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Singyesa Temple in Kosong, Kangwon-do, North Korea in 2007.
Hello Again Everyone!!
This is the first article that photographically highlights Korean Buddhist temples from the period of the Japanese colonization of Korea that lasted from 1910 to 1945. In these pictures from the colonial period in Korea’s history, you’ll get a unique look into Korea’s religious and cultural past. Also of note, you’ll get to see pictures of temples from both north and south of the DMZ before the Korean peninsula was divided by the Korean War (1950-53).
In this first article, I thought I would focus on North Korea’s Singyesa Temple in Kosong, Kangwon-do. (It should be noted that I’ll be using the North Korean style of writing Korean words in English when it comes to the North Korean temples). I was fortunate enough to visit Singyesa Temple back in March, 2007. So with my personal biased in mind, here’s a little more on the history of Singyesa Temple.
Singyesa Temple was first founded in 519 A.D. during the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C.E – 935 A.D.). The temple is beautifully located in the picturesque Mt. Kumgang, and it eventually became one of the four major temples on Mt. Kumgang. During Japanese colonization, Singyesa Temple became known as Sinkei-ji Temple. And it was a popular tourist destination.
Unfortunately, the entire temple complex, and the buildings housed on its grounds, were completely destroyed in 1951 by U.S. fighter planes. It was believed that soldiers from the North Korean Army were taking up residence at Singyesa Temple. Some fifty-three years later, in 2004, and with the financial support of the Jogye Order and the Korean Buddhist Association, Singyesa Temple was reconstructed. Construction would be completed in 2006.
Singyesa Temple framed by the neighbouring Mt. Kumgang. This picture dates back to 1932.
A better look at the main hall from 1932.
The intricate latticework that adorned the main hall in 1932.
And an interior look inside the main hall from 1932.
A picture of the Silla-era three tier pagoda from 1916.
A closer look at the sword bearing guardian that adorns the pagoda. This picture, as well, dates back to 1916.
The Manse-ru Pavilion at the entry of Singyesa Temple in 2007.
The Daeung-jeon main hall in 2007.
The intricate latticework that accompanied the 2004 re-build.
The only thing to remain from the 1951 U.S. bombing. The pagoda dates back to the Silla Dynasty.
A few months ago, Groove started featuring Ask a Korean Lawyer. Although the column mentions unfair dismissal, the collection process is generally similar for any judgment or debt.
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I can’t speak for people living in other cities, but these head sprout things have been all over Gwangju for the past few weeks. From what I can tell, the trend started in China and bled over to South Korea not too long ago. I guess I can see how it’s cute, but all I […]
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I recently attended the Kotesol International conference 2015 in Seoul and want to talk about a presentation that I attended by Tina Zaman called, “English Conversation Workshops for Fluency.”
The gist of it is that she begins her classes by having students talk with their partner about a single open-ended question for 15 minutes. She made no mention of whether or not this question is related to anything else that her class is studying, or whether it’s stand-alone. I tried asking her, but she wasn’t open to answering questions it seemed. A few people questioned how it was possible that her students were able to do this for 15 and not move into just speaking Korean, but again, she didn’t give an answer.
I’m cool with like people doing whatever in their classes, but she kept mentioning that she recently took a CELTA course and was really influenced by it. Now, I also did the CELTA (and the next level-the DELTA) and feel like if I did this in my observed teaching sessions, my tutors would have been horrified. And, I would have failed the lesson. And failed hard. Like our tutors specifically told us not to put an aim like, “To practice speaking” in our lesson and instead replace it with, “To practice using the simple past in conversation.”
Anyway, here’s why I think free-talking for ESL students like she does is bad, bad news for our students if you actually want to them speak English fluently.
Chunks: If you really want to become fluent in speaking a language, you need to have a core of multi-word chunks that are at the level of being automatic. Chunks are things like collocations, phrasal verbs, idioms, sentence frames and discourse markers to name just a few. In order for these things to become automatic, you need targeted practice. So, targeted conversation practice that focuses on some of these things can be far more useful that just random speaking. You can see more details about this stuff in Scott Thornbury’s How to Teach Speaking, Chapter 2. His argument is pretty convincing.
It’s not a Task: Completing tasks is motivating and it’s our job as teachers to design ones that students want to complete. Harmer, in How to Teach English mentions that there are 3 reasons why students want to complete tasks: rehearsal/role-play, feedback and engagement. It’s certainly not a rehearsal for anything because when would you be expected to talk about a single question for 15 minutes. It also doesn’t lend itself to meaningful feedback, like you could give if you had students doing something far more targeted around a specific grammar or vocabulary point. Nor is it engaging as far as I can see. If I were a student, I’d have a hard time understanding how this was actually helping me.
Task-Based, Communicative Approaches? If you really want to get your students working on their fluency, wouldn’t task-based or communicative activities be a better use of class-time? They’re far more motivating in my opinion.
What the Gurus Say: Now, I’m perhaps not totally up to date on all the current research, but like I can’t say that I’ve ever seen something like this mentioned as a good thing to do to help our students. I’d welcome a correction though so please send some studies my way!
Let’s Talk CELTA: Now, just because she brought it up in her presentation, let’s talk CELTA. What she does certainly does not fit into any framework that they teach. At the beginning of a speaking lesson, you should activate prior knowledge, by doing a warm-up activity of some kind such as talking to your partner about a question for 2-3 minutes, or making a prediction based on a headline, or describing a picture, etc. Then, you get introduced to the language usually through a reading, or listening and there can be some pre-teaching before this happens. Then, there is a short presentation of the target language, which you can often do through some sort of self-discovery. After that, you do controlled practice and then less controlled practice that usually involves some degree of personalization. I just don’t see how 15 minutes of non-targeted free-talking fits anywhere into this.
Maybe my View is Tainted: I remember way back to my first year or two teaching in Korea. I had this class of middle-school students where all they wanted to do was free-talking. They’d been doing it for the previous year with the last foreign teacher. I took over the class and soldiered on with the same. Every single day for an hour. Now, if you are in an English class every single day for an hour, you think you’d be quite good after a year or two. Except they weren’t. These students made the same basic mistakes over and over and over again every single day. They had extremely limited vocabularies and grammatical range simply because they were using the 20 things they knew and not pushing themselves to use new stuff. It would have been far better for them to use a textbook of some kind an systematically incorporate new vocabulary and grammatical structures into their knowledge base and then work on these things moving to the level where they became automatic.
How can we actually help our students get better at speaking English fluently? Do you think something like free-talking for 15 minutes at the beginning of class would be useful?
And, here’s one activity that will actually help your students speak English fluently: 3-2-1 Retell the Story. Remember, free talking for ESL students = mostly bad news.
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Now that I’ve finished the LSAT and my job teaching English in Quinhon, I’m doing some touring around North Vietnam….with my mom! It’s a welcome change to be experiencing different parts of this country as a tourist, and with an excellent traveling companion, no less!
Since both my mom and I have been really busy/distracted in the weeks preceding this trip, we made barely any plans. One place we did want to visit was Sapa, a small and beautiful mountain town near the border of China.
We booked the bus tickets for our trip from our hotel receptionist, a cheerful guy who referred to himself as La La. The bus to Sapa was pretty nice. It had seats that you could lie flat, big windows, and a little bathroom in the back. It was nonstop and quiet.
When we got to Sapa, it was pouring down rain. Torrential downpour status. We decided to rent a luxury hotel room, so at least we could enjoy creature comforts if it rained the entire duration of our stay (2 nights, 3 days). We found a hotel called Sapa Panorama on booking.com and reserved one room for two nights at the price of $300.
When we got to the hotel, the receptionists were totally confused, and talked to each other for a long time, and finally showed us to a small, marginally smelly room with a meager mountain view. My mom and I were suspicious. We looked online and saw the value of the room was actually $50 USD. So, we asked the receptionists what happened and they said they were almost fully booked, and jacked the prices way up on booking.com in hopes that no one else would make reservations. Jeez, guys. After some finagling we ended up getting some of our money back.
By the time that all got sorted out, it was around 4PM and still raining hard. My mom and I walked around the town and then had a delicious dinner at this restaurant called The Hilltop Station. So good. If you go to Sapa, go there. Amazing food, and imported beer!!!
The next day, we went to Cat Cat village, which was a total tourist trap. Going there felt kind of wrong. You basically pay to get into the village to watch impoverished people try to sell you their handmade products. Nonetheless, the countryside was absolutely beautiful.
Our last day there had much better weather. I convinced my mom to rent a motorbike with me, and we tooled around the outskirts of the city looking at the gorgeous mountains. It was great to leave behind the touristy strip and take in the natural beauty.
Then we went to a market with lots of scary meat lying around.
Then it was time to go. Mass chaos happened when we tried to leave. La La hadn’t been too specific about where we were supposed to board the bus back to Hanoi. He told us to wait on a specific street corner at 3PM for a driver. At 3:20PM, a taxi with two other confused people finally picked us up and took us to a parking lot full of buses. We got on one that was going to Hanoi. Little did we know…
…that the bus wasn’t direct! It made a million stops along the way! And was lit with florescent lights! And blasted Vietnamese pop the entire time! And was overbooked! It was pretty amusing to see my mom’s reaction to that experience.
So, what did I think of Sapa overall? Well, its beauty is unforgettable, and the restaurants are great. Yet, the downtown area is too touristy, and you’ll definitely get local women following you around saying things like “Shopping? You buy from me? Where you from?” So, I’d say, if you want to go to Sapa, maybe make some time to rent a motorbike get out of the main part of town. That way, you can experience the beauty of the area without all the hassle.
Oh, and be prepared for cold, rainy weather!!
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Grading Participation: I Refuse to Do It Grading participation in Korean universities-I did it for quite a few years but in the past 3, I’ve refused to do it. It basically has to do with the classes that I’m teaching-mostly advanced level ones for English majors. If you’re an English major, it seems like you
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The Kotesol International Conference 2015 is in the books and overall, it seemed to go quite well from my perspective-just an average attender/presenter. I’ll talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Good Location– Coex is fantastic and makes an excellent venue, far better than Sookmyeong University where you sometimes have to wander
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In my hometown, the means of public transportation around the city is by jeepney only and buses are for long distance travels. Although, I’ve also experienced riding the LRT in Manila and subway in Hong Kong, some things that one isn’t familiar with gives this scary and exciting feeling at the same time.
When I arrived in Korea, just by looking at the colorful subway map entangling each other, already made me think that I’m gonna get lost. So, I’ve made this list which I think are important tips if you want to take the Seoul subway.
- If you are taking the public transportation during your stay in Korea, it is advisable to get a transportation card (t-money). You can save much especially if you transfer from subway to bus or vice versa very often, a better choice than paying 1,300 every ride.
- Memorize as much as possible the route of where you want to go, the station where you’re heading and the next station from where you are getting in.
- Don’t expect to be seated at all times of the day. Rush hours could mean standing even from the starting point to the end point of your journey.
- Avoid those special seats allotted for elderly, pregnant women and persons with disabilities (PWD). They are located at each corner of the cabin.
- When it’s crowded and you’re seated, be kind enough to offer it to the elders. They would refused, but insist them to your offer.
- On some days, there are people sitting next to you who will be banging their sleepy heads on you.
- You won’t get bored on board, there’s free wifi exclusive for SK telecom users.
- Although there are convenience stores in every station, it’s still not advisable to eat nor drink on board. Drinks may spill all over or on to somebody and the smell of the food might disgust other passengers.
- If you want to catch the next ride, you’d better run.. FAST but with caution.
- If ever you missed your stop, just go across and take the next train back.
- Whether you can read Korean or not, there are romanized (rendered in the English alphabet) signs along the way.
- Always keep right.
Don’t worry too much. With the resources available, you’ll never get lost. The quickest way to learn is to take the subway all by yourself. I couldn’t rely on Danny too much and so, I’ve decided to be an independent commuter 2 months after I arrived and now, I can go anywhere I want with my t-money card and a map.
Subway Guide Website: http://www.smrt.co.kr/main/publish/view.jsp?menuID=002001001
My first time to board here. Can you guess which Seoul subway line this is? :)
The main hall at Gwaneumam Hermitage at Tongdosa Temple.
Hello Again Everyone!!
Much like Biroam Hermitage, Gwaneumam Hermitage is named after a Buddhist Bodhisattva. Gwaneumam Hermitage is named after the Bodhisattva of Compassion: Gwanseeum-bosal. The hermitage is actually the newest hermitage directly associated with Tongdosa Temple. Gwaneumam Hermitage was built 30 years ago. Originally, the land where the hermitage was built was used by a married Buddhist priest and his family. But the land was bought for building the hermitage. The one key feature of this hermitage, and it stands out when you visit it, is a five storied sari stupa. Purportedly, according to the Tongdosa Temple website, the stupa at Gwaneumam Hermitage houses the partial remains of the Historical Buddha. These remains were from Myanmar (Burma). It’s a remarkable history for a hermitage that almost seems underwhelming.
As you first approach the hermitage from a dirt road, you’ll first realize that the land where the hermitage now resides must have be a former rice paddy. The only reason I say this is because the hermitage is surrounded by rice paddies in all directions. Entering through the opening in the walled off hermitage compound, and by the black dragon heads that stand on each edge of the opening, you’ll enter into a non-descript hermitage courtyard.
To the left is the compact main hall with the beautiful pagoda with the purported remains of the Buddha inside. The paintings around the main hall are Buddhist themed in nature. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll see a large, red canopy hovering over top of the main altar. Underneath this elaborate canopy are a triad of statues. Sitting in centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the right of this altar is a large guardian mural.
As for the rest of the hermitage grounds, there’s the monks’ dorms, a visitors centre, and the hermitage’s kitchen. To the right of these buildings is a unique pagoda and a monk statue, as well as a pavilion that overlooks a beautiful garden. The pagoda strangely has rounded edges, instead of the typical sharp stone lines of a more traditional Korean pagoda. Also, the hobbitesque monk statue sports a stone straw hat. To the right of this monk statue is a wooden/straw pavilion for monks to meditate as they look over the beautiful garden that lays out in front of it.
HOW TO GET THERE: Gwaneumam Hermitage is a bit tricky to find. It’s not on the Tongdosa Temple grounds; instead, it lies in the neighbouring hills and fields. With your back to the main gate at Tongdosa Temple, head straight for about 200 metres. Turn left at the first major road. This road will head straight, beside the Tongdosa Temple parking lot, for about 300 metres. By this point, you may be able to see the top of the main hall. As the road forks, head left around a curved road for about 200 metres. You’ll then see a handful of taller apartments. Head down the back alley behind one of these apartments for about 100 metres. Hang a right at the edge of these apartments for another 100 metres, by then you’ll be able to see both the hermitage sign as well as the hermitage and rice paddies that surround Gwaneumam Hermitage. Unlike all the other hermitages that take up residence on the Tongdosa Temple grounds, Gwaneumam Hermitage is free to enter.
OVERALL RATING: 2.5/10. Unless you’re a die hard temple/hermitage adventurer like me, I wouldn’t recommend visiting this hermitage. However, if it’s true that the hermitage does house the partial remains of the Buddha, then this hermitage would obviously be rated a bit higher. But at this time it doesn’t seem all that clear if they do or don’t. The highlight of this hermitage is the beautifully painted compact main hall, purported stupa that houses the partial remains of the Buddha, as well as the atypically shaped pagoda and the hobbitesque monk statue. The garden is also a nice place to take pictures and gather your breath before finding your way back to the bus stop or the Tongdosa Temple gate.
The drive up to Gwaneumam Hermitage.
The lotus field at the hermitage.
One of the hermitage’s walls with a decorative dragon adorning the entry to Gwaneumam Hermitage.
The five tier pagoda out in front of the hermitage’s main hall.
One of the aged haetae in front of the pagoda.
One of the panels of protective guardians that adorns the base of the five tier pagoda.
A look through the entry of the main hall at Gwaneumam Hermitage.
One of the murals that adorns the main hall.
The main altar inside the main hall. Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) is joined by a standing Jijang-bosal and a standing statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.
An up close of the guardian mural that hangs inside the main hall.
A better look at the elaborate main altar inside the main hall.
The hermitage’s stone artwork and relaxing hut.