Korean Buddhist temples

Buddhist temples are an important part of the Korean landscape. This article gives a brief overview of Korean Buddhism, then describes some of the more important temples in Korea. Most Korean temples have names ending in -sa (사, 寺), which means "temple" in Sino-Korean.

Many temples, like Sudeoksa, offer visitors a Temple Stay program.[1]


A distinctive form of Buddhism evolved in Korea. This was facilitated by the geographical location and cultural conditions. Buddhism first arrived in Korea in 372 in Goguryeo. In 374 the influential Han Chinese monk Ado arrived in the kingdom and inspired King Sosurim of Goguryeo the following year. The first two temples Seongmunsa and Ilbullansa were built in 375 on the order of the king. Buddhism soon became the national religion of Goguryeo.

With the advent of Taoism in 624 the rulers began to suppress Buddhism and its importance quickly declined. The Baekje Kingdom, on the other hand, flourished under the influence of Buddhism. In 552 Buddhist scriptures were sent to Japan. This eventually led to the establishment of Buddhism in Japan.

In Silla, Buddhism was important, too. It flourished during the reign of Jinheung of Silla (540 to 576). Heungnyunsa was built, where any commoner could become a monk. The study of scriptures was greatly highlighted. For about 250 years Buddhism thrived in Later Silla.

Buddhism was admired by Wang Geon, who was enthroned as Taejo of Goryeo. Throughout the country pagodas and other Buddhist structures were built.

In late Goryeo, Buddhism became linked with corruption of the regime. A great number of monks were involved in politics. Bit by bit anti-Buddhist sentiments grew, leading to chaos which was ended by the establishment of Joseon. Taejo of Joseon himself was a devout Buddhist, but the influence of monks was reduced. At times monks were treated as outcasts, but generally there was no hindrance to their practising. Buddhist heritage can be found all over the country in the form of temples, pagodas, sculptures, paintings, handicrafts and buildings.

Typical Layout

A typical Korean temple consists of the following elements:[2]

  1. Iljumun (일주문, 一柱門) - One pillar gate found at the entrance to temple grounds
  2. Sacheonwangmun (사천왕문, 四天王門), also Cheonwangmun - Gate of the Four Heavenly Kings, to mark the entrance of the temple's boundaries
  3. Beopdang (법당, 法堂) - Dharma hall, used for lectures and sermons
  4. Monastic quarters
  5. Jonggo (종고, 鐘鼓) - bell tower
  6. Daeungjeon (대웅전, 大雄殿) - main shrine hall housing the temple's main Buddha images
  7. Pagoda
  8. Myeongbujeon (명부전, 冥府殿) - judgment hall, housing an image of the bodhisattva Kshitigarbha (지장, 地藏) and depictions of the Buddhist hell
  9. Nahanjeon (나한전, 羅漢殿) - Hall of the Arhats
  10. Sansingak (산신각, 山神閣) - a shamanic shrine dedicated to the mountain god Sanshin (산신, 山神), who can be depicted as both a male or a female.[3] Sometimes called chilseong-gak (칠성각, 七星閣) or samseong-gak (삼성각, 三星閣), this shrine is usually found behind the main shrine hall.
  11. Hermitage

Beomeosa in Busan.
Jeungsimsa in Gwangju.
Typical layout (to be completed)

North Korea

It is reported that many temples have been taken over by the state. Once the government controls these buildings, they are used mainly as museums of ancient Korean traditions. A few temples are still in use and they are considered National Treasures. Though few temples in large cities survived the US carpet bombings of the Korean War, many still survive in rural areas, and some of the more famous, large temples destroyed have since been rebuilt (such as the Ryongtongsa and Singyesa). All in all, there are 300 temples,[4] but only in a few are religious services permitted. In the list that follows, temples marked with a "×" were destroyed during the Korean War or no longer exist for other reasons; temples marked with an "*" have been rebuilt.

Yongmyongsa in the 1930s
Singyesa in the 1930s
Sogwangsa in the 1930s
Mahayon Hermitage in the 1930s
Pictures taken in the 1930s

South Korea

(a short text should be given here, describing the evolution of the temples from 1945 till now).

Notable temples in both Koreas

The following list is given by provinces (SK=South Korea, NK=North Korea), but it also can be sorted by Romanized or Korean names. Some Korean names, and founding dates are to be completed (the founding date applies to the location, even if none of the original structures survive). Recommended policy: no new entries, except from temples having their own English page in Wikipedia.

Province Temple Location Hangul Hanja Founded
SK SeoulGyeongguksa753 Jeongneung-dong, Jongno-gu경국사慶國寺1325
SK SeoulGwaneumsa관음사觀音寺
SK SeoulDoseonsaBukhansan : 264 Ui-dong, Gangbuk-gu도선사道詵寺862
SK SeoulBongeunsaSamseong-dong, Gangnam-gu봉은사奉恩寺794
SK SeoulBongwonsaBongwon-dong, Seodaemun-gu봉원사奉元寺889
SK SeoulYeonghwasa영화사永華寺
SK SeoulJogyesaGyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu조계사曹溪寺1395 & 1910
SK SeoulJingwansa진관사津寬寺
SK GyeonggiBomunsa
SK GyeonggiJeondeungsa전등사傳燈寺
SK GyeonggiBongnyeongsa
SK GyeonggiBongseonsa봉선사奉先寺969
SK GyeonggiSilleuksaYeoju-gun신륵사神勒寺580
SK GyeonggiYeonjuam
SK GyeonggiYongjusaHwasan, Taean-eup, Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-si용주사龍珠寺854
SK GyeonggiJajaeam
SK GangwonBaekdamsanear Seoraksan, Inje-gun백담사百潭寺650 circa
SK GangwonSK Guryongsa
SK GangwonNaksansa낙산사洛山寺671
SK GangwonDeungmyeong-nakgasa
SK GangwonSamhwasa삼화사三和寺
SK GangwonSinheungsaSeoraksan, Sokcho-si신흥사(향성사)神興寺(香城寺)650 circa
SK GangwonOseamSeoraksan오세암五歲庵643
SK GangwonWoljeongsaOdaesan, Pyeongchang-gun월정사月精寺643
SK GangwonCheongpyeongsa
SK North ChungcheongBeopjusaSongnisan, Naesongni-myeon, Boeun-gun법주사法住寺553
SK North ChungcheongGuinsaSobaeksan, Danyang County-gun구인사救仁寺1945
SK South ChungcheongMagoksaGongju-si마곡사麻谷寺640
SK South ChungcheongSudeoksaDeoksungsan, Deoksan-myeon, Yesan-gun수덕사修德寺1308
SK North GyeongsangDonghwasaPalgongsan, Dohak-dong, Dong-gu, Daegu동화사桐華寺493 and 832
SK North GyeongsangPagyesa파계사把溪寺
SK North GyeongsangBogyeongsa
SK North GyeongsangBongjeongsaCheondeungsan, Andong-si봉정사鳳停寺672
SK North GyeongsangBuseoksaBonghwangsan, Yeongju-si부석사浮石寺676
SK North GyeongsangBulguksa (including Seokguram)Tohamsan, Jinheon-dong, Gyeongju City불국사佛國寺528 and 751
SK North GyeongsangGolgulsaYangbuk-Myeon, Gyeongju골굴사骨窟寺*
SK North GyeongsangGirimsaHamwolsan, Gyeongju기림사祇林寺643
SK North GyeongsangBaekryulsa in GyeongjuGeumgangsan, Dongcheon-dong, Gyeongju City백률사栢栗寺692
SK North GyeongsangHwangnyongsaTohamsan, Gyeongju National Park황룡사黃龍寺553
SK North GyeongsangJikjisaHwangaksan, Daehang-myeon, Gimcheon-si,직지사直指寺418
SK South GyeongsangSsanggyesaJirisan, Hwagae-myeon, Hadong-gun쌍계사雙磎寺772
SK South GyeongsangTongdosaChiseosan, Yangsan-si통도사通度寺646
SK South GyeongsangHaeinsaGayasan해인사海印寺802
SK South GyeongsangHaedong YonggungsaBusan해동용궁사海東龍宮寺
SK South GyeongsangBeomeosaGeumjeongsan, Busan범어사梵魚寺678
SK North JeollaEunsusaMaisan (Horse Ear Mountain), Jinan-gun은수사銀水寺
SK North JeollaGeumdangsaMaisan (Horse Ear Mountain), Jinan-gun금당사金塘寺814
SK North JeollaGeumsansaMoaksan, Gimje-si금산사金山寺600 and 770
SK North JeollaMireuksaIksan-si미륵사彌勒寺602
SK North JeollaNaesosaJinseo-myeon, Buan-gun내소사633
SK North JeollaSeonunsaDosolsan, Asan-myeon, Gochang-gun선운사禪雲寺577 [5]
SK North JeollaSilsangsa실상사實相寺
SK North JeollaTapsaJinan-gun탑사塔寺1885
SK South JeollaBaegyangsaBukha-myeon, Jangseong-gun백양사白羊寺632
SK South JeollaBaengnyeonsaDoam-myeon, Gangjin-gun백련사白蓮寺650 circa
SK South JeollaDaeheungsaDuryunsan, Samsan city, Haenam-gun대흥사大興寺514 ?
SK South JeollaGeumtapsaCheondeungsan, Podu-myeon, Goheung-gun금탑사金塔寺650 circa
SK South JeollaHwaeomsaJirisan, Masan-myeon, Gurye-gun화엄사華嚴寺544
SK South Jeolla Jeungsimsa Mudeungsan, Gwangju 증심사 証心寺
SK South JeollaMihwangsaDalmasan, Haenam-gun미황사美黃寺749
SK South JeollaSonggwangsaSonggwangsan,송광사松廣寺867 and 1190
SK South JeollaUnjusa (National Treasure #312)Hwasun-gun운주사雲住寺
SK Jeju IslandGwaneumsa
SK Jeju IslandYakcheonsa약천사藥泉寺
SK Jeju IslandBeophwasa
SK Jeju IslandSeondeoksa
NK PyongyangChongrungsa*Ryongsan-ri, Ryokpo-guyok정릉사
NK PyongyangKwangbopsa*Taesong-dong, Taesong-guyok광법사
NK PyongyangRyonghwasaKaeson-dong, Moranbong-guyok룡화사
NK PyongyangTong-kumgangamsaOsan-ri, Sunan-guyok동금강암사金剛)
NK PyongyangYongmyongsa×NK Moranbong Park, Moranbong-guyok영명사*
NK PyongyangPobun HermitageRyongbong-ri, Mangyongdae-guyok법운암
NK South PyonganAnguksaPonghak-dong, Pyongsong안국사503
NK South PyonganChongjinsaHyangpung-ri, Songchon-gun정진사
NK South PyonganPophungsaSinsong-ri, Pyongwon-gun법흥사
NK North PyonganChonjusaYongbyon천주사1684
NK North PyonganKaewonsaTangsang-ri, Kwaksan-gun개원사
NK North PyonganKumgwangsaKumgwang-ri, Uiju-gun금광사
NK North PyonganMannyonsaSongan-dong, Kusong만년사
NK North PyonganPohyonsaHyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun보현사普賢1025 circa
NK North PyonganPowolsaUhyon-ri, Kujang-gun보월사
NK North PyonganPakchon SimwonsaSangyang-ri, Pakchon-gun심원사
NK North PyonganRyongmunsaRyongdung Worker's District, Kujang-gun룡문사
NK North PyonganSounsaYongbyon서운사
NK North PyonganYanghwasaSangdan-ri, Taechon-gun양화사
NK North PyonganHabiro HermitageHyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun하비로암
NK North PyonganHwajang HermitageHyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun화장암
NK North PyonganKyejo HermitageHyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun계조암
NK North PyonganMansu HermitageHyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun만수암
NK North PyonganNungin HermitageHyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun능인암
NK North PyonganPuryong HermitageHyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun불영대
NK North PyonganSangwon HermitageHyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun상원암
NK South HwanghaeChahyesaSowon-ri, Sinchon-gun자혜사
NK South HwanghaeHakrimsa×Hakrim-ri, Changyon-gun학림사
NK South HwanghaeKangsosaKangho-ri, Paechon-gun강서사西
NK South HwanghaePaeyopsa×Paeyop-ri, Anak-gun패엽사
NK South HwanghaeSingwangsa×Singwang-ri, Haeju신광사
NK South HwanghaeWoljongsaWoljong-ri, Anak-gun월정사
NK South HwanghaeHanging Hermitage (Changsusan)Sorim-ri, Chaeryong-gun현암
NK South HwanghaeSongwol HermitageHakrim-ri, Changyon-gun송월암
NK North HwanghaeAnhwasaKoryo-dong, Kaesong안화사930
NK North HwanghaeHungwangsa×Sambong-ri, Kaepung-gun흥왕사
NK North HwanghaeKwanumsaPakyon-ri, Kaesong관음사觀音970 and 1393
NK North HwanghaeKwijinsaSongwol-ri, Sohung-gun귀진사
NK North HwanghaePulilsa×Sonjok-ri, Changpung-gun관음사
NK North HwanghaeRyongtongsa*Ryonghung-dong, Kaesong령통사1027
NK North HwanghaeYontan SimwonsaYontan심원사*
NK North HwanghaeSongbulsaJongbang-ri, Sariwon성불사898
NK North HwanghaeTaehungsaPakyon-ri, Kaesong대흥사
NK KangwonChangansa×Naegang-ri, Kumgang-gun장안사
NK KangwonChongyangsaNaegang-ri, Kumgang-gun정양사
NK KangwonAnbyon PohyonsaRyongsin-ri, Anbyon-gun보현사普賢
NK KangwonMyongjoksaYongsam-ri, Wonsan명적사
NK KangwonPyohunsaNaegang-ri, Kumgang-gun표훈사670
NK KangwonRyongchusaMihyon-ri, Anbyon-gun령추사
NK KangwonSingyesa*Onjong-ri, Kosong-gun신계사519
NK KangwonSogwangsa×Solbong-ri, Kosan-gun석왕사1386
NK KangwonYujomsa×Naegang-ri, Kumgang-gun유점사550 circa and 1168
NK KangwonMahayon Hermitage×Naegang-ri, Kumgang-gun마하연
NK KangwonPodok HermitageNaegang-ri, Kumgang-gun보덕암
NK KangwonPomun HermitageSolbong-ri, Kosan-gun보덕암
NK KangwonPulji HermitageNaegang-ri, Kumgang-gun불지암
NK South HamgyongAnbulsaTonghung-ri, Kumya-gun안불사
NK South HamgyongChonggwangsa×Wonsa-ri, Riwon-gun정광사
NK South HamgyongKwangjesaChuksang-ri, Pukchong-gun광제사
NK South HamgyongKwijusa×Kumsil-dong, Hamhung귀주사
NK South HamgyongRyangchonsaNakchon-ri, Kowon-gun량천사
NK South HamgyongRyonghungsaPonghung-ri, Yonggwang-gun룡흥사1048
NK South HamgyongTongdoksaTuyon-ri, Tanchon-gun동덕사
NK South HamgyongHungbok HermitageSudong-ri, Hamhung흥복암
NK South HamgyongPulji HermitagePonghung-ri, Yonggwang-gun불지암
NK North HamgyongKaesimsaPochon-ri, Myongchon-gun개심사826 and 1377
NK North HamgyongHwasong SsanggyesaPuam-ri, Hwasong-gun쌍계사
NK ChagangWŏnmyŏngsaRyujung-ri, Huich'ŏn원명사
NK ChagangMansu HermitageChangp'yong-ri, Huich'ŏn만수암
NK RyanggangChunghŭngsaKwanp'yŏng-ri, Samsu-gun중흥사

See also


  1. Cerny, Branko (4 October 2011). "Temple stay: 48 hours at Sudeoksa Temple". CNN Travel. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  2. Grayson, James Huntley (2002). Korea: a religious history. Psychology Press. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-7007-1605-0.
  3. "San shin – The Mountain god (산신)". Dale's Korean Temple Adventures. 17 December 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  4. https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/eap/8330.htm. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. "seounsa".
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