Jogyesa. Buddhist Temple in Seoul, South Korea


Buddhist Temple in Seoul, South Korea

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	Birthday : Jogyesa - Jogyesa
Buddha's Birthday : Jogyesa - Jogyesa. Photo by Emily Orpin
Situated in the center of Seoul’s historic district, Jogyesa is a clean refuge from the urban city that surrounds its walls. The temple is also the site of one of Korea’s first post offices which is still there today.
Whether you’re looking to find peace or mail a letter, Jogyesa has a lot to offer.

The Jogye Order of Buddhism

Originally built in 1938, Jogyesa is actually an amalgam of structures from several temples throughout Korea. Many of the structures were moved from Taegosa Temple which resided in Samgaksan Mountain to the north. The entirety of the temple dismantled and moved to its current location where it was met with the main dharma hall (Daewungjeon) which was dismantled and moved from a temple in the Jeolla Province far to the south.
In 1941, Jogyesa Temple became the official head temple in the Jogye Order and eventually changed its name from Taegosa to Jogyesa.
The Jogye Order is one of the two main sects of Buddhism practiced in modern Korea. The order acts in accordance with the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha and its guiding principle is to look directly into the nature of the mind and, in doing so, attain enlightenment which is used to save all beings. ¬The main practice of the Jogye Order is seon meditation (known in the west as “zen” meditation) in addition to the reading of sutras, deity practices, the recitation of mantras, etc.
Currently there are more than 3000 temples belonging to the Jogye Order along with over 12,000 monks and nuns actively engaged in its practices and teachings. In addition to Jogyesa, there are the Three-Jewel temples located further to the south: Haeinsa, Songgwangsa and Tongdosa. Each of the temples represents one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism: Buddha, dharma (teachings of the Buddha), and sangha (enlightenment).

Jogyesa winter solistice - Jogyesa
Jogyesa winter solistice. Photo by parhessiastes

Temples and Halls

There are several places of interest at Jogyesa. First and foremost is Daewungjeon, the main dharma hall. This is the largest traditional wooden building with ornamental multicolored paintwork in Korea. It is a symbol of the Jogye Order and in 2000 it was designated as a Seoul area tangible cultural asset (no. 127).
Inside the Daewungjeon are three large golden statues of Buddha. These three statues represent the Amitabha Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Bhaisaiya Buddha. The central figure is the Shakyamuni Buddha who is the founder of Buddhism. On the right, the Bhaisaiya Buddha represents medicine nd is often depicted with a medicinal container. To the left is the Amitabha Buddha who established a Western Paradise where beings can be reborn to attain enlightenment.
Each of the Buddhas stands over five meters making them the largest indoor statues in Korea. Often during ceremonies or large events, the large doors of the dharma hall are opened and anyone outside can look see the towering statues sitting inside.
Standing just outside the Daewungjeon is a rare and large Lacebark Pine Tree. This particular species doesn’t seed often and has a distinctive white bark. At 14 meters tall, the tree towers over visitors and is presumed to be over 500 years old. The tree, like many of the other structures in Jogyesa, has been imported here from another temple nearly a century ago.
Also worth taking look at is the Brahma Bell Pavilion which is normally roped off and is located in the rear of the temple. The ornate pavilion has been renovated and repaired several times but the carved bell itself is in great condition. The bell is rung 28 times in the morning and 33 times in the evening which always interesting to watch.

Jogyesa Temple, Seoul -
Jogyesa Temple, Seoul. Photo by Prashant Ram

Sights and Sounds

Jogyesa really lights up during the late spring/early summer when it hosts lantern festivals and emblazons a sea of lotus lanterns for Buddha’s birthday. During the Lantern Festival (Yeon Deung Hoe), Jogyesa becomes the home to a variety of hanji paper lanterns with varying designs. Soon afterwards, the Lantern Parade takes place along Jongno Street about a block away from the temple.
During these events, there are performances and events that visitors can participate in. The festivities start in the early afternoon with plenty of activities for visitors of all ages. As night comes on, the majority of the events slowly subside and the brilliant displays of paper lanterns take center stage. Families, friends, and photographers fill the temple and streets to capture and enjoy the one-a-year occurrence.

Attractions in the Area

Jogyesa is situated between four great monuments: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Cheonggyecheon Stream, Gwanghwamun Square, and Insadong. Gyeongbokgung or any of the other nearby palaces are definitely worth a visit and Jogyesa is a perfect addition to a walk through history. The palaces usually close in the early evening so it’s best to go there before heading over to the temple.
For a anyone looking to do a little more shopping, the path up from Cheonggyecheon Stream to Insadong is surrounded by shops and clothing stores. Once at Insadong, there’s enough food and stores to keep anyone occupied for a few hours. From traditional tea houses to calligraphy shops, exploration is definitely the name of the game in Insadong.

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Author: bludreamers. Last updated: Apr 05, 2016

Pictures of Jogyesa

Jogyesa - Jogyesa
Jogyesa - Photo by Joe Coyle


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