Taejongsa Temple – 태종사 (Taejongdae, Busan)

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 Just one of the amazing views from Taejongdae Park, where Taejongsa Temple is located in Busan.

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Taejongdae Park and Taejongsa Temple are named after the 29th King of the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. to 935 A.D.), King Taejong. King Taejong Muyeol (604-661) enjoyed archery and hiking in this area of Busan. He was also the father to King Sejong the Great. Taejongdae Park is well known for its scenic views. You can see Tsushima Islands in Japan, as well as the beautiful rock beaches. The park is also famous for a ritual for the rain. The ritual is performed on May 10th of the lunar calendar, and it’s called Taejong Rain. Besides Taejongsa Temple, you can also enjoy Gumyeongsa Temple, an observatory, the Yeongdo Lighthouse, the Sinseon Rock (where deities came to relax), and the Mangbuseok rock, where a woman is said to have waited for her husband who had been taken by the Japanese. Taejongdae Park is known as Scenic Site #17. But above it all, it’s the amazing views that people come to Taejongdae Park, and subsequently see Taejongsa Temple along the way.

If you take the more scenic route, which I strongly recommend, you’ll come to the mountainside Taejongsa Temple after about 30 minutes of hiking. About 100 metres up the trail, you’ll come to Taejongsa Temple from the rear. So the first thing to greet you at the temple is the main hall. The main hall, which is rather underwhelming when you first see it, is made of concrete. Of note, the brown latticework is especially beautiful. On each corner is a manja. Housed inside the main hall, and sitting all alone, is a large golden statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Flanking this statue on either side are colourful murals of the Buddha. On the far right wall is the Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian mural). It’s well populated with shaman deities and guardians. On the other wall is an equally elaborate mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

Just to the rear of the main hall, and to the left, is the Sanshin-gak. Another concrete hall, this house-like structure has a nice painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). The painting is joined by a white statue of Sanshin-dosa (The Mountain Pass Deity). Just down the mountain, and to the left, is the Bo-gung shrine hall. Inside this hall are the purported remains of the Buddha that they received from Sri Lanka. As you enter this hall, you’ll notice a stone statue of a lying Seokgamoni-bul. Straight ahead is a large golden pagoda with an open chamber, where the partial earthly remains of the Buddha reside. Above is a window that lets in natural sunlight. Behind the golden pagoda are south-east Asian-looking statues of the Buddha. The walls inside this hall are lined with miniature statues of the Buddha.

Just out in front of this hall and the main hall is a very unique, non-traditional, three-story stone pagoda. Just beyond this pagoda is a field of stupas and the monks’ quarters. The final thing you can see, as you make your way back to the main road of Taejongdae Park, is a popular replica of a Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) statue.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Taejongdae Park, and then Taejongsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to Busan Station. From the Busan train station, you can catch city bus #88 or #101. When you arrive, and from the entry of Taejongdae Park, you should hang a left and head up the road for about a kilometer. The temple is on your left.


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OVERALL RATING: 4/10. On its own, the temple might be a two out of ten. But Taejongdae Park, which is a ten out of ten, raises this below average temple to a sort of respectability. While the temple purportedly houses the Buddhas sari (crystallized earthly remains of the Buddha), take your time and enjoy the must more pleasurable, and scenic, Taejongdae Park. Little else of this concrete temple is worth seeing.

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One of the first openings you’ll come to at Taejongdae Park.

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Another amazing view, as boats leave and enter the neighbouring Busan port.

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A look over the sheer cliff at the neighbouring East Sea.

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Finally, after 30 minutes of hiking, you’ll come to Taejongsa Temple. The first thing to greet you is the temple’s main hall.

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The latticework on the main hall. Notice the manja design on the four corners of the windowpane.

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A look at the altar inside the main hall.

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A painting of Seokgamoni-bul beside the statue of a golden Buddha.

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The mountainside Sanshin-gak at Taejongsa Temple.

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A look inside at the mural of Sanshin, as well as a statue of Sanshin-dosa to the left.

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The Bo-gung hall that houses the partial earthly remains of the Buddha.

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The golden pagoda that houses the Buddha’s sari.

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A closer look at the open chamber with the Buddha’s remains inside.

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The Korean and south-east Asian style statues of the Buddha.

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One last look…

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The stupa field to the south of the temple.

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One last amazing view of the neighbouring sea, as you make your way back to the park exit.

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