A long, hectic year. The continuing war against Covid-19. Our bodies are exhausted and our mental health is drained. On the theme of restoration and healing, the Seoul Tourism Organization (CEO Lee Jae-Sung) introduces Eunpyeong: Seoul’s healing oasis. Enjoy the natural scenery and fresh air found in Jeju Island, only an hour away from Seoul city centre.
Bongsan Mountain is also named Bongnyeongsan Mountain because it looks like a phoenix (‘bong-hwang’) with its wings spread, from above. At the summit, there is a historic beacon which was used to share news during the Joseon era.
There is a long hiking course along the ridge that offers scenic views. The trail is well maintained and local residents often go there to exercise in the early-morning. The easiest hiking route starts from behind Suguksa Temple and runs to Bongsudae. If you take this route, you can reach the summit in 30 minutes. At the summit, you can see Namsan Tower in the distance on a clear day. However, beautiful views are still available on days where there is a lot of dust in the area. In this case, go to the foothills of Inwangsan Mountain and watch the sky turn red with dusk or dawn.
Cypress forests are healing points for Korean travellers because of their natural atmosphere and fresh scent. These forests are easily found on the Southern coast and Jeju Island. However, there is a cypress ‘oasis’ accessible from Seoul, in Eunpyeong!
Cypress trees were planted in the Bongsan Mountain foothills in 2014 and there are now more than 12,000 trees here. Furthermore, the residents of Eunpyeong have other plans in the making, including an obstacle-free walking trail, observatory and photozone; transforming the forest into a living park for all to enjoy.
Cypress are known for their healing properties, releasing natural phytoncides that can sterilize harmful bacteria, suppress stress-related hormones and improve immune system function. When you visit Eunpyeong, take a deep breath in as you walk through the forest. What’s more, these evergreen trees keep the air fresh and the scenery beautiful all year round. You can even see flowers in bloom during the winter. Right now, the forest is not dense as the trees are young but decades from now the trees will rise high.
The Suguk Temple was built during the reign of King Sejo of the Joseon Dynasty. It is said that following his first son’s passing, he had tombs built in Bonghyeon and Goyang, as well as the temple to honour his spirit. The temple was reconstructed during the reign of King Seongjong, but later deteriorated. Furthermore, most of the pavilions were destroyed during the Korean War. However, Suguk was later reborn as a modern temple, but with the same striking beauty it had before.
When you arrive at Suguk Temple, you will first notice the stunning Daeungbojeon Hall, shining in gold…And yes, that really is 100% pure gold coating. Conversely, the interior of the hall is built in traditional style with wooden beams and slats. Inside Daeungbojeon Hall there is a wooden Amitabha Buddha. If you choose a temple stay, you can find inner peace beneath the statue alongside Buddhist monks. However, it is worth noting that the Suguk temple stay is a lot stricter than others. They provide only one meal per day and there is a ban on cell phones. But if that doesn’t scare you off, it is the perfect way to escape busy life and heal.
The Jingwansa and Samcheonsa temples are located in the foothills of Bukhansan Mountain. They are close to each other so you can explore them at your leisure on the same day!
Samcheonsa Temple is said to have been founded by renowned writer, Wonhyo during the Silla era. However, the temple really flourished under the Joseon Dynasty, drawing 3000 monks. Moreover, this fact is said to be the origin of the temple’s name (3000 is pronounced ‘sam-cheon’ in Korean.)
You can follow a path from Samcheondyo Bridge that leads to the temple just over a kilometre away. The course goes deep into the valley of Bukhansan Mountain, so walk at your own pace and enjoy the scenery. Once you’ve explored the temple, you can venture to find the nearby Sanshingak. Sanshingaks are shrines to the Mountain Spirits and are found near most Buddhist places of worship.
At the Samcheonsa Sanshingak, there is an image of Buddha carved into the rock. It was thought to have been constructed in the early Goryeo period and the figure has the iconic benevolent smile of Buddha.
The road from the Hanok village to Jingwansa Temple is named Baekchowol-gil, after Baek Cho Wol. Baek Cho Wol was a Buddhist monk and activist for Korean independence, during the Japanese colonisation of the early 20th century.
During renovation of the temple in 2009, a mysterious bundle of anti-Japanese papers and images of “Taegeukgi” (symbol on Korean flag) were found inside. It is believed that these were hidden by Baek Cho Wol before he was captured by Japanese police. Therefore, the Baekchowol-gil was built in his honour.
Eunpyeong Hanok Village
The Eunpyeong-gu Hanok Village is a modern development of Hanok-style homes beneath Bukhansan mountain, constructed by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
The hanok residential complex was established as a traditional-modern hybrid, breaking the prejudice that hanok houses are uncomfortable to live in, whilst appealing to the nostalgia of the citizen. There are cafes, restaurants and convenience shops, all in the hanok style.
So why not take a trip to Eunpyeong? Enjoy the scenery, visit ancient temples, smell fresh cypress and relax in Cafe 1in1jan.
Note: the Eunpyeong Hanok Village is a residential area. Please respect residents’ privacy and be mindful of your behaviour.