Iljumun: The One Pillar Gate

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The One Pillar Gate (Iljumun, in Korean) at  Tongdosa  Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. This is one of the finest examples of this type of gate throughout Korea.

Hello Again Everyone!!

The first thing you are greeted by at a Korean temple, besides maybe the monk stupas out in front is the temple’s first gate. This gate is the first of three. So what does the gate look like, and why exactly is it there?

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The Iljumun Gate at Beomeosa Temple as it first comes into view.

 The gate itself is very simple in design. It’s made up of a tiled roof supported by either two or four single pillars in a straight line. This differs from a typical structure that has four pillars in each of the structures corners. A wooden tablet is placed at the centre of the gate with the name of the temple and the mountain it rests upon written in Chinese characters. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, like at Beomeosa Temple in Busan, but more often than not this wooden tablet spells out the temple name in traditional Chinese characters. The exception,  Beomeosa Temple, instead of identifying the temple’s name actually reads “Chogye Gate.” Other written expressions that appear on the Iljumun Gate are “Head Family of Buddha,” or “Great Monastery of the Meditative Realm.” This is done to elevate the temple’s status. But again, more often than not, the gate’s wooden tablet simply identifies the temple’s name.

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A view of The One Pillar Gate at Beomeosa Temple in Busan. Another great example of Korean craftsmanship on the Ijumun Gate.

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The Iljumun Gate at Haeinsa Temple in Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do. Another of the better looking Iljumun Gates in Korea.


The significance of having the One Pillar Gate (Iljumun) where it is in the temple is that it represents the viewpoint of the Buddha Dharma. So what do I exactly mean by this? Well, when you look at the two to four pillars in a row, they actually appear to be one. What this means is that the world is illusionary. That things aren’t as they appear. So this is the symbolic first step towards enlightenment, and the first step towards your journey of a pure mind. And the closer you get to the centre of the temple, the greater your understanding will become.

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The Iljumun Gate at the world famous Seokguram Hermitage in Gyeongju.

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The ancient Iljumun gate at Songgwangsa Temple near Suncheon, Jeollanam-do.

Great examples of the One Pillar Gate (Iljumun, in Korean) are to be found at Beomeosa Temple in Busan, Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, Haeinsa Temple in Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do, and Songgwangsa Temple in near Suncheon, Jeollanam-do.

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 The colourful Iljumun Gate at Seoknamsa Temple in Eonyang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

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The beautiful and bright One Pillar Gate at Girimsa Temple in Gyeongju.

So the next time you approach the One Pillar Gate, take a look from the side and see all two or four pillars line up in a row. This will not only give you a beautiful new view of the gate, but it’ll give you a better understanding of the symbolic importance of this stately gate.

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And last, but certainly not least, is the Iljumun Gate at Hwaeomsa Temple in Jirisan National Park, in Jeollanam-do. If you look closely enough, you can see the stone dragons slithering up the side of the twin pillars.

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