Colonial Korea: Donghwasa Temple – 동화사 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)


An overview of Donghwasa Temple in Daegu in 1932.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Donghwasa Temple, which means Paulownia Blossom Temple,” in English, was first established in northern Daegu on the southern slopes of Mt. Palgongsan in 493 A.D. The temple was first constructed through the efforts of monk Geukdal-jonja. The name of the temple is linked to the temple’s creation story. According to legend, the name of the temple comes from Donghwasa Temple’s reconstruction in 832 A.D. At that time, and during the middle of winter, the wild paulownia trees bloomed all around the temple grounds. So it was at this time that the temple changed its name from Yugasa Temple to Donghwasa Temple. The reconstruction of the temple occurred because of the efforts of the monk Simji-wangsa. And all of this happened during the reign of King Heungdeok (r. 826-836).

The last of Donghwasa Temple’s major rebuilds took place in 1732. And the last major addition to Donghwasa Temple took place in the fall of 1992 with the addition of the thirty metre tall statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) to the south of the main temple courtyard. This statue of Yaksayore-bul was constructed in hopes of having the Korean peninsula one day reunified.

From the day of its reconstruction in 832 A.D., and throughout its long storied history, Donghwasa Temple remains one of the most important temples throughout the Korean peninsula. In fact, Donghwasa Temple was one of only four temples during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) to administer the civil service exam for monks. And even during the highly restrictive, Confucian led, Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Donghwasa Temple not only continued to flourish but it also continued to grow in size, as well. In total, Donghwasa Temple and its associated hermitages house nine Korean Treasures.

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The flagpole supports at Donghwasa Temple in 1916, which are Treasure #254.


The Iljumun Gate at the temple.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall in 1932, which is Treasure #1563.

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A look around its exterior walls.

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And a look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1932.

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And a look around its exterior walls.

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The Donghwasa Temple grounds from 2005.

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A look up at the main hall during Buddha’s birthday in 2013.

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Buddha’s birthday in 2013.

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The 1992 extension as seen in 2013.

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A closer look at Yaksayore-bul during Buddha’s birthday.

Donghwasa Temple – 동화사 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)


A sunlit day at Donghwasa Temple in Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Donghwasa Temple was first built in 493 A.D. by the monk, Geukdal-jonja. The temple, which is on the southern side of Mt.Palgongsan, was first named Yugasa Temple. Donghwasa Temple was later rebuilt during the reign of King Heungdeok (r.826-836) by Simji in 832. It was during this time that the name of the temple changed to its present name: Donghwasa Temple. The name of the temple means “Paulownia Blossom Temple,” in English. According to legend, this name comes from the reconstruction of the temple in 832. During its reconstruction, even during the dead of winter, wild paulownia trees bloomed all around Donghwasa Temple.

You first approach Donghwasa Temple up a long, newly paved, road. Your first encounter with the temple is the large Cheonwangmun Gate, which houses the Four Heavenly Kings. These kings are rather unique in both their design and colours. After paying and passing through this gate, you’ll continue towards the temple grounds, as you pass by a pond to your left.

Finally, you’ll come to a clearing, and you’ll notice yet another Cheonwangmun Gate to your left. You can either head left or right at this point, but I would suggest that you head left before heading right. Inside the Cheonwangmun Gate are a rather plump collection of the Four Heavenly Kings. And they are trampling under their feet some of the most demonic demons in all of Korea.

Continuing towards the main hall, you’ll next come to the Bongseoru Hall. This hall is named after a phoenix (bonghwang). On either side of the stairs that lead under this hall are a set of railings designed like dragons. In the centre are a pair of stone phoenixes with a pair of circular stone balls. These marble stones resemble a Yeouiji, which is associated with dragons. And to the right of these stairs is the temple’s elevated bell pavilion.

Having finally ascended these stairs, you’ll finally be standing in the temple courtyard. Straight ahead, and under a canopy of paper lanterns (I visited around Buddha’s birthday), you’ll see the large main hall, the Daeung-jeon, straight ahead. The exterior walls to this hall are surrounded by various paintings included the Shimu-do, Ox-herding, murals. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, you’ll see Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) sitting in the centre. He’s joined by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) to the left and Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine) to the right.

To the left rear of the main hall, and up a set of stairs, you’ll first come to the Josa-jeon Hall, which houses portraits of important monks of Donghwasa Temple like Samyeong-daesa and Geukdal. Behind this hall is the newly built Chilseong-gak, which houses beautiful new painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And immediately behind the main hall is the Sanshin-gak. Inside this hall is a nice looking mural of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

Retracing your steps back to where you first forked to the left, instead of heading right; now head towards the right. Down a long set of stairs, you’ll come to an artificial pond with a beautiful set of cascading falls. A bit further along, and past the elevated monument dedicated to the priest Inak to your left, you’ll come to a bend in the path that heads towards the centerpiece at Donghwasa Temple.

Up one more set of zigzagging stairs that run next to the temple’s museum, you’ll finally come to the 30 metre tall stone statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine). This massive stone Buddha statue was created in hopes of one day unifying the Korean peninsula, and it was completed in November, 1992. The statue is joined, out in front, by a beautiful fountain with Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) crowning it. To the left, and still in front of the massive Buddha, are two equally massive stone pagodas that measure 17 metres in height and stone lanterns that measure an equally impressive 7.6 metres in height. Surrounding the Buddha, in a semi-circle of stone, are stone statues of guardians, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. And inside this stone enclosure, and underground, is the Seon meditation centre at Donghwasa Temple. The entire area is one of the most impressive sights that you’ll see at a Korean temple for its sheer size and beauty.

Admission to Donghwasa Temple is 2,500 won for adults. And the temple is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Seobu (west) Intercity Bus Terminal in Daegu, you’ll need to take the subway, line 1, that heads towards Anshim and get off at Ahyanggyo Station. From here, take Express Bus #1. The ride will take you about 35 minutes, and it brings you right to the temple.

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OVERALL RATING: 9.5/10. Donghwasa Temple is the most impressive temples on Mt. Palgongsan, and Korea for that matter. With its history accented by the beautiful main hall, the grounds, and the massive 17 metre tall stone statue of Yaksayore-bul, and you’ll have more than enough reason to visit Daegu and Donghwasa Temple.


As you approach the beautiful temple courtyard.


The Cheongwangmun Gate in the foreground.


One of the demons being trampled under foot inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.


In the background, and at the end of the colourful paper lanterns, is the Bongseoru Hall.


The tall bell pavilion at Donghwasa Temple.


The set of stairs that lead to the temple courtyard.


A look up at the main hall with pink paper lotus flowers swinging in the breeze.


Another great look up at the Daeung-jeon.


Inside the main hall. In the centre sits Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined by Amita-bul and Yaksayore-bul.


A beautiful view of the main hall and the colourful temple courtyard.


The Josa-jeon Hall at Donghwasa Temple.


The newer looking Chilseong-gak, which is behind the Josa-jeon Hall.


A look inside the Chilsenog-gak at the main altar and Chilseong (The Seven Stars).


Directly behind the main hall is the Sanshin-gak.


As you head towards the 30 metre tall statue of Yaksayore-bul, you’ll first have to cross this beautiful bridge and cascading falls.


A closer looking at the cascading waterfall.


The path that leads you to Yaksayore-bul.


Your first look up at the massive statue and neighbouring stone lantern. One is 30 metres tall, while the other is 7.6 metres.


A great look up at the shrine.


The surrounding semi-circle of stone statues of guardians, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas.


A colourful look up at the Buddha during his birthday.


A closer look at serenity.


A look at the descriptive water fountain.


One last look at the shrine before it was time to go.