In every town in the DPRK, in a prominent square a Yeong Saeng ("eternal life") monument will have been erected.
This is because, when the Great Leader passed on, angelic cranes came to take him to heaven, but were because of the devotion of the mourning of his people, the cranes let him return, where he is now the 'Eternal President' .
tribute is paid to the Eternal Leader on his birthday with ceremonies at these monuments. Similarly, newlyweds will lay flowers at the monuments immediately after the wedding.
Your tour through Myohyang will be for the purpose of the North Koreans to show the wonderful tributes to Kim il-Sung in the Friendship Halls.
But if you have time to go further up the road, along the river, from the Friendship Halls, you can get to the base of a hiking trail. Up the trail, there are countless waterfalls, beginning with Sogok Waterfall. If your guides offer, it is a peaceful getaway into the cool trees and fresh air.
There are two pagoda's within the temple complex. The first one is 9-storeys high and square and stands between the Chonwang Gate and Manse Pavilion. The second is a 13-storey high. octagonal pagoda which measures in at 8.5m high. It stands in front of the first hall, the Taeung Hall.
In order to reach the three main halls of the temple complex, you first have to pass through three gates - Chogye, Haetal and Chonwang. The Chonwang Gate features the four temple guardians you come to expect in Buddhist temple complexes.
The Pohyon Temple was founded in the Sangwon Valley, not far from the International Friendship Exhibition, in 1042 during the Koryo period. It is named after the Buddhist saint Pohyon who was in charge of the “morals of Buddha.” Originally it had 24 buildings and pagodas and was a major centre for propagating Buddhism in this area of Korea.
The temple complex was almost completely destroyed by bombings during the Korean War. Several of the main structures have been rebuilt, including a new Archive Hall to house the third printing of the Buddhist scriptures to have been printed between 1236 and 1251 AD on 80,000 wood blocks (now in the Haeinsa Temple near Daegu in South Korea.)
The Myohyang Mountains ('Mountains of mysterious fragrance') are home to some wonderful scenery but, unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to explore it. Instead, all we saw of it was a few views of some valleys and a stream running past the International Friendship Exhibition. The air here is very clean, as is the crystal clear water in the stream. According to my guide book, the mountains are home to 700 species of plants, 33 kinds of "beasts", 115 kinds of birds and over 20 kinds of fish.
The International Friendship Exhibition are two huge partly underground palaces filled with over 100,000 gifts from over 150 countries to both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. We visited the larger of the two first, that was opened in 1978, which had gifts presented to Kim Il Sung. We first had to hand in our cameras and were then told to put on dust covers over our shoes. This is due to the fact that marble is everywhere - on the floors, walls, balconies and staircases. We were led into many rooms were the gifts were very impressive. Some of the stand out ones include a limousine sent to him by Josef Stalin and an armoured train carriage presented to him by Mao Zedong. Most of the gifts are vases, glassware, pictures etc which are fairly boring but some really stand out like a stuffed crocodile holding a wooden plate and cups from the Nicaraguan Sandinist National Liberation Front. Most of the gifts come from extreme left-wing African countries or Communist parties based in the west. Some halls feature large photo's of Kim Il Sung meeting foreign heads of state.
After visiting just some of the 120 rooms (otherwise we would be there for a lifetime), we were led into a room where two large groups of North Koreans were. All the women were sitting down whilst the men were standing in neat rows. We went in before them, into a room with a grinning life-sized waxwork of the Great Leader stood. Our guide bowed his head but we just looked on. He's not very tall but still manages to look down on people as he's standing on raised ground.
After visiting the first palace, we were led down the road to a small building that contains all the gifts presented to Kim Jong Il. Gifts here include those from Hyundai, CNN, a good luck note from Jimmy Carter and a basketball from Madeleine Albright. Some gifts come in the form of old electrical items such as TV's, record players and other stereo equipment as Kim Jong Il is a big 'techy' fan. I've included a short video that was included on a CD I bought from our tour cameraman.
The temple is tucked in the steep hills just a few minutes from the Hyangsan Hotel, about half way to the Friendship Halls.
The temple has history going back several hundred years. Many temples have suffered from wars, fires, or the communist regime, but thankfully this one has survived in tact.
The halls, pagodas, and manicured grounds have the wonderful backdrop of truly remote green mountains in a location few will ever see.
Myohyang is the location of the underground depository of all the gifts and tributes that Kim il-Sung and Kim Jung-il have received. These depositories are massive underground labyrinths that could house the wealth of an entire country, and keep it safe from an all-out war.
The guides like to tell you something along the lines that if you were to look at each gift for one minute, without taking breaks or stopping, you would not live long enough to see each gift.
These gift halls, are enshrined as proof that the world's generosity and appreciation for Kim il-Sung is so revered that he is loved by everyone, and still receives gifts to this day posthumously.
There are gifts ranging from furniture to electronics, cars to train carriages, honorary university degrees to honorary citizenships. There are artworks, photos and memorabilia from every corner.
Even the eternal enemy of DPRK, the imperialist USA, has a few gifts on display. For one, he received an honorary degree from a CA university, as well as an autographed basketball of Michael Jordan.
If any one of these rooms were to be auctioned off, it is my feeling that the country could be fed for many weeks. But these goods will be for ever entombed as a gesture of how glorious the Leader is.
Pictures are not allowed inside, you will have to check your camera and bags at the door.