Colonial Korea: Magoksa Temple – 마곡사 (Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do)


The mountainside view of Magoksa Temple in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do in 1932.

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Magoksa Temple is beautifully located in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do. The temple was first believed to be established either in 640 or 642 A.D. The temple was established by the famed monk Jajang-yulsa (590-658 A.D.).

There are two stories about the origins of the temple’s name. The first relates to Jajang and when he first established Magoksa Temple. When he established the temple, he called it “magok,” which means “Flax Valley,” in English. Jajang-yulsa believed that if numerous monks came to the eastern slopes of Mt. Taehwasan, which is where Magoksa Temple is located, it would result in the rapid growth of Buddhism throughout the Korean peninsula.

Another story about the creation o the temple relates to how a believer looked at the temple and said that Magoksa Temple looked like a flax stack in the middle of a flax field. This was said during the Silla Dynasty as the monk Bocheol was preaching. So however the temple got its name, Magoksa Temple means “Flax Valley Temple,” in English.

Later, in 1172, the temple was reconstructed by the monk Bojo-guksa. The temple was used as a place of refuge during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Amazingly, Magoksa Temple was spared any damage during both the destructive Imjin War (1592-98) and the Korean War (1950-53). In fact, it didn’t suffer any damage during the entire Joseon Dynasty. And in the 20th century, it was used as a hiding place for the independence leader Kim Gu.

In total, Magoksa Temple is home to five Treasures which includes the five-story Tibetan-inspired stone pagoda that’s listed as Treasure #799.


The five-tier Tibetan-inspired pagoda and Daegwangbo-jeon Hall behind it in 1932.


The amazing two storied Daeungbo-jeon main hall at Magoksa Temple in 1932.

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The entry to Magoksa Temple in 2011.

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The Daegwangbo-jeon Hall with the Tibetan inspired five tier pagoda in front of it in 2011.

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And the Daeungbo-jeon main hall in 2011.

Colonial Korea: Ssanggyesa Temple – 쌍계사 (Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Ssanggyesa - 1916 - Jingapseon Sabi

National Treasure #47, The Stele for Master Jingam at Ssanggyesa Temple in Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

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Ssanggyesa Temple, which means “Twin Streams Temple,” in English, was first founded in 722 A.D. The temple was first established by the monks Daebi and Sambeop, who were the disciples of the famed Uisang-daesa. After being instructed by the Jirisan Sanshin, in the form of a tiger, to create a temple in a valley where the arrowroot blossomed even during winter, the two set out to establish Ssanggyesa Temple just north of modern day Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do in the heart of Jirisan National Park.

So after returning from China, where they furthered their Buddhist training, they returned with the skull and portrait of Huineng (the Sixth Patriarch of Seon [Zen] Buddhism). They enshrined both under the main hall at Ssanggyesa Temple. It was only later that the skull was retrieved and enshrined in a stone pagoda behind the Daeung-jeon Hall at Ssanggyesa Temple.

Originally called Okcheonsa Temple, the monk Jingam-seonsa (774-850 A.D.) renamed the temple in 840 A.D. to Ssanggyesa Temple. A stele, which is dedicated to Jingam-seonsa, and written by Choi Chi-won (857- ?), stands in the temple courtyard. It’s designated National Treasure #47.

During the Imjin War, all the temple buildings were completely destroyed by fire. Now, most of the temple buildings date back to the 17th century.

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A wooden totem outside Ssanggyesa Temple.

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The Iljumun Gate at the temple in 1933.

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Which is joined by the Cheonwangmun Gate in 1933.

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As well as the Geumgangmun Gate in 1933.

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The Cheonghak-ru Pavilion at Ssanggyesa Temple in 1933.

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The special Palsang-jeon Hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 1933.

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A closer look at the Palsang-jeon Hall.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 1933.

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Another look at the Stele for Master Jingam. This picture was taken in 1916.

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And a closer look at the dragon swirling capstone to the stele.

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A closer look at the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The expansive main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Guksa-jeon Hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 1933.

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The Chilseong-gak at the temple.


And one of the stupas at Ssanggyesa Temple.

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The Iljumun Gate in 2012.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate in 2012.

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The Palsang-jeon Hall in 2005.

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The main hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 2012.

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National Treasure #47, The Stele for Master Jingam at Ssanggyesa Temple in 2005.

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The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 2012.

Colonial Korea: Beopjusa Temple – 법주사 (Boeun-Gun, Chungcheongbuk-do)

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National Treasure #55, the Palsang-jeon Hall at Beopjusa Temple in 1932.

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Beopjusa Temple, which means “The Place Where the Dharma Resides Temple,” in English, is located in Boeun-Gun, Chungcheongbuk-do. The temple was first established in 553 A.D. by the monk Uisin. The reason that Beopjusa Temple has its name is that Uisin brought back a number of Indian sutras from his travels to be housed at the temple.

During the Goryeo Dynasty, which lasted from 918 to 1392, Beopjusa Temple housed as many as 3,000 monks at its height. In fact, at one point in its history, in the 1100s, 30,000 monks gathered at Beopjusa Temple to pray for the dying Uicheon, a national priest. As a result of a lack of support for Buddhism during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Beopjusa Temple shrank in size and influence. And during the Imjin War (1592-98), Beopjusa Temple suffered extensive damage. Fortunately, Beopjusa Temple was restored to its former glory in 1624. It’s also at this time that the famed Palsang-jeon wooden pagoda was rebuilt.

More recently, and in the 1960s, Beopjusa Temple underwent extensive renovation and repairs. Then, in 1988, the massive bronze statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha), which stands at an impressive thirty-three metres in height, was erected to replace the concrete one that had previously taken up residence at Beopjusa Temple.

In total, Beopjusa Temple houses three National Treasures and an additional twelve Treasures.


A mountainside view of Beopjusa Temple in 1932.

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The flag pole supports from 1916.

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A stone artifact from 1916 called the Seokryeon-ji.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate in 1932.

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A closer look at the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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The stone lantern out in front of the Cheonwangmun Gate in 1916.

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The amazing Palsang-jeon pagoda in 1932.

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A closer look at the Palsang-jeon pagoda.

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And one more look at the Palsang-jeon pagoda.

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The Twin Lion Stone Lantern out in front of the main hall from 1916.

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Another look at the Twin Lion Stone Lantern with a monk to the right.

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The massive Daeung-jeon Hall at Beopjusa Temple in 1932.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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And a look at the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate in 2011.


The Palsang-jeon pagoda in 2015.


The Twin Lion Stone Lantern in 2015.


A look up at the main hall in 2015.


The view from the Daeung-jeon main hall in 2015.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at the main altar in 2011.

Colonial Korea: Beomeosa Temple – 범어사 (Busan)


Beomeosa Temple in northern Busan as it appeared in 1933.

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Beomeosa Temple, in northern Busan, is beautifully located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Geumjeongsan. First established in 678 A.D. by the famed Uisang-daesa (625-702 A.D.), Beomeosa Temple means “Fish from Heaven Temple,” in English. The name of the temple refers to the creation myth that surrounds the temple. And like so many temple myths in Korea, this one is an interesting one. According to legend, there is a water well with golden water inside it at the top of Mt. Geumjeongsan. Purportedly, golden fish rode a rainbow down from the heavens to inhabit this well. So it’s from its scenic location that Beomeosa Temple gets its name.

Beomeosa Temple became known as one of the ten great temples of the Hwaeom sect in Korea in history. Now, Beomeosa Temple belongs to the largest Buddhist order in Korea, the Jogye-jong Order.

At one point in its history, during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Beomeosa Temple had a thousand monks that called the temple home. Later, during the Imjin War that lasted from 1592 to 1598, Beomeosa Temple was one of the first prominent temples to be destroyed by the invading Japanese. A decade later, in 1602, Beomeosa Temple was reconstructed. Shortly after its reconstruction, fire would destroy Beomeosa Temple, once more. So in 1613, Beomeosa Temple was rebuilt. And it’s from this date that the now historic temple buildings date back to like the Daeung-jeon main hall and the Jogyemun Gate.

In more recent years, and after Japanese Colonization, Beomeosa Temple would grow to be one of the sixth largest temples in Korea. It’s also undergone numerous renovations throughout the years like the reconstruction of the Cheonwangmun Gate in 2012 after an arsonist destroyed it in 2010. Also, the Boje-ru pavilion was rebuilt at the end of 2014, replacing a conference hall that blocked the once historic view towards the Daeung-jeon main hall.

In total, Beomeosa Temple houses four Treasures.

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The entry Jogyemun Gate in 1933.

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The outside view of the Boje-ru pavilion in 1933.

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A look at its architecture.

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The Jong-ru bell pavilion in 1933.

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The historic Daeung-jeon main hall in 1933.

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The three tier pagoda in the main temple courtyard in 1916.

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It’s joined by the Seokdeung lantern in 1916, as well.

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The craftsmanship of the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon.

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A look around the interior of the Daeung-jeon.

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The Biro-jeon Hall in 1933. This hall houses Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy).

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A look up at some of the architecture on the Biro-jeon Hall.

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The Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Housed inside is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

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The latticework and eaves on the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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The Myeongbu-jeon Hall in 1933.

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An up-close of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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Beomeosa Temple in 2011.

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The Jogyemun Gate during the spring of 2015.

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The view from the Boje-ru pavilion down on the Bulimun Gate and the Cheonwangmun Gate in 2015.

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The historic three tier pagoda and Gwaneum-jeon Hall in 2015.

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The Daeung-jeon Hall in 2005.

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And a look around the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall in 2005.

Colonial Korea: Geumsansa Temple – 금산사 (Gimje, Jeollabuk-do)

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The Bangdeung-gyedan shrine in 1916 at Geumsansa Temple in Gimje, Jeollabuk-do.

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The famed Geumsansa Temple is located on the western slopes of Moaksan Provincial Park in Gimje, Jeollabuk-do. Geumsansa Temple, which means Golden Mountain Temple, in English, was first established in either 599 or 600 A.D. Unlike its prominence today, Geumsansa Temple was not an important temple at the time of its construction. But then, from 722 to 766 A.D., Geumsansa Temple was rebuilt and expanded by master monk, Jinpyo.

Geumsansa Temple has a long history associated with Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). And this association comes from a vision Jinpyo had of Mireuk-bul. In a dream, Jinpyo received a book on divination, as well as 189 divination sticks directly from Mireuk-bul. From this dream, a statue was made of Mireuk-bul and placed inside the main hall. As a result of these actions, Geumsansa Temple becamse known as a headquarters for practicing the worship of Mireuk-bul during the Unified Silla Period (668-935 A.D.).

During the destructive Imjin War in 1592, Geumsansa Temple acted as a training centre for Buddhist monks in the defence of the Korean peninsula. As a result of these efforts, Geumsansa Temple, and its neighbouring hermitages, was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese. Then, in 1635, over forty years later, Geumsansa Temple was rebuilt. And from its rebuild in the 17th century, Geumsansa Temple has grown in both size and importance within the Korean Buddhist community.

In total, Geumsansa Temple houses one national treasure, the Mireuk-jeon Hall, which is National Treasure #62. It also houses nine additional Treasures.

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The Geumgangmun Gate in 1933

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A closer look at the Geumgangmun Gate.

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The Daejeokgwang-jeon main hall in 1933 at Geumsansa Temple.

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A closer look at the main hall.

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 The hexagonal black stoned pagoda that just so happens to be Treasure #27. This picture was taken in 1916.

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The Daejang-jeon Hall that houses an amazing Mireuk-bul statue in 1933.

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A closer look at the Daejang-jeon.

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The intricate main altar inside the Daejang-jeon Hall.

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The towering Mireuk-jeon Hall in 1933. It also just so happens to be National Treasure #62.

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A better look at the Mireuk-jeon Hall.

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The Bangdeung-gyedan shrine in 1916.

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The five tier pagoda in front of the shrine from 1916.

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And another angle for the five tier pagoda.

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The stone sculpture in the centre of the Bangdeung-gyedan shrine. Inside are housed the Buddha’s partial remains.

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One of the stone guardians around the gyedan in 1916.

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And one of the biseok at Geumsansa Temple in 1916.


The main temple courtyard at Geumsansa Temple in 2014. The main hall is to the right with the Myeongbu-jeon Hall and the Daejang-jeon Hall to the left.


A closer look at the Daejang-jeon Hall with the Myeongbu-jeon Hall in the background from 2014.


The Bangdeung-gyedan shrine and Mireuk-jeon Hall in 2014.


 The hexagonal black stoned pagoda and Bangdeung-gyedan shrine in 2014.


A closer look at the pagoda in front of the Bangdeung-gyedan shrine in 2014.

Colonial Korea: Seokguram Hermitage – 석굴암 (Gyeongju)


The Seokgamoni-bul statue inside the Seokguram Grotto in 1917.

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Seokguram Hermitage first began construction in 742 A.D. alongside neighbouring Bulguksa Temple. The construction of both religious sites started under the guidance of Prime Minister Kim Daeseong. Seokguram Hermitage would be completed in 774 A.D. just shortly after the death of Kim Daeseong. Initially, Seokguram Hermitage was called Seokbulsa Temple (Stone Buddha Temple, in English). The hermitage was constructed, according to legend, to appease Kim’s parents from his previous life.

Seokguram Hermitage is best known for the artificial grotto housed at the hermitage. Inside the grotto is a 3.5 metre tall stone statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The statue, which is the most beautiful Buddhist statue in all of Korea, sits underneath the seven metre tall grotto dome. The statue, with a serene smile, looks out towards the East Sea. The large Buddha statue is backed by an equally beautiful statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The statue is fronted at the entrance of the cave by stone reliefs of Vajra warriors and the Four Heavenly Kings. And the central statue of Seokgamoni-bul is also surrounded on all sides by the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha), Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas.

For the first thousand years of its existence, Seokguram Hermitage largely remained unchanged. It wasn’t until the 18th century, and under Korean Confucian religious rule from 1703 to 1758, that this started to change. This was then followed up by the serious damage that the Japanese inflicted on Seokguram Grotto from 1910-45. First discovered by the Japanese by a Japanese postman, the hermitage underwent three large scale restorations. From 1913 to 1915, the grotto was completely disassembled and reassembled. In addition, a one metre thick outer wall was added to surround the artificial grotto for protection.

Then, in 1917, another renovation took place. Because of the damage originally incurred after the earlier renovations, moss started to form in the grotto from moisture that couldn’t escape the artificial cave. So the Japanese decided to install a drainage pipe system inside the Seokguram Grotto. Additionally, the concrete shell that was added from 1913-15 was covered in lime mortar and clay.

Finally from 1920-23, a third round of renovations took place. This time, in order to correct their former mistakes, waterproof asphalt was added to the top of the concrete dome. But this seemed to only compound the problem of moisture inside the grotto.

After their liberation from Japan, Korea and Korean engineers attempted to fix the moisture problem inside the grotto that had been created over three decades. It was in 1966 that an air handling unit was installed inside the Seokguram Grotto, which seemed to stem the problem. And in 1971 a glass partition was installed inside the grotto to protect the sculptures and statues from any potential future damage.

Seokguram Hermitage is registered as National Treasure #24; and with Bulguksa Temple, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The path that leads up to the grotto in 1917.

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A pagoda at Seokguram Hermitage in 1916.


The entrance of the grotto in 1917.


The blueprints of the grotto from 1917.


Another angle for the inner chamber of the grotto.


One of the outer guardians at the entrance of the Seokguram Grotto from 1917.


One of the Vajra warriors at the entry of the inner chamber from 1917.


Two of the Four Heavenly Kings at Seokguram Hermitage.


The walls of the inner chamber with the Nahan and Buddhas on the wall.


A look at the serenely smiling Seokgamoni-bul from 1917.


A look above the central statue at the cracked dome.


The relief of Gwanseeum-bosal that backs Seokgamoni-bul inside the inner chamber from 1917.


A renovated Seokguram Hermitage from Colonial Rule.


How the grotto looked in 2012.


A closer look at the outer shrine hall to the grotto from 2006.


A closer look at the image of Seokgamoni-bul from inside the grotto from 2012.


And a black and white image of the Historical Buddha from 2012, as well.

Colonial Korea: Hwaeomsa Temple – 화엄사 (Gurye, Jeollanam-do)

Hwaeomsa - 1933

Hwaeomsa Temple as it appeared in 1933.

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Hwaeomsa Temple was first established as a temple in 544 A.D. by the monk Yeongi (who may or may not have been an Indian missionary monk). The name of the temple means, in English, “Flower Garland Sutra Temple.” And it’s located just outside Gurye, Jeollanam-do in the picturesque Jirisan National Park.

After its foundation, and during the mid-600s, the famed monk Uisang-daesa (625-702) returned from Tang China after studying there for ten years. With him, he returned to the Korean peninsula with the Hwaeom sect of Buddhist teachings. It was through his efforts, as well as the state support of Queen Seondeok (r. 632-647), that Hwaeomsa Temple was not only rebuilt, but it was expanded, as well.

Then, in the late 800s, Hwaeomsa Temple was further expanded, once more, under the guidance of Master Doseon-guksa (826-898). It was at this point in the temple’s history that most of the stone monuments that still stand to this day, like the stone lantern and stone pagodas in the main temple courtyard, were built.

Not surprisingly, and like so much of the rest of the Korean peninsula, Hwaeomsa Temple was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Just thirty years later, Hwaeomsa Temple was rebuilt.

Today, Hwaeomsa Temple is one of the largest temples throughout Korea. Not only that, but it’s also one of the most venerated, as well. In total, Hwaeomsa Temple houses four National Treasures like the Three-story Stone Pagoda, which is National Treasure #35, as well as the Gakhwang-jeon Hall, which is National Treasure #67. In addition to these National Treasures, Hwaeomsa Temple also houses an additional eight Treasures.

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The Iljumun Gate from 1933 at Hwaeomsa Temple.

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Some of the intricate artistry adorning the Iljumun Gate.

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The smaller sized Daeung-jeon main hall in 1933.

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The East Pagoda out in front of the Daeung-jeon Hall in 1916.

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As well as the West Pagoda in 1916 in the main temple courtyard.

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Some of the beautiful woodwork adorning the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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A look inside the main hall in 1933.

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A look up at the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon in 1933.

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A look around the main hall.

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To the left of the main hall are the Wontong-jeon Hall and Nahan-jeon in 1933.

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The Gakhwang-jeon in 1933 with the massive, and historic, stone lantern out in front of it. The stone lantern also just so happens to be National Treasure #12.

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Outside the Gakhwang-jeon.

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A look inside the spacious Gakhwang-jeon.

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A look across the main altar inside the Gakhwang-jeon.

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The Four Lion Three-story Stone Pagoda in 1916.

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A closer look at the lion base of the pagoda.

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An up close and personal with just one of the ferocious lions.

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The stone statue at the centre of the lion pagoda is believed to be Yeongi’s mother.

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Doors carved into the body of the pagoda.

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A stupa found at Hwaeomsa Temple in 1933.

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A large biseok found at Hwaeomsa Temple in 1933.


The same exact biseok from 2005.


The Iljumun Gate in 2013.


Daeung-jeon main hall in 2013.


The massive Gakhwang-jeon in 2013 with the West Pagoda out in front of it.


A look inside the Gakhwang-jeon hall in 2005.


The Four Lion Three-story Stone Pagoda in 2013.


And a closer look at the pagoda in 2013.

Colonial Korea: Songgwangsa Temple – 송광사 (Suncheon, Jeollanam-do)


Songgwangsa Temple in Suncheon, Jeollanam-do in 1933

Hello Again Everyone!!

Songgwangsa Temple is one of the three Korean jewel temples alongside Tongdosa Temple and Haeinsa Temple. Unlike the other two temples, Songgwangsa Temple represents the “seung,” or monk aspect of the three jewels.

Songgwangsa Temple is located in scenic Suncheon, Jeollanam-do. The name of the temple means “Spreading Pine Temple,” in English, and Songgwangsa Temple was established in the 1190s. Much like Bulguksa Temple a few hundred years earlier, Songgwangsa Temple was created on the former grounds of a temple; in this case, it was Gilsangsa Temple. Gilsangsa Temple was first built in 867 A.D. Gilsangsa Temple was built by the Seon master, Hyerin. In total, some thirty to forty monks lived at the temple at this time.

From the mid to late 12th century, Gilsangsa Temple remained abandoned as a functioning temple. It wasn’t until 1190, and over the course of a nine year period, that the famed monk Jinul, or Bojo-guksa (1158-1210), rebuilt the temple. Not only did he rebuild Gilsangsa Temple, but he also renamed it Songgwangsa Temple. It was not long after his renaming of the temple that Songgwangsa Temple became important as a centre for Korean Buddhism.

Like so many other temples throughout Korea’s turbulent past, Songgwangsa Temple also suffered. During the Imjin War (1592-98), as well as the more recent Korean War (1950-53), Songgwangsa Temple suffered varying degrees of damage.

But with this devastation and destruction goes periods of growth and expansion like during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The temple was then largely rebuilt in the 17th century after the Imjin War. And even more recently, Songgwangsa Temple was renovated in 1988. It was during this time that fourteen of the temple buildings were refurbished. And even as recently as 2013, Songgwangsa Temple’s Cheonwangmun Gate received a complete renovation.

Throughout its storied past, Songgwangsa Temple has produced some sixteen national preceptors. Also, in 1969, the temple was reorganized as a monastic centre for all sects of Mahayana Buddhism, which Korean Buddhism is a part of. In total, Songgwangsa Temple houses four National Treasures and twenty-one additional Treasures.

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The Iljumun Gate at Songgwangsa Temple in 1933.

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The Jogyemun Gate in 1933.


The stupa field at Songgwangsa Temple.


The front entrance of the temple in 1933.


People swimming in the stream that flows down from Mt. Jogyesan.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate.

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A closer look at the intricate artwork that adorns the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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The temple’s bell pavilion in 1933.

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The Daeungbo-jeon main hall at Songgwangsa Temple.

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Another look at the main hall from 1933.

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A closer look at the amazing artistry on the main hall.

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A look inside the Daeungbo-jeon at the main altar.

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A look around the main hall.

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The Guksa-jeon from 1933, which also just so happens to be National Treasure #56.

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A closer look at the shrine hall’s artistry.

Songgwangsa20 - guksadang

The shrine hall dates back to 1369 and houses 16 paintings of the 16 national preceptors.

Songgwangsa40 - eungjin

The Eungjin-jeon Hall at Songgwangsa Temple as it appeared in 1933.

Songgwangsa41- eungjin

And a look inside the Eungjin-jeon Hall.


The Jogyemun Gate in 2007.


A look at the front entry at Songgwangsa Temple in 2007.


The stream that flows down to Songgwangsa Temple from Mt. Jogyesan in 2007.


The Daeungbo-jeon main hall in 2013.


And a look inside the main hall in 2013.

Colonial Korea: Haeinsa Temple – 해인사 (Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do)


Haeinsa Temple in 1933.

Hello Again Everyone!!

First built in 802 A.D., Haeinsa Temple has grown throughout the centuries both in size and significance. The name of the temple means “Temple of the Ocean Mudra Temple,” in English; and alongside Tongdosa Temple and Songgwangsa Temple, they comprise the three jewel temples. Of the three, Haeinsa Temple represents the Dharma teachings of the three jewels (삼보사찰, in Korean).

The temple is located in Mt. Gayasan National Park just outside Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do. Both Suneung and Ijeong, two Buddhist monks, helped establish the temple. After curing King Aejang’s wife of a serious illness, King Aejang of Silla (r. 800 A.D. to 809 A.D.) ordered the construction of Haeinsa Temple as a show of appreciation. Another story written by Choe Chiwon in 900 A.D. states that the temple gained the support of the queen after she had converted to Buddhism. Either way, and through the financial support of the king and queen, the famed Haeinsa Temple was built.

The temple has grown numerous times throughout the years. The very first of these efforts started during the 10th century. Haeinsa Temple’s growth was to continue in 1488, 1622, and 1644. In 1817, Haeinsa Temple was completely destroyed by fire. It was later rebuilt the following year; in total, Haeinsa Temple has been devastated by fire seven times in total over the course of its history.

Haeinsa Temple’s claim to fame is the Tripitaka Koreana. The Tripitaka Koreana was first housed at the temple in 1398. In total, the Tripitaka Koreana are comprised of some 81,258 wooden blocks that have the various Buddhist teachings written on them. The Tripitaka Koreana are housed in the Janggyeong-panjeon library to the rear of the temple grounds at Haeinsa Temple. The Tripitaka Koreana was first made in 1087; however, the first set of wooden blocks were completely destroyed by the invading Mongols. It would take from 1236 to 1251, under the royal orders of King Gojong (r. 1213 to 1259), to right this historic wrong.

In September of 1951, during the Korean War that lasted from 1950-53, a crisis was averted at Haeinsa Temple. The Tripitaka Koreana was nearly destroyed after the Battle of Incheon. At this stage in the war, the allied forces were turning the war around; however, some North Korean forces refused to retreat. Roughly a thousand North Korean soldiers remained in and around the Haeinsa Temple grounds as guerrilla fighters. The allied forces were ordered to bomb Haeinsa Temple using four bombers to clear the area of enemy forces. Fortunately for Korea, and Haeinsa Temple in particular, the leading pilot of the bomber planes, Kim Young, disobeyed the order. In time, the North Korean forces retreated from the Haeinsa Temple perimeter and the temple was saved from bombing.

In total, Haeinsa Temple houses three national treasures and an additional thirteen treasures. Not surprisingly, all three of the national treasures are linked to the Tripitaka Koreana. And in 1995, Haeinsa Temple was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Haeinsa102 - Iljumun

The Iljumun Gate at Haeinsa Temple as it appeared in 1933.

Haeinsa103 - Iljumun

The intricate design of the Iljumun Gate.

Haeinsa - Iljumun Pagoda - Samjung Seoktap

A three tier pagoda next to the Iljumun Gate in 1916.

Haeinsa109 - gugwang-ru

The Gugwang Pavilion at Haeinsa Temple in 1933.

Haeinsa100 - Seokjo

The Seokjo in 1917 out in front of the Gugwang Pavilion.

Haeinsa104 - Daejeokgwangjeon

The Daejeokgwang-jeon main hall in 1933.

haeinsa108 - main hall

Some of the amazing woodwork adorning the ancient hall.

Haeinsa106 - main hall

A look inside the Daejeokgwang-jeon main hall in 1933.

Haeinsa107 - main hall

And another look around the main hall.

Haeinsa1 - main hall samjung seoktap

The ancient three tier pagoda that stands out in front of the main hall at Haeinsa Temple in 1916.

Haeinsa10 - seokdeung

The stone lantern, or seokdeung, out in front of the main hall in 1916.

Haeinsa110 - myeongbujeon - josajeon

The Myeongbu-jeon and Josa-jeon halls at Haeinsa Temple in 1933.

Haeinsa111 - library

The amazing Janggyeong-panjeon, which houses the Tripitaka Koreana. The picture dates back to 1933.

Haeinsa112 - library

A closer look at the Janggyeong-panjeon library.


The Iljumun Gate in 2015


The Gugwang Pavilion in the fall of 2015


The restored Daejeokgwang-jeon main hall.


A look inside the Daejeokgwang-jeon main hall in 2013.


A modern look at the Janggyeong-panjeon, which houses the Tripitaka Koreana.


A closer look at the Janggyeong-panjeon library.

Colonial Korea: Bulguksa Temple – 불국사 (Gyeongju)


The front facade to Bulguksa Temple in 1916.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Before there ever was a Bulguksa Temple on the Bulguksa Temple grounds, there was a much smaller temple occupying the grounds. However, in 751 A.D., and under the guidance of Prime Minister Kim Daeseong, Bulguksa Temple was built to replace the earlier, and smaller, temple. Bulguksa Temple was first built to help pacify the spirits of Kim Daeseong’s parents. Twenty-three years later, Bulguksa Temple was completed in 774 A.D. after the death of Kim. It was completed by the Silla royal court. It was at this point, in 774, that the temple was renamed Bulguksa Temple, which means “The Buddhist Country Temple,” in English.

Throughout its long history, Bulguksa Temple has undergone numerous renovations and rebuilds. One of the earliest renovations took place during the late Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) and the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Tragically, all the wooden buildings were completely destroyed during the Imjin War (1592-98). In a decade, in 1604, Bulguksa Temple was reconstructed and further expanded. And over the next two hundred years, Bulguksa Temple would undergo a further forty renovations.

In the late Joseon Dynasty, and after 1805, Bulguksa Temple fell into disrepair. In fact, the temple was often the target of looting. It was during Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945 that the Japanese started the restoration of Bulguksa Temple. It was only after the defeat of the Japanese in World War Two that the restoration process was completed by Korea. Under the orders and watchful eye of President Park Chung Hee, from 1969-73, extensive investigation, restoration, and repair were completed at Bulguksa Temple.

Bulguksa Temple is nearly unmatched as a temple on the Korean peninsula. In total, because of its architectural and artistic beauty, Bulguksa Temple houses some six national treasures and three additional treasures.


Another look at the famed front facade of Bulguksa Temple in 1916.


And yet another of Bulguksa Temple in 1916.


The left side of the front facade has Yeonhwa-gyo (Lotus Bridge) and Chilbo-gyo (Seven Treasures Bridge) from 1916.


To the right of the front facade is Baekun-gyo (White Cloude Bridge) and Cheongun-gyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) in 1916.


A closer look at Baekun-gyo and  Cheogun-gyo in 1916.


A look at Cheongun-gyo with Seokga-tap pagoda in the background from 1916.


A closer look at Cheongun-gyo in 1916.


The near collapse of the Hamyeong-ru Pavilion on the front facade in 1916.


The elevated Seokga-tap pagoda in the main courtyard in 1916.


The blueprints to the front facade from 1916.


The Daeung-jeon main hall at Bulguksa Temple in 1932.


A look around the inside of the Daeung-jeon from 1932.


The intricate Dabo-tap in 1916.


A closer look at the finial of Dabo-tap in 1916.


And a look at the body of Dabo-tap in 1916.


A neglected Seokga-tap in 1916 with the main hall in the background.


The stone lantern in front of the main hall in 1916.


One of the stupas at Bulguksa Temple in 1916.


And another stupa near the rear of the temple grounds in 1916.


Birojana-bul from 1917. It’s National Treasure #26.


Amita-bul from 1917. It’s also National Treasure #27.


Baekun-gyo (White Cloude Bridge) and Cheongun-gyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) in 2006


And Baekun-gyo (White Cloude Bridge) and Cheongun-gyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) in 2011.


A look across the famed front facade at Bulguksa Temple in 2011. In the foreground stands Yeonhwa-gyo (Lotus Bridge) and Chilbo-gyo (Seven Treasures Bridge).


Dabo-tap Pagoda from 2012.


Seokga-tap Pagoda circa 2011.


One of the ornate stupdas next to the Gwaneum-jeon Hall from 2011.


Birojana-bul from 2012. It’s National Treasure #26.


One more picture of the front facade but from 2014.