Bongjeongsa Temple – 봉정사 (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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 The second oldest building in all of Korea, the Geukrakjeon hall at Bongjeongsa Temple dates back to 1363.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Bongjeongsa Temple, which is located in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do, was first built in 672 A.D. Fortunately, Bongjeongsa Temple was one of the very few temples in all of Korea to remain undamaged by the destructive Imjin War of 1592. Initially, it had been believed that Bongjeongsa Temple was in fact built by the famed monk, Uisang. The story behind the creation of the temple states that monk Uisang flew on a paper crane and landed at Bongjeongsa Temple after launching from the neighbouring Buseoksa Temple and subsequently established Bongjeongsa Temple. However, this myth was easily disproven when an inscription on the Geukrak-jeon hall was discovered stating that it was in fact Neungin-daedeuk, a disciple of Uisang, that established the temple.

You first approach Bongjeongsa Temple up a trail that winds its way through a mature pine tree forest. You’ll pass by the Iljumun Gate along the way, until eventually you’ll come to the temple parking lot with a bathroom that still has a traditional thatched roof. Just past the temple parking lot, and you’ll get your first amazing view of the temple: the Manseru pavilion. You’ll gain entrance to the temple grounds by passing through the entranceway at the Manseru pavilion. Entering on the other side, and up the uneven set of stairs, you’ll finally be in the temple courtyard. Just behind you, and on the second story of the Manseru pavilion, you’ll find the wooden drum, the fish gong, and the cloud gong.

Straight ahead lays the main hall, the Daeungjeon hall, which dates back to the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). This natural wood exterior has a heavily accented roof. Also, the wooden rail that skirts the wooden platform out in front of the main hall is rather unique as it’s usually missing from most modern main halls. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). To the right of the main altar hangs a painting of Jijang-bosal, and on the far right wall is the guardian mural. The Daeungjeon hall is designated National Treasure #55.

To the right of the main hall is the Muryanghaehoe, which is the monks’ quarters. And to the left of the main hall is the Hwaeom Gangdang, which is a study hall that dates back to 1588. This hall is treasure #448 in Korea. And through a pathway that leads from the Daeungjeon hall to the Geukrakjeon hall, you’ll find a weathered statue of Seokgamoni-bul.

Just past this statue, and you’ll find yourself in the presence of the second oldest wooden structure in all of Korea: the Geukrakjeon hall, second to only the main hall at Sudeoksa Temple, which was constructed in 1308. The Geukrakjeon hall at Bongjeongsa Temple dates back to 1363, and it’s National Treasure #15. This hall is plainly painted brown and yellow and the architecture is in sharp contrast in its simplicity to more modern Joseon halls. There is only one door that leads into the hall with slated wooden windows on either side of the hall’s entrance. As for the interior, and sitting all by himself, sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).

Out in front of the main hall is a three tier stone pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). To the left of the Geukrakjeon hall and the three tier stone pagoda is the Gogeumdang hall, which dates back to 1616, and it’s designated treasure #449.

To the left of this Geukrakjeon hall courtyard is a colourful bell pavilion that houses a rather large bronze bell. Just up the hill, and up an unmarked and little traveled trail, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. All but for the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting, the other two shaman paintings are rather common in their design.

Admission to the temple is 2,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Bongjeongsa Temple, you’ll first need to get an intercity bus to the Andong Intercity Bus Terminal. From the Andong Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take bus #51 to Bongjeongsa Temple. Bus #51 leaves at 6:10/8:25/10:40/12:50/14:50/17:20/19:00. In total, the bus ride should take about 30 minutes.


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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. The real attractions to this temple are the number of ancient halls housed at Bongjeongsa Temple. From the second oldest building in all of Korea, to the three additional treasure halls, Bongjeongsa Temple truly has a little bit of everything for the temple historian. While not that large in size, nor that vibrant in colour, you’re coming to Bongjeongsa Temple to see a part of Korea that very few people are able to witness.

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The path that leads up to Bongjeongsa Temple.

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The stately Iljumun Gate at Bongjeongsa Temple.

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The thatched roof bathroom at Bongjeongsa Temple.

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The amazing front facade at Bongjeongsa Temple.

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The Manseru pavilion that you pass under to gain access to the rest of the temple.

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The view as you climb towards the Manseru pavilion.

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The rounded entrance to the temple just beneath the Manseru pavilion.

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A look inside the second floor of the Manseru pavilion with the wooden drum and cloud gong front and centre.

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The early Joseon era main hall at Bongjeongsa Temple.

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The front facade at the Daeungjeon hall.

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Next to the main hall, and through a corridor, lies this weathered statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).

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A look at the ancient Geukrakjeon hall at Bongjeongsa Temple. Notice the unique design in sharp contrast to the neighbouring main hall.

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A look inside the Geukrakjeon hall reveals the solitary Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).

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The Goryeo era three tier pagoda out in front of the Geukrakjeon hall.

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A look at both the ancient hall and pagoda at Bongjeongsa Temple.

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The bell pavilion at Bongjeongsa Temple.

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The hillside Samseong-gak.

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The Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting inside the Samseong-gak.

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And the rather ordinary looking Sanshin painting, as well.

2 thoughts on “Bongjeongsa Temple – 봉정사 (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

  1. Interesting to see the pair of Gingko trees in the photo entitled “The view as you climb towards the Manseru pavilion”. Pairs of old Gingkos usually indicate Confucian establishments such as soewon. I have never seen them in association with a Buddhist temple before. Is there any history which might explain this unusual planting?

    • Unfortunately, none at all. The path where those Gingko trees lie is a path that leads to a hermitage directly associated with Bongjeongsa Temple.

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