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Buddhist Woodcraft Museum in Yeoju
By David Watermeyer, The Korea Times, Sept 30, 2008
Yeoju, South Korea -- If you want to take a day trip out of Seoul and savor something really worthwhile, the Mok-A Museum, officially designated as a national museum, just outside the town of Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, would be a good choice.
<< A gilt-bronze Buddha at the Mok-A Museum near Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province / Courtesy of Gregory Curley
What is extra special about the museum is the inspiration and motivation that lies behind it. It was founded in 1990 by revered wood sculptor, Park Chan-soo, in order to preserve traditional woodcraft and Korean Buddhist art.
Park was determined that Korean traditional woodcraft should be preserved, and the museum, now just over 10 years old, bears testimony to his efforts.
Apart from his artistic creations, Park had a zeal for collecting cultural objects in general, many of which are housed in the museum. It was when he had collected some 6,000 pieces that were recognized as treasures by the Korean government that the museum proper got underway in 1993.
Adding to the flavor of the museum is its imaginative construction resembling Indian cave temples from days long gone by, which create a tranquil ambiance.
The ``temples'' are spread over four floors including a basement, and house some very rare historical relics.
Of particular interest are some very old engravings of old Buddhist texts. One such example is a wood engraving of Chapter 24 of the Avatamsaka Sutra, a Buddhist scripture that was translated by Banya in the Chinese Dang Dynasty.
But these are just a few items among a number of interesting relics on display which include traditional folklore pieces in addition to the Buddhist ones.
Apart from serving as a museum for preservation, the venue also serves as a place for education in artistic work, and traditional woodcraft classes, and lecture series on traditional culture among others are offered.
Park's finely created works are displayed in the main exhibition hall along with other crafted items.
The beautiful garden outside is used from time to time for traditional weddings and also as a place where newly-weds like to have their pictures taken.
The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closing 7 p.m. on weekends). A bus from either Gangnam, eastern Seoul or Sangbong terminals will take you to Yeoju terminal from where a local bus will take you to the museum. The ride takes about two hours.