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Turtle thinking

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By Bernard Rowan

An early memory of visiting Korea is images of turtles I saw in various places such as palaces and temples. I think the Korean symbol of turtles shows us wisdom about life. Let's consider anew the meaning of Korean turtles.

Koreans respect turtles as symbols of long life, good life, and knowledge of the future. Many Buddhist temples have stele or tablet turtle monuments that commemorate a monk's life. When considering Buddhism and the work of Buddhist monks and temples, it's wonderful to reflect on turtle images and to read the stele. The turtle stands as a prayer, wish, and hope that life's meaning will endure. I also think it means that life finds expression in what a monk gives to others. Life begets life in its wonder and variety.

In the distant past, turtle shells had the use of fortune-telling. The shells provided a way to see the future. I'm not so sure how reliable they've proved. However, I like the image of the turtle's shell standing for heaven and the square below the turtle the earth. Turtles hold up the........

© The Korea Times