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Friday, July 26, 2013

Dragon Temple (Chilpo-ri)

In another of this week's morning family jaunts, we went north to the fishing town of Chilpo (mentioned on previous blogs as The Place of Marvelous Beaches and as The Place To Which Faulty Heunghae Maps Misled Us) to visit an under-promoted Buddhist temple.  It's so under-promoted that the only place I've found ANY reference to this place was on an ex-pat's youtube video. (The bus system isn't much help, either, but see details below if you want to visit).

Anyway,  we didn't know the temple's name or exact location, but we've learned enough NOT to consult any maps. We googled the Korean words for temple ("sa") and dragon ("yong") so if we got stuck, we could ask some local folk for the yong-sa.  Sam prayer we wouldn't need to pantomime, as that embarrasses him terribly.  But - as Buddha would have it - we found a Sign!  Last week, after noticing numerous swastikas all over the countryside, we discovered that this controversial symbol is an ancient one (3000+ years old) from India, which means "happy being"; it later got incorporated into Buddhism, so now it's on temples, homes of  Buddhists, etc. So, here's a close-up of the road directory in Chilpo - the swastika plus the Korean that says "die-yan-SA" - meant we'd found the way to the temple!!  It was a very, very proud moment.  Maybe you had to be there.

Buddhist monk dorms. 

We arrive to see these buildings, where the monks probably live;  a monk peeking out a window is the only person we see for our 90 minutes on the grounds. In the close-up below, a clothesline, drying rack, and kimchi pots are on the balcony.

A very happy (and portly) buddha statue greeted us.
We got out of the car next to a small hill with buddhas and a glass box of relics.
 Up the hill from Happy Portly Buddha was this
(thinner) version, in front of some veggie gardens
and the garage.
David checking out the frogs in the pond, oblivious to the
money-seeking statues behind him or the dragon to his right.
After some wandering, we found the Dragon, which is what we came to see. This life-sized (?) dragon winds around and up the mountain, with an internal museum about Buddha's life.
Elisabeth gets around the ball to enter the dragon's mouth.
I had assumed the ball would be some old, carefully carved piece of wood.
Nay.  It's a yoga ball, spray painted red.
As usual, a place to remove one's shoes.
However, none of the provided slippers fit any of our feet
- even Elisabeth's size 8 feet are VERY large here.
Hundreds of small (10") golden buddhas in slightly different
poses are stacked in one room.  We don't know why.
Sam hangs one of our written "petitions to Buddha"
on a lotus lantern.  Thousands hang from the ceiling.
Ours are the only English ones we found.

The dragon's throat wasn't quite tall enough to accommodate
these Dutch-Americans.

Elisabeth does a decent lotus position;
David is in pain from even trying.

Sam gets a good look at a golden Buddha;
Nick assesses the painting in the background.
Sam is delighted by the "grouchy Santa" figure he notices in
every painting of the Buddha's followers.

At the dragon's tail, the roof is very low and only Elisabeth
can sit properly for the Buddha.  Note the offering box alongside
the jade items and candles.

Outside the dragon, further up the mountain, we found the temple.
It was not open for visitors, but Sam got this great
picture of a dragon under the roof.

"The Virgin Mary on a Turtle"

Some humorous moments during our visit. Sam was very amused by what he calls "The Virgin Mary on a Turtle" among all the little Buddha statues along the path.

Sam discovered a great irony in the nether regions of the
Buddha Dragon: Ant killer.

Sherri + Frog + Dragon

As David exited the giant dragon's mouth, he found a tree frog.  I picked it up and it jumped onto my shoulder. Elisabeth framed a great picture of it. Us.

Buddhist monk slippers in the worship space of the dragon,
near the vacuum cleaner and fire extinguishers.
I love, love, love the cows on these.

Bus Options from Pohang (shout out to Sandhira Chetty for digging this up):

(1) Take the 500 from the Pohang bus terminal and transfer at Heunghae to a bus to Chilpo.  There are no bus numbers for these buses and they don't leave very frequently: 7:20, 8:55, 10:05, 11:15, 12:15, 13:35, 14:30, 15:10 and 16:35.

(2) The 510 bus (bound for Chilpo) is reputed to change routes without notice and is not the best option unless you like adventure.


  1. What a great adventure for your family. So glad you have this opportunity. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. I love this. We found this temple years ago. Hearing you tell the story makes us long to return to Korea.

  3. What a hoot! We're planning to take our two kids to Korea next fall, and we'll be visiting a friend in Pohang. I have an eleven-year-old who loves dragons, so this is definitely on our list.

    (I love the frog pic!)

  4. BTW, it's "Dae Won Sa," Not "Die Yan Sa."


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