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

Hwaeomsa - 1933

Hwaeomsa Temple as it appeared in 1933.

Hello Again Everyone!!

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.

Hwaeomsa1 - 1933 Iljumun

The Iljumun Gate from 1933 at Hwaeomsa Temple.

Hwaeomsa2 - 1933 Iljumun

Some of the intricate artistry adorning the Iljumun Gate.

Hwaeomsa7 - 1933 Daeungjeon

The smaller sized Daeung-jeon main hall in 1933.

Hwaeomsa8 - 1916 east pagoda

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

Hwaeomsa7 - 1916 West pagoda

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

Hwaeomsa8 - 1933 Daeungjeon

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

Hwaeomsa9 - 1933 Daeungjeon

A look inside the main hall in 1933.

Hwaeomsa10 - 1933 Daeungjeon

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

Hwaeomsa11 - 1933 Daeunjeon

A look around the main hall.

Hwaeomsa13 -1933 Wontongjeon

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

Hwaeomsa3 - 1933 Gakhwangjeon

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.

Hwaeomsa4 - 1933 Gakhwangjeon

Outside the Gakhwang-jeon.

Hwaeomsa5 - 1933 Gakhwangjeon

A look inside the spacious Gakhwang-jeon.

Hwaeomsa6 - 1933 Gakhwangjeon

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

Hwaeomsa - 1916 lion pagoda

The Four Lion Three-story Stone Pagoda in 1916.

Hwaeomsa1 - 1916 lion pagoda

A closer look at the lion base of the pagoda.

Hwaeomsa2 - 1916 lion pagoda

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

Hwaeomsa4 - 1916 lion pagoda

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

Hwaeomsa3 - 1916 lion pagoda

Doors carved into the body of the pagoda.

Hwaeomsa14 - 1933 Byeokamdae

A stupa found at Hwaeomsa Temple in 1933.

Hwaeomsa15 - 1933 Byeokamdae

A large biseok found at Hwaeomsa Temple in 1933.

2005

The same exact biseok from 2005.

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The Iljumun Gate in 2013.

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Daeung-jeon main hall in 2013.

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

2005a

A look inside the Gakhwang-jeon hall in 2005.

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The Four Lion Three-story Stone Pagoda in 2013.

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And a closer look at the pagoda in 2013.

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