Walking along our local hiking trail I pointed out a tiny bug on the ground and commented on its interesting shape. My friend gave me a strange look and exclaimed, “How on earth did you see that?!” I laughed and explained to her that I am a details person. Where others see a vast landscape, I pick out the patterns of the trees. It’s not to say that I can’t see the big picture, but I am drawn to the smaller details in life. It is this little quirk that led me to realize that the true beauty of Korean temples is not in what you first see.
Korea is brimming with traditional temples of all shapes and sizes. But while their hand carved eaves and delicately painted walls are beautiful, many often say that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. At first glance this may seem true; but I’ve come to appreciate that what makes each temple breathtaking and unique are its details.
While each temple follows a similar blueprint and many were refurbished or rebuilt after the Korean war decimated the country, they also each retain their own bit of history and character. If you take the time to look, a Korean temple is so much more than its magnificent size or brilliantly colored wood.
What makes a Korean temple beautiful?
It’s the quiet moments and monks in prayer
It’s the Buddha carvings peering at you from surprising angles
It’s the girls in their hanboks
It’s the arched rooves bordering deep blue skies
It’s the cool feel of a carved wall and mountain spring water
It’s the stone statues, standing their ground
It’s the colorful autumn leaves draping over crumbling walls
It’s the thousands of lanterns, swaying in the ocean breeze
These are just some of the details that make Korean temples beautiful.