Few places get to me as much as Tongdosa. I have always been a big fan of this place even before I came to Korea. I remember reading about it in a Lonely Planet although I can’t find it on their site. At any rate, I have been visiting here for over 10 years. When my parents came here they really wanted to see this place too and it is a great memory that I have of their trip here.
Tongdosa was first established in 646 CE according to Wikipedia and it is amazing that it still is around today. The Main Worship Hall is the only structure to survive the Imjin War. The rest of the structures were rebuilt after that time. Each part of the temple has something interesting about it and more often than not, a fantastic story attached to it.
What I like most about this location are the naturally aged buildings. I love the brightly painted temples but these just show you that they have been around for a long time. Many of the buildings on the grounds have not been repainted and have been left to fade over the years. It is refreshing to see that age of these buildings that date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
This time I was out with some fellow photographers. I personally love the the walk in to the temple. Sadly, the guys that I was with were not so enthused about walking so far. We walked in anyway and it was great to smell the fresh air and enjoy the beauty of the location. The walk up from the entrance goes through the forest which is called “Pine Trees Dancing in the Wind” Too many times you shoot a location and you forget to actually look around enjoy the moment and the place that you are in. This walk is something that you would want to take as slow as possible.
The big issue for me is that when I finally get to Tongdosa, my creativity is zapped. I never can get truly creative shots. Perhaps I am just inside my head too much here or something but by the time I get to the main gates, I probably should just leave my camera in the bag and continue walking.
This time, I found a stairway that lead up to a small stupa on top of a hill. It was a hard climb on the hot day. At any rate, one of the things that caught my eye was the dark path that contrasted with the light at the top of the stairs. Everything about this place as so much age and wisdom. While there are no Buddha statues around someone had placed a small golden Buddha on this stupa and it had just the right amount of contrast for me.
If you have not had the chance to visit here, I sincerely encourage you to head out. This is one of the most important temple in Korea and certainly one of the more beautiful ones, at least im my opinion.