Bongamsa Temple

It’s been a year since my last post, which was about Yongjusa Temple on Buddha’s Birthday. There’s no post better to end my dry spell than writing about Bongamsa Temple (봉암사).

A banner in front of the main hall or Daeungbojeon (대웅보전) says, 부처님 오신 날 meaning "the day when the Buddha came".

A banner in front of the main hall or Daeungbojeon (대웅보전) says, 부처님 오신 날 meaning “the day when the Buddha came”.

Unlike other temples in Korea, Bongamsa Temple is open to the public for only one day of the year–on Buddha’s Birthday. Founded in 879 during the Silla Dynasty, Bongamsa Temple is located at the base of Mt. Huiyang (희양산) in Northwest Gyeongsangbuk-do.

First view of Bongamsa Temple with Mt. Huiyang in the background.

First view of Bongamsa Temple with Mt. Huiyang in the background.

Steve and I were fortunate to have visited the temple three years ago and I remember it vividly.

Beautiful Korean countryside.

Beautiful Korean countryside.

Since it was a last minute trip, we figured we were better off driving there than taking public transportation. We encountered heavy traffic on the way there so we arrived after 3pm.

Cars were rerouted since the main road was already full of parked cars on both sides.

Cars were rerouted since the main road was already full of parked cars on both sides.

After finding a nice spot to park, we started the 20-minute walk to the temple.

Valley stream and our first view of Mt. Huiyang's granite peaks.

Valley stream and our first view of Mt. Huiyang’s granite peaks.

Midway through our walk, a very nice woman in traditional garb offered us a ride to the temple.

Bongamsa Temple by Johanne Miller-6

She dropped us off near the entrance of the temple and we thanked her profusely. We walked along the path, guided by the colorful lanterns. As we neared the temple, all we heard was the stream’s flowing water and everywhere we looked was luscious greenery.

Bongamsa Temple by Johanne Miller-Diptych 2

Bongamsa Temple is one of the “Nine Mountain Schools of Seon (or Zen)”. In 1982, Bongamsa Temple and its surrounding area were closed off to the public for a better meditation environment. The Iljumun or one pillar gate stands as the boundary between secular and spiritual worlds.

Iljumun

Iljumun

Walking around the temple grounds, I experienced a sense of peace and calm unlike any other place I’ve been to in Korea.

Flowers and trees all over the temple grounds.

Flowers and trees all over the temple grounds.

    One of the temple halls has a tall chimney (gulttuk) for its under-floor heating system (ondol).

One of the temple halls has a tall chimney (gulttuk) for its under-floor heating system (ondol).

People were able to sit and relax outside one of the temple halls.

People were able to sit and relax outside one of the temple halls.

Worshippers removing their shoes before entering the temple.

Worshippers removing their shoes before entering the temple.

Kids enjoying the natural spring water.

Kids enjoying the natural spring water.

My favorite place in the temple grounds was behind the Geungnakjeon Hall (Nirvana Hall) where I had a good shade and a somewhat good view of the paintings on the side of the main hall.

My favorite place in the temple grounds was behind the Geungnakjeon Hall (Nirvana Hall) where I had a good shade and a somewhat good view of the paintings on the side of the main hall.

Bongamsa Temple has 5 cultural treasures: Jeongjindaesa Wonotap 정진대사 원오탑 (Treasure No.171), Jijeungdaesa Jeokjotap 지증대사 적조탑 (Treasure No.137), Jeongjindaesa Wonotapbi 정진대사 원오탑비(Treasure No.172), Jijeungdaesa Jeokjotapbi 지증대사 적조탑비 (Treasure No.138), and a 3-story stone pagoda 삼층석탑 (Treasure No.169). The first two are stupas for preserving relics of Jeongjindaesa Geung Yang (878∼956), a famous Buddhist monk in the end of the Shilla and the early stage of Goryeo, and Jijeungdaesa Do Heon (824-882), the founder of the temple. The third and the fourth were monuments honoring these two extraordinary Buddhist monks. The last one is a pagoda that has a uniquely preserved top or finial which includes the sacred jewel, dragon jewel, and the flame.

3-story stone pagoda which signifies death and new eternal life.

3-story stone pagoda which signifies death and new eternal life.

Besides the banner outside the main hall, Bongamsa Temple was simply decorated with white lanterns only in its main courtyard. Visitors can write their wishes on paper which were placed on each lantern.

A woman reads one of the wishes on a lantern.

A woman reads one of the wishes on a lantern.

A father teaching his children how to pay tribute to Buddha.

A father teaching his children how to pay tribute to Buddha.

As the sun started to set, few people were left and we experienced how it must be like for the monks 364 days of the year.

A serene place surrounded by the beauty of nature.

A serene place surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Here’s Steve’s video of our visit:

Bongamsa Temple is one of the most beautiful temples I’ve been to in Korea and it is certainly the most peaceful. If you get a chance, visit the temple this coming Buddha’s birthday (March 17th).

For more information about Bongamsa Temple and how to get there, go to their website or read Robert Koehler’s articles on his site and on the KTO’s website. You may also call the tourism hotline, 02-1330.

Bongamsa Temple address: 485 Wonbuk-ri, Gaeun-eup, Mungyeong-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do (경상북도 문경시 가은읍 원북리 485)

What is the most serene place you’ve been to?

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9 Comments

  1. Totally remembered going here with you. One of our best trips. The traffic getting there though!!!! OY!!!!

    Lovely post!

    1. Indeed. Thanks, my love! Looking forward to more trips with you! ;)

  2. Glad to see you’re posting again! Keep it up!

    1. Thanks Jo-Anna! I’ll do my best this time around. :)

  3. […] learn more about Bongamsa, check out Jo’s recent post on this amazing […]

  4. […] Order of Korean Buddhism, the beautiful monastery is open to visitors only one day a year. See this post for more […]

  5. This is one of the things I wanted to do while in Korea and never got a chance too. Thanks for sharing. Love the pictures.

    1. Thanks so much! :) I just checked out your website. Brilliant name and awesome posts!

  6. […] Canopy of leaves in a protected forest outside Bongamsa Temple. […]

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