There are around 900 Buddhist temples in Korea. Many of these temples can be found nestled in the hills or mountains throughout the country. Others are located in the cities and only a few near the beach or river. Wherever their location is, they deliver a great contribution to the Korean landscape.
Korean temples are wonderful pieces of architecture, mainly made of wood and without the use of nails or screws ! The buildings are decorated precisely and with a lot of patience and devotion. Even though they are quite colorful they have a calming and relaxing effect on their visitors.
Most of the temples have a similar layout and consist of :
- A temple gate where visitors enter the temple compound
- A Gate of the the 4 Heavenly Kings, each watching over one cardinal direction of the world
- A Dharma Hall, used for lectures and sermons
- Monastic quarters where the monks are staying
- A bell tower
- A main shrine hall housing the temple’s main buddha images
- A pagoda
- A judgement hall
- A hall for the ‘pefect ones who reached nirvana’
- A shrine dedicated to the Shamanist mountain God Sanshin
- A hermitage
I’ve been visiting quite a lot of temples and if you would ask me “Which is the most beautiful temple ? “, it will be very difficult to answer. It all depends on what you expect about visiting the temple. So far almost every temple that I visited had something interesting and surprising.
Some of my favorite temples are Bulguksa (in Kyongju and recognized by UNESCO), Haeinsa (in Hapjeon – Kayasan park and also recognized by UNESCO), Cheondeungsa (on Kanghwa Island), Golgulsa (near Kyongju), Silleuksa, Naejangsa, Haedong Yonggungsa …
What I like most of the temple, is the peaceful atmosphere, looking at the pretty constructions of the buildings and watching the aged stone pagoda’s, the smell of the fragrance sticks and attending the morning rituals and listening to the sound of the moktak and chanting monks.
Anyway, for me a trip to Korea without visiting a temple is like eating a Korean meal without Kimchi. So if you want to make your Korea journey complete, visit a temple ! When you have only a limited time in Seoul you can visit Jogyesa or Bongeunsa (near COEX).