Mt. Namsan, a place called an outdoor museum for its abundance of numerous treasures

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Gyeongju Mt. Namsan- a climb to explore the relics at Mt. Geumosan of Gyeongju Mt. Namsan, a place called an outdoor museum for its abundance of numerous treasures



Al morning long, I looked around every corner of Gyeongju I’d never visited, but I decided to climb Mt. Namsan because the early sightseeing that morning had left me a lot of spare time.
Because it is not that high, and full of many attractions like Buddha statues along the trail, I climb Namsan at least once a year.
The Namsan District was designated as the 8th best attraction in Korea, and has various hiking trails each of which teems with lots of remains and places sacred to Buddha.

First, the information about Mt. Namsan is as follows.


Gyeongju Namsan

Mt. Namdam is comprised of Mt. Geumosan(468m) located in the southern Gyeongju which was a capital of Silla Dynasty, Mt. Gowisan(494m), Dodangsan, and Yangsan all of which are called Mt. Namsan collectively.
Namsan is not that high, covering an area of about 8 km (north-south) by 12 km (east-west) with about 40 valleys where numerous places sacred to Buddha are lay scattered and fostering lots of legends and myths.

It has many relics from the Silla period, such as Najeong with legend of the founding of Silla, Poseokjeong witnessing ups and downs of Silla Dynasty, and the Yangsanjae shrine where Kim Si-seup wrote the first novel in classical Chinese in Korea, titled Geumosinhwa, while living there.
In addition, since Silla designated Buddhism as a national religion, Mt. Namsan had been considered as a sacred mountain where Buddha stayed, leading to creation of many temples, pagodas, and Buddha statues.


According to the facts researched so far, about 122 relics of temples, 57 stone Buddhist images, and 64 stone pagodas are scattered around the mountain, giving the credence to the name, the open-air museum.

It was registered as World Heritage in Dec. 2000.


<hiking trails of Gyeongju Mt. Namsan>

Trail 1: from Samreung to Yongjanggol (Sambulsa-> Samreunggol->Geumobong peak-> Yongjangsaji)
Trail 2: taking a walk around Mt. Dongnamsan (Bulgok-> Tapgok(Ongnyongam)-> Mireukgok(Borisa Temple)
Trail  3: through Chilburam to Cheongnyongsaji (Tongiljeon -> Chilburam)



 “Hiking to explore remains around Geumosan(468m), Gyeongju Mt. Namsan”


The first relic in sight is Samreung in the hiking trail of Mt. Namsan.
Along with Samreung, the phenomenal pine forest is a famous place to photograhers.



Past Samreung a sign comes into view indicating path directions and distances.
It is about a 2km hiking trail, but it’s not steep and hard to walk.



I go up along the slightly frozen path past Samreung.
Fortunately, it was not slippery because the stone on the path can be used as footholds.




Seokjoyeoraejwasang (a seated stone statue of Buddha )in Samreung Valley

At the mouth of a valley lies Samreung Valley with three deep ridges that can be chilly even in the summer; hence it is called Naenggol, meaning a cold valley.
11 temple sites and 15 Buddha statues are scattered around the valley with the majority of remains on Mt. Namsan, and many people come to the valley because it leads to Mt. Geumosan Peak.
The Seokjoyeoraejwasang was found 30 meters deep in the ground of the south without a head by students of Dongguk University in Aug.1964.
Although Its hands and head were destroyed, with the elegant rendering of body and refined folds of vestment, it is recognized as an excellent sculpture of the unified Silla period.

After walking for about 10 minutes, you can see the headless Seokjoyeoraejwasang in Samreung Valley.


Who cut the head alone this way?  When Buddha statues were found on Mt. Namsan, most of them had no heads.
Except for Mireukgok Seokjoyeoraejwasang of Borisa Temple on Mt. Namsan, I haven’t yet learned the details yet. However, this problem was solved by a visit to Gyeongju National Museum.


Why did the head of the stone statue of Buddha disappear?

In 1965 when Bunhwangsa in Gyeongju was excavated for research, stone statues of Buddha made in the unified Silla period were found in a well inside the temple with all their heads cut off.
These are them. So what caused of their decapitation?
One of causes could be a natural disaster such as an earthquake. An earthquake would fall the Buddha statue positioned on a pedestal to fall. In that moment, the neck, the weakest part of the sculpture could be broken easily.
And, wars like the Mongolian invasion, Japanese invasion, and Manchu wars could cause the damage.

In the Joseon Dynasty era when Confucianism was a national philosophy, the intended damage of Buddha statues would happen. The True Record of the Joseon Dynasty recounts a rare story about sweating Buddha statues. When this happened, Confucian scholars destroyed Buddha statues considering the event as something deceiving the world.
It is said that they burned wooden Buddha statues, threw away stone and bronze Buddha statues into wells, reservoir and waters, or they would cut off the heads and reported them to the authorities.
Headless Buddha statues found in the well of Bunhwangsa outnumbered the heads. The decapitation was insufficient. These statues even experienced the ordeal of being abandoned to the deep well.




While hiking on Mt. Namsan, I don’t think you have to make some time to rest because you can rest reading the explanations about the remains that you encounter here and there,



Seongak Yukjonbul in Samneung Valley(Its body was carved with linear carving methods)

This rare carved one found on Mt. Namsan has six Buddha images engraved in two rocks with linear carving methods. There is the trace of Buddhist sanctum over a right cliff to protect these images at the time.



Climbing up about 20 meters to the side of the hiking trail, you can meet Seongak Yukjonbul in Samneung Valley. Seeing the sights of these Buddhist statues made it easy to climb the mountain.



About the place above, I put on the crampons which I had prepared in advance. Without them, I would have given up climbing. Because of the good weather conditions, I met many mountain climbers. I saw many not wearing crampons slip down. Many preparations are needed in climbing.





Steated Stone Statue of Buddha in Samneung Valley, Gyeongju

Located in the middle of the Samneung Valley of Mt. Namsan, the Buddha statue is a stone statue of Buddha seated on a lotus throne with one hand pointing to earth, the other resting on the lap, and the legs completely crossed.
The Buddha statue was built in the combination of the head and torso of the Buddha which had been separately manufactured.
The face and halo were damaged a lot, but repaired and maintained by National Gyeongju Cultural Properties Research Institute by the request of Gyeongju City in 2007-2008.





There is a trace showing the head was attached separately.
To reach the Buddha statue, you should walk to the side of the hiking trail a little bit.









Sangsunsam-you reach Sangsunam in the middle of climbing, and there you can find a coffee vending machine. It takes about an hour to get here.





Samneung Valley Maaeseokgayeoraejwasang

This Buddha statue is located in the middle of the southern part of Badukbawi running from the northern Mt. Namsan Geumobong northwestward and forming a small peak.
It has a halo carved into natural bed rock, but is a rough image as if half-carved. It is 7m tall, the largest statue in Naenggol, seated facing toward Geumobong, the northern peak of Mt. Namsan.

Climbing up for five minures from Angsunsam, you can meet ‘Maaeseokgayeoraejwasang in Samneung Valley’ which I personally think is the most gorgeous statue on this trail.









 The picture below was taken here in the spring of 2009 when I climbed Mt.Namsan.







Danger Falling Rocks!- please-note that the eastern bedrock of Maaeseokgayeoraejwasang is very dangerous due to cracks and falling rocks, so pay special attention to safety. Because it is on the edge of the cliff where there is no special safety device, you have to watch out. In particular, when taking a picture, you have to pay more heed.





MBC Drama location of “Queen Seondeok
Having seen the drama “Queen Seondeok” before, I thought the scenery was quite familiar.





Climbing up wooden stairs a little ways from Maaeseokgayeoraejwasang, you have a nice view. I think this view is better than that of Mt. Geumosan Peak. Down here, Maaeseokgayeoraejwasang is in sight.





Mt. Namsan with a expansive view







Pine trees stand firm on rocks in a sunny spot.







Finally reached Mt.Geumosan peak

On Mt. Geumosan peak, there is a sign explaining “Mt. Namsan and the origin of Mangsan”. It took an hour and a half from the parking lot to here, and I rested sitting nearby.







Sangsa-bawi

Sangsa-bawi is on Mt. Geumosan. It is about 10m in height and towers steeply, making climbing hard. If lovesick people come to this rock to pray, they get well.”

Climbing down, I saw this place by chance. It was nothing special. And I don’t know what is what.





On the way down the mountain, I just took a picture of bamboo.





An encounter with the greenness in winter comes as a small happiness.









Comments

  1. Very nice write up. I am going to go to this trail July 2013.

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