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A Cinemagraph Tour of Buddha’s Birthday in Korea

Lanterns Blowing in the Wind from Jason Teale on Vimeo.

If you haven’t noticed recently I have been putting a lot of time and effort into cinemagraphs, which are pictures that have a small area that moves. Many people think that these images remind them of the newspapers in Harry Potter. I personally think that they are a great wait to really draw a person into the frame. Cinemagraphs can be either in-your-face, where you can see right away what is moving or more subtle where just a tiny part is moving. I feel each has their place and I really try hard to find that point of interest.

Happy 2,578th Birthday Siddhartha Gautama (a.k.a Buddha)

Buddha’s Birthday was celebrated all over East Asia yesterday. Held on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month, Buddhists attended their local temples for free vegetarian meals, sermons and to view fiery hand crafted lanterns.

The big guy has showed up quite a bit in my travels around the Far East. He’s appeared in temples, in picture, on rocks, on mountains, and a whole host of tourist crap. His eyes are usually shut and he looks like he might be sleeping; he seems like a pretty chilled out dude to be honest.

I think it’s pretty clear that I’m not a Buddhist (nor am I much of anything really), though I do like a few of his ideas and have learnt a little about the guy.

Playing with Fire – Korea’s Great Full Moon

The Great Full Moon Party (대보름날 Daeboreum Nal)

Not so long ago – before Korea was divided into commie and capitalist-puppet halves and before it was annexed into a fascist empire – Buddhism and the folk traditions of the peninsular reigned supreme. I have no idea what the folk religions were, but they have to be way more fun than worshipping a skinny jewish guy who was nailed to a cross and whose father cares way too much about where people stick their genitals. Of course there was Confucianism, which isn’t so much a religion as it is a set of strict societal rules.

Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter

This image was made on my final day of my On-The-Road series, a 17-day, multi-city tour of peninsular South Korea. For the last day, I was caught in torrential downpours in the Seoraksan National Park as the heavens opened. I managed to seek refuge in Sinheung-sa grotto, carved into the rocks of Ulsanbawi. The monks here served me green tea and allowed me to rest in the grotto while the rain died down. I'm going to use this as my once chance to name an image after The Rolling Stones song, 'Gimme Shelter.'

The Sound of the Drums

The Sound of the Drums

A Buddhist monk brings the evening's ceremony to a close at Haeinsa temple, Gyeongsangbukdo.

Traditional Temple Top

Beomosa Temple Stay


When I got asked to shoot Beomosa Temple for an upcoming article in Seoul Magazine, I was really excited. Mostly because I love Beomosa and the other reason was that I really wanted to see what goes on at a temple stay which was the focus of the article. Temple stay programs are a unique way to experience temple life. However, most of the people that I asked about these programs either hated them or did them as a one off thing.


Buddhist Mornings, Mountain Discoveries in Gimhae

I noticed a trend this week.

On Tuesday and Thursday, I was in fantastic moods. The kids at school, even the annoying ones, didn’t annoy me so much. I enjoyed work, I enjoyed food, air, sun and exercise.

Thumbs Up

On Wednesday, I felt like a bear getting punched in his testicles.


Beautiful Fall Leaves in Gyeongsangnam-do!

South Korea's Top 3 Temples

I love sharing my experiences in Korea with you guys, but let's face it... my eyes can only see so much. So, to give you a bit of a wider perspective, I am now accepting guest posts on Seoul Searching. I'm excited to announce that the first contributor is Dale Quarrington, Korean temple aficionado and author of Korean Temples: From Korea’s Southeast Corner, with his top three temples in Korea. Check out his post below.

Our 4th Chuseok in Korea, Part 2 – Busan & Yangsan

This is the 2nd part of our Aunt Kathy’s trip to Korea! You can read about the first part of the trip in Seoul here. Now on to Busan! I was really excited about the train ride from Seoul to Yangsan, because after years I’m still not tired of Korea’s beautiful mountains and countryside. It ended up not being as clear as it could have been but it was still a nice ride! As Seoul faded from our minds, we started focusing on the next couple days in Busan.

I Love Seoul, I Like Temple: Temple Stay Diary


Watch Our Video about our Temple Experience Here:


The Weekend Warrior’s Guide to… Siem Reap

With the city’s innumerable temples, overeager moto drivers, unofficial tour guides, flocks of one-dollar kids, and absurd humidity, 48 hours in Siem Reap can be a rather beguiling experience for the unprepared. This weekend warrior’s guide will set you straight.

Hongryongsa: Rainbow Dragon Temple


I first saw this place posted on the Busan Lightstalkers page and I was interested. Where else can you find a temple next to a flowing waterfall near Ulsan or Busan? I had to investigate further. I searched Dale’s Korean Temple Adventures site, which is my go-to site for temples. It has the most comprehensive listing and detailed descriptions of Korean Temples and it always has what I am looking for.

Searching for the Rabbit Monk at 표충사

We went searching for the rabbit monk at 표충사 Pyochungsa and played in the river!

The Inspiration

One of our new hobbies is traveling to lesser-known temples by car! Before we had the car, we often went to obscure temples with Dale from Dale’s Korean Temple Adventures. He took us to some amazing temples that not many foreigners have been too, and we felt so lucky to be friends with him and live in the same neighborhood! Eventually, we wanted to adventure on our own, but every time we’d scope out a new temple on Dale’s site, it usually said it’s only accessible by car!

Buddha’s Birthday at 반야사


The nearest Buddhist temple to our place is just across the road. In fact I pass it every time I go to work. It’s small and hidden up a small hill behind ample tree cover. In fact you’d miss it completely if it were for the multicoloured lanterns which line the street from early April, lanterns which are of course in anticipation of today, Buddha’s Birthday.

Beomosa Temple


As you probably know, I now work at Busan University of Foreign Studies which sits right next to Beomosa Temple. I visited there a few weeks ago when the cherry blossoms were blooming. I returned there last night to check on the lanterns for Buddha’s birthday and was really impressed.



Junggwangsa Temple 2014

Bongwonsa Temple


While up in Seoul, we had the great idea to hike up Mt. Ansan at 5 am or so. This meant getting up at about 4 am and catching a taxi to the mountain to meet up with Simon Bond and the legendary Robert Koehler. Robert knows pretty much everything there is to know about Korea and especially Seoul. He was kind enough to take us up to the top despite the early rise and the lack lustre sunrise that morning.

Winter Hiking in South Korea: Part 2 통도사, 비로엄, 영축산 and 신불산 (Tongdosa, Biroam, Yeongchuksan and Sinbulsan)

Follow Us Around Haeundae!

Follow Us Around videos are highly requested, and we love filming them! It feels like we’re hanging out all day. :) On this day we wandered around Haeundae, where we hadn’t visited since before summer! We like it a lot more without the throngs of people in the summer. We could probably do a couple “Follow Us Around Haeundae” videos that show you different areas of the neighborhood.

In this video we covered Haeundae station, the market, the area around Paradise Hotel, and the temple by the sea, Haedong Yonggungsa! Hope you enjoyed the video, and stay tuned for more “Follow Us Around” videos! If you have any neighborhood requests, let us know!

Haedong Yonggungsa – Dragon Temple by the Sea!

We didn’t always enjoy going to temples in Korea. In fact, I thought that while the temples were visually interesting, that they all looked the same. I got bored with them very quickly. That changed once I met Dale from Dale’s Korean Temple Adventures, a well-known blog in Korea. He also lives in Yangsan, and even works at the school just down the street from mine!

Getting Started with Meditation

by Jesse Diaz

Every aspiring meditator this day and age is beset by a crisis that would seem alien to truth seekers, ages back. The crisis I speak of is one of choice. Back in the day, choices of tradition or teacher were limited depending on one’s culture and good fortune to encounter somebody with skill, knowledge and the ability to instruct. Dubious teachers have always been hazards along the way for a determined aspirant, though usually for lack of options rather than a glut of them. Nowadays, however, it indeed seems that if you can dream it, you can buy it -to slightly modify Dr. Frank N. Furter’s inspirational adage.

석가탄신일: Buddha’s Birthday



Samgwangsa Temple in Busan

Nothing Stops A God

It looks like the people who wrote this movie are fully aware of the trouble with Superman: nothing can stop a god, since a god is, obviously, immortal, perfect, and, yeah, unstoppable. That’s the Platonic view which probably got Socrates in trouble with the Athenians—who executed him on a cross of hemlock!—dying for a love of knowledge rather than our sins!—but to go even further, and to look at God from the perspective of Islam, and Ali Farka Toure, God Is Unique; there is nothing like God, nothing can be compared to It; It cannot have arms, legs, thoughts, feelings, or any recognizable features. This philosophical view naturally eliminates any possibility of drama, since if God Is Unique, and everywhere and everywhen and nowhere and nowhen, then It’s also doing everything and nothing, and there’s no plot, no tension, no payoff.

Haedong Yonggungsa and Gwanyang Maehwa Festival

With another bitter and icy dry winter over in Korea, the emergence of the short but pleasant spring season is being warmly welcomed by people across the peninsula. With all my vacation days used during the winter breaks, trips are now limited to within the country until my contract ends in June (I won’t be renewing, but that is another blog story, one I’m not sure I will write…). With the football season in Korea having begun it is a little difficult to find the time for more cultural trips, but so far I have managed to make two rather pleasing, and interesting ones.

Several weeks back, when I wasn’t quite sure if spring had arrived and the sky was a deceptive bright sky blue, I went to Haedong Yonggungsa with Miju. Whilst most Buddhist temples in Korea can be found in the mountains, this one is perched precariously on the rocks that greet the East Sea, just north of Busan.

A Rewritten Zen Koan

23. Eshun’s Departure

When Eshun, the Zen nun, was past sixty and about to leave this world, she asked some monks to pull up wood in the yard.

Seating herself firmly in the center of the funeral pyre, she had it set fire around the edges.

“O nun!” shouted one monk, “is it hot in there?”

“Such a matter would concern only a stupid person like yourself,” answered Eshun.

[“Go fuck yourself, then, you stupid fucking asshole!" screamed the monk, picking up a burning piece of wood and throwing it at his master before the other monks could restrain him. "Burn in hell for all I care! I hope the flames are hot! I hope they're scalding hot!"

Spin Kicks, Spirituality, and a Sunrise: Templestay at Golgusa Temple

It's never a bad idea to start out a new year with a few extra good karma points... you never know when you'll need them.  So, instead of spending New Year's Eve drinking too much in a crowded, overpriced bar in Seoul, I decided to ring it in at Golgulsa, a Buddhist temple located just outside Gyeongju, South Korea.
Templestays have been gaining popularity amongst tourists and usually involve a short-term stay in one of the 900 traditional Buddhist temples in Korea.  Participants follow a rather strict schedule to experience a day (or two or three) in the life of the monks that reside there.  A templestay was something that had been on my bucket list for a while, so when I found a special New Year's program on the official Templestay website, I knew I had to sign up.
It was about a five hour trek from Seoul to Golgulsa Temple that required two bus trips, a bit of waiting around, and a short walk to the temple grounds from the final bus stop.  Once I had arrived, I was given a brief introduction to the program, a map of the complex, and special clothes that I was to wear during my stay.  I was then directed to my room where I would be spending the night with about fifteen other women.  The room was a rather large common area with pillows and blankets spread out on the floor for sleeping.  There was a bathroom with a toilet, a few open showers, and sinks that were to be shared.  I've become use to this arrangement after living in Korea for a few years but wondered how other Westerners not used to copious amounts of nakedness would handle the situation.

Jung Gwang Sa Decorated for the New Year

As I drove past my favorite temple in  Mugeo-dong, Ulsan last week and I noticed that it was decorated with many lanterns and banners. I would suspect that this would be for the upcoming new year. I looked around for the director, whom I met during this year’s Buddha’s Birthday festivities, but he was not in. At any rate, this temple is always such a beautiful place to visit and just walk around. Sadly, last night it was a little on the cold side. At any rate, I got a few shots and ran back to my warm car and headed home.

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