13. Three monks and one unforgettable day

We were told to “take it easy” until 5pm the next day, so we planned to take another trip to Yangpyeong city and my hope of finding a pizza place was rekindled. But it turned out that our host had a completely different day planned for us.

The first monk had started off as a carpenter but later changed his mind, however, he still put his skills to use and build a small “modern temple” including sitting rooms and a kitchen, where the homeless come for a warm meal. His excellency offered us fruit and tea (which he had made himself as well as the beautiful furniture we sitting on) and payed us compliments. He was joined by two women and they all sat starring eagerly at us as they talked and laughed in Korean – they were all awfully friendly but I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like an exhibition piece.

The next monk we met in the Yongmunsa (용문사) temple in the Northern part of Yangpyeong (this was a little bit of a coincidence because we had been talking about visiting it ourselves, but had concluded it was too far off to go by public transport, so a big thank you to our host). There was a charming mountain walk to reach the temple, where we passed hundreds and hundreds of small stacks of stone by the side of the path and even on the big rocks in the river running down the mountain (on our way back we even left two small piles by the path ourselves). The temple buildings were stunning with so many tiny details, as you can see for yourselves in the pictures below. It is over a thousand years old like its companion the Gingko tree (the largest of its kind in the East) which stands in the temple courtyard. Our host led us through a doorway, as if she was used to coming and going in the temple areas, into another courtyard where three monks were in the middle of chopping wood. One monk invited us into his lodgings and served us delicious green tea and it turned out he had visited our little green spot on the world map that we call home. With our host functioning as a translator we learned that he has lived in the temple for two years now and in total they are 10 monks who live in small apartments on the temple areas.

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People stack stones and make a wish. If your pile doesn’t crash, your wish comes true.

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Our weak attempt at making a stone pile.

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A Japanese tradition where you write down your wishes.
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The Ginkgo tree. 60 meters high and 1,100 years old.
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The history of the Ginkgo tree…
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If only I had one krone for every time I’ve had to wait for that dork to tie her shoelaces…
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Getting a taste of the fresh spring water.

The third monk was another friend of our host and an artist who had just opened his own small gallery full of meditative art work where he lives. We got the full tour of the gallery – and I fell in love with one painting in particular, before we were invited upstairs to his apartment. Then, once again, we were offered tea (which they brew in  a very peculiar and systematic way) and also strawberries this time. He surprised us by bringing out a translated version of his book which he then signed and gave us! I know I’m repeating my self but I’m just continually taken aback by the generosity and kindness of the Korean people.

Motto of the day: “mercy, charity and caring is loving compassion”
(this quote is probably directly translated from Korean – so do the math yourself)
– by monk #3 Bhikku Tongchik

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//Louise

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