Seosan is a small city in Chungcheongnam-do. This dainty and peaceful destination has long been overlooked by foreign travelers. But its unique attractions, which are located in its beautiful rural areas, have been popular with local travelers who wish for a slow idyllic trip. Seosan’s surrounding countryside is a truly scenic area where culture, history, and nature complement each other.
Haemieupseong Walled Town is one of the best-preserved Joseon-era fortresses. The fortress is built on flat land, which sets it apart from the other fortifications of its time. It is also considered a representative piece of architecture remaining from the Joseon times.
The fortress is now a beautiful historic park with peaceful walkways and hanok style buildings. You can take a stroll and enjoy the scenery as well as traditional Korean architecture. For those who travel to find certain historical locations, the fortress also offers a glimpse into a bitter part of history. The fortress has a big old tree and a prison site where the Catholics faced prosecution in 1866.
Organic and brimming with the spirit of nature, Gaesimsa Temple is a rare gem of wooden Korean architecture. The temple is believed to date from the 17th century. It is believed that throughout the centuries, many of the buildings have managed to preserve their original design. The temple grounds are surrounded by a tightly knit forest with a folk-fairytale-like atmosphere.
In spring, Gaesimsa Temple sits like a jewel in a bed of cherry blossoms, with stretches of white and pink blossom trees spread around the surrounding mountains. It is a great destination for nature lovers who love taking a quiet stroll in the woods and enjoying the first notes of spring. The hiking trails lead through the mountains behind the temple and into the heart of nature.
The buildings are unique in that some of them have used trees for pillars; the tree trunks have been put in place without much alteration. You can find many organically shaped lines, curving in harmony with nature, surreal to the eye used to the straight harsh city lines. You can also find a famous wooden Amitabha Buddha statue in the temple which in itself has been designated as a national treasure. It’s believed that the statute might have been built earlier than 1280.
There is something very appealing about places where nature gets to decide when you can access it or not. This concept perhaps suits a hermitage most of all.Ganworam Hermitage stands lonely on a small rock post in the sea. At a certain time during the day, the ebbing tide reveals the pathway to the hermitage. At night the waters flow back in and the place becomes an island again, isolated from the outside world. It’s important to plan your trip carefully if you’re wishing to visit the hermitage. The tides can vary during different times of the calendar. Also, you would not want to feel in a rush while you’re spending time here.
Outside, the hermitage is decorated with folk statues made of driftwood, bestowments of the sea that were not taken for granted and put to use. It makes you wonder where the things have come from and where they are heading to. There is also a Buddha garden with many different statues, of different shapes and sizes. Needless to say, the hermitage has an amazing view towards both land and sea.
The hermitage was founded by the Great Monk Muhak during the early Joseon dynasty. Some stories say that the Great Monk reached enlightenment while gazing at the sight of the moon when meditating here. Some say the word “wol” in the name stands for the moon (wol means moon in Korean).
Built against a hill, the house of Yu Gi-Bang is a traditional aristocratic hanok. The house is particularly famous for its daffodil gardens. Every year when the daffodils are in bloom, the garden turns into a surreal yellow bed of petals. This is perhaps the best time to visit since it is a beautiful and refreshing sight which is also great for photography.
You can also visit the hanok buildings. It is representative of aristocratic houses of the area. You can sit on the balconies and enjoy the scenery. The House of Yu Gi-Bang is also known for having been a filming site for the popular Korean drama “Mr. Sunshine (2019)”.
House of Yu Gi-Bang
Little is known about Bowonsa Temple but the discoveries made at the site suggest that it must have been a big temple. There are theories about when the temple was built; some suggest it was during the end of Unified Silla, others point that the discovery of a gilt bronze Buddha statue means it was built during the Baekje era.
The site is an important historical research ground and there are a number of important national treasures that have been discovered in the area. Today, you can visit the excavation sites and see some of the remaining Buddhist artifacts.
Bowonsa Temple Site
Nicknamed as the “Smile of Baekje,” this national treasure is carved on a cliff on Gayasan Mountain. The carving displays Shakyamuni Buddha standing 3 meters tall and two bodhisattvas, one standing and the other one seated in meditation. Based on the details and style, it’s estimated to have been created sometime between the late 6th and early 7th centuries.
The best time to view the carving is in the morning since the sun illuminates the entire picture and the heartwarming smile of the Shakyamuni Buddha looks at its brightest. The Triad Buddha’s centuries of calmly standing and observing the valley beyond have a truly enigmatic feel. The triad stands looking towards the valley with rocks protruding above. The unique position has been a factor in it being preserved better than the other stone-carved items from the same era.
* This column was last updated in July 2021, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.