon and then transfer to local bus number 100. There are 15 trains running from Seoul to Suncheon each day, and the bus from Suncheon station departs every 45 minutes. It takes about 15 minutes by bus from the station.

Tickets are 1,200 won (90 cents) for adults, 1,000 won for students and members of the military and 600 won for children.

by Kim Young-taek

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