Southeast Region in Korea - Daegu
"The Palgong-san Mountain - Donghwa-sa Temple"
If you drive along the straight access road to Mt. Palgongsan, you will find a slow curve. This means you are on the right track for Pagunjae Pass. You will arrive there after a while. The entrance to Pagunjae Pass is a fork which is divided into the direction of the Pagyesa Temple and Donghwasa Temple. From this point of the mountain, the altitude gets higher and the panoramic view of the mountains begins to unfold. After about a 30 minute drive from that point, you will get to the Donghwasa Temple. This more than a millennium year old temple was built during the period of the Silla Kingdom in Dohak-dong Valley where tributary valleys of Pokpogol (cascade) Valley, Bindaegol Valley, and Susutgol Valley of the mountain converge.
The temple was originally founded by Priest Geukdal, and named as the Yugasa Temple. Later it was reconstructed by the Great Buddhist Teacher Simji. At that time flowers of the paulownia trees(O-Dong) were in full blossom foretelling good omen and the temple was renamed as the Donghwasa Temple. The first building visitors come across is the Bongseoru Tower. The tower symbolizes the Chinese phoenix which is known to build its nest in a paulownia forest. It forms a good combination with other buildings surrounding temple.
Past the tower gate, visitors come across Daeungjeon, the main worship hall, in the center of the temple . The grand building was built during the period of King Yeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty. The supporting poles which are made of curved wood show the natural beauty of the building. Amitabha Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, and the Pharmaceutical Buddha are enshrined in the building. Their poses look as if they are reading something, which reminds us of the appearance of Confucian scholars in the Joseon Dynasty. Besides these, lots of Buddhist wall paintings make the temple look lively.
In the east side of the temple, the quiet Geumdangam Hermitage stands as a separate block. Two simple and balanced three tiered, twin pagodas stand face to face in front of the building block. The pagodas were built during the period of the Unified Silla Kingdom, and are designated as Treasure Number 248.
The road in front of Geumdangam was the original entrance to the Donghwasa Temple and the original gate pillars (Treasure Number 254) and a stone relief (Treasure Number 601) still remain. A little ways down the road, the enormous statue of Pharmaceutical Stone Buddha stands up high through the forest. Further down the road, a Buddha relief with a gentle smile (Treasure Number 243) is inscribed on a cliff in the parking lot.
Besides these, many well known Buddhist Hermitages such as Biroam, Yeombulam, and Budoam are scattered near the temple. Biroam Hermitage is a small building not far from the pond of the ticketing booth. The hermitage has Birochana Stone Buddha (Treasure Number 244) and a three tiered pagoda (Treasure Number 247). In front of the hermitage, people’s uproar makes the streets and the restaurants festive. About one and a half hour walk up along the mountain trail from the hermitage, leads you to Yeombulam (Chanting) Hermitage. The legendary Yeombulbawi (Chanting Rock) is carved with Buddha and Bodhisattva images. A panoramic view is unfolded in front of the hermitage and the beautiful hills surround it. The hermitage is located within a one hour walking distance from Dongbong (East Peak) the second highest peak of Mt. Palgongsan. Birobong, the highest peak of the mountain began to be used as a military base one day, and ever since Dongbong has actually become the highest peak civilians could climb. On top of Dongbong people can see the grand panorama of Mt. Palgongsan. When the weather is good, Mt. Biseul and Mt. Gaya also come into sight.
Located on Palgong-san mountain near the city of Daegu, this temple represents the spirit of a phoenix, which is said to have resided here.
According to historians, the temple was built by National Teacher Pojo-kuksa in 493, during the reign of King Soji, and was originally named Yuga-Sa. It was later rebuilt by Shim-ji Daesa in 771, during the reign of King Hyegong.
One winter, a Paulownia tree blossomed auspiciously, so the temple's name was changed to Donghwa-Sa (Paulownia Blossom Temple).
During the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592, Samyeong Daesa (student of Seo-Sahn Daesa) established the headquarters for a militia of Buddhist monks here, and became their general commander.
"... more on Donghwa-Sa"
In the vicinity of Donghwa-Sa are six small hermitages and many cultural assets, including a seated Buddha relief on a rock face carved by Shim-Ji Daesa. Other noteworthy sites include a pair of three-storey stone pagodas in Kumdang-am hermitage, a seated stone Vairocana Buddha statue in Piro-am, a seated Buddha carved on a rock face, ancient flagpole supports and a stupa.
The Great Medicine Buddha statue, the largest standing stone Buddha in the world, was built through the generous donations of people wishing to see the reunification of the Korean peninsula.