Autumn Intended to Leave but Stayed at the Mountain Temple
by Seung-Ha Cho, Digital Chosun, NOVEMBER 11, 2004
Seoul, South Korea -- Mountain Baekam (741m) showed its white tip among the reddish autumn foliage. The beautiful features of the mountain are accentuated with the backdrop of the high blue autumn sky. This mountain doesn?t bow. Its defiant energy seems to shout a command to the earth and the sky with its unbent neck. For an earthy element, it must be sad not to be born as a mountain on the earth, Just like a constellation element, it?s shameful not to become a sun.
A mountain and a temple are not separate entities. A temple becomes a mountain. Take a good look at them. Maybe that is the reason why they always share similar names. Mountain Baekam and Baekyang temple and Mountain Naejang and Naejang temple are good examples.
Around this time, the redness of the autumn foliage is burning and overwhelming the mountains. If you feel like walking on a forest path among the autumn leaves before they disappear, perhaps you should drive down to the south, to Jangseong, Jeonnam.
The Autumn Foliage Tunnel up to the Main Temple
Six o?clock in the morning. The crisp morning air is refreshing. The sheaves of straw in the empty fields after harvest look lovely. Mountains and fields spread under the high and clear sky look fresh through the transparent atmosphere. After passing the Baekyangsa Nadeulmok, the wide water of Jangseong Lake greets guests. The road around the lake is National Highway Route One connecting Seoul to the areas around Mokpo. You can tell that it is near to Baekyang temple by looking at the autumn foliage tree-lined roads.
The forked road where the path to Baekyang temple begins is bustling like a marketplace. There are many of Jangseong?s famous dried persimmon vendors. From this point to the temple gate or even maybe to the main temple building, the street is lined with maples. These trees sometimes create a maple tunnel by reaching out to the other side, and under the tunnel there opens a maple leaf path.
Baby maple was named not for its leaf size but for its height. However, there are some really tall baby maple trees due to their old age. Maybe you can pick up some of these cute baby maple leaves, keep them between pages of a book and enclose them in a letter someday.
An old tree is lying next to the temple gate. After a short uphill walk from the gate, you are already in the precincts of the temple. White rocks of the Baekam Mountain as white as sheep fleece are peeking through the red foliage.
Autumn Deepens in the Mountain Temple
I crossed a pond just before seeing a temple in the precinct. I didn?t notice it in the summer during a flood, but now I can see that blocking the valley created the pond. The pond contains the red of the leaves and the blue of the autumn sky. On the top of the stairs, a nice pavilion called Ssanggyeroo is located. The Ssanggyeroo?s autumn scenery is reflected on clear water and disappears again and again because of ripples caused by falling leaves and the autumn winds.
A pond usually has a valley supplying water to it. While looking for the water source, I found a stone bridge, Hong Gyo. This bridge connects this world and the Buddhist world. This structure looks like a delicate sculpture.
Crossing the bridge, you can finally enter the precinct. Inside of the Geumangmun (an inner main gate), temple buildings including Daewoongjeon (a main temple building) are gracefully positioned. Looking up at the mountain, Yaksaam, where you can see the whole center area of the temple in one glance, is found on the middle of the mountain. Idling around the precinct, I stopped at Sunbuldang where offerings are made. There are dried persimmons hanging from the eaves. Pyeongsang (meaning wooden bed) is all covered with fallen leaves under an old tree at the yard of Gongyanggan (an offering area) that drifted with fallen leaves. It made harmonious scenery with Dangwoo (one of the main temple building). The autumn in a mountain temple radiates charming elegance.
This week will be the last week to see the autumn leaves of Baekyang Temple.
Directons: by car: Honam Highway - Baekyangsa Nadeulmok - Local Route 15 - National Highway Route One - Gomjae - Jangseong Lake ? Bukha-myeon - Yaksucheon Rotary - Local Route 16 - Baekyangsa Entrance road.
Bus: Depart from the Seoul Express Bus Terminal, travel time three hours and 30 minutes. Jangseong Terminal 061-393-2660
Train (www.barota.com): Mugoonghwa, Saemaeul, KTX stop at Jangseong Station. 1544-7788
Jangseong-gun Office (www.jangseong.jeonnam.kr): 061-390-7224
Baekyangsa (www.baekyangsa.org): 061-392-7502
Group Tour: One-day excursions on November 13 and 14, Seongwoo Travel: (www.swtour.co.kr), 02-720-8311.