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Sunday,January 20,2019
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Another place, another ‘Dongguk’

   
 
   
 
On an early morning, Kim Su-huk walks to Myungjin Hall to attend the first class of his new semester. Passing by a high hill he sees three elephant statues. Although the elephants are large to behold, they are cute rather than scary. In front of the statues he stands there for a long time. Then, he remembers meeting with Jeong-ho. Jeong-ho is a student from Gyeongju, Dongguk University. Su-huk was curious as to why there were elephants on both Dongguk campuses, Seoul and Gyeongju. Jeong-ho who is a student of Dongguk in Gyeongju goes to the students' hall after finishing one of his classes. On his way, he passes by Centennial Memorial Hall, which was built similarly to Myungjin Hall on the Seoul campus.


Dongguk is a large-scale university spread throughout many cities Seoul, Gyeongju, Ilsan and LA. Although the sites are different, each is interconnected, but there is little interaction between them because of the significant distance gaps. Students from each campus know very little about the others. Still, there is a symbol that connects them all together. That is the elephant, Jeonggakwon, and Myungjin Hall (Centennial Memorial Hall). Let's look a little closer at both the Gyeongju and Seoul campus.


If most students are asked what the most popular image of Dongguk University is, maybe their answer will be the elephant. The elephant represents Dongguk University here and abroad. The Seoul campus has three elephants, but why has the elephant become the animal symbol of Dongguk University? The answer is it became the symbol of Dongguk University because elephant symbolism is found in Buddhism and Dongguk is a Buddhist university. The elephant appears in the Buddha's dream and reflects the birth of a baby. In Buddhist literature, the Maya queen dreams that an elephant enters inside her body before she conceives a child. After this, the elephant was seen as a symbolic animal of Buddhism. Also the elephant is symbolizes wisdom and fortune. It is described as modern, progressive and as having active characteristics, and this also reflects university students of our generation who are wise, brave, bright and friendly. The Seoul campus has three elephants and Gyeongju has one at present.


 The second symbol is 'Jeonggakwon'. Jeonggakwon is one of the Gyeongbhui palace buildings and is located on the Seoul campus. It is grand and luxurious because it was a palace. There are two black dragon statues and it is decorated beautifully with lotuses. If you sit with a friend at Jeonggakwon in the spring, you will be able to hear the sound of tinkling wind chimes. This can make allow you to feel relaxed and balanced with a peace of mind. While the Seoul campus has this fascinating palace, Jeonggakwon of Gyeongju campus is simple and friendly. Students of Dongguk University can take a course named 'Practice in Seon'. Students on both campuses meditate in their own Jeonggakwon and there they dream to grow and better themselves. Jeonggakwon is named after the goal of 'becoming enlightened correctly'.


Lastly there is Myungjin Hall and Centennial Memorial Hall. Myungjin Hall is situated in Seoul and is a building which reflects 100 years of the university history. The grandiosity of Myungjin Hall gives students a sense of pride about Dongguk. On the Gyeongju campus the Centennial Memorial Hall is built based on Myungjin Hall’s designs, celebrating Dongguk University's centenary. This is the building which represents Buddhism and establishes the principles of the university. Even where the Centennial Memorial Hall uses different materials from Myunjin Hall, the appearance is very similar. Students can be very proud of the one-hundred year history of Dongguk University through Myungjin Hall and Centennial Memorial Hall.

Many Dongguk University students know of other university campuses well. They often visit the beautiful campuses and take pictures with their friends. From time to time students will talk about the beautiful universities, distinct buildings and the symbolic animals of other universities but many of them are not concerned with their own campus. They do not know how the elephant is part of the eight fold way, and about the black dragons in Jeonggakwon or about the twin existence of the Myungjin Halls. Let’s have more interest in our university. Let’s think about the symbols of Dongguk University. Let's look at Dongguk University in Gyeongju and in other cities  beyond the Seoul campus as well. There is a lot of excitement to be had and you can experience its full beauty.

Sung Min-kyeong  tjd4319@hanmail.net

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