It was my first morning in Busan. I awoke around 4:30AM, sweaty, confused, in a circular love motel bed, surrounded by mirrors. I’d arrived around 10PM the previous night and had to cancel plans to meet friends for the simple reason that nobody could tell me where, in Busan, I was. I tossed and turned until it got light out, then decided to go for a walk.
Korea seemed very unfamiliar. I’d only been gone for a little over a year, but there I was at dawn, completely disoriented, wandering through the streets. I walked for about 3 hours that morning. I didn’t have to work until 2:00PM and there was no internet in my room, so I had nothing to do but get familiar with the area I was in. It was during this early morning walk that I first came across Chungnyeolsa Shrine, which is surprisingly close to where I work. (It’s the only thing close to where I work.) Maybe it was my disorientation, or maybe I was hungry, but on that morning, those symmetrical white buildings did not impress me. I walked up to the fence, glanced up, turned around, left, and promptly forgot almost completely about the shrine.
Fast forward a few months. I’m bored on a Sunday morning. I’m kind of a public transportation nerd, and had noticed the new blue line on the subway had opened. I decided to go exploring. Armed with my camera, I started at Minam and rode it all the way out to Anpyeong, under the false pretense that there was gonna be a beach there. I was sadly mistaken. There is nothing in Anpyeong. On the return trip, after a few fruitless stops and some uninspired photos, I got off at the Chungnyeolsa stop, completely unaware of what it was.
Maybe it was nostalgia for that lost feeling that I get when I got to a new place, maybe it was excitement about seeing something familiar, but forgotten. Whatever it was, I found this shrine to be absolutely beautiful.
The shrine itself is dedicated to fighters who died during the Japanese invasion in 1592. One of the buildings had a few artifacts and some paintings about the invasion. It wasn’t so much the history that I found interesting as the architecture. I liked the white buildings, the symmetrical staircases and gates. There’s a small pond that reflects the trees, many of which were beginning to blossom. Supposedly you can hike to Dongrae fortress from the shrine, though the path was blocked off when I was there.
When the weather gets warm, Chungnyeolsa will make an excellent place to go, relax and read, or just walk around. It’s worth a visit if you’re at all into history, or if you just want a beautiful peaceful spot to kill a few hours on a weekend.
Directions: On the blue subway line go to Chungnyeolsa stop, exit 1. Otherwise you can take the 89, 189, 48, 29, 129, or 307 buses. Not sure where they stop, but look for the big white monument with soldier statues.
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