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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.

Temples, such as Sudeoksa offers visitors a "Temple Stay Program".[1]


  • Background 1
  • Typical Layout 2
  • North Korea 3
  • South Korea 4
  • Notable temples in both Koreas 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7


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 the Goguryeo Kingdom. In 374 the influential Chinese monk Ado arrived in the kingdom and inspired the King Sosurim in 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 the 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 the King Jinheung (540 to 576). The Heungnyunsa temple was completed where any commoner could become a monk. The study of scriptures was greatly highlighted. For about 250 years Buddhism thrived in Unified Silla.

Buddhism was admired by Wang Geon, the founder of the Goryeo Dynasty. Throughout the country pagodas and other Buddhist structures were built. In the late Goryeo period Buddhism became linked with the 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 the Joseon Dynasty. The king Taejo 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 Ksitigarbha (지장) and depictions of the Buddhist hell
  9. Nahanjeon (나한전, 羅漢殿) - Hall of the Arhats
  10. Sansingak (산신각, 山神閣) - an Shamanist shrine dedicated to the mountain god Sanshin (산신), 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.

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[1]. 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 Ryongtong and Singye temples). All in all, there are 300 temples [2], but only in a few are religious services permitted.
In the list [3] 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

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 WorldHeritage.

Province Temple Location Hangul Hanja Founded
SK Seoul Gyeongguksa 753 Jeongneung-dong, Jongno-gu 경국사 慶國寺 1325
SK Seoul Gwaneumsa 관음사 觀音寺
SK Seoul Doseonsa Bukhansan : 264 Ui-dong, Gangbuk-gu 도선사 道詵寺 862
SK Seoul Bongeunsa Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu 봉은사 奉恩寺 794
SK Seoul Bongwonsa Bongwon-dong, Seodaemun-gu 봉원사 奉元寺 889
SK Seoul Yeonghwasa 영화사 永華寺
SK Seoul Jogyesa Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu 조계사 曹溪寺 1395 & 1910
SK Seoul Jingwansa 진관사 津寬寺
SK Gyeonggi Bomunsa
SK Gyeonggi Jeondeungsa
SK Gyeonggi Bongnyeongsa
SK Gyeonggi Bongseonsa 봉선사 奉先寺 969
SK Gyeonggi Silleuksa Yeoju-gun 신륵사 神勒寺 580
SK Gyeonggi Yeonjuam
SK Gyeonggi Yongjusa Hwasan, Taean-eup, Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-si 용주사 龍珠寺 854
SK Gyeonggi Jajaeam
SK Gangwon Baekdamsa near Seoraksan, Inje-gun 백담사 百潭寺 650 circa
SK Gangwon SK Guryongsa
SK Gangwon Naksansa 낙산사 洛山寺 671
SK Gangwon Deungmyeong-nakgasa
SK Gangwon Samhwasa
SK Gangwon Sinheungsa Seoraksan, Sokcho-si 신흥사(향성사) 神興寺(香城寺) 650 circa
SK Gangwon Oseam Seoraksan 오세암 五歲庵 643
SK Gangwon Woljeongsa Odaesan, Pyeongchang-gun 월정사 月精寺 643
SK Gangwon Cheongpyeongsa
SK North Chungcheong Beopjusa Songnisan, Naesongni-myeon, Boeun-gun 법주사 法住寺 553
SK North Chungcheong Guinsa Sobaeksan, Danyang County-gun 구인사 救仁寺 1945
SK South Chungcheong Magoksa Gongju-si 마곡사 麻谷寺 640
SK South Chungcheong Sudeoksa Deoksungsan, Deoksan-myeon, Yesan-gun 수덕사 修德寺 1308
SK North Gyeongsang Donghwasa Palgongsan, Dohak-dong, Dong-gu, Daegu 동화사 桐華寺 493 and 832
SK North Gyeongsang Pagyesa
SK North Gyeongsang Bogyeongsa
SK North Gyeongsang Bongjeongsa Cheondeungsan, Andong-si 봉정사 鳳停寺 672
SK North Gyeongsang Buseoksa Bonghwangsan, Yeongju-si 부석사 浮石寺 676
SK North Gyeongsang Bulguksa (including Seokguram) Tohamsan, Jinheon-dong, Gyeongju City 불국사 佛國寺 528 and 751
SK North Gyeongsang Golgulsa Yangbuk-Myeon, Gyeongju 골굴사 骨窟寺 *
SK North Gyeongsang Girimsa Hamwolsan, Gyeongju 기림사 祇林寺 643
SK North Gyeongsang Baekryulsa in Gyeongju Geumgangsan, Dongcheon-dong, Gyeongju City 백률사 692
SK North Gyeongsang Hwangnyongsa Tohamsan, Gyeongju National Park 황룡사 栢栗寺 553
SK North Gyeongsang Jikjisa Hwangaksan, Daehang-myeon, Gimcheon-si, 직지사 直指寺 418
SK South Gyeongsang Ssanggyesa Jirisan, Hwagae-myeon, Hadong-gun 쌍계사 雙磎寺 772
SK South Gyeongsang Tongdosa Chiseosan, Yangsan-si 통도사 通度寺 646
SK South Gyeongsang Haeinsa Gayasan 해인사 海印寺 802
SK South Gyeongsang Haedong Yonggungsa Busan
SK South Gyeongsang Beomeosa Geumjeongsan, Busan 범어사 梵魚寺 678
SK North Jeolla Eunsusa Maisan (Horse Ear Mountain), Jinan-gun 은수사 銀水寺
SK North Jeolla Geumdangsa Maisan (Horse Ear Mountain), Jinan-gun 금당사 814
SK North Jeolla Geumsansa Moaksan, Gimje-si 금산사 金山寺 600 and 770
SK North Jeolla Mireuksa Iksan-si 미륵사 彌勒寺 602
SK North Jeolla Naesosa Jinseo-myeon, Buan-gun 내소사 633
SK North Jeolla Seonunsa Dosolsan, Asan-myeon, Gochang-gun 선운사 禪雲寺 577 [4]
SK North Jeolla Silsangsa
SK North Jeolla Tapsa Jinan-gun 탑사 塔寺 1885
SK South Jeolla Baegyangsa Bukha-myeon, Jangseong-gun 백양사 白羊寺 632
SK South Jeolla Baengnyeonsa Doam-myeon, Gangjin-gun 백련사 白蓮寺 650 circa
SK South Jeolla Daeheungsa Duryunsan, Samsan city, Haenam-gun 대흥사 大興寺 514 ?
SK South Jeolla Geumtapsa Cheondeungsan, Podu-myeon, Goheung-gun 금탑사 金塔寺 650 circa
SK South Jeolla Hwaeomsa Jirisan, Masan-myeon, Gurye-gun 화엄사 華嚴寺 544
SK South Jeolla Mihwangsa Dalmasan, Haenam-gun 미황사 美黃寺 749
SK South Jeolla Songgwangsa Songgwangsan, 송광사 松廣寺 867 and 1190
SK South Jeolla Unjusa (National Treasure #312) Hwasun-gun 운주사
SK Jeju Island Gwaneumsa
SK Jeju Island Yakcheonsa
SK Jeju Island Beophwasa
SK Jeju Island Seondeoksa
NK Pyongyang Chongrungsa* Ryongsan-ri, Ryokpo-guyok 정릉사 定陵寺
NK Pyongyang Kwangbopsa* Taesong-dong, Taesong-guyok 광법사 廣法寺
NK Pyongyang Ryonghwasa Kaeson-dong, Moranbong-guyok 룡화사 龍華寺
NK Pyongyang Tong-kumgangamsa Osan-ri, Sunan-guyok 동금강암사 東金剛庵寺)
NK Pyongyang Yongmyongsa× NK Moranbong Park, Moranbong-guyok 영명사 永明寺 *
NK Pyongyang Pobun Hermitage Ryongbong-ri, Mangyongdae-guyok 법운암 法雲庵
NK South Pyongan Anguksa Ponghak-dong, Pyongsong 안국사 安國寺 503
NK South Pyongan Chongjinsa Hyangpung-ri, Songchon-gun 정진사 淨進寺
NK South Pyongan Pophungsa Sinsong-ri, Pyongwon-gun 법흥사 法興寺
NK North Pyongan Chonjusa Yongbyon 천주사 天柱寺 1684
NK North Pyongan Kaewonsa Tangsang-ri, Kwaksan-gun 개원사 開元寺
NK North Pyongan Kumgwangsa Kumgwang-ri, Uiju-gun 금광사 金光寺
NK North Pyongan Mannyonsa Songan-dong, Kusong 만년사 萬年寺
NK North Pyongan Pohyonsa Hyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun 보현사 普賢寺 1025 circa
NK North Pyongan Powolsa Uhyon-ri, Kujang-gun 보월사 寶月寺
NK North Pyongan Pakchon Simwonsa Sangyang-ri, Pakchon-gun 심원사 深源寺
NK North Pyongan Ryongmunsa Ryongdung Worker's District, Kujang-gun 룡문사 龍門寺
NK North Pyongan Sounsa Yongbyon 서운사 棲雲寺
NK North Pyongan Yanghwasa Sangdan-ri, Taechon-gun 양화사 陽和寺
NK North Pyongan Habiro Hermitage Hyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun 하비로암 下毘盧庵
NK North Pyongan Hwajang Hermitage Hyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun 화장암 華藏庵
NK North Pyongan Kyejo Hermitage Hyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun 계조암 繼祖庵
NK North Pyongan Mansu Hermitage Hyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun 만수암 萬壽庵
NK North Pyongan Nungin Hermitage Hyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun 능인암 能仁唵
NK North Pyongan Puryong Hermitage Hyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun 불영대 佛影臺
NK North Pyongan Sangwon Hermitage Hyangam-ri, Hyangsan-gun 상원암 上元庵
NK South Hwanghae Chahyesa Sowon-ri, Sinchon-gun 자혜사 慈惠寺
NK South Hwanghae Hakrimsa× Hakrim-ri, Changyon-gun 학림사 鶴林寺
NK South Hwanghae Kangsosa Kangho-ri, Paechon-gun 강서사 江西寺
NK South Hwanghae Paeyopsa× Paeyop-ri, Anak-gun 패엽사 貝葉寺
NK South Hwanghae Singwangsa× Singwang-ri, Haeju 신광사 神光寺
NK South Hwanghae Woljongsa Woljong-ri, Anak-gun 월정사 月精寺
NK South Hwanghae Hanging Hermitage (Changsusan) Sorim-ri, Chaeryong-gun 현암 縣庵
NK South Hwanghae Songwol Hermitage Hakrim-ri, Changyon-gun 송월암 松月庵
NK North Hwanghae Anhwasa Koryo-dong, Kaesong 안화사 安和寺 930
NK North Hwanghae Hungwangsa× Sambong-ri, Kaepung-gun 흥왕사 興王寺
NK North Hwanghae Kwanumsa Pakyon-ri, Kaesong 관음사 觀音寺 970 and 1393
NK North Hwanghae Kwijinsa Songwol-ri, Sohung-gun 귀진사 歸眞寺
NK North Hwanghae Pulilsa× Sonjok-ri, Changpung-gun 관음사 佛日寺
NK North Hwanghae Ryongtongsa* Ryonghung-dong, Kaesong 령통사 靈通寺 1027
NK North Hwanghae Yontan Simwonsa Yontan 심원사 心源寺 *
NK North Hwanghae Songbulsa Jongbang-ri, Sariwon 성불사 成佛寺 898
NK North Hwanghae Taehungsa Pakyon-ri, Kaesong 대흥사 大興寺
NK Kangwon Changansa× Naegang-ri, Kumgang-gun 장안사 長安寺
NK Kangwon Chongyangsa Naegang-ri, Kumgang-gun 정양사 正陽寺
NK Kangwon Anbyon Pohyonsa Ryongsin-ri, Anbyon-gun 보현사 普賢寺
NK Kangwon Myongjoksa Yongsam-ri, Wonsan 명적사 明寂寺
NK Kangwon Pyohunsa Naegang-ri, Kumgang-gun 표훈사 表訓寺 670
NK Kangwon Ryongchusa Mihyon-ri, Anbyon-gun 령추사 靈鷲寺
NK Kangwon Singyesa* Onjong-ri, Kosong-gun 신계사 神溪寺 519
NK Kangwon Sogwangsa× Solbong-ri, Kosan-gun 석왕사 釋王寺 1386
NK Kangwon Yujomsa× Naegang-ri, Kumgang-gun 유점사 楡岾寺 550 circa and 1168
NK Kangwon Mahayon Hermitage× Naegang-ri, Kumgang-gun 마하연 摩訶衍
NK Kangwon Podok Hermitage Naegang-ri, Kumgang-gun 보덕암 普德庵
NK Kangwon Pomun Hermitage Solbong-ri, Kosan-gun 보덕암 普德庵
NK Kangwon Pulji Hermitage Naegang-ri, Kumgang-gun 불지암 佛地庵
NK South Hamgyong Anbulsa Tonghung-ri, Kumya-gun 안불사 安佛寺
NK South Hamgyong Chonggwangsa× Wonsa-ri, Riwon-gun 정광사 定光寺
NK South Hamgyong Kwangjesa Chuksang-ri, Pukchong-gun 광제사 光濟寺
NK South Hamgyong Kwijusa× Kumsil-dong, Hamhung 귀주사 歸州寺
NK South Hamgyong Ryangchonsa Nakchon-ri, Kowon-gun 량천사 梁泉寺
NK South Hamgyong Ryonghungsa Ponghung-ri, Yonggwang-gun 룡흥사 龍興寺 1048
NK South Hamgyong Tongdoksa Tuyon-ri, Tanchon-gun 동덕사 東德寺
NK South Hamgyong Hungbok Hermitage Sudong-ri, Hamhung 흥복암 興復庵
NK South Hamgyong Pulji Hermitage Ponghung-ri, Yonggwang-gun 불지암 佛地庵
NK North Hamgyong Kaesimsa Pochon-ri, Myongchon-gun 개심사 開心寺 826 and 1377
NK North Hamgyong Hwasong Ssanggyesa Puam-ri, Hwasong-gun 쌍계사 雙磎寺
NK Chagang Wŏnmyŏngsa Ryujung-ri, Huich'ŏn 원명사 圓明寺
NK Chagang Mansu Hermitage Changp'yong-ri, Huich'ŏn 만수암 萬壽庵
NK Ryanggang Chunghŭngsa Kwanp'yŏng-ri, Samsu-gun 중흥사 重興寺

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.  
  3. ^ "San shin – The Mountain god (산신)". Dale's Korean Temple Adventures. 17 December 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  4. ^ "seounsa". 
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