Now and Then: Donghwasa Temple

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Donghwasa Temple during the early 20th century.

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Donghwasa Temple was first established in 493 A.D. by the monk Geukdal-jonja, and the temple is located on the beautiful southern slopes of the famed Mt. Palgongsan in Daegu. The name of the temple, in English, means “Paulownia Blossom Temple.” The name of the temple relates to the creation of Donghwasa Temple. According to legend, the name comes from the reconstruction of the temple in 832 A.D. During its reconstruction, even in the deadest of winter, the wild paulownia trees would bloom all around the temple grounds. With this in mind, the temple was renamed Donghwasa Temple from its former name of Yugasa Temple. The reconstruction of the temple in 832 A.D. was initiated by the monk Simji-wangsa, and it was during the reign of King Heungdeok (r. 826-836). The last major rebuild at the temple occurred in 1732. And the last major addition was the impressive thirty metre tall stone statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha), which was completed in November of 1992 in the hopes of one day reunifying the Korean peninsula.

From its reconstruction in 832 A.D., Donghwasa Temple remained one of the most important temples in Korea. During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), the temple was only one of four temples that administered the civil service exam for monks. And even during the Confucian led Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), which saw harsh restrictions placed on Korean Buddhism, Donghwasa Temple continued to flourish, which was made evident by the continued construction of new buildings at the temple.

In more recent years, it’s the 9th regional headquarter of the Jogye-jong Buddhist Order, which is the largest sect in Korea. The temple houses thirteen treasures including paintings and pagodas, and it also takes part in the highly popular Temple Stay program.

Donghwasa Main Hall

The main hall at Donghwasa Temple at the turn of the last century.

Donghwasa Geukrakjeon

And the Geukrak-jeon Hall, as well.

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Another long, old, look at Donghwasa Temple.

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A look at the main hall today.

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And the impressive thirty metre tall statue of Yaksayore-bul built in 1992.

 

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