Just down the road from the rock-carved Buddhas is the Bowonsa temple site. The carving was apparently originally part of the entrance to the temple, and judging from the distances between the surviving features of this Buddhist temple, it was VERY large. Historians think this temple was built in the Baekje period (600-700 AD) because of the style of the stone pagoda.
We were a little confused on where to park- this place is off the beaten path, and along a hiking trail, so I think some visitors hike to it instead of driving. There was a bigger parking lot off to the right of the road, but the temple site was not visible yet, so we kept driving and parked in a gravel turn-off that had room for 4-5 cars. Regardless, it worked out but I think the gravel parking lot is the proper parking area for this place. There is no clear path of what to see first coming from where we parked, so we trudged through the field to the stone flagpole supports. The flag pole itself was wooden, so only the stone supports remain, but judging from the size and height of the supports, the flag pole must have been huge!
The next ruin was the large stone wash basin. While a wash basin of some type is a common sight at Buddhist temples of Korea, this one is impressive just because of how large it is! It looks like a giant stone bathtub. While we tried to read the signs and learn a little about what we were looking at, Landon was having a marvelous time wandering through the fields.
From the wash basin, we crossed a little bubbling brook and found some roped off stone remnants of buildings. There is also a small working temple on site, although we did not explore it as it seemed people lived there and we didn’t want to disturb them. The signs by the roped off rocks were all in Korean, so we don’t know much more about them, except they are old rocks.
The “national treasure” on this site is the five-story stone pagoda. Although not as massive as I imagined, it is an impressive piece of stone carving. The pagoda was completed during the Goryeo dynasty (after the temple) and had carvings of lions and the eight guardian deities on the sides. The spike on top used to have ornaments, but sometime in the last thousand years or so they fell off.
Up on the hillside overlooking the pagoda, some monuments were erected to a state preceptor. Next to the monuments was a trail head up the mountain. Since the walkway to the three Buddhas was not really a hike, we decided to go up the trail a little. Because Asians don’t really believe in hiking trail switchbacks, it was fairly steep with stairs. This makes it very daunting for Landon’s little legs, and we eventually decided to have a picnic, and turn around because we didn’t want to end up carrying Landon, and he was not in the mood for hiking.
The forest was green and lush, and big trees shaded most of the trail. It was a beautiful little hike, although I wish we could have gone further. On the way back to the car, we crossed this little creek in front of the temple site. Landon found lots of dragonflies flying around and little tiny fish in the water. This part of Korea is so gorgeous, I’m just not sure I will ever get used to how lush and green it is!
The temple site is neat, but if there’s only time for one or the other, the rock carved Buddhas steal the show. I would recommend this place to those interested in Buddhist history and architecture, otherwise there are other more interesting sites to visit.