Amazing Bomunsa Temple
In Ganghwado County

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-geuknakjeon-temple-areaBomunsa Temple in Ganghwado County

Bomunsa Temple In Ganghwado

I had a strange but positive feeling when I left home this morning to explore the famous Bomunsa Temple in Ganghwado (Ganghwa County), Gyeonggi Province, South Korea. I knew it would take three to four hours to travel there and back home, but I trusted my gut that it would be worth my time and effort. Indeed, it was the trip of a lifetime.

It took over one and a half by bus from my place to Bomunsa Temple. You have to transfer from Ganghwa Bus Terminal to bus 31 or 35 to reach the temple area, where the bus stops at the foot and near the temple's main gate.

So, there's no worry of getting lost, especially when you don't speak the language. You could always use your smartphone to track your destination.

Iljumun (일주문 - Main Gate)

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-gate-roof-viewEntrance gate of Bomunsa Temple

As you get off the bus at its terminal below the temple area, you must head to the only road uphill, with cafes and shops on both sides. From a distance, you can immediately see the entrance gate (Korean: Iljumun) and its ticketing office on its lefthand side (fee: 2,000 KRW).

Yes, I know it is not free, but it is worth your every penny and energy! The ticket checker guy will then stamp your ticket, and you will move uphill for about 50 meters from Iljumun. Note that people with severe walking handicaps will find this road very challenging.

Back to my initial experience...

As I walked uphill, surveying the area and the road ahead, I felt very impressed and excited. I immediately took out my wallet and gave the ticketing officer my 2,000 cash, which she had exchanged for a ticket.

Having checked my ticket, I stopped for a few seconds, examined the main gate (Iljumun), appreciated its beautiful architecture, and then took a few shots with my phone.

I was feeling so excited that I could not recall treading the uphill road, which is about 45 degrees in elevation. You can either walk the asphalted road or the granite-paved steps toward the temple area. From the main gate, it is about 50 meters ahead to reach the temple structures.

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-washroomThe Hanok Washroom at Bomunsa Temple in Ganghwado County

Before Reaching the Flat Ground
Right before you reach the temple grounds' flat area, you will see the 'hanok' (Korean-style building structure) washroom on your left.

At first, I thought it was one of the buildings, but I realized it was a washroom when I saw the male/female symbols attached.

Then, passing another new building, you will see a cute cafe on your right-hand side (Gamrodawon), where you can take a short break or purchase a small temple souvenir.

Gamrodawon (감로다원)

Although the cafe caught my attention, my eyes rapidly explored the venue and atmosphere. I remember feeling so high, not because I was on a hill but because I was excited and overwhelmed by the situation.

Although there were some visitors, I could only hear the silence, peace, harmony, beauty, and sense of mystery everywhere. Of course, I knew that it was a temple area. But I didn't realize that blending the sense of blissfulness with the natural world could result in this seemingly out-of-this-world experience.

Realizing that the whole area is overwhelmingly exciting and huge, I thought of organizing my exploration by visiting each most important feature (religious structures and spots) one after the other according to proximity.

Remember that one thing could be more attractive and catchy, but the act of exploring it first could result in missing some more meaningful and relevant features. For example, the golden dragons on my far left caught my eye, but I decided to keep on with my plan to see each feature one at a time!

So, I decided to explore the features of...

Beopeumru (법음루)

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-beopgo-drum-pavilionBeomeumru (Drum, Fish, Cloud) Pavilion

Beopeumru is one of a Korean Buddhist temple's usual and most essential structures. This traditional-style structure houses a giant drum, a wooden fish drum, and a bronze cloud.

Beopgo (Dharma Drum)

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-beopgo-drumBeopgo (Dharma Drum)
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-beopgo-drum-1Beopgo (Dharma Drum) - side view

To beat the Beopgo means diffusing the sound of Buddha's teachings into the air and calling for the liberation of all sentient beings in heaven and hell through its sound.

Beating this Dharma Drum usually comes after striking the Beopjong (temple bell). Also, beating the drum tells people about significant events such as meetings and ceremonies.

Mokeo (먹어 - Wooden Fish)

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-meokeo-wooden-fishBomunsa Temple in Ganghwado County - Mokeo

Mokeo is a wooden fish drum. It is the original pattern for the smaller version, the Moktak (a small hand-held bell used by Buddhist monks and nuns). Mokeo symbolizes all creatures living in the water.

It is used to call monks to gather in the temple and also for ceremonies and events together with the tolling of the bell. One long strike means gathering, while two strikes mean mealtime.

Unpan (은판 - Cloud gong)

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-wunpan-cloud-plateUnpan (the small one hanging in the middle)

Unpan or Cloud Gong represents all living beings in the sky and serves as a liberating instrument for all airborne creatures. It is made of bronze or iron and shaped like a cumulous cloud.

It has two holes and an image of Buddha or a sutra. When struck, its sound helps the spirits of the dead find Buddha's Pure Land of Birth. It is also used to signal meal time; some hang it in the kitchen to protect from fire accidents.

Beomjonggak (범종각) (Temple Bell)

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-bell-pavilion-full-viewThe Bell Pavilion at Bomunsa Temple (보문사 강화도) in Ganghwa County, Gyeonggido, South Korea.

A Buddhist temple bell is usually made of bronze or iron. The character 'beom' means 'Brahma' (standing for the truth), and 'jong' means 'bell.'

The bell was originally used to gather people or tell them the time. Recently, the monks strike the temple bell for morning and evening services and other events and ceremonies.

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-bell-closeup-upper-viewThe ancient Bell at Bomunsa Temple (보문사 강화도) in Ganghwa County, Gyeonggido, South Korea.

Let me give some examples of the number of strikes and their meanings:

  • 28 strikes - means the lineage of Buddhist tradition (from Sakyamuni Buddha to Huineng [638-713])
  • Thirty-three strikes - means the Buddhist realms of 33 celestial worlds.
  • One hundred eight strikes - means that all living creatures can be liberated from all worldly pains, sufferings, and attachments.

Yoonjangdae (윤장대)

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-turning-pavilionFull view of Yoonjangdae (turning sutras)
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-turning-pavilion-roof-evesThe ornate and intricate sight of Yoonjangdae's roof support structure.

As you can see in the photo, it looks beautiful and intricately decorated with ornate carvings and attractive colors.

Small Shop
This shop sells those earthen curved tiles. When you purchase one, you can write your prayers or offerings on it. I reckon you can write the names of the people to whom you offer your prayers.

Jongmuso (종무소 - 무설예중전)
It is an expansive structure where you can do your official business.

Monk's Residence (봉향각)

I was struck upon seeing this excellent structure, so I also took photos of it. I read the signage and learned that this is the monk's private abode. Check out the beautiful flowers in the well-kept garden within this residential structure.

To The Left of the Monk's Residence is the Geuknakjeon (Paradise Hall), the central prayer building of Bomunsa Temple.

Hundred Buddha Small Statues
These hundreds of statuettes stand by the wall of the monk's residence, directly facing the Geuknakbojeon (Main Prayer Hall) and on the right-hand side of the steps leading towards the carved "Merciful Buddha" statue (마애관세음보살) up on the top of the hill.

bomunsa temple ganghwado hundred buddha sculptureJade sculpture of Buddhas

Looking closely at the Buddha figurines, you will see coins (mostly 100 Won) stuck or put on the crevices of each sculpture (I guess jade and granite stones).

I can readily assume that the coins on each statuette symbolize the believers' prayers, wishes, or dreams for good luck, wealth, happiness, and whatever they personally asked the Buddha.

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-steps-lanterns-viewSteps to the stone sculpture of Buddha

The Way To The Merciful Buddha
The steps, which started between the monk's residence and the main prayer hall, are appropriately laid and made of granite, the most common stone in the peninsula.

Since Buddha's birthday celebrations are fast approaching (I explored the day before the celebrations), you could find the colorful lotus lanterns hanging by the sides of the steps all the way to the top.

The steps make it easier to ascend the steep climb. Of course, you can take every break you want to make. Maybe you can meditate along the way, depending on your religious belief.

Buddhism welcomes any believer as long as you respect everything in the temple, including entering the prayer halls by leaving your shoes outside and entering through the side entrances and not through the central door, which is only for the monks.

My Ascension To The Merciful Buddha (Maaegwanseumbusal)

bomunsa temple steps to buddha sculptureBomunsa Temple in Ganghwado County - Way to Merciful Buddha Statue

Since my main goal of visiting and exploring Bomunsa Temple was to see the image of Buddha carved on the solid granite wall, I was getting more excited as I ascended, step by step, the way up to the sculpture.

I could feel the crisp breeze, which made the pine trees dance along. I could also smell the refreshing cool wind from the mud flats and the sea of Ganghwa Island flowing against the hill where Buddha's image had survived for hundreds of years.

I believe that my irregular mountain-hiking outdoor activity has paid off. Honestly, I didn't feel the steep climb was so challenging, but I was surprised to see other visitors trying to catch their breath with some difficulty while others seemed very fine, as if they were walking on flat ground.

I made a few stops not because of the steep climb but because of the sights and views from where I stood. There are some things one cannot see from the usual ground or point of view, but you can see lots of things from other viewpoints, such as reaching the higher ground, a hill, or a mountain to see the full view of a thing.

In this situation, I could see the temple area, especially the Ganghwa Island sea. From up here, I had a broader perspective of things along the way to Buddha's place.


There are two stops on the way: one is where you can purchase some refreshing drinks and sit down and enjoy the sea views. The second and closest to the top is where you can buy religious services and materials.

You can also take a sit and rest before reaching the top, which I did. Although my excitement piled up, I took time to look around and took some photos of the granite top area where the sculpture of Buddha stands.

Strong balusters made of granite stones serve as railings along the edges of the platform in front of the sculpted granite rock wall. You can also see the golden lotus lanterns, which I think are more expensive (for sponsors) than the other colored ones (such as the blue and red lanterns).

Finally, feeling ready to face the Buddha and pay my respects, I climbed the final steps and reached the flat and spacious area before the image of Buddha.


This is where you can offer your respects and supplications by either following the bowing gestures or simply standing up and praying outside the platform. I decided to do the second one as I am not a Buddhist but very respectful of the principles and beliefs of this ancient religion.

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-boddhisattva-temple-area-sea-viewThe rejuvenating sight of Ganghwa's sea and mudflat from Bomunsa's Merciful Buddha sculpture site.

I was so fascinated by the sculpture and the whole place that I took plenty of shots at various points, ensuring I got what I wanted. From where I comfortably stood, I also took photos of Gangwha Island's fantastic sea views.

Coming Down Half-Fulfilled

I thought I had accomplished my mission that day, seeing the Buddha with my own eyes. It was an incredible experience.

So far, seeing an image of Buddha sculpted in that size on the granite wall was my first experience. I can remember exploring them in Gyeongju City's Namsan Mountain - however, they are smaller.

Anyhow, I was coming down delighted but not fully satisfied because I was still exploring the whole temple area. More significant temple structures and features await me below.

Geukrakjeon (극락전)

Geukrakjeon is the most significant prayer hall in the temple area and the most visually striking structure. Its grandeur and intricate architectural details make it a centerpiece of the temple complex, drawing visitors from far and wide.

The hall's intentional placement at the center of the temple area symbolizes its spiritual significance and central role in the religious community.

Built in the traditional Buddhist style, Geukrakjeon showcases the timeless architectural elements that have come to define Buddhist temples. Its meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail reflect the reverence and care with which it was built.

Major events and celebrations within the temple are often centered around Geukrakjeon, emphasizing its importance as a gathering place for the community. The hall's spacious front yard is an ideal setting for ceremonies, rituals, and other significant observances.

The front yard of Geukrakjeon is adorned with a breathtaking display of lotus lanterns as an expression of devotion and anticipation. This dazzling sight is a beautiful tribute to Buddha, particularly as it coincides with the upcoming celebration of Buddha's birthday.

Samseonggak (삼성각)

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-samseonggak-stairs-viewEntrance of Samseonggak Hall
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-samseonggak-three-godsSamseonggak Hall and the three Buddhas
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-samseonggak-left-buddhaSamseonggak Hall and a painting of a Buddha among the three
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-samseonggak-center-buddhaSamseonggak Hall and another painting of a Buddha

Samseonggak (삼성각) is a picturesque and serene hall located just behind Geukrakbojeon Hall. It invites visitors to immerse themselves in its elevated and well-placed surroundings.

As you stand by the righthand side, you'll be greeted by the tranquil atmosphere and the beautiful paintings of Buddhas and Boddhisattvas adorning the hall, adding to the spiritual and aesthetic appeal of this sacred space.

The carefully crafted artwork and the hall's positioning create a sense of harmony and contemplation. Feeling the atmosphere of the relatively smaller prayer hall, I started showing my respects. It is a must-visit for anyone seeking a moment of peace and reflection.

Seoksil (Nahanjeon) Grotto

Seoksil Grotto has a surprisingly Western-style entrance column. On both sides of the entrance, you can find figures. Then, I slowly and respectfully passed through the entrance door and observed the images and symbols inside. Check out the photos below...


Just after a couple of minutes inside, I decided to come out and check out what they say about this place. I was glad to find the information about the Grotto with the following inscriptions...


This Grotto was built in 635 during the Silla Period (57BCE-935CE) to enshrine stone statues of Sakyamuni Buddha, Maitreya, and arhats (the perfected disciples of the Buddha).

The Grotto was constructed using a natural rock cave, and there are three arched gates at its entrance. The Grotto was reconstructed in 1812 and renovated again in 1980.

According to local legend, a Silla fisherman caught the statues in this Grotto from the sea with a net. In the fisherman's dream, an old monk appeared, saying the stones were Buddha statues from India. However, the statues are assumed not to be as old as the Grotto itself.

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-grotto-juniper-treeJuniper Tree (about 700 years old)

700-Year-Old Juniper Tree

In front of the Grotto is the old Juniper Tree. I want to share some information with you about what was written in the inscription about this tree. Chinese Junipers are commonly found in the southern region of Korea, Ulleungdo Island, and Japan.

Due to their strong scent, they are often used as incense in ancestral rituals and are frequently planted in gardens and parks. A particularly noteworthy Chinese Juniper is located on a rock in front of the Grotto of Bomunsa Temple.

This tree is estimated to be around 700 years old. It is designated as Incheon Monument No. 17. Despite appearing to have withered during the Korean War, it miraculously rejuvenated itself three years later and now stands at a height of 20 meters.

Surrounding the Juniper tree are miniature statues of all sorts, which believers left in exchange for their supplications.

Mill Stone

This millstone is one of the largest in South Korea I have seen so far. The inscriptions say it is ancient.

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-millstoneIt is an ancient huge millstone used by monks to grind their grains.

Taking A Break

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-old-tree-trunk-viewSits are available underneath this old tree (? yeard old) where I had my quick lunch.

After exploring the Grotto, I took a break to have my late lunch. I sat on the bench under the old tree and enjoyed the banana bread and coffee I had prepared.

It was a different taste when you went out and consumed your food than when you had it at home, right? I feel that anything I eat regularly at home is ten times more delicious when eaten outside! LOL!

Having had my fill, I continued my exploration. To the right-hand side of the Grotto, I could see the steps, not an extended one, leading towards another great-looking temple. Beautiful flowers were blooming along the sides of the steps as if they welcomed visitors in the early Spring.


bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-wabuljeon-front-viewBomunsa Temple in Ganghwado (Wabuljeon Hall)

Wabuljeon (와불전) Reclining Buddha Statue Hall
The Wabuljeon is standing tall above an elevated part of the hill and has steps only for able-bodied could climb. It is not so many steps, but not for the physically weak and disabled. However, the prize of getting up there is priceless.

I was surprised to find the granite stone-carved statue of Buddha in a reclining position. I am not so sure, but it should be about 10 meters long and 2 meters high (at the head part).

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-wabuljeon-reclining-buddha-2Bomunsa Temple in Ganghwa Island - Reclining Granite Sculpture of Buddha
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-wabuljeon-reclining-sleeping-buddha-3The reclining Buddha's closeup head part

The hall contains various images of Buddhist paintings, symbolic decorations, and other ornate Buddhist art.

Additionally, you get a great view of the temple area from the front side of the hall.

Then, just a few meters on the righthand side of Wabuljeon Hall, you can see 500 sculptures of Buddhist Nahan. I decided to take a couple of shots at the back view of the site (500 Nahan Sculptures) before I came down from Wabuljeon and proceeded to the 500 sculptures.

500 Nahan Sculptures

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-eobaeknahan-back-viewBomunsa Temple in Ganghwado - 500 Nahan Statues

500 Nahan Sculptures (오백나한) Eobaeknahan
I have never seen that many religious statues before. It was exciting and felt 'holy' to be in front of these highly revered people who lived their lives in total detachment from worldly thoughts and possessions.

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-eobaeknahan-pagoda-figures-view500 Nahan Sculptures (오백나한) Eobaeknahan (Bomunsa Temple in Ganghwa Island)

In the middle of the site stands the tall granite pagoda. Aside from its ornate symbolic sculpted arts, it has writings, which I suppose are sutra quotations.

While exploring the 500 sculptures, I was also silently meditating about how I am living my life and the direction I am treading. Yes, since I have a religious background, it only takes a little effort to relate to the spiritual aspects of Buddhism and other religious beliefs.

King Dragon Hall

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-dragon-king-hall-1Bomunsa Temple (보문사 강화도) in Ganghwa County, Gyeonggido, South Korea. [Golden King Dragon Hall]

Youngwangjeon (용왕전) King Dragon Hall
You can see the beautiful hall called the Youngwangjeon or the King Dragon Hall across the Grotto. Obviously, you will find the symbolic sculpture of giant golden dragons positioned in front of the hall.

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-dragon-1Golden King Dragon Hall
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-dragon-2Second Dragon
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-dragon-king-wide-structure-base-viewRoad below
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-dragon-king-buddah-birth-animals-viewAnimal Sculpture
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-dragon-sculptures-sea-viewGanghwado's Sea
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-golden-dragon-fish-viewGolden Fish at the King Dragon Hall

Inside the hall, you will see various paintings and images of Buddhas, other Buddhist saints, and revered figures.

It nicely overlooks the temple area and views the sea below the hill.

I quickly gathered my things since I felt satisfied with my accomplishment but anxious about the last bus's availability at the station.

bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-dragon-king-hall-leftside-front-viewGolden King Dragon Hall - Bomunsa Temple (보문사 강화도) in Ganghwa County, Gyeonggido, South Korea.
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-king-dragon-hall-front-sideSide view
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-king-dragon-hall-right-sideHall's ground
bomunsa-temple-ganghwado-king-dragon-buddha-hall-2Buddha sculpture

I descended towards the bus stop, doubling my steps, which was a lot easier than ascending. I inquired from the bus checker, who said that the bus would arrive soon, to my relief. It was almost 5 in the afternoon when I took the bus and came home after one and a half hours.

If you want to explore Bomunsa Temple in Ganghwa, you can take the express bus (#3000) from nearby Shinchon Station in Seoul to Ganghwa Bus Terminal. Take bus 31 or 35 from the terminal to Bomunsa Temple's bus stop.

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