Hello Again Everyone!!
This is part two of the extremely impressive Samneung Valley on Mt. Namsan in Gyeongju. And the only reason, which is a first for this blog, that this entry gets two parts is that there truly is so much to talk about. So with that being said, let’s continue with Samneung Valley. The first part, if you’re interested, can be seen here.
After visiting the Two Lined-Carved Buddha Triads, and making your way back to the main trail, you’ll have to walk an additional 180 metres up to the Seated Stone Buddha. Located half-way up the hike, and perched on a mountain plateau, appears a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) featuring the Touching the Earth mudra. This statue is placed upon a beautiful lotus pedestal. Formally, this striking statue was disfigured with the employment of haphazard cement being placed over the jaw area that had previously been damaged. Fortunately, in 2007 and 2008, this travesty was rectified. And now, the statue was returned to its former grace and serenity. It’s believed that this statue was built either in the 8th or 9th century.
Now, the final 500 metres of the hike are the steepest as you near the summit of the mountain. It’s about at this point that you should take a bit of a rest as you prepare yourself for the hardest part of the trail. But with that being said, it’s also the most beautiful part of the Samneung Valley.
Having rested, and made your way up a steep set of rock stairs, you’ll finally come to the only hermitage along the trail: Sangseonam Hermitage. Sangseonam Hermitage is a recently built hermitage that was built on the foundation of a former ancient Silla temple. When you first climb the zigzagging set of brown wooden stairs, you’ll first be greeted by the nuns’ dorms. Past the dorms, and slightly to the right, is the hermitage’s only hall. Out in front of this main hall, you’ll get a beautiful view of the Samseung Valley below and Badukbawi up above. Stepping inside this extremely compact main hall, perhaps the smallest I’ve ever been in, you’ll be greeted by walls filled with Buddhist paintings. Immediately to your left, as you enter, you’ll see a rather typical Korean Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) painting. Next to this painting is a far more vibrant Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. Sitting on the main altar are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) on one side and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) on the other. Interestingly, there’s an extremely unique, and extremely feminine, statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right of the triad. To the left of the main altar, and on the same wall, is a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the right, and on the right wall, is the Shinjung Taenghwa (the guardian mural).
To the left of the main hall, and between the nuns’ dorms, is a sign that leads you to the top of the mountain and the Large Seated Statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). During the winter, and unfortunate for me, this area is sectioned off. But fortunate for me, and my long legs, I was able to jump the rope that prevents access to this area. After climbing a small set of stairs, you’ll be welcomed by the large seven metre tall statue of Mireuk-bul. It faces the north with its serene features. As for its body, its right hand is spread to the front, while it’s left hand rests on its seated lap. The body isn’t as masterfully carved as its face, but this is still the crowning achievement to the valley, and it contributes to the mastery of the Silla Dynasty when it was created.
A little further up the mountain, and finally at the peak, you get beautiful views of Gyeongju below and the Large Seated Statue of Mireuk-bul off to the side. In fact, you can get some of the best pictures of the Large Seated Statue of Mireuk-bul from these heights.
The final part of this tour of the Samneung Valley is the Sangsaam Rock. Around a bit of a bend in the rocks at the peak is Sangsaam Rock that sits on a bit of a plateau. Sangsaam Rock is a bit gnarly and craggy looking, and it measures a rather large 13 metres in height and 25 metres long. This rock is said to cure love-sickness, as well as granting the wishes of women that want a baby boy. Interestingly, there’s a shrine on the east side of the rock. A stone Buddha, with its head missing, rests beside the altar. It’s less than a metre tall and a lot of the sculpture’s detailing have faded with the passage of time. But what can be seen, however faint, are a pair of hands held towards its chest, as well as monks clothing. In addition to Sangsaam Rock, the views from Badukbawi really are second to none with the jetting rocks, blue sky above, and the west side of Gyeongju down below.
HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Samneung Valley, on Mt. Namsan, you’ll first have to get to Gyeongju. Once in Gyeongju, and at the Intercity Bus Terminal, you can catch either bus #502 or #504 across from the terminal. Just make sure with the driver that they’re heading in that direction. So simply ask, “Namsan Samneung-gol,” in Korean. You can either take the bus or you can get a taxi to take you. Again, simply say, “Namsan Samneung-gol,” and the driver will do the rest. In total, the trip should cost you about 8,000 won. From where both the bus or the taxi drops you off, the large trail head opposite the parking lot for Samneung Valley should be obvious.
View Samneung Valley, Mt. Namsan, Gyeongju in a larger map
OVERALL RATING: 10/10. Mt. Namsan has earned its nicknamed as the “outdoor museum.” And nowhere is this better suited than with the Samneung Valley and its multiple statues, shrines, and hermitage. In combination, it’s really hard to beat. There’s little else to say about this part of Gyeongju then to say, that unless you’ve visited Mt. Namsan, you really haven’t visited Gyeongju at all.