Saturday, October 13, 2007

Inwangsan Shamanist Hillside Walk

Pictures, top to bottom: 1) Shamanist shrine (notice the swastika on top. That symbol has been part of Asian cultures for centuries, way before the Nazis got a hold of it).
2) An offering of rice left in front of a statue.
3) Some of the rocks on the hill.
4) A view of Seoul and the Blue House, where the President lives.
5) A bronze bell that is rung with that log on the side.
Last weekend, I went with Heather, the elementary school librarian, on a walk we found in the Lonely Planet book. We got to see Seoul's most famous shamanist shrine and part of the old Seoul Fortress Wall. We had to ride the subway for about an hour from our neighborhood in the southeast part of Seoul to the northwest part. Then we walked up through a neighborhood and lots of construction to the shamanist neighborhood. There were all these little shrines sprinkled in amongst more traditional homes. Unfortunately the directions in the guidebook were not so clear, but we eventually got to where we wanted to be, after dodging a snarling guard dog and a dead kitten on the road (it probably got hit by a car. There are a lot of stray animals here in Seoul and probably all over Korea. I don't think they're so into spaying and neutering animals here).

It was a beautiful day...really sunny, but not overly hot. So we wandered around and saw some of the shrines. I don't know a ton about Shamanism except that they're very into spirits and nature. A lot of Koreans are both Buddhist and/or Confucionist and/or Shamanist. The neighborhood is up on a hill with lots of cool rocks, so we wandered around a little bit and then ran into a Korean man and his father-in-law who helped us scamper up a hill and then we joined a hiking trail up Inwang Mountain. So we ended up in this cluster of Koreans out for a hike for the day and they all had their walking sticks and fancy backpacks and high-tech fabric shirts (we were in t-shirts and jeans, thinking we were just going to go on a neighborhood jaunt). The views were beautiful and the Korean man and his father-in-law both spoke some English and were very nice. They kept watching out for us and making sure we were keeping up with everyone. Then we walked down the hill along the fortress wall. The wall has been around for a long time, but was torn down over the years, including during the Japanese occupation. They started to rebuild it in the 1970s.

We ended up coming out of the park in a totally different spot than we had gone in, but found our subway stop, so it all worked out!

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