Buddhist temples in South Korea are one of the top travel
destinations among visitors. Religious and atheists alike stay, peep,
drop by, or pray at Korean temples.
According to the records, South Korea alone has some 900 traditional Buddhist temples. There are about 20,000 of them in total. Temples dotted the Korean Peninsula as they are an essential part of the landscape.
During my early days in the country, I was immediately introduced by religious friends to a temple in Seoul. I remember that there were introductory sessions of Buddhism to foreigners and visitors at Lotus Lantern Temple.
The trainer monk taught us how to do the proper breathing exercises before meditating (more on this below). I readily learned and found it quite surprising. It was very relaxing, serene, and fulfilling.
However, I can also recall that I had a bit of faith ‘crisis’ for a few days after my first visit. My spiritual director explained to me that it was alright for me to respect and learn about this religion as a Christian believer. It was a form of religious dialogue. Ah, enlightenment, indeed!
The most popular one in central is the Jogyesa Temple. Visitors flock the temple ground especially during Buddha's birthday celebrations.
Okay, returning to the essential points of this page.
On this page, you will find some descriptions of the temples in South Korea…
As much as the temples represent religion and religiosity among
believers, they also reflect art and beauty. The faith of Buddhist
believers, especially monks, are manifested through artistic objects.
These forms of arts include temple designs, colorful paintings, intricate designs and wood carvings, sculptures, paintings, pagodas, stupas, and handicrafts among others.
Another manifestation of arts includes how the monks position buildings and which ones are placed at what specific location. This has to do with the typical layout of the temple.
Traditionally, Korean temples are composed of the following structures…
I know that those need much explaining. However, I prefer not to describe them in detail here. I would rather study them deeper and create another page for it. Hope that’s alright.
Now, what I would like to introduce and describe further to you are the available services to foreigners and other visitors of some temples.
Let’s find out…
When you are doing the temple stay programme at the temples in South Korea, you will basically experience the following activities…
If you are reading this, you probably are already either feeling excited or a bit bored. Fortunately, a temple stay programme offers more activities which could be more exciting and meditative at the same time.
Here are most of them…
Lotus lantern-making is not just creating a nice-looking pinkish (or another color) lantern for decoration. The process in making it is a form of meditation. Carefully shaping the lotus petals. Making them look like newly-bloomed lotuses in a fresh pond.
Lotus-making symbolizes your wishes to enliven the universe with wisdom and compassion to all creatures.
Making the Buddhist beads is also another form of meditative activity. In fact, the beads itself is being used by monks and believers when meditating or praying.
Of course, walking the temple ground is another method of meditation. It is also enjoyable at the same time because you will have the scenic views of the peninsula and nature.
Historically, the temple stay program at the temples in South Korea started in 2002. It was part of promoting the Korean Buddhism religion and culture. Buddhism is also part of Korea’s past being handed-over to the present by royals who adopted the religion.
So, briefly, the following are the figures when the Temple Stay programme started…
According to Dale (koreantemples.com), each province is represented in the program. The program offers visitors a variety of cultural and scenic experience of Korea. Except for Jeju island, all provinces join in the program.
The rates of the program can range from 40,000 to 100,000 Korean Won depending on the length of your stay.
The following are the regular participants of the Temple Stay Program:
Myogaksa (Seoul), Geumsunsa (Seoul), Bongeunsa (Seoul), The International Seon Center (Seoul), Hwagyesa (Seoul), Jeondeungsa (Gyeonggi-do), Yongjoosa (Gyeonggi-do), Hwaunsa (Gyeonggi-do), Woljeongsa (Gangwondo), Guinsa (Cheuncheongbukdo), Beopjusa (Chungcheongbukdo), Sudeoksa (Chungcheongnamdo), Geumsansa (Jeollabukdo), Seonunsa (Jeollabukdo), Mihwangsa (Jeollanamdo), Jikjisa (Gyeongsangbukdo), Donghwasa (Daegu), Golgulsa (Gyeongju), Haeinsa (Gyeongsangnamdo), Beomeosa (Busan), Magoksa (Chungcheongnamdo), Naesosa Temple (Jeollabukdo).
There might be some changes or developments. So, it could be more or fewer temples are joining in the program at this stage.
However, the Temple Stay Program is gaining popularity attracting not only individuals but also schools. It means that visitors come in as groups.
I have been to various religious structures, but the Buddhist temples in South Korea might require more etiquettes than other places.
So, if you have never been to any temple in Korea, the following will be your guide…
At Temple Hall – taking photos is not allowed unless you got a permission
It sounds like a difficult and challenging behavior to keep, but it will come naturally to you especially when you practice a little bit before visiting a temple.
Keeping these etiquettes will give you a glimpse and even feel how the monks live and behave.
The following temples include some of the temples that are participating in the Temple Stay Program mentioned above. These temples represent the most popular ones located and representing all provinces of the peninsula.
Haeinsa – Hapcheon, Bongeunsa – Seoul, Jogyesa – Seoul, Bulguksa – Gyeongju, Tongdosa – Yangsan, Beomeosa – Busan, Beopjusa – Boeun county, Magoksa – Gongju, Hwaeomsa – Gurye county, Wonjeongsa – Pyeongchang,
Songgwangsa – Suncheon, Geumsansa – Gimje, Guinsa – Danyang, Bongwonsa (Seoul), Naksansa (Yangyang county), Daeheungsa (Haenam County), Buseoksa (Yeongju), Sudeoksa (Yesan County), Mihwangsa (Haenam county),
Ssanggyesa (Hadong county), Jikjisa – Gimcheon, Sinheungsa – Sokcho, Doseonsa – Seoul, Baegyangsa – Jangseong county, Seonunsa – Gochang county,
Yongjusa – Hwaseong, Silsangsa – Namwon, Naesosa Temple – Buan County, Bongseonsa – Namyangju, Silleuksa – Yeoju, Mireuksa – Iksan, Hwangnyongsa – Gyeongju, Yeonghwasa – Seoul, Bomunsa – Bucheon, Yeonjuam – Gwacheon,
Pagyesa – Daegu, Bogyeongsa – Pohang, Baengnyeonsa – Gangjin county,
Gwaneumsa – Jeju City, Cheongpyeongsa –, Cheongpyeong 1 ri, Gangwondo,
Beopjusa – Beopjusa-ro, Bhungcheongbukdo, Hyangilam – Jeollanamdo,Jeungsimsa - Gwangju
– Jeollanamdo, Oeosa – Pohang-si, Gyeongsangbukdo, Botapsa – Jincheon-gun, Chungcheongbukdo; Tapsa – Jinan-gun, Jeollabukdo; Unjusa –
Hwasun-geun, Jeollanamdo; Bulyoungsa – Uljin-geun, Gyeongsangbukdo
I will add more temples above as I progress and further update this page. Many thanks for visiting this page.
Peace be with you!