Friday, May 14: On our third morning Anna, Seth and I went up to Bulguksa Temple; Myrna ended up joining us. Construction of this temple was begun by Prime Minister Gin Dae-seong in 751, the 10th year of King Gyeongdeok, and was completed in 774, the 10th year of King Hyegong. It served as a center of Silla Buddhism and of prayer for the protection of the country from foreign invasion. Sadly, prayer didn’t save the temple as Japanese invaders burned it to the ground in 1593; it was finally restored in 1973. In 1995, along with Seokguram grotto, the temple was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After Bulguksa, we visited the oldest astronomical observatory in East Asia, called Cheomseongdae. It was built during the reign of Silla Queen Seondeok (reign: 632-647). The bottle-shaped tower made of square granite stones stands on a square stone base. Up to the 12th layer from the bottom, this hollow tower was filled with soil and pebbles. Between the 13th and 15th layer, there is a square opening through which an observer can ascend to the top.
Next to Cheomseongdae was a lovely field of green grass where families were out running around….such an idyllic scene, with a nice breeze and tombs and mountains in the background.
I also loved the strange Gyerim Forest, where apparently a baby king was found in a tree when people heard a rooster crowing.