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Seoul Searching | Bongeunsa Temple.

Located smack dab in the middle of the Gangnam - amidst tower blocks, high-rise apartments, and the hustle and bustle of city life - is a place of peace, calm, and tranquility. This seemingly peculiar site (and I say peculiar because it's located right across COEX Mall) is the Bongeunsa Temple, a Buddhist temple with more than 1000 years of history.
A stark contrast against the bustling city.
Originally known as Gyeonseongsa Temple, Bongeunsa was founded in 794 during the reign of King Wonseong of the Shilla Dynasty. Its founder was National Master Patriarch Yeonhei, the highest ranking monk during that time. With orders from Queen Jeonghyeon, the temple was refurbished in 1498 and was then renamed as Bongeunsa.
A monk statue located near Jinyeomun Gate, the first main entrance. 
Temple run!
Explore the beauty of Bongeunsa after the jump!
Buddhism was severely repressed during the Joseon Dynasty, when Confucianism was all the rage in Korea and all branches of learning in the country were rooted in Confucian thought. Bongeunsa Temple then became the cornerstone of the revival of Korean Buddhism, through the efforts of Queen Munjeong and Venerable Bowoo.
Jinyeomun Gate, the one-lined pillar gate.
The Sacheonwang-sang or Statues of the Four Heavenly Kings.
Each king guards one of the four directions.
The statues are located just beside the gate.
They're the first things you'll notice once you step inside.
At present, Bongeunsa is carving a new milestone in Korean Buddhism through its practice-oriented temple management. Through its Templestay Program, Bongeunsa aims to spread Buddhism and promote Korean culture to its visitors, foreigners and locals alike.
A line of lanterns leading to the Beopwangru,the Dharma Hall.
The Panjeon, where the wooden blocks of Avatamsaka Sutra are enshrined.
This is also the oldest building in the Bongeunsa Temple.
The program is actually an overnight stay in the temple, where participants can experience daily monastic life. This includes tea ceremonies, monastic meals, chanting rituals, making Buddhist rosaries, meditation, and the 108 prostrations (bowing). Also part of the program is a tour of the temple, which allows you to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and soothe your mind and body at the same time.
Incense sticks.
Lotus candles.
Lotus flowers.
These are offerings placed in front of Daewongjeon, the main Buddha Hall.
If you simply wish to take a tour of the temple and its surroundings, you may do so even without signing up for the Templestay program. The temple operates all year round; its doors open as early as 3:30 am, when the morning chants usually begin.
Daewongjeon, the main Buddha Hall.
A roof of lanterns overhead.
Twice a day, at 4:10 in the morning and 6:40 in the afternoon, a percussion ceremony using the four instruments is performed by the monks of the temple. These instruments can be seen at the Bell Pavilion, or the Jongru, located just beside the Main Buddha Hall.
The Jongru (Bell Pavilion).
The Dharma Drum.
This ceremony is meant to save and awaken beings on the ground using the drum, beings underwater using the wooden fish, beings in the sky using the cloud drum, and beings under the ground using the gong.
The Dharma Bell.
The Cloud-shaped Gong and the Wooden Fish.
In the spring, Bongeunsa gets dolled up with colorful lanterns in honor of Buddha's birth. We were lucky to have visited the temple on the eve of Buddha's birthday, as we got to bask in the beauty of these lanterns, and had the chance to participate in some of the temple's activities.
The Statue of Three Buddhas, a National Treasure in Korea.
The most memorable thing that we did during our visit was bathing the baby Buddha, a ritual conducted every year during Buddha's birthday. This special ritual dates back to as early as the 5th century in China, and we had the rare opportunity to experience it for ourselves.
Yue bathing the Buddha.
Using a ladle, you scoop perfumed water and pour it over the statue of baby Buddha. This is done three times while reciting a Buddhist prayer. This ritual highlights a universal message of how easy it is to wash away physical dirt, yet it's very difficult to cleanse one's self of greed, anger, and ignorance. 
Lotus flower in bloom.
Aside from bathing the Buddha, my son also had the chance to make his own lotus lantern together with the other visitors. Yue was probably the youngest visitor on the list.
Yue learning how to make a lotus lantern. Thank you, kind ahjumma for helping us out! :)
Find Yue's handwriting. :)
The most well-known symbol of Buddhism, the lotus represents purity of the body, speech, and mind, and the blossoming of good deeds. Lotus lanterns, on the other hand, signify the removal of ignorance with the light of awakening.
Showing off his finished product!
These lanterns can also be seen hanging all over the city as part of the Lotus Lantern Festival, an annual event also held in honor of Buddha's birth. 
The float which will be used for the Lotus Lantern Festival.
This event usually kicks off with the lighting of the Jangeumdang, a large lantern that symbolizes Buddhism, and is culminated by an impressive lantern parade in the heart of Seoul.
The Statue of Yeonji Gwanseum, placed in the center of a lotus pond.
No trip to Bongeunsa Temple would be complete without seeing the Mireuk Daebul, the Great Statue of the Maitreya Buddha. This statue is so huge, that it would be impossible for anyone to miss it. 
The Great Statue of Maitreya Buddha. 
With a height of 23 meters, the Mireuk Daebul is the tallest stone statue in Korea. It's also the symbol most commonly associated with Bongeunsa Temple.
To get to Bongeunsa, take the subway to Bongeunsa Temple Station Exit 1, or the Samseong Station Exit 6.

Bongeunsa Temple
531, Bongeunsa-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

28 replies:

Eileen said...

Amazing experience. I can't believe that the temple was built centuries and centuries ago! Wow. Thanks for the new knowledge about the Lotus. I did not know it had that much significance in Korean culture.

Xon said...

I've never visited anything like this aside from the one in China. It's amazing how they stay true to their tradition.

Unknown said...

I Haven't experienced being in a temple and I have not known about the lotus. This is very informative.

Angela said...

Seoul is on my bucket list of places to go. This has just made me realise how much I want to visit South Korea.

Chad said...

I've never been to Seoul but i keep on hearing how amazing it is. Soon i hope! Soonnnn. Thanks for the awesome review.

Jessa b said...

Thanks for bringing me to Seoul again through your blog! and by the way your son looks so adorable!

Theresa said...

This experience looks incredible! The architecture is so beautiful.

Bindu Thomas said...

I've never been to Seoul, so this was really informative for me. The pictures are awesome.

Sharon Rolland said...

Seoul is on my list of places to go. I love colors and the architecture. Great read with awesome pics.

GiGi Eats said...

What a gorgeous temple! It's so crazy how civilization has built its way right around it. I remember when I went to Rome it was like, oh hey look there is a mall, a gas station, a hotel, a restaurant, the Colosseum, a restaurant, etc etc - LOL! I was so amazed that these historic places were just sprinkled throughout the city.

Gervin Khan said...

This place is one on my list. I do love visiting historical places like this and I am happy to know about the symbols of lotus flower with their life.

Lyosha Varezhkina said...

Seoul looks fab! what a place! I love temples so much, it sure is magical

Catherine Santiago Jose said...

That sounds like an amazing experience for you. And I am sure that you've learned a lot in visiting that beautiful and historical place of Bongeunsa Temple.

Joanna said...

I can imagine you could spend the entire day here, just enjoying the silence. The temple looks so beautiful, the architecture is very price and so colorful.

Owen G said...

Awesome pics here. I love to see the line of lanterns and lotus candles in person. It looks so lovely.

Monidipa said...

Seoul looks great. I have never been there. I'd love to visit there. Great pictures and description.

The Virginia Nymph said...

Your little guy is too cute! And that line of lanterns leading to the Beopwangru,the Dharma Hall was beautiful! Stunning really.

breenarina said...

What a wonderful place to visit. I really would love to travel here someday and enjoy the sights!

Diana said...

Such a beautiful and colorful location. And your photos are great!

Italian Trip Abroad said...

The amazing culture of East Asia is great! I wish I can visit it one day.

Nina Cochingco said...

Such a beautiful place and tradition. And I'm sure the people here are kind and hospitable..

Alexandra Cook said...

Looks like you found a great spot to enjoy with your family! I haven’t been to this place but interesting destinations like this are definitely on our list!

Mudpie Fridays said...

Such beautiful photos! This is completely and utterly spectacular!
I would love to travel here so much. Thanks for sharing

Preet said...

So many things to love about Korea! It's really beautiful out there. Truly a bucket list material.

Kathy Balmores said...

Sigh Korea. This is one of the places that will always be in my bucket list and seeing all the photos just makes me want to visit more.

Dis Happy Home said...

When my husband was stationed in Korea he went to the beautiful temple. One day I hope to visit Korea.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing experience to be able to stand amongst history like that! how absolutely gorgeous.

Chris T. said...

South Korea has always been on my bucket list. Your pictures are so great. Makes me feel like I had been already there..