Now and Then: Jikjisa Temple

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An aerial shot of Jikjisa Temple from the last century.

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Jikjisa Temple in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do, was first founded in 418 A.D, and it’s believed to be one of the oldest temples on the Korean peninsula. It’s believed to have been established by the venerable monk, Ado. In fact, one of the meanings behind the temple’s name has to do with Ado. The name “Jikji,” in English, means “pointing directly,” which is in reference to Ado when he pointed at a perfect spot to locate a future temple that turned out to be Jikjisa Temple. Another meaning behind the temple’s name is that it refers to a Seon expression where one is “pointing directly to the Original Mind.” One final meaning behind the temple’s name is that during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), temples weren’t built by using rulers; instead, they were measured by hand. In English, “Ji” means “finger.”

Monk Ado, a Goguryeo monk, is legendary in his own right. It’s believed that he was the first missionary monk to introduce Buddhism to the shamanic Silla Kingdom, which formally accepted Buddhism in 527. Originally much smaller in size when it was first established, Master Jajang-yulsa further expanded the temple to some forty buildings in 645 A.D. Jikjisa Temple enjoyed a further renaissance with major renovations in the 10th century under the geomantic recommendations of Master Doseon-guksa.

Like so many other famous temples throughout the Korean peninsula, Jikjisa Temple faced almost complete destruction during the Imjin War in 1592. Ten years later, in 1602, some twenty buildings were rebuilt. Jikjisa Temple faced repeated destruction by fires throughout the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), as well as further damage caused by fighting during the Korean War (1950-53). It wasn’t until 1966, with governmental support, that the temple was finally rebuilt to its former glory by 1981.

Today, Jikjisa Temple is the 8th regional headquarters for the Jogye-jong sect, which is the largest Buddhist Order in all of Korea. It was also the first temple to participate in the Temple Stay program in 2002. The temple continues to provide the Temple Stay program to any and all guests. In total, the temple houses a National Treasure and ten additional Treasures. The one National Treasure it does house, National Treasure #208, is the Gilt-bronze Sarira Reliquary from Sakyamuni Stupa of Dorisa Temple.

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Another aerial shot.

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A shot of the Mansye-ru Pavilion.

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A look towards the temple’s main hall.

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 A look towards the Biro-jeon Hall.

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Another temple hall.

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A picture from what looks to be Buddha’s birthday.

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And one more look at Jikjisa Temple in all its splendour.

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A look towards the Mansye-ru Pavilion, today, through the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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The Biro-jeon Hall to the left with the Myeongbu-jeon Hall to the right.

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