Bongrimsa Temple – 봉림사 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The main hall and Boje-ru Pavilion that welcomes you at Bongrimsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Bongrimsa Temple in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do is known as “Phoenix Forest Temple” in English. Bongrimsa Temple is one of the Nine Mountain Zen-Gate temples in Korea, or the Gusan Seonmun in Korean. They were the original homes of Seon Buddhism in Korea. The original locations of the nine temples were spread throughout the Silla Kingdom away from Gyeongju, the capital of the kingdom. This radical form of Buddhism, at least at that time, first spread from Tang Dynasty China and made its way to the Korean peninsula during the 8th and 9th century. The reason that these temples were built on remote mountains throughout the kingdom was to avoid the governmental authority in Gyeongju that supported scholastic (Gyo) and devotional Buddhism. Unfortunately, after heavy shelling during the Korean War, there is only one relic that remains from the temple’s past: a three story Silla pagoda that is now housed on a local university campus.

Besides some foundation stones, Bongrimsa-ji Temple is no more. Instead, a brand new Bongrimsa Temple, which has undergone some new construction as of late, stands in its place 1,500 metres from its former home on Mt. Bongrimsan.

When you first approach the temple up a long, and somewhat steep, road, you’ll first be met by a building for devotees and monks. This modern building is joined by a large gravel parking lot and the yet unpainted Boje-ru Pavilion. To the far right, and just beyond the temple’s washroom, is the trail head that leads up to the former temple grounds of Bongrimsa-ji. Besides an older looking stone marker and a clearing once you arrive at the site, there really isn’t that much to see.

However, if you climbed the set of stairs that leads up through the plainly adorned Boje-ru Pavilion, you’ll be met by a large sized, and newly constructed, main hall. The main hall is painted with various Buddhist motif style murals of such luminaries as Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa. As for inside this massive main hall, there is a large seated statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).

Next to the main hall, and to the right, is the temple’s rather dour looking visitors’ centre. There are future plans to construct a Sanshin-gak to the right rear of the main hall, as well as a Geukrak-jeon to the left, but these have yet to materialize. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, both of these halls will be built to bring Bongrimsa Temple’s past glory into the present.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take a taxi to Bongrimsa Temple. The ride should last 12 minutes and cost 8,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. Besides the main hall and the stately Boje-ru Pavilion that first greets you at Bongrimsa Temple, there really isn’t all that much to see. But being a bit of a temple fanatic, Bongrimsa Temple is well worth a visit to take a stroll down its famed past. For this, and this alone, Bongrimsa Temple gets the rating it does.

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The new building for monks and devotees.

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The old Bongrimsa Temple sign that marks the trail that leads up to Bongrimsa-ji.

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Part of the trail that leads up to the historic temple.

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The plainly coloured Boje-ru that first welcomes you to the temple grounds.

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The stairs that lead up to the temple courtyard.

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The bell housed inside the Boje-ru.

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The large sized main hall with a statue of Seokgamoni-bul inside.

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Uisang-daesa reaching enlightenment.

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And Wonhyo-daesa gaining enlightenment in the most peculiar of ways.

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Some of the paper lanterns that lead to the Boje-ru from the main hall.

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