Bongnyoengsa: A Haven in the Middle of the City


   I've been staying in Suwon, a neighboring province of Seoul in South Korea. Like a cat, before I can feel comfortable in any one place I must first sniff around to know the terrain. So I have become an avid map-reader. However, I admit that I actually chose to stay in Suwon because it seemed close to where my muse is serving his two-year military service. I really didn't know much about the city prior to arriving. To my delight my Airbnb apartment turns out to be right smack in the middle of just about every tourist site in Suwon.

   Suwon[a] (Hangul: 수원, Hanja: 水原, Korean pronunciation: [su.wʌn]) is the capital and largest metropolis of Gyeonggi-doSouth Korea's most populous province which surrounds Seoul, the national capital. (Wikipedia)

   There are numerous places to explore in this province. Even in this extreme hot and humid summer weather I have bravely ventured out to see many of them. Today's site was very conveniently located exactly across the street from my near daily destination, the Gyeonggi Nambo Southern Province Police station, my muse's base.


   The Bongnyeoengsa Temple

   You won't get much from the website unless you're fluent in reading Korean. There was just enough included on the map to pique my interest. I'll fill you in.

   Bongnyoengsa is a Buddhist temple located at the foot of the Gwanggyo Mountain in Suwon. 

   If you enjoy hiking you might want to try the trail. Needless to say, I didn't. It was enough just to walk the short distance from the bus stop to the temple itself in the heat!

   Bongnyueongsa  is one of the oldest traditional Buddhist temples in Suwon. It was founded by Monk Wongak Guksa in 1208, the fourth year of King Huijong's reign in the Goryeo Dynasty. 

  Today the temple has been transformed into a cradle of Bhikkhuni monastic (Sangha) education. It houses Sangha University (since 1974) and Geumgang Vanaya Graduate school (since 1999), both offering specialized education for female novices. 

   Even though the institution is considered a leading representative of Korean Buddhism I couldn't find much on line. Is it because it's a school for women?

   Okay, so I have no idea what I'm talking about. In all honesty I really don't know much at all about Buddhism. Should I ever want to learn more I would definitely consider a semester here! I've taken the liberty of sharing a few pages from an English brochure I am grateful to have received.

   Thank goodness for all those historical Korean dramas I've watched! In the very least I know something about the kings, dynasties and eras! There is still much I clearly have to learn!

   Nevertheless I was very impressed with the temple. It's a beautiful, clean very serene paradise in the middle of a very busy commercial city. I enjoyed walking the grounds. The fact that it is also a campus for women is inspiring. I noticed a few other people who seemed to be either visitors and/or worshipers.

   There is a lovely cafe where one can get a delicious drink and some cookies. I ended up ordering a hot tea; ginger and jujube. It was actually quite satisfying in the heat of the day.

   I ventured over to engage in a brief chat with three of the female monks who were also enjoying a drink. I was simply curious about the piano sitting on some sort of stage. I learned that "outsiders" sometimes come to perform there. I explained that I am a musician and gave them my card. Maybe someday I can share my music there too! I then had a brief chat with two women staffers who worked at the counter. One turned out to be a singer. We took a few moments to share our music. I am relishing these brief moments meeting wonderful people and musicians everywhere in South Korea!

   By the way, this temple also focuses on healthy food and eating habits. It holds an annual Temple Food Festival in October that has been running since 2009. It "presents temple foods as an alternative food for a healthy lifestyle for modern people to practice harmony with nature and respecting all life". (from the brochure). Maybe I will have to return in October!!

   Enjoy a few more photos:


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