Now and Then: Haeinsa Temple

Haeinsa 1902

Inside the famed Janggyeong-panjeon at Haeinsa Temple from 1902.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Haeinsa Temple was first founded in 802 A.D. The name of the temple, in English, means “Temple of the Ocean Mudra Temple.” Alongside Tongdosa Temple and Songgwangsa Temple, Haeinsa Temple is one of the three jewel temples. Haeinsa Temple represents the Dharma aspect of the three jewels.

The temple is located in present day Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do, and it was established by two monks: Suneung and Ijeong. According to legend, the temple was established after the two monks helped heal King Aejang’s wife from a serious illness. As a sign of appreciation, the king ordered the construction of Haeinsa Temple. Another story that surrounds the creation of the temple, as written by Choe Chiwon in 900 A.D., states that Suneung and Ijeong gained the support of the queen who had converted to Buddhism. Through her new found devotion, and financial backing, they constructed the temple. Either way, the amazing Haeinsa Temple was constructed for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

Throughout the years, Haeinsa Temple has been expanded a number of times first starting in the 10th century. It was then continued in 1488, 1622, and 1644. Tragically, the temple was burned to the ground in 1817 and was rebuilt the following year. Amazingly, the temple has had more than its fair share of fires with seven in total devastating the grounds.

During the Korean War (1950-53), a crisis was averted in September, 1951. It would be the closest that the Tripitaka Koreana would come to its complete destruction. After the Battle of Incheon, South Korea was turning the war around; however, some North Korean forces refused to retreat. In total, about a thousand North Korean soldiers remained around Haeinsa Temple as a guerrilla force. The U.N. forces were ordered to bomb Haeinsa Temple using four bombers to weed out these enemy forces from allied territory. Fortunately, Kim Young was the leading pilot of these planes, and he disobeyed the command to bomb the temple. In time, the North Korean forces retreated and Haeinsa Temple was spared from bombing.

Haeinsa Temple is best known for the Tripitaka Koreana, which was first housed at the temple in 1398. In total, 81,258 wooden blocks are housed inside the Janggyeong-panjeon, which acts as the blocks’ library. The Tripitaka Koreana was first made in 1087; however, they were completely destroyed by the invading Mongols. It would take over a hundred years, and from 1236 to 1251, for them to be remade again under the royal order of King Gojong (r. 1213-1259).

Haeinsa Temple houses three national treasures and thirteen treasures. Of these three national treasures, all three are directly related to the Tripitaka Koreana including the wooden blocks and the blocks’ library, the Janggyeong-panjeon. In 1995, the temple was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Visitors out in front of the Iljumun Gate at Haeinsa Temple from the turn of the 20th century.

Haeinsa Gugwangru 1915

The Gugwang-ru Pavilion from 1915.

Haeinsa pagoda 1915

The three-story pagoda from out in front of the main hall from 1915.

Haeinsa 1961

The main hall from 1961.

haeinsa Samseonggak

The former Samseong-gak; and now, present day Dokseong-gak, from the 1960s.


Inside the Janggyeong-panjeon library, once more.


How the Iljumun Gate looks in its present form.


The main hall and three-story stone pagoda.


The Dokseong-gak.


A look inside the Janggyeong-panjeon in 2007. Unfortunately, you can no longer take any photography inside the library.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *