Though we'd never celebrated Buddha's birthday before, we found a memorable way to do so in Korea. Along with our buddies Chad and Scott, we hopped on a bus bound for Songnisan, a mountain located just over an hour northeast of Taejon. Peopjusa, a well-known temple, sits at the base of the mountain, and at Peopjusa resides one of the largest Buddha images in the world: thirty-three meters (over 100 feet) of cast bronze bliss.

Click on any image to see a larger version, then use your brower's "back" button to return to this page. Please take note that Rob botched the images when he created the small versions for this page, so they may look a bit blurry or otherwise screwed up. The large versions are just fine, so please check them out.

By the way, you'll see an image repeatedly on this page that will be creepily familiar: something Westerners know as a swastika, the Nazi party symbol adopted by Adolf Hitler. In fact, this is a centuries-old Buddhist symbol, misappropriated by the Furher for whatever reasons. Just don't start thinking that Korean Buddhists are Nazis.

Upon arriving, we found it impossible to do anything besides gawk at this enormous statue for a while. Eventually, we began to notice other things around the temple... the 5-story building with the cool roof, and the thousands of paper lanterns hanging everywhere. Each lantern carries a note bearing someone's handwritten wish or prayer.

We also finally noticed the fine mountain scenery around us. Here, Cheris paused to drink it in. In the background is a man wearing a hanbok, the traditional Korean outfit still worn for many holidays and special occasions.
Painting from the side of one of the temple buildings.
When the sun moved directly behind the Buddha statue, we couldn't resist taking some more photos of it...
...from a variety of angles.
We began exploring other parts of the park surrounding the temple, and along a trail we spotted this gorgeous, unusual butterfly. It was dead but completely intact.
Then we came across this relief Buddha carved in a rocky hillside along a river. Here are Chad, Scott, and Cheris with the enlightened one.
Sculpture work this nice deserved a second, close-up shot too.
When the sun began to set, we headed back into the temple grounds for the coming ceremonies. Here's Scott as he watched the celebration begin.
Monks called on everyone to gather around by ringing the huge bell on the temple grounds... ladies lined up in traditional clothes for dances and processions.
Here are some more of the participants in the festivities. Cheris got some amazing pictures of the dancing they did; we'll scan some and get them up here soon.
Eventually, the sun was down and thousands of hanging candles were lit, creating an unforgettably beautiful sight. We then became participants in the celebration, as Korean children and monks aided us in putting together our own lanterns. Here's CJB with hers.

We slept soundly that night at a yeogwon, a kind of Korean inn or budget hotel, and set out to climb Songnisan, the mountain, the next day. Unfortunately, Scott was nursing a bum knee and couldn't come along... Anyway, like every Korean mountain climbing experience we've had so far, it was a grueling task with rewarding results. Here's the scenery from the peak.

And here are two pics of Chad and Rob, and one of Cheris and Rob, at the top.

And that's it for another great weekend... we hopped on our buses home soon after descending the mountain. Our trip to Songnisan will provide some of the best memories of our time in Korea. If you're ever in Korea on Buddha's birthday, be sure to visit a temple--it's an amazing experience.

take me back to the index, please