Unification News for March 2000
by Rod Cameron—Clifton, NJ
At the conclusion of the WCSF art festival in Seoul everyone said their farewells and set off home-ward bound. Cynthia Toffey and I had arranged to visit Bang Young Park who lives with his family just north of Seoul.
Bang Young’s work is contemporary and was part of the art festival. He had come to New York 6 years ago to assist in projects at Manhattan Center. While at MC he suggested establishing an artists association which Hyo Jin Nim named "Akinlan" Group.
With a small group of artists including Cynthia, Bang Young arranged a group show at Bridgeport University. Despite many difficulties they were able have an international show at BU and have followed with 2 annual group shows.
After visiting with his family, Bang Young took us to visit the tomb of a Korean general who had fought and won a historical battle. We visited a Buddhist shrine close by which was a great example of early religious art. Seeing our enthusiastic response to the localities Bang Young suggested we visit sites in the heart of the ancient Silla Kingdom in Kyongju where the best examples of ancient art can be found.
We arrived in Kyongju in the evening and visited several major tombs close to the downtown area. As we drove around we noticed many smaller tomb mounds (the mounds have a similar significance to the pyramids of Egypt) and shrines. Clearly the area had been home for many dynasties and everywhere their remnants could be seen. In a river bed an archeological dig was underway and ancient stone slabs had been exhumed. The Silla kingdom began in 57 BC.
Next morning we arose before dawn to go to Sokkuram Temple at the top of a nearby mountain. According to custom it is very good fortune to see the sun rise while at the temple. It was a very beautiful sunrise which Buddhist nuns and fresh faced young people gathered to watch. We "Mansied" much to the delight of our onlookers. The most important part of the temple is a sixteen foot statue of Buddha which is housed in a stone grotto set in beautiful wood. The statue is regarded as the finest Korean Buddhist sculptures and rated as a major national treasure.
Later in the day we visited Pulguksa Temple which was built in 527 AD and rebuilt in 751 and expanded in 771. Pulguksa is No. 1 national treasure and provides great testimony to the skill of Silla artisans and has many relics from the United Silla Kingdom.
As a functioning temple complex and it was wonderful to pray and participate in one of the services being held in front of a large golden Buddha.
Rather than going directly back to Seoul we decided to go via the east coast and Sorak national park in Sokcho. The drive was a seven hours and we arrived in the city late that night. The next morning we were struck by the magnificent raw beauty of the snow covered mountains directly behind the city.
Our first stop at Soraksan was at huge Buddha at the base of a mountain. Close by was a temple though not ancient was stunning with its towering mountain backdrop. We offered prayers and drank holy water. Following the mountain trail we had to walk carefully as the track was covered with ice.
Coming down were climbers laden with gear who had probably scaled Soraks’ sheer faces or tramped far back into the park. We followed young couples and a lady with her son. Soraksan was powerful and had a spirit which pulled you up and on. The fearless and the weary.
The trail split and a sign said climbing equipment was needed for a seven hour walk. We went toward a sign saying: "Temple .9 km." The sign did not indicate that the temple was almost straight up as we soon discovered. We climbed upward and at several points through the cover of pines and winter trees the view was awesome as we looked over jagged ridges of snow and crisp mountain air.
Cynthia decided to sit and draw under a tree which appeared to have been there forever. Bang Young and I headed up the last 500 feet of near vertical steps. At last we could see the tiny cave which contained the temple inside. Again we offered prayers and a small donation.
What was deeply moving, priests had come to this very high place, a position seemingly closer to God, to pray. In this divinely magnificent place they created a holy sanctuary in the heart of a granite mountain, an alter for those who followed where one could offer tears of joy and praise for the incredible love which God had expressed there.
Going down the mountain was a lot easier than going up and we returned to Seoul that night. The next day we returned home with many wonderful memories of Korea, and inspiration to last…
The local artists who participated in the Art Festival 2000 in Korea are in a group show from April 3rd - 30th, at the Watchung Art Center, New Jersey. "Spirit of Matter - Matter of Spirit", features recent works by Cynthia Toffey, Benny Anderson, Dennis Holcomb, Rod Cameron, Shigeyoshi Wabe, Bang Young Park and Bernth Uhno. The Watchung Art Center located at 18 Sterling Road, Watchung NJ, telephone 908-753-0190. Opening reception, Sunday April 9th, 1-4 pm. Gallery hours are Monday - Saturday 1-4pm. Directions: I-78 to exit 40, or Rt 22 to Plainfield overpass. Follow signs to Watchung. WAC is on the circle.
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