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


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

Hello Again Everyone!!

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.

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