• Gyeongsangnam-do

    Hongjeam Hermitage – 홍제암 (Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

    Hermitage History Hongjeam Hermitage is located in the heart of Gayasan National Park just outside Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do. The hermitage is directly associated with the famed Haeinsa Temple. The hermitage was first built in 1608 for the warrior monk Samyeong-daesa (1544-1610). The hermitage was built as a sign of appreciation for all of Samyeong-daesa’s efforts during the Imjin War (1592-1598) by King Seonje of Joseon (r. 1567 – 1608). Samyeong-daesa would spend the remainder of his days at Hongjeam Hermitage. The name of the hermitage comes from the posthumous title bestowed upon Samyeong-daesa. The posthumous title Samyeong-daesa received was that of Jatong Hongje-jonja. This title was given to Samyeong-daesa by King…

  • History

    Origins – The Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.)

    The ancient Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.) was once located in present day southern Manchuria, the Russian Maritime Provinces, and the northern part of the Korean peninsula. Just before Buddhism was introduced to the Goguryeo Kingdom, and during the reign of King Gogugwon of Goguryeo (r. 331 – 371 A.D.), it was devastated by several natural disasters. In 365 A.D., there was a large earthquake. And in 368 A.D., there was a severe drought, which resulted in a massive famine, and reported cannibalism, in 369 A.D. It was under these circumstances that people lost faith in the indigenous religion of Korean shamanism. Also, the Goguryeo Kingdom had been…

  • Gyeongsangbuk-do

    Jeseoksa Temple – 제석사 (Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

    Temple History Jeseoksa Temple is located in the eastern part Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do. Gyeongsan is also the home to the famed monk Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.). A little more on Wonhyo-daesa later. As for the temple, Jeseoksa Temple is named after Jeseok-bul (King of Heaven Buddha, or Indra). According to legend, the temple was built some four hundred years earlier. A local farmer found a statue of the Buddha and a part of a pagoda, so it was decided to build a temple on the current Jeseoksa Temple grounds. It is claimed by some that these artifacts date all the way back to Later Silla (668 – 935 A.D.). And some go…

  • History

    In the Beginning…Korean Shamanism and the Introduction of Buddhism

    Predating any and all forms of Buddhism in Korea was that of Korean shamanism. In fact, shamanism in Korea dates back to around 1,000 B.C. And ever since then, shamanism has been a part of Korean culture. Korean shamanism believed, and still believes, that human problems can be solved through an interaction between humans and spirits. These spirits are said to have power to change a person’s fortune, either good or bad. There is a rather large, and unorganized, pantheon of shaman spirits like the prominent Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) and Samshin Halmoni. During the Three Kingdoms Period of Korea, and before Buddhism entered the Korean peninsula, the indigenous religion of…

  • Gyeongsangnam-do

    Bokcheonjeongsa Temple – 복천정사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

    Temple History It’s not often that you find an abandoned Korean Buddhist temple. When you do, it’s a haunting reminder of the passage of time and that time waits for no one and nothing. In my time in Korea, and during my travels to some five hundred temples, I think I’ve only ever encountered three abandoned Korean Buddhist temples. Bokcheonjeongsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do is located high up on Mt. Togoksan (855 m) about two hundred metres below the peak. Bokcheonjeongsa Temple formerly belonged to the Cheontae-jong Order. And the temple appears to have been abandoned some time around 2014, probably with the passing of the head monk at Bokcheonjeongsa…

  • Jeollanam-do

    Munsusa Temple – 문수사 (Gurye, Jeollanam-do)

    Temple History Munsusa Temple, which is named after Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom), was first constructed in 547 A.D. by the Buddhist monk Yeongi. The temple is located in Gurye, Jeollanam-do in the southwestern portion of the famed Jirisan National Park. Throughout the years, several prominent Korean Buddhist monks such as Wonhyo-daesa (617 – 686 A.D.), Uisang-daesa (625 – 702 A.D.), Seosan-daesa (1520 – 1604), and Samyeong-daesa (1544 – 1610) have all called Munsusa Temple home at one time or another. Much of what you currently see at Munsusa Temple was built in 1984, nearly four hundred years after it was partially destroyed by the Japanese during the destructive Imjin…

  • Artwork

    Frogs and Toads – 개구리와 두꺼비

    Introduction Rather interestingly, you’ll find several stories related to frogs, toads and Korean Buddhist temples. Some great examples of this can be found inside the Yeongsan-jeon Hall at Tongdosa Temple, which has a frog relief sitting in front of a lotus flower on the ceiling of this temple shrine hall. You can also find a similar image inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at Tongdosa Temple, as well. You can also find Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) and dongja (attendants) holding a frog or toad, as well. They almost appear to be like a toy in their hands that they’re playing with. These frogs and toads can be found as…

  • Gyeongju

    Seondosa Temple – 선도사 (Gyeongju)

    Temple History Seondosa Temple is located in the south-western portion of Gyeongju on Mt. Seondosan (380.6 m). The mountain was regarded as the Pure Land in Korean Buddhism during the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. – 935 A.D.). Sadly, the mountain has been negatively impacted by forest fires in the not too distant past, which is made plain by the charred landscape. And near the peak of Mt. Seondosan is the diminutive Seondosa Temple. Near the base of the mountain, you’ll find the Royal Tomb of King Jinheung of Silla, which is Historic Site #177; the Royal Tomb of King Beopheung of Silla, which is Historic Site #176; as well as…

  • Gyeongsangnam-do

    Cheonbulsa Temple – 천불사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

    Temple History Cheonbulsa Temple is located to the north-east of Mt. Yongcheonsan (544.7 m) in the eastern part of Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. The name of the temple means “Heavenly Buddha Temple” in English, and it was originally constructed in 1974. Cheonbulsa Temple’s name refers to the energy of the temple that it gets from the heavenly realm of Tushita. When the head monk at Cheonbulsa Temple wanted to build a temple, he held a memorial service for one thousand days in a cave at Yaksuam Hermitage near Baekyangsa Temple in Gwangju. During this memorial service, the head monk received a divine revelation. In this revelation, he learned that he should find…

  • Busan

    Haeinjeongsa Temple – 해인정사 (Saha-gu, Busan)

    Temple History Haeinjeongsa Temple is located in Saha-gu, Busan. It’s located on the lower south-western slopes of Mt. Gudeoksan (545.3 m). Haeinjeongsa Temple is a modern temple. It first started being built in August, 1999. It has an overall size of 5,000 pyeong, or nearly 16,529 square metres. The first of the temple structures to be built was the main hall, the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall, which started to be built in June, 2000. And the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall was completed in 2003. In total, there are half a dozen temple shrine halls for visitors to explore at Haeinjeongsa Temple. Temple Layout To get to the temple, you’ll first need to ascend a…