Monday, April 09, 2007

I had a loosely formed plan to get out of Cheongju over the weekend. I didn't have to teach on Saturday and wanted to take the opportunity to go away for two days. I was looking forward to seeing the "eight wonders" of Danyang, which are supposedly very lovely. I say "supposedly" because I was unable to verify this for myself. I didn't get up until noonish on Saturday and by the time we got to the bus station at 2, the next bus to Danyang didn't leave until 4:30. So much for my superior planning skills.

We ended up going to Wonju instead to visit one of Jason's friends. Wonju looks exactly like Cheongju. Not exactly what I had in mind. I tried to convince myself that the weekend could still be redeemed if we did something on Sunday. After waking up at noon again on Sunday and having a leisurely (but delicious) breakfast, we didn't get moving until 2. Jason's friend Chris has a car and he was willing to drive us to Chungju to see some sites. The maps we had were poorly labelled and Chris preferred to take random turns instead of stopping to figure out where we were. We made it to the top of some mountain before we stopped to get our bearings. A Korean gentleman came over to help us and he did no more than tell us to go down the hill and ask someone else for directions.

We eventually found our way to the grouping of sites that I wanted to see. The first one we found was the "Placenta Chamber of King Gyeongjong". No joke- this was the chamber for the placenta and umbilical cord of a Joseon King. The chamber was first established on the site in 1689. Here's more information from the marker: "During the Japanese colonial days, however, the Governor-General of Korea destroyed the royal placenta chambers throughout Korea, removing only the emptied eathenware pots to the Changgyeong palace. The Japanese ulterior motive was to obliterate the spirit and energy of the Korean race. King Gyeongjong's placenta chamber was not an exception. The relics that had been scattered far and wide were recovered and returned to their original sites in 1976. A royal placenta chamber restored to its original state like this is a very rare case: hence, it is a valuable cultural material."

Next up: Monument of Daejiguksa in Eokjeongsa Temple. This is the monument for Daejiguksa, a Buddhist priest of high virtue who lived at the end of the Goryeo Dynasty, erected in 1393.

This house was just down the driveway from the temple:

I was most excited for the 3 story stone pagoda and this is what it turned out to be:

If it looks like it's 8 feet tall, that's because it is! As you can tell, it's also in the middle of someone's field. This is the house just next to the pagoda:

Although not exactly what I envisioned for a sightseeing trip, this weekend still provided good exposure to a different Korea than what I've seen so far. It was refreshing to see that many people in this country still live very simple lives.


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