Monday, 13 May 2013

Bongeunsa Temple

On a recent sunny saturday afternoon, having attended a Korean wedding that morning, Angela and I decided to visit Bongeunsa in Samseong District. Dating back to the 8th century, this colourful Buddhist temple has undergone multiple repairs and renovations during its long history, suffering fires and damage from warfare, but today it stands as one of Seoul's prettiest temples. On our visit, the vivid decorations for Buddha's birthday made the complex especially fun to explore.

Entering the temple grounds, just near Samseong Station and the COEX mall.

Dozens of multicoloured lanterns hung over the pathways.

Angela and me near the entrance to the temple.

Entering the main temple. 

Watching candle wax melt and form shapes on the slab.

Locals praying inside one of the temple's buildings.
As well as Buddha's birthday lanterns, the temple was decorated with many pretty flower arrangements.

Perhaps the most striking part of Bongeunsa is its large stone statue, Mireukdaebul. Named after a future incarnation of Buddha, the statue is around 75 feet tall, making it one of the largest of its kind in Korea.

There were lots of people resting and praying on the polished marble square in front of the statue.

Korean temples can get a little samey after you've seen a few of them, but Bongeunsa really is among the most striking complexes that I've visited here. Despite being located right in the heart of downtown Seoul and surrounded by highways and skyscrapers, it feels as tranquil as a mountaintop monastery, and the decorations for Buddha's birthday really added to its charm.

If you'd like to visit Bongeunsa yourself, the easiest way is to take to the metro to Samseong Station, go out of Exit 6, and walk straight for half a kilometre before taking the first major left. The temple is well signposted from that point.

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