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An afternoon at Bongeunsa (봉은사)

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Published on Sep 21, 2009

One of the things I really enjoy about living in Korea, is that because the country is so small, there is always something new to see. In fact, in my almost combined nine months of living in Korea, my time outside the Seoul Metro area has been at a minimum due to the extensive laundry list of places to visit. This past Saturday I was able scratch another on off my long list Bongeunsa Temple (봉은사).

What I find most amazing about this place is that it is located adjacent to the COEX in Seoul. And when I say adjacent, I mean right across the street. You literally can stand at the entrance of the COEX and see the main gate of the temple area. In fact, on this little trip, I had to wait a good five minutes before I made it across the street.

Bongeunsa (봉은사) was founded in 794 during King Wonseongs (원성) reign. Yeonhoe (연호) was the head monk at the time and chose Mount Sudo (수도) its the location.

The grounds themselves are massive with numerous shrines scattered all over the hillside. Anyone is free to enter the grounds and explore. This temple especially caters to foreigners with a unique temple-stay program each week.

Another thing I like about this place was the amazing diversity of views. Standing, facing north, all you can see are the shrines and statues, but make a 180 degree turn and you see something else Seoul (서올). The juxtaposition is really striking.

Panjeon (판전) is the oldest hall with over 3000 wood blocks carved inside with Buddhist scriptures on them. Out of all the shrines on the mountain, this one really blew me away. Its something you have to see for yourself. Behind most of the larger shrines, is a 23 meter high statue of the Maitreya (future Buddha). It was completed in 1996 and is flanked by two lion statutes. The praying large praying area is often full with visitors in the latter part of the day.

Music, used with permission: Kevin MacLeod and Apple Loops.

Graphics: Steve Miller

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