• Gyeongsangnam-do

    Hongryongsa Temple – 홍룡사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

    Temple History Hongryongsa Temple, which means “Rainbow Dragon Temple” in English, is located on Mt. Cheonseongsan (920.1 m) in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. The name of the temple comes from the waterfall, Hongryong-pokpo Waterfall, which is at the centre of the temple and stands fourteen metres in height. According to legend, there was a dragon that once lived inside this waterfall. Afterwards, it rode off on a rainbow up into the sky and disappeared. The temple was first built during the reign of King Munmu of Silla (r.661-681 A.D.) by the famed monk Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.). Wonhyo-daesa first built this temple to teach the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, or “Hwaeom-gyeong – 화엄경” in Korean,…

  • Artwork

    Budo – Stupa: 부도

    Introduction When you first enter a Korean temple or hermitage, or even their grounds, you might see a row of strangely designed stone monuments that somewhat resemble headstones. In Korean, these are known as “budo,” or “stupa,” in English. Officially, they are known as “seung-tap,” or a “monk’s pagoda,” in English. So what exactly does a Korean Buddhist stupa look like? What are they for? And what are their symbolic meaning? History In Buddhism, a pagoda historically enshrines the remains of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). In Korea, however, a stupa contains the remains of a monk or nun. Stupas first began to appear in the late Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935…

  • Jeollabuk-do

    Silsangsa Temple – 실상사 (Namwon, Jeollabuk-do)

    Temple History Silsangsa Temple, which means “True Nature Temple,” in English, is surprisingly located near farmer’s fields alongside the meandering Mansucheon River in Namwon, Jeollabuk-do. Silsangsa Temple is situated in the centre of a cauldron of mountains that make up the northern part of the famed Mt. Jirisan (1915.4 m). Silsangsa Temple was established by the monk Hongcheok (also known as Jeunggak) in 828 A.D. Hongcheok traveled to Tang Dynasty China with the monk Doui-guksa in the early 800’s. Both Hongcheok and Doui-guksa returned to the Korean peninsula after being certified as enlightened in Seon lineage Buddhism. After his return, Hongcheok was named “Guksa,” or “National Preceptor,” in English, by…

  • Artwork

    Biseok – Stele: 비석

    History and Design A biseok, or stele, in English, is a rectangular piece of stone that stands as a monument for a deceased monk. The tradition of creating biseok started during the Three Kingdoms of Korea (57 B.C. – 668 A.D.). Stylistically, they are typically made up of three parts: the turtle base, dragon cap, and body with writing. The turtle is thought to be the longest living animal, which is meant as a metaphor for the longevity and legacy of the monk’s life and teachings; hence, the turtle base. The dragon cap, on the other hand, of the biseok is meant to symbolize the ability of the biseok to…

  • Artwork

    Tap – The Korean Pagoda: 탑

    Introduction One of the most noticeable, and important features of a Korean Buddhist temple is a pagoda. The history of the pagoda in Korea is as old as Buddhism in Korea. And while a pagoda’s design is both beautiful and elegant, it’s also packed with symbolic meaning that may not always be all that evident. So when did the pagoda first appear in Korea? Why is the pagoda situated at a Korean Buddhist temple? What do they look like? And why are they designed the way they are? History Originally, in India, Buddhist temples were centred around stupas. The word stupa means heap in Sanskrit because these pagodas were in…

  • Gangwon-do

    Hyuhyuam Hermitage – 휴휴암 (Yangyang, Gangwon-do)

    Hermitage History Hyuhyuam Hermitage, which is located in Yangyang, Gangwon-do, means “Rest and Rest Again Hermitage,” in English. The name of the hermitage is in reference to resting the mind from distracting thoughts and feelings like hate, jealousy, and conflict. Initially, the hermitage was nothing more than a single shrine hall; but in 1999, the popularity of the hermitage started to grow with the discovery of a rock that looked like a reclining Buddha. There are other seaside rocks at Hyuhyuam Hermitage that have significance, as well. There’s the Haesu Gwaneum rock that looks like a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This rock looks like it’s holding a…

  • Artwork

    Shimu-do – The Ten Ox-Herding Murals: 심우도

    Introduction Another set of murals that are commonly found at Korean Buddhist temples are the Shimu-do, or “The Ten Ox-Herding Murals,” in English. These paintings are typically found around the exterior walls to the Daeung-jeon Hall, but they can also be found adorning the exterior walls of other shrine halls at a temple. Also, they can be found individually adorning a temple shrine hall, or they can be joined by the Palsang-do (Eight Scenes from the Life of the Buddha Murals). Either way, and on whatever building they might adorn, they are painted at seon temples both in Korea and in China. The Shimu-do first came to the Korean peninsula…

  • Busan

    Sowonsa Temple – 소원사 (Gijang-gun, Busan)

    Temple History Sowonsa Temple is located in the eastern part of Busan in Gijang-gun. Specifically, Sowonsa Temple is located below the beautiful peak of Mt. Hambaksan (339 m). Sowonsa Temple was first founded during the 1980’s, and it was built upon the spot where the famed monk Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.) once purportedly prayed. The name of the temple, Sowonsa Temple, means “Wish Temple,” in English. Also, it’s claimed that if you pray at Sowonsa Temple, you’ll have one of your wishes come true. Temple Layout When you first approach Sowonsa Temple, your eyes will instantly be met by a world of colour and Buddhist iconography. First up are two rows…

  • Artwork

    Palsang-do – The Eight Scenes from the Life of the Buddha Murals: 팔상도

    Introduction There’s various artwork that typically adorns a Korean Buddhist temple both in and around temple shrine halls. And one of the most popular pieces of artwork is the Palsang-do (The Eight Scenes from the Life of the Buddha Murals) set. This set is a collection of eight murals that depicts the Buddha’s life from birth to death. Typically, they can be found around the exterior walls of a Daeung-jeon Hall, or they can appear inside a Palsang-jeon Hall like at Beopjusa Temple or Beomeosa Temple. These paintings can range in complexity and overall sophistication. And while they do vary in composition, they all depict the same eight scenes, and…

  • Daegu

    Yugasa Temple – 유가사 (Dalseong-gun, Daegu)

    Temple History Yugasa Temple, which is located on the western slopes of Mt. Biseulsan (1083.4 m), can be found in southern Daegu. There are two stories as to when Yugasa Temple was first established. One story describes the temple being founded between 765 to 780 A.D. And the more likely story of the two is that Yugasa Temple was founded in 829 A.D. by the monk Doseong. The location of the temple was selected because the mountains looked like a beautiful bead and/or Buddha. Additionally, Yugasa Temple is the headquarters for the Yuga-jong Buddhist Order. Throughout the years, Yugasa Temple has undergone numerous rebuilds and renovations. The first came in…