Temple Hopping in Seoul; Jogyesa – Bongeunsa
South Korea is home to many Buddhist temples all around the country and Seoul has a number of those beautiful ones. On our first trip to Seoul, we didn’t get a chance to visit some of these temples but on our recent one last year, we made sure to visit at least one. Well, we exceeded our goal because we visited two – Bongeunsa and Jogyesa temple.
We visited lots of Buddhist temples before especially in Thailand and each one is different from the other. The temples in Korea are of no exception. The moment I entered the premises, I instantly felt calm and peace in my soul and that’s no exaggeration.
Well then, let me walk you through to these temples and see for yourself.
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Located just near the cultural street of Insadong, Jogyesa temple is the center of Seon or Zen Buddhism in Korea. You’ll see a large, colorful gate in the entrance of the temple called Iljumun or One Pillar Gate. It represents the division that separates the mortal world and the world of Buddha. Now I know why I felt peace upon entry to the temple. It also reminds me of the anime series Yu Yu Hakusho or Ghost Fighter. In the anime it’s quite the opposite. There’s a portal of some sort there that separates the mortal world from the world of the monsters. In the temple, we are transported into the world of good spirits and serenity.
Inside the temple premises we were welcomed by a big Baeksong tree near the main temple. It was said that the tree is around 500 years old. Now it reminds me of the weirwood trees in Game of Thrones which lives in extremely long time that they can see the past.
We entered Daeungjeon, the main temple and sat in one of the pillows provided there. (Remember to take your shoes off before entering). Many Koreans, young and old are solemnly offering their prayers that time. Though we’re not Buddhists, we said a prayer and asked Buddha for his blessing and may he grant us inner peace.
After that much needed soul cleansing, we went outside for more pictures.
Our soul was indeed nourished, but our body was screaming ‘hungry’. Good thing there are women selling charcoal grilled rice cakes inside the temple for 1000 won. Tasty with the right amount of saltiness.
Address: 55, Ujeongguk-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Directions: Subway Line 3, alight at Anguk Station Exit 6. Go straight then turn left at Ujeongguk-ro. Walk for a little more and the temple is on the right side of the road.
Temple Stay: Yes
Next temple we visited was Bongeunsa Temple located in Gangnam, just across COEX mall. Bongeunsa is like a rare gem amongst a pile of rocks. You wouldn’t have thought that there’s such an astonishingly beautiful place full of trees surrounded by skyscrapers and a mall in front. Just like in Jogyesa, when we entered the premises, we felt calm and peaceful. You would hear the relaxing sound of the wind chime, birds chirping joyfully and people solemnly chanting inside the temples. Very different from the hustle and bustle of the city outside.
Inside you’ll see these colorful lanterns in the main temple area. They decorate the temples with more of these lanterns during Buddha’s birthday.
Up the hill, there are more small temples for praying. Lots of trees and plants surrounding the area, perfect for a slow walk and deep thinking. Wish we have a place like this near home.
The most recognizable element in the temple is the large Buddha statue at the center. It’s so huge you’d feel so small when you get near to it. It’s like the Lord Murugan statue at the entrance of Batu Caves in Malaysia. You can also offer prayers here.
If you’re thirsty, quench your thirst in a water fountain coming from the mouth of, I think a lizard rock sculpture.
I must say, Bongeunsa is one of the most beautiful temple we’ve ever visited. If ever we have a chance to visit Seoul again, we will go for an overnight temple stay here and I suggest you do too.
Address: 531, Bongeunsa-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Directions: Bongeunsa Temple Station (Seoul Subway Line 9), Exit 1. Walk straight for 150 m.
Temple Stay: Yes
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