Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju is one of the most celebrated and visited temples in the whole of South Korea.
Briefly, Bulguksa Temple has a very long history of ups and downs. The temple area was constructed during the Shilla Period in 751.
Traveling to Bulguksa and exploring its beautiful and serene environment is quite easy. You only need to get to Gyeongju City (or nearby places—Ulsan, Busan, etc) to access transports going to Bulguksa.
Personally, one of the reasons why I especially traveled and explored Bulkgusa is that it is worth my time and resources. The whole place was totally amazing, and I would never hesitate to come again… And again!
Below are the main features and are highly recommended to see and spend moments on…
Cheongungyo Bridge--Baegungyo Bridge
These two bridges connect two important structures in the temple—the Jahamun Gate that leads to Daeungjeon Hall (main hall of the temple area).
They are not merely functioning as bridges per se. But they have symbolic functions as well: they symbolize a bridge that links the people of the underworld and the world of Buddha above.
Beomyeongnu Pavilion--Jwangyeongnu Pavilion
Beomyeongnu Pavilion is a newly-constructed pavilion and a smaller version of the old one. The Jwangyeongju Pavilion is the one situated to the East of Beomyeongnu Pavilion.
They suffered destruction during the end of the Joseon Period but were reconstructed later on.
A pavilion for Buddhist Scriptures called Gyeongju Pavilion is presumed to be where the scriptures had been kept, but the location of the structure cannot be found.
Daeungjeon Hall (Main Religious Activity Hall)
Daeungjeong Hall is where the statue of Sakyamuni Buddha is enshrined and venerated. The hall has a well-preserved stone works, such as the stylobates and lanterns.
Also, you can still see the reconstructed architecture and paintings that are preserved and stood through time.
Museoljeon Hall is believed to be the oldest structure built in the temple area. Its construction was ordered by King Munmu of Silla Dynasty.
The hall has been used for various Buddhist lectures including the Lotus Sutra lecture.
Birojeon Hall is a small temple where supplications of the people are being offered—especially offered by a monk.
It is where the statue of Vairocana Buddha is enshrined.
It is one of the most important sacred temples in Bulguksa. It shrines the image of Avalokitesvara—the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Structurally, Gwaneumjeon Hall is rectangular in shape and has three rooms on the front side, three rooms in the back part has four inner columns, and it has a ‘multi-layered quadrangular pyramid style roof.
Yeonhwagyo Bridge – Chilbogyo Bridge
Buddhists believe that people who achieved nirvana (enlightenment) can go up and down on it.
One hint: notice the lotus flowers carved in each step of Yeonhwagyo Bridge.
The importance of ‘lotus’ flower in Buddhism is that it is associated with a person’s achievement of enlightenment (blooming lotus flower). Sure, you know this! ^^
It is a sanctuary of Amitabha Buddha statue. The statue stands 1.66 meters tall. It features a broad shoulder, barrel chest, and slender waistline.
These statue features indicate the way the Unified Shilla period portray Buddha’s characteristics.
This pagoda does not only look complicated but realistically made with much skills and brilliance of its creator.
It is unique if compared with other pagoda structures.
For one, the pagoda has varied shapes that complement each other: squares, octagons, circles, round shapes, etc. The length and width and thickness of each part were perfectly even.
This is a product of the Unified Shilla’s sense of art in the 8th century.
Sadly, this intricate pagoda also suffered major damages during the Japanese occupation period. However, it was reconstructed to its original form after the liberation.
You can easily find this pagoda in many places in Korea. Yes, it represents the traditional stone pagoda of Korea. Many of these are in this area—Gyeongju
Notice the more complex work on top (head ornament) of the pagoda. Many of such pagodas do not have them as they were either stolen or lost for various reasons.
For this pagoda, its head ornament was also gone before the 16th century but what it has now is modeled after the East and West stone pagoda of Silsangsa Temple in Namwon.
Many calls Seokgatap Pagoda as ‘Muyeongtap,’ which means a “Pagoda of No Shadow.”
More photos of the beautiful Bulguksa were taken but the ones featured here are especially chosen.
The following basic facilities could be useful for your visit here…
Overall, I really love and cherish my first experience at Bulguksa. I heard so much about it, and it exceeded my expectations. I was expecting much, but still, I was delighted with my experience.
Bare trees and branches are waiting for the spring to bloom their beautiful flowers and foliage. I would love to revisit this place either during spring or autumn. Cannot wait to do it soon!
As this temple is very popular, various transports travel in this area. You can also take a taxi from Gyeongju Downtown to here.
Buses with numbers 10 and 11 pass the Bulguksa’s access road. You can take any of these numbers from the city. If you get off at the Intracity Bus Terminal, go across the road and check out the small waiting area (bus stop).
Take #11 as it takes a shorter time travel than #10.
Express Bus Terminal
Take bus 700 to get to the temple.
Circular Tour Bus is also available at the bus terminal.
Tour Bus and private vehicles are allowed in the area as there is a parking space (not for free, though!).
There are many places to explore close to the site. The following are my recommendations...
You can also stay nearby Bulguksa Temple using the cheaper accommodation. There are no big hotels available in the area.
Hanok Experience (Traditional Korean house stay)
Minbak (private house with room for overnight stay)
Thanks and hope you have a wonderful journey.