Categorized | Korea, Travel

Gatbawi – Carved Stone Buddha

On Saturday two other teachers and I decided to take a short trip outside of the city and to see Gatbawi.  The Gatbawi Buddha is a stone Buddha carved in the 9th century at the top of Gwanbong peak in the Palgongsan mountain range.  The statue sits 4m high with a stone hat 15cm thick at the top of the 850m high peak.

Reading up a little on it before we left, I saw that it was about a 1 hour hike up the hill to get to the Buddha.  I didn’t think this would be too difficult, especially since I had read that pregnant women would hike up to pray and ask for a son.  However, this hike was not simple.  It was 2km total and all up a steep hill.  The first 1.1km is up a gradually steeper hill, but the worst part was the finish.  We had to hike up steep steps in the cold with snow on the ground.  At some points it became a little hairy; and if the railings hadn’t been installed, it would have been pretty dangerous at times.  I was glad I was hiking with another teacher who was willing to go at a slower pace than others.  It was very tiring and we took full advantage of certain places to stop and enjoy the views.

Even with how difficult it was to get up at times, I am still hurting today, it was well worth the trip.  The views were amazing.  The mountain looked out over the city and the surrounding countryside.  I am a sucker for views at the top of mountains.  I love being able to look down on a city, or across the countryside for miles and miles.  Throw in the crisp fresh mountain air and you really get revitalized.  As soon as I saw the statue and the views from the top, I immediately forgot how tired I was and how my legs felt like jello.

The Stone Hat Buddha (Gatbawi means hat rock), is a big fixture in the Buddhist culture.  People come from all over Korea to pray.  It is said that one prayer per person can come true if that person prays with his/her whole heart.  Parents climb to pray when their children are taking the high school entrance exams.  Pregnant women climb it to pray for sons, and many people watch the first sunset of the new year and pray for a good year.  There were many people coming and going the cold Saturday we made our assent and they included the old, young, women, men, and children of all ages.   There are enough places to stop, rest, and enjoy the views that many people are able to make the climb.

Now I don’t have a good understanding of the Buddhist culture, but I have a fond appreciation for their willingness to climb a mountain such as this one to make a prayer that they put their heart and soul into, because this is no easy hike.  Besides the beautiful views from the top of the mountain and the beautifully carved statue, there was an amazing temple about half way up the mountain.  Now I have no desire to convert to Buddhism, but I can appreciate the architecture and beauty of their temples.   This one was stunning.  One of the buildings really stood out with its bright green color, and it really was a beautiful sight up in its mountain atmosphere.  The pictures below just don’t do it justice.

So after enjoying the views at the top for a bit along with the statue, we made the trek back down the slippery slope.  There was still snow on the ground so it made for some slow going especially at the top of the mountain where the steps were narrow and steep.  These were not your normal concrete or wooden steps either.  These were made of earth and stone of various shapes and sizes.  I had a near disastrous stumble on the way down as I hit on step awkward and slightly twisted my ankle.  It wasn’t anything to keep me from walking, but it did slow me down a little.  Despite the sore legs and ankle, it was definitely a trip worth making.  One that I would highly recommend to anyone who journeys to this part of the world whether you are a Buddhist or not.  It truly is a site to see, and something that pictures just don’t seem to do justice.  Having said that, it is also one thing I will never do again.  At least not until I am in much better shape.  That is after all one of my resolutions decisive steps to a better 2010.

That is all for now.  If you have followed me over from A Man Nowhere, I would like to say thank you and be sure to update your bookmarks and/or RSS feeds.  If you are new, I would like to welcome you.  I hope you will continue reading about my adventures, and as always I look forward to your comments.

Teaching Expat

About Eric Bynum
I taught ESL for three years in South Korea and now I am looking to set out on a new journey after just finishing my teaching certification in the US. I hope to continue teaching and traveling and you can follow his journeys here.

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3 Responses to “Gatbawi – Carved Stone Buddha”

  1. Cat says:

    Hahaha “teacher willing to take it at a slower pace”, we were stopping to look at the view werent we Eric 😛

  2. Mike says:

    Your right, you really have to hand it to a religion in which the people are willing to climb up to the top of those bad boys. I climbed a few in China, a miserable 6,000 plus steps. Just about when I was ready to fall over, an old Chinese woman carrying a load of watermelons strapped to a bamboo poll ran right past me up the mountain. Great pictures and I really enjoyed the article.

  3. esbynum says:

    It is a little inspiring to see how passionate they are. I wish I knew how many steps that climb was. It is by far the most I have ever done. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

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