Yakcheonsa Temple is one of the significant Buddhist temples and the most popular one on Jeju Island. First-timers and guests come to see this religious site for various reasons.
Clearly, believers come to worship, find peace, study more, or meet with their spiritual mentors. On the other hand, ordinary visitors and travelers come to explore and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the temple structures and the surroundings.
The tale of the beginning of Yakcheonsa Temple is unknown as there are no remaining documents. Throughout the Unified Silla age, a large international temple called Beophwasa is located midway up Mt. Hallasan, which is not far from the temple and its associated hermitages nearby.
Yakcheonsa Temple is sitting on a site where a mineral water spring flows all year round. Before the temple was built, a temple called Yaksuam was there before. "Yaksuam" means healing water.
According to some records, Venerable Bang Donghwa stayed at the hermitage in the Jungmun area to recuperate after his imprisonment.
Bang Donghwa was imprisoned due to his involvement with the anti-Japanese freedom movement organized by Jeju Island's religious community.
Believing that the mineral water he drunk made him well again, he started to build Yaksuam Temple to express his gratitude to the Buddha. During his lifetime, he developed his method as a Buddhist practitioner.
As mentioned, Yaksuam Temple was built long before Venerable Hye-in established the Yakcheonsa. Yaksuam is a thatched-roofed temple with a similar style typical on the island during that period.
Yaksuam Temple was a small 59 square meters (640 square feet) structure sitting on 1,490 square meters (16,010 square feet) of land.
The full-scale building and construction on Yakcheonsa began in 1982. Also, the 30 meters (98 feet) high Daejeok-gwangjeon was built, including its basement.
The additional religious facilities and items were set up. This setting includes:
Now, you can see Yakcheonsa as a legendary holy temple on Jeju Island.
South Korea's biggest Vairocana Buddha and 18,000 small Buddhas are enshrined in Yakcheonsa's Dharma hall. These statues represent significant symbols of Buddhism faith, while at the same time, they somehow attract people's attention, including the ordinary and non-Buddhists.
Another thing you will not miss to notice is the large bell. It weighs 18,000 kilograms (39,680 pounds). The monks rang this bell on special occasions.
To educate visitors and guests, a guide monk would allow a 'temple stay' guest to ring the bell to hear the sound of the bell and somehow feel or experience what it is to be a Buddhist.
You will also learn that Yakcheonsa Temple is where you can find the spirit tablets of the past royal family, including King Munjong and his wife Queen Hyeondeok, King Yeongchinwang, and his spouse Yi Bang-ja.
Comparable to various other Buddhist temples in South Korea, Yakcheonsa has centers for ordinary guests to stay, eat, and practice meditation and take part in Buddhist rituals.
The Yakcheonsa monks practice Jogye Order Buddhism's tradition, which goes back to over 1,000 years ago. You can see these monks at Yakcheonsa walking around the temple grounds wearing their traditional grey robes that are quite distinct from other Buddhist denomination in the country.
You can see a lot of things to see and examine when you visit Yakcheonsa Temple. As you can notice, Yakcheonsa temple is distinctively different compared to most Korean temples. It has several floors and porches on each floor.
You will get a fantastic view of Buddhas' statues as you go up to the higher floors. However, you can only pray at the prayer hall on the temple's ground or first floor.
Most religions in the world tend to show symbols and paintings of their faith, such as depicting Buddha images, for example, doing a specific activity. You will find such depictions through the murals of Buddhist stories filling the walls inside the temple.
Also, there are numerous smaller sized buildings in the temple area. Inside those structures, you will find the hall of the 500 Arahan located near the temple's main gate.
If you take a close look at each small 500 statuettes of Buddhist disciples, you will notice that each of them is unique, portraying their individuality and special characters.
Another building houses a smaller Buddha sculpture surrounded by lotus blossoms under a pair of elaborately carved, protective dragons.
If you climb up to the hill to the left of the hall will find the temple of the Three Sages, where you can offer your supplications quietly sitting on a soft mat with the aroma of lighted candles in front.
Many Buddhist temples in Korea accept all visitors and allow them to look around, stick around longer, or even stay for a few days to learn about the religion and its practices.
Yakcheonsa Temple offers programs that allow all types of visitors to stay for a few days and learn more about them. Such a program is commonly called the 'templestay' program.
It is a program promoted and supported by the government to provide assistance to these temples and encourage 'religious' tourism at the same time. In a way, it is a great way to promote South Korea's cultural and religious aspects.
So, if you are interested in experiencing a Buddhist atmosphere, this might be a great place to start!
Part of Yakcheonsa Temple's temple stay program is to get you oriented to most of its religious items and tour you around its scenic corners and sights.
They offer a weekend program and a more extended three-day program that teaches you about Buddhism's traditional culture and practices, including meditation postures, learning more about Buddhist teachings, and Buddha's life, among others.
Particular Templestay Items
When you register for a templestay program, you will be guided by a monk who guides and teaches you according to your chosen schedule and itinerary.
Specific items of the program may include...
Hiking Around the Area
Yakcheon Temple includes a hiking activity in its program to experience nature, the environment, and the beauty of its surroundings while meditating about life using religious practices.
There are two Olle hiking tracks available, among many on the island. The closest ones are the Olle 7 and Olle 8. Hiking from the first one and ending at the second track is one of the temple's alternate methods of experiencing the beauty of its surroundings.
During the evening, you will experience another religious atmosphere at the temple. At sundown, you will hear the monks praying and reciting their incantations.
The atmosphere is serene, calming, and surreal as you will see the dim lights of candles sipping through the doors and walls of the temple.
Yakcheonsa is located east of Jungmun near Wolpyeong Harbor. You can take a mode of public transport from anywhere on the island. A bus, taxi, or a rented car will quickly bring you there.
In particular, you can easily reach the temple area from Jeju-si by taking bus number 600 from Jeju International Airport or any central bus terminal on the island.
Alternately, from the airport terminal, you can take bus 181 or 182 to leave at Jungmun High School. From there, you'll have to either walk or taxi the last 1.3 kilometers towards the coast to find the temple.
You can call a taxi from Jeju International Airport or anywhere on the island. Ensure that you have the name (or complete address) of Yakcheonsa in the Korean language. But not a problem if you spoke the language.
By Car. You can rent online in advance or find a company inside or nearby the airport as soon as you arrive. Riding your vehicle is more convenient if you move frequently on the island.
Address: 1165 Daepo-dong Seogwipo, Jeju, Korea (서귀포시 대포동 1165).
Thanks for reading, and please let me know should you need further information. Enjoy your travels!