Operation: Tomb Robber (May 12)

Today was another cultural day. Gyeongju is know as the golden city of Korea, as it has many temples and tombs from the Silla dynasty. Our first stop was the location of ancient Silla tombs, specifically the kings tomb. The kings tomb is the largest of the 30,0000 tombs located in the city. A tomb from the outside just appears as a large mount covered in grass, but there is much more below. Under neither the soil lies a layer of clay to prevent rain from damaging in the tomb. Then, thousands of large stones to keep out robber. Finally, there is a small wooden room which houses the coffin of the deceased, and a chest of all the belonging they wished to take to the afterlife. Sometimes, there are extra dead bodies in the tomb out side the coffin. These would be the servants of the rule who he liked the most and wish to take with him to the after life as well. So, once the king died, they would kill his favorite servant as well, to continue serving him in the heavens.

              Next, we went to a traditional Korean garden, which was where the rulers would throw festival for friends and family. This consisted of a large hall bordering a lake. The lake housed many koi fish and had three islands, which was mandatory for a Taoist paradise. It was quite the relaxing place and felt very stress-free while we were admiring the peacefulness of the area. Today was also warm and sunny, so all I wanted to do was lay down and nap by the small waterfall in the banquet hall.

              We then drove up to the top of the tallest mountain in Gyeongju, which housed the Buddhist temple known as Bulguksa. It was about a mile hike to get to the temple from where we parked. The cool thing was that today was the only day in they year that the temple is open to the public. We got to see the large Buddha statue inside the palace, and observed some people praying. We then performed a ritual where we poured three spoonsful of water on a small statue for good luck in the summer months. Let’s hope that luck comes when looking for a job. Then on our way out, there was a bell that I got to ring in exchange for a donation to the temples upkeep. This was the type of culture I expected to see in Korea, and it was amazing to experience it firsthand.

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