The Ancient Ruins of Mireuksa

Above is blue sky.  Far in the background are green trees.  On the ground is a long flat stone area, and to the right we see the shadow of an ancient stone pagoda, and far behind it lies three stone walls which encircle a stone Buddha statue.

I originally planned to skip visiting Mireuk village, which is inside Worakan National Park. Timing the buses was inconvenient, I had already seen plenty of ancient Korean remains, and I thought that seeing a few more ancient stone pagodas wouldn’t be worth the bother.

A map which shows that Chungcheong-buk province is in the center of South Korea, and that Woraksan is in the center of Chungcheong-buk.

However, after decided to cut the hike to Yeongbong short, I suddenly had time to visit Mireuk village, and a Buddhist monk helped me get on the correct bus.

In the cracks between the stone blocks are little Buddhist figurines.

I am glad I changed my mind.

Within a green metal fence lies an ancient stone foundation where lamps once stood, and my shadow is cast upon the foundation.

Mireuksa (Mireuk Temple) was originally built by the United Silla kingdom over a thousand years ago, and was probably renovated during the Goryeo dynasty. Why build a temple here? Right next to the ruins is the mountain pass which had been one of the most important links between the southeast (in ancient times, the Silla kingdom and the Gaya confederacy) and the northwest (in ancient times, the Baekje and Goguryeo kingdoms).

In the forefront is an ancient stone lantern, with the lamp sitting on a stone carved like a lotus flower.  Through the lantern we can see green leaves in the distance.  Behind and to the left of the lantern is an ancient stone pagoda.  In the background is blue skay and green trees.

Buddhism spread through the Goguryeo and Baekje kingdom before it reached the kingdom of Silla. The first Buddhist missionaries to enter the Silla kingdom almost certainly travelled though this mountain pass.

Silla eventually adopted Buddhism as the national religion, and then conquered Baekje and Goguryeo, politically unifying the Korean peninsula for the first time in history.

An ancient stone carving of a turtle sits on grass.

The Goryeo dynasty built a post station next to the temple where travelling government officials and merchants could stay overnight.

Above are the branches of trees.  Looking down, there is a grassy plain where the rectangular border made of out stone is visible.

The foundation of the old post station.

The Joseon dynasty built a major road through a different mountain pass, and thus this route fell out of use, leading the abandonment of Mireuksa.

An ancient stone lantern made in Goryeo style sits in the sunlight.

Very few buildings built by the United Silla remain today, and the famous ones which do remain (such as Bulguksa) have been renovated so many times they are as much modern as ancient. At these ruins, more than any other place in South Korea, I felt I was in a space built by ancient people, without modern sensibilities. I felt, momentarily, that I was in a different era.

One wall of ancient stone construction is illuminated by sunlight, and the adjacent wall is in shadow.  Within the walls is a tall stone Buddha, and in the foreground is a wooden platform where people may pray.

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About Sara K.

Sara K. is an aromantic asexual from California who has previously lived in Taiwan. She blogs at the notes which do not fit, has previously been a contributor at Manga Bookshelf, and has written guest posts for Hacking Chinese. She enjoys reading, travel, live theatre, learning languages, and gardening.
This entry was posted in Ancient History, Chungcheongbuk, Mostly Photos, National Park, Temple and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Ancient Ruins of Mireuksa

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