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International Mountain Day 2009 Commemoration in Seoul

A mountain-oriented event this coming Sunday Dec 13th that a few of you might possibly be interested in:

We’ll celebrating the United Nations International Mountain Day (officially Dec 11) again this year, and this time it’s in the Tourism Building at the heart of Seoul’s downtown.   There will be some interesting speakers on environmental, sports-hiking and spiritual aspects of Korean and global mountains, and a video.   Cool door-prizes will be awarded to the fortunate.

It’s organized by the Korean Mountain Preservation League, with support from some others.   Our purpose is to recognize and promote International Mountain Day’s agenda of raising awareness of the importance of mountain environments on global ecology and human culture.

It begins about 1 pm in the 3rd-floor “Baekdu” Assembly-Room of the KTO Building (Hanguk-gwangwang-kongsa), Jung-gu Da-dong near Gwanggyo Bridge and Intersection, 2nd block of Cheonggye-cheon Stream (closest Metro stations:  Jonggak, City Hall, Unchiro-ipku 1-ga).

After the 4 hours of events are finished, some of us will enjoy food and drinks somewhwere nearby.  It should all be a good time as last year was, though i won’t be speaking or conducting a ceremony this year, due to my spinal troubles.  If interested in knowing more, click on the KMPL link above to get the full details, or post here if you have any questions.

BTW, i have photos of another interesting mountain-temple on Seoul’s northeastern border, with grand modern cliff-carvings of deities, up here.

Martin Gray Comes to Korea

There does finally seem to be some interest in the Korean government for developing and promoting promoting religious-pilgrimage tourism here, beyond the existing Temple-Stay Program, in conjunction with our mountains and other related attractions.   I have been advocating this for a decade as many of you know, and I’m glad to see something starting to happen.

Martin Gray is one of the world’s top experts on “sacred sites” — the holy places of all religions/spiritual traditions around the globe.  You can see who he is at:   His huge new book Sacred Earth is excellent.

He made a very brief trip to Korea 24 years ago, seeing just a few sites, and I’ve been inviting him to make a more serious and extensive visit for the past three years.   He’s finally coming to see what we got;  arriving this very evening in fact, and for two weeks I’ll be showing him around to as many of South Korea’s best sacred sites as we can fit in, and attending presentations that he will give to various organizations, by my arrangement.

The places we’ll be going will be mostly selected from the listing and map I made for him, to upgrade his page on Korea three years ago:

A few of you might be interested in meeting him or attending any of these events.  Contact me if that is so — info in the first response, where I will also post some of his schedule of events and travels.

Hosting him here should be a good time, over the Chuseok holidays and such, especially our trip to the East Coast for Gaecheon-jeol ceremonies & etc, if the weather will go back to being good…

Samgak-san Mountain Cultural Festival on this Sunday

UPDATE:  this Festival-event just cancelled due to flu-panic!

Anyone who enjoys the mountains in this amazing weather we’ve been having might want to take part in the Samgak-san Mountain Cultural Festival this coming Sunday morning (Sept 6th), starting at 9am. It’s held on the grounds of Green Park Hotel off the Ui-dong Rotary of Seoul’s Gangbuk-gu District (Suyu Metro Station). This is right below the awe-inspiring “Three Horns” peaks that have always been Hanyang’s physical and spiritual guardians — and their name is NOT “Bukhan-san” — and celebrates them. There will be musical and other performances 6-9:30 pm Saturday eve, and then a marathon-hiking-race to the peaks and back on Sunday morning — you can enter the competition to win cash prizes, or just trek along casually; but everyone who goes gets a backpack. I’ll be there with some friends. For more info on this fun event contact Gangbuk-gu.

Also, my buddy Roger Sheperd has made some excellent posts with amazing photos while exploring  the remotest reaches of Sogni-san National Park — see his “Hike Korea” site.

I haven’t been getting many new posts up myself, but here is one page I did after Rog managed to find Jiri-san’s “Bloody Rock at Hwangsan” — just another artifact of the longtime Korean-Japanese relations among so many.

UNESCO Heritage Conservation Award for Bukchon

Well well, apparantly the Bukchon neighborhood, frequently profiled, shown in photos and discussed on this blog, has been better-preserved than most of us ever thought:

Seoul City’s project to preserve Bukchon, a village replete with hanok (traditional Korean houses) has won a UNESCO heritage conservation award, city officials said yesterday.

The “Hanok Regeneration” project has been honored with an Award of Distinction in the 2009 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards.

“The project has brought about a striking change in people’s attitudes to the city’s residential quarters. The large-scale project has raised awareness about the heritage value of the hanok and preserved an important traditional Korean architectural legacy,” UNESCO said in a press release.

Korea Herald article.

This is something of a surprise to myself, one who has pleasurably wandered around there for a quarter-century now, and frequently serves as a tour-guide there for various international groups — witnessing a few changes going on, shall we say.  Awarding the city for how it has been preserving its charming heritage had not actually crossed my mind…

The article also says that the City “has also bought 30 old houses and opened them to the public for cultural experience” — I had not known about this — does anyone know where these “open” hanok are?  Is there a map or other info?  Locked front-gates are mostly what i’ve recently found…

Last December, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon vowed to preserve 4,500 hanok in Seoul with a budget of 370 billion won ($300 million) by 2018.

It should be interesting to see what becomes of this pledge too…  (are there really 4,500 hanok in Seoul in conditions/locations worth preserving…?)

Solar Eclipse Wednesday

Looks like we’re going to get a dramatic high-% solar eclipse here tomorrow… It’s the New Moon, L-6.1, first day of the Sixth Moon. Here’s the Wiki page about it.    Post in the comments here if you know exactly what time it’ll be in Seoul, advice for viewing it, speculations, etc. (HT to iwshim)

My own latest activity: yet another academic-tourism conference, but this time at a beach-resort, and yet another amazing temple found out there, with great artworks…

Daoist Seminar/Festival for a Buddhist Hero

This coming Saturday June 6th (Memorial Day holiday, and the Fifth Full Moon) there will be a potentially-fascinating event held at Hanseo University and Wonhyo-am temple on Mt. Gaya-san — The Third International Seondo Daoist Conference: Wonhyo Festival.

Gaya-san is part of the Deok-san Provincial Park, fairly famous for containing Sudeok-sa Monastery and the Baekje “smiling Buddha triad” Samchonbul carving. Another of its attractions is Wonhyo-am, with cave above, which lays claim (along with a couple of other rival sites) to be the site where Korea’s best-known Buddhist master attained enlightenment (you know, the drinking-water-from-skull story).

For this reason, a multi-faceted commemoration of his life and legacy will be held there and at the close-nearby rural college. This is being organized and hosted by the international branch of the Seondo Korean Daoist organization, whose leader happens to be a professor of Hanseo. Outside of Korea Buddhism and Daoism are considered as separate and even rival religions, but in this country they have been very much associated and even blended together over 17 centuries — Daoism was rarely any kind of officially/institutionally established tradition here, and so Korean Buddhism, particularly the Zen-based Jogye Order, has a lot of its philosophies and practices mixed-in (the same might be said for all of Zen Buddhism anywhere). Anyway, this event just goes to show what high respect Wonhyo commands, even among those of ostensibly other traditions…

I’ll be participating in this event, as speaker and performer of a Moonrise-Sanshin-je in Wonhyo’s honor. Some of you may be interested in attending; there is no charge. I’ll post the detailed info in the first response here. Transport and other info can be provided if you ask… I may have room in my car for a few.

By the way, super-hiker Roger Sheperd is back in Korea, doing his thing. Having already trekked the entire SK Baekdu-daegan in autumn 2007, he is now attempting to walk walk an estimated 2000 kms of the Jeongmaek branch-mountain-ridges. His blog is at

And his former partner Andrew finally finished hiking the greatest of those, the Nakdong-Jeongmaek (and then has left Korea); his completed blog is at: How the deskbound me envies them…

Some Interesting Stuff to Do

For those with interests beyond the troubling political crapola now raging:

I just guided a tour of the Bukchon hanok traditional-houses neighborhood for SIWA this morning, under such a fortunately- glorious blue sky.  I’ll do the same again for the Royal Asiatic Society this Saturday (May 30th) morning, 9:30 am–1pm, and if you’d enjoy that there’s still time to sign up.  See:

I spent last Sunday with Lourdes viewing the Jeong Seon (early 18th-Cen) exhibit at the Gansong Art Museum in Seongbuk, a place that Robert has often recommended (only open in May & October), and it was great — if you love Korea’s Daoist-flavored mountain-landscape paintings like i do, ya gotta see this — and Thurs thru Sun May 31st is your last chance — these are amazing artworks!

We also drank teas in the wonderful 19th-Cen Suyeon-Sanbang Teahouse there, which Rob called his favorite; see:

AND we toured a unique Buddhist temple with great folk-art close nearby, very cool fresh discovery… see:

Next week the Seoul Tourism Awards are being presented, and this year i’m a Judge of them (i know what you’ll ask, and NO the “Sparkling” slogan did not win anything!).  We have a formal welcoming banquet at the Samcheong-gak on Wed (6/3) evening, then the “Seoul Tourism Forum” (academic/policy symposium) all morning Thurs at the Dynasty Hall of the Shilla Hotel, then the big Awards Ceremony/Dinner at the Shilla that evening.  If you’re interested in this kinda thing, contact the Seoul Tourism Organization.

And then this coming Sunday morning (5/31) the Gangbuk-gu District Gov is holding a special “Barefoot-Walking on Mountain-Trail Event”, a chance to de-stress in some sweet nature, a family-friendly “well-being” sortta gig.  I’ll post details in response #1 here…

Enjoy the end of Spring, no matter what the Norks do to spoil it!!

Tis the Season to Venerate Mountains

Yes it’s THAT time of year again, as we await the cherry-blossoms and warmer winds… There are some unusual folk-religious events coming up, some fascinating colorful public shamanism, for those that like to watch that sorta thing. The first 16 days of the Third Moon (by the old Lunar Calendar) is the traditional time for ceremonies venerating the Sanshin mountain-spirits. This big and colorful one in Ui-dong of N.E. Seoul will get going about 9:30am on this coming Sunday March 29th (LC 3.3), and is worth-seeing:

And the Inwang-san Sanshin-je that is shown on this page from last year: will be held again on Friday April 3rd (LC 3.8, the half-moon), probably starting about 10am. Walk up from Dongnipmun Metro Station. I’ll probably be at both of them…

LC 3.15 falls on April 10th this year, and as the traditional / Taejong-gyo “Eocheon-jeol” day it sees Dangun-je, sometimes combined with Sanshin-je, nationwide. The next day (Apr 11, LC 3.16) is when many Buddhist temple perform their own Sanshin-je rituals, like the on at Seoul’s Wangryeong-sa on these pages:

The 4th Full Moon always features the amazing ceremonies at the shrines on the Daegwallyeong mountain-pass before Gangneung City’s Dano Festival — will be May 9th this year; see: The actual Dano holiday (LC 5.5) is May 28th this year.

Right there on one of those first May weekends should be the Pungeo-je or ceremony for good fishing, held at the Port of Incheon City every spring by Madame Kim Kum-hwa (human national treasure shaman for this ritual). It’s a great one to witness. Problem is that it is held on a day that they determine is auspicious, but that hasn’t been decided even yet — makes tourism and research planning very difficult! I will remember to announce it as soon as it gets scheduled.

And of course the gigantic Buddha’s Birthday festivities will be the evening April 26, Seoul downtown, with the actual holiday following on May 2nd, featuring morning rituals at nationwide temples.

If you know of any Sanshin-je or other such activities in other area’s sites, please post about them in the comments here. Otherwise, everyone enjoy the sacred season…

Shamanism Conference in Seoul on Sat

Some of you M-Holers might be interested in this:

the 2008 Conference of the “Korean Society for Spirits Studies” (Han-guk Guishin Hakhoi) will be held this Saturday December 20th, from 9:30-17:00, in the Auditorium at the National Folk Museum of Korea (in Gyeongbok-gung Palace). We usually have dinner together in a Samcheong-dong restaurant afterward. This event will include a few academicish presentations on folk beliefs and iconography (including one by yours truly) and finish with a performance of a real Korean Shamanic ritual (by a famous Manshin).

Details and schedule are in the first comment-post here.

And for those who remember my announcement of our 2008 celebration of the United Nations international Mountain Day,my photos from that are now up on a page in my site. It really went quite well, with a lot of interested attendees; we hope for even better next year. Enjoy the shots.

International Mountain Day Commemoration in Seoul

There is a mountain-oriented event this coming Sunday that a few of you might possibly be interested in:

Some friends have taken to celebrating the United Nations International Mountain Day (officially Dec 11th) with a little event every year, and this year we’re doing so on this coming Sunday the 7th. There will be some interesting speakers on ecological changes and such, showing of the “Mountains” video from the BBC’s “Planet Earth” series, and even a salpuri dance. I’ll be conducting a small Sanshin-je ceremony to kick things off in the right ‘spirit’. It’s hosted by the Korean Mountain Preservation League, with Gangbuk-gu District Office, assisted by others.

After the 4 hours of events are finished we will all enjoy food and drinks at the fifth floor cafe, with a beautiful view of all those mountains. It should be a very nice time… If interested, click on the KMPL link above to get the full details, and also see response #1. Let me know if you have any questions.

Some Upcoming Summer-Ending Events

I’d like to encourage everyone who enjoys the mountains in this sort of weather to take part in the Samgak-san Mountain Cultural Festival this coming weekend Aug 30-31st. It’s held in Ui-dong of Seoul’s Gangbuk-gu District (Suyu Metro Station) right below the awe-inspiring “Three Horns” peaks that have always been Hanyang’s physical and spiritual guardians, and celebrates them (and all Korean mountains). There will be musical and other performances 6-9:30 pm Saturday eve, and then a marathon-hiking-race to the peaks and back on Sunday morning — you can enter the competition to win cash prizes, or just trek along casually; but everyone who goes gets a backpack. I’ll probably make a quick speech some time in this Fest, in my capacity as Samgak’s Goodwill Ambassador, and be otherwise participating. Anyway, complete info with location and contacts for this fun event is already posted on the excellent korea4expats site.

Then, the RAS’s opening Lecture-Meeting for the fall season is this Thursday evening the 28th, at 7:30 pm in the 2nd-floor Resident’s Lounge of the Somerset in Anguk-dong, as usual. Mr. Walter L. Keats, returning to Seoul after his 15th visit to the DPRK since 1995, will speak on “Korea Divided: Change and Prospects for Reunification” — with some fresh insights — should be quite interesting. See the RAS site for more details.

The RAS offers its “Korean Pottery Kilns in Icheon Area Tour” this Saturday the 30th, and then the “Cheongpyeong Lake Cruise-Tour” on Sunday. Naejang-san National Park and Rafting on the Dong-gang River are offered on the next weekend (Sept 6-7). Much more as the tour-season gets fully underway, including trips over Chuseok Holidays, trips to Gaeseong (in NK) and Japan, climbing Dobong-san here in Seoul, and etc. See the above site for details and sign ups.

RAS Lectures on Traditional Korean Music & Dance, and 1880s Chinese-Korean Relations, and Early-Summer Tours

Upcoming Royal Asiatic Society – Korea activities of interest to M-Holers:

Tuesday, June 10th: RAS-K Lecture-Meeting, featuring Ms. Kolleen Park (veteran music director in Korea’s musical theater industry, broadcaster for Arirang TV, translator, writer, performer, etc).  She will speak on “Familiarizing Yourself with Korean Traditional Music & Dance”, an entertaining introductory-level talk with examples.  See the interesting description of this speech on our website for more detail. 7:30 pm in the 2nd-floor Resident’s Lounge of the Somerset Palace, Anguk-dong (just north of Jogye-sa), Seoul. Free for RAS Members, w5000 donation requested from others.

Sat-Sun June 14-15th:  Jeju-do Tour:  “Island Of The Spirits” — A trip that everyone owes themselves at least once.  No visit to Korea is complete without a visit to Jeju-do, a land of spectacular natural beauty, color, and it’s own unique culture.  We’ll tour all the main sites, having fun along the way.

Sunday, June 15th, 2008 Suwon Joseon-Architecture Walking-Tour — Hwaryeong-jeon, Haeng-gung and Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.  This is one of our best expeditions, led by expert guide (and current RAS President) Mr. Peter Bartholomew.  See all the great sites, understand them, learn the history, be entertained with stories.

Tuesday, June 17th: RAS-K Lecture-Meeting, featuring Dr. Wayne Patterson (PhD from U of Pennsylvania, Professor of Korean History who has taught at many universities).  He will speak on “Chinese-Korean relations in the 1880s”, an academic-level talk that will both review what is known about the strategic and tactical political moves in this crucial era and reveal some little-known factors and aspects.  See the interesting description of this speech on our website for more detail. 7:30 pm in the 2nd-floor Resident’s Lounge of the Somerset Palace, Anguk-dong (just north of Jogye-sa), Seoul. Free for RAS Members, w5000 donation requested from others.

Sat-Sun June 21-22nd:  Tongyeong (Chungmu) City and Geoje-do Island Tour
A chance to learn and explore some of Korea’s most outstanding scenery – the beautiful island and seas of Goje-do and the Hallyo Waterway.  Includes a cruise between the islands.

Sat-Sun June 28-29th:  Hong-do and Huksan-do Islands Tour — we will be traveling the southwestern part of Korea all the way to Mokpo.  From there, we will depart the mainland by ferry-ship to visit Huksan-do and Hong-do Islands which are famous for the pink hues of their rocks and the widely-different variations of rock formations along their sea-coasts. 

Sat-Sun July 5-6th:  Wan-do and Jin-do Islands Tour — a weekend spent in the unspoiled and rural extreme southern tip of the Korean Peninsula, visiting the scenic islands of Wan-do, Bokil-do and Jin-do.  On the return trip, we will visit the great Daeheung-sa Temple at Duryun-san Provincial Park.

Wed-Tues July 9-15th:  MONGOLIA Tour with Nadaam Festival 
A great weeklong tour to a beautiful and fascinating nation, whose history and culture are intimately connected to Korea.  We’ll attend the Mongolian National Festival, which includes colorful traditional religious rituals and sporting events.

For more information, call 763-9483 in Seoul during business hours, write to or visit our website

RAS Lecture: Don Clark on Foreign Missionaries in Korea, and Late-Spring Tours

Upcoming Royal Asiatic Society – Korea activities for M-Holers:

Tuesday, May 20th: RAS-K Lecture-Meeting, featuring Professor Donald Clark (PhD in in East Asian History from Harvard, author of books on Seoul and foreigners-in-Korea history, son and grandson of Presbyterian missionaries who first arrived in Korea in 1902). He will speak on “Where do Foreign Missionaries fit in Korea’s Modern History?”, addressing four clusters of questions aimed at an understanding of what “missionaries” in general did and didn’t do in modern Korea.  See the interesting description of this speech on our website for more. 7:30 pm in the 2nd-floor Resident’s Lounge of the Somerset Palace, Anguk-dong (just north of Jogye-sa), Seoul. Free for RAS Members, w5000 donation requested from others.

Sun May 25th: Odae-san National Park Tour This great park is much less-famous and thus less-visited than Seorak-san, but this is one of its attractions because it is possible to enjoy the beauty of the pine-forested sloped, deep valleys and grand temples in a relatively quiet atmosphere. Buddhists also consider it one of Korea’s most important mountains, as it was a crucial site in the history of the propagation of Buddhism in Korea.  The tour includes the important historic temples Woljeong-sa and Sangwon-sa.

Sat-Sun May 31-June 1st: Gangneung City / East Cost Tour — A visit to the historic city of Gangnung, gateway to Korea’s east coast.  We will visit Ojukhon (birth-house of philosopher Yi Yul-gok and museum of his mother Shim Saim-dang’s artworks), the Gangneung Hyanggyo Confucian School, the Seongyo-jang (aristocratic mansion), Gyeongpo Provincial Park (beach, lake, pavilion-on-hill) and Uljin’s Manghae-jeong Pavilion and Songnyu-gul Cave (“the underground diamond mountains”).  After visiting these interesting and well-preserved Neo-Confucian architectural sites around Gangneung, we will take a scenic drive along the east coast, stopping at the stunning Bulyeong Valley on the way home.

Friday June 6th (holiday)(9am-1pm): Hiking Tour of Fortress Wall on Bugak-san (northern Seoul)

Sunday June 8th:  Danyang County Tour (North Chungcheong Province) — visiting the Gosu Cave and a boat-cruise on beautiful Chungju Lake, with the Cheongpung Cultural Folklore Village.

For more information, call 763-9483 in Seoul during business hours, write to or visit our website

Green Tea Season is Here Again

It seems hard to believe that another year has flown by so quickly, but yes it is once again time for the events celebrating Korea’s ancient tradition of excellent green teas. The key Goku date that separates the picking of first-class ujeon-cha from second-class sejak-cha passed a month ago on the third full moon, and by now these premium teas have been hand-roasted, dried and packaged, ready for us to enjoy.

Next weekend at the place where Korea’s own tea-growing traditions began in 828, outside the entrance to Ssanggye-sa Temple in Jiri-san’s Hwagye-dong Valley, Hadong County will hold its Green Tea Festival. This is one of my personal favorite annual events and one of Korea’s best and most authentic cultural/scenic tourism-destinations; it grows notably bigger every year. It’s mysterious to me that they don’t have any information in English up yet (there are links, but they don’t work)… {sigh}… They do have a beginning-attempt at a general site in English on their green tea, at least. But it really is a worthwhile event, where you can sample dozens of very high-quality teas, learn all about their history and modern production, and purchase them at wholesale prices — all in a spectacular National Park setting. It runs from Wednesday, May 21st through Sunday the 25th this year. If the weather stays as good as it has been recently, this will be really great once again.

If you can’t make it down there, the fourth annual “Tea World Festival” exhibition will held in a hall at the COEX center in southern Seoul on June 5th-8th (including the Memorial Day holiday on Friday), with hundreds of exhibitors offering every imaginable kind of tea, usually at excellent discount prices, and plenty of free samples offered. Ceramic and woodworking artists also display plenty of amazingly-beautiful tea-wares to tempt the pocketbook. A great chance to stock-up this year’s supply.

A really good web-site that provides near-complete information from elder expat expert Brother Anthony (An Son-jae), including detailed brewing instructions, in very readable English, can be found right here. I highly recommend his new book The Korean Way of Tea (from Seoul Selection) for in-depth knowledge and enjoyment. Raise a cup to health and enlightenment…

“Giant Natural Wave” on the West Coast kills 8 or more

This is being reported on CNN… Can’t find details, not even an exact location… Anybody know anything? Hand of the Lord…?

Anyway, RIP for the victims, tentatively said to be fishermen and their children…

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