Religious & Memorial, Seoul
Jogyesa is the largest Buddhist temple in Seoul, and the headquarters of Korea's main Buddhist order: Jogye. You climb up the steps to enter the main hall of the temple, which is quite austere. People are praying there silently. It is very Zen. You should remove your shoes before entering.
It is in a narrow street, hemmed in by other buildings, so it is easy to miss and quite difficult to take a good photograph of ,without a wide angle lens.
It is 5 minutes' walk from Insadong-gil.
While nosing about in MyeongDong, I saw a big group of Middle Eatern Men and university students on strike at the Cathedral.They prove to be more interesting than the brick facade as I heard some really poignant stories from them . Apparently, those poor folks were not treated rightly at their workplace and were paid very little for their labour. Unable to take the unfair treatment anymore, they decided to seek santicty from the church. Well, I hope everything works out well for them in the end...
bpacker's Seoul Searching page
Our entire visit to South Korea was the most culturally diverse trip to date. Staying at a Buddhist Temple was the ultimate cultural experience of the trip. We spent 24 hours at the Ganghwa Lotus Latern Meditation Center in Ganghwa, Korea. Reservations were made over the phone and confirmed via email. The process is quite simple as our hostess/reservationist spoke English.
The subway/bus trip took us about two hours Northwest of Seoul. Upon arrival we were shown to our rooms (no mixed couples in rooms) and given clothing to wear. We then shared a snack of boiled potatoes and sides with the three resident monks and other guests. Later that day we met with one of the Monks that explained Buddhist traditions, meditation, history, etc. We even spent about 20 minutes meditating, my mind wandering after about 10 minutes. Guess I have much to learn.
We retired to bed quite early, 10ish, knowing that we would rise at 3:30 AM in order to start the day with chanting and bowing in the Temple with the Monks. Let me tell you about that task. 108 is a significant number in Buddhist culture. 108 bows is what we did. 108 is about how old I felt the next day when climbing stairs. If fact my wife almost fell out of the Temple at about bow 73 when she lost her balance ( no worries, she maintained her spot in the Temple). We meditated, worked, and walked the grounds all before breakfast.
A trip to another Temple, question and answer sessions with the Head Monk, meals,and just plain quiet reflextion time were some of the other activities. Also talking with other guests from all over the world rounded out our 24 hour stay. You can stay for longer periods of time if you like.
I learned more in that 24 hours than the previous 45 years. It was a GREAT experience. Make sure you make time for this adventure!
Annother "Must see" located off the beaten path is the War Memorial. It offers an educational experience about the many wars in which Korea was involved.
Opend: 9.30 - 18.00 hours, closed on Mondays.
Take subway line No. 4, get off at Samgakji-Station.
The Jogyesa temple sits in a non-descript part of Seoul, not far from the northern royal palaces, hemmed in by the surrounding buildings. It is very much at the centre of Korean Buddhism. However, it is not a tourist attraction for trolling around in shorts and vests: it is a spiritual centre that deserves respect and dignity, especially when visiting it as a tourist. Originally called Gakhwangsa, and then Taegosa during the occupation, and was finally renamed Jogyesa in 1954 when it was felt that Korean Buddhism had been fully restored and replenished.
The temple opens its doors at 4am and stays open until 10pm, and it is generally busy right the way through the day with people worshipping. The main hall and the annex can be packed out, and it may be best to observe quietly from near a doorway rather than obtrusively push you way around the halls.
The temple is not old, having only been constructed in 1910, but it is particularly significant for the role its monks played in actively resisting changes being forced upon the Korean people by the Japanese occupiers between 1910 and 1945, and then in restoring Korean Buddhist traditions that had been removed by the Japanese.
Today, Jogyesa is the spiritual centre of Seon Buddhism (known as Chan in China and Zen in Japan), and is named after the mountain in China where the Sixth Patriarch lived in the 7th Century BCE.
The Daeungjeon or main Buddha hall was built in 1938 (and is currently undergoing major structural renovation) has a simple but extremely elegant construction, with particularly beautiful wooden panels depicting the life of Buddha around the exterior: most of these can be seen even during the renovation work although the light is poor. Inside, the hall can be difficult to explore because of the large numbers of worshippers. The statue of Sakyamuni is believed to date from early on in the Joseon Dynasty. Behind it is a painting of the Vulture Peak Assembly, and this can be difficult to appreciate from the doorway!
Seolleung Park is a medium sized park with two major attraction--Seolleung Tomb and the Jeongneung Tomb--where to of Korea's Kings are buried. The tombs themselves are huge mounds of earth with the actual burial site at the peak as a second, smaller mound. Around the burial site you will see stone figures of animals and people, perhaps guarding the location?
Seolleung Tomb is the resting place of King Seongjong (reign 1469-94), the ninth king of the Joseon dynasty, and his wife, Queen Yun. Queen Yun gave birth to Seongjong's second son and future King Jungjong. Queen Yun also founded the nearby Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple.
The Jeongneung Tomb is also located here, and it is the burial site for King Jungjong, the 11th king of Joseon (r. 1506-44). He was a son of King Seolleung.
Seolleung Park is one of the few areas with Royal Tombs that is easily accessible by Subway ( line 2, Seolleung Station or Samseong Station). It is located in Gangnam next to COEX Mall and the grand Intercontinental Hotel.
The Korean National Cemetery -- 국립서울현충원 -- (also known as the National Memorial Board) is one of my favorite places to go for a peaceful walk under the summer sun. It has approximately 160,000 graves where Korean patriots are buried, as well as a museum and many monuments. My favorite spot is the hill near the back of the cemetery. When you reach the top, you are several hundred feet above the grave stones and you have an excellent view across the Han River to the east. With the sun shining and a slight breeze, you can not find a more peaceful spot in Seoul.
Established by Syngman Rhee in 1956, it was Korea's only national cemetery until 1974 when the Daejon cemetery opened. Only one non-Korean person is buried there, the Canadian Francis Schofield who lived in Korea during the independence movement and became its unofficial spokesman to the west.
To get to the cemetery, take line 4 to Dongjak Station, exits 2 & 4, and walk about 15 minutes toward the river following the signs.
This is still an important location for people from all countries which lost people in the Korean War...a General from Turkey visited in Feb 2006.
This is also the final resting place for many students who died in the April 19, 1960 student uprising against former president Syngman Rhee. Here's another photo from the student uprising.
Admission is Free!
To the west of the Daeungjeon is the Paradise Hall, where Amitabha is accompanied by Avalokitesvara and Ksitigarbha, symbolizing the Western Paradise (Amitabha is the Buddha of the West). Along part of the walls are statues of the arhats and the judges of hell.
Just outside the Daeungjeon is a seven-storey stone stupa, constructed in 1930 and recently moved as part of the renovation programme (which will provide considerably more space for the temple complex). The stupa contains small remains of Sakyamuni, generously donated by Sri Lanka.
The Bell Pavilion contains a bell, unsurprisingly, but also a gong, a drum and a wooden fish, so holding all of the main implements with which to create the sounds of Buddhism! The bell calls those who live in hell, the gong the birds, the fish water creatures, and the drum calls beasts and man!
By the east door of Daeungjeon is a rather sad looking Chinese lacebark pine: these trees do not seem to do well in Seoul for some reason, but in front of the temple is a huge scholar tree that is definitely thriving.
As this is a truly living and breathing temple, there are many religious activities, and if you contact the temple authorities, they will advise you on upcoming events of note. They are particularly friendly to visitors and will show you around with obvious pleasure.
45 Gyeongji-Dong, Chongro-Gu
The Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine is a unique area on the north bank of the Han River. Near the shrine stands a huge rock outcropping where French missionaries first set foot in Korea. Years later (in 1866), after the Korean royalty got tired of the intruders converting their citizens, they decided to execute about 1,000 of the French missionaries on the spot the missionaries first landed to purify the Korean soil. Years after the executions of the missionaries and their followers, this area became a shrine for their sacrifices. There is now a great Christian Church, an underground tomb, and an exhibition hall. Jeoldusan actually translates into "decapitation hill" in English.
From Hapjeong Station (lines 2&6) walk south to the Han River following the brown signs in English that read "Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine". The address is 96-1, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul.
This early Baekje period burial site, dating from 500-400 BC, was excavated by the Museum of Seoul National University during the 70s and 80s. These six burial mounds are built in two styles. Some are like 4-sided pyramids with three horizontal levels of stone and earth. The others are large mounds of soil. This is an interesting stop for about 30 minutes to an hour unless you bring your lunch.
Take Subway line 8 to Seokchon Station, exit 6 and walk west 10-15 minutes, or take Line 2 to Jamsil Station, exit 1.
Admission is free.
This mosque, billed as Seoul's only Islamic temple, is in Itaewon, Seoul's foreigner district. Conveniently enough, the mosque sits square atop Hooker Hill. It opened in 1976 and was the first mosque in South Korea.
The mosque is located just up the hill from Ext 3 at Itaewon Station. Its address is 732-21, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu and telephone is 02-793-6908.
There are only about 6 mosques in the entire country serving the nation's 50,000 to 100,000 Muslims. Here is an article on Muslim life in Korea (http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/culture/200404/kt2004041519135011680.htm)
Jeoldusan Catholic Martyrs Museum Shrine was built in 1967 on a site where many Korean Catholics were killed in a series of fierce anti-catholic persecutions which took place between 1866 and 1873.
The Shrine-Museum contains historical documents and photographs.
In total there have been over 10,000 Korean martyrs. 103 of these were canonized in 1984 by Pope John Paul II. This canonization ceremony which took place in Seoul was the first ever to take place outside the Vatican.
We enjoyed looking at the shrines and statues. We got here by underground.
Bongeunsa Temple is located to the north of the COEX building. It was built in the 10th year of Shilla King Weongseong’s reign (794). 3,479 Buddhist scriptures are stored here. The Buddhist ceremony Jeongdaebulsa, is held here every September 9th. During this ceremony monks march while carrying the scriptures on their heads and reciting the Beopseongge (Buddhist rites).
We enjoyed looking at the beautiful paintings on the outside of the buildings. There was also a huge statue. A Buddhist ceremony filled with chanting monks and worshippers was taking place as we left
Directions:Exit Samseong Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), Exit 6.
Go 600m forward, and turn left.Then go 150m forward, and cross the road to arrive at Bongeunsa Temple.
Sejong the Great was born in 1397, crowned king in 1418, and he reigned until 1450 as the fourth king of Joseon. Sejong is perhaps most famous as the inventor of the Hangul language, a phonetic alphabet system for the Korean people that is still in use today. This language was a much simplified from the previous Chinese writing, and was intended to allow all Korean people the opportunity to learn to read and write.
Near Jogye Sa Temple is the 4-19 cemetary, dedicated to the 142 Korean Students that were killed in a protest against the fraudulent 1960 presidential elections. The Protests and shootings brought the country to the brink of civil war. This caused President Syngman Rhee's government to collapse. The military General Park Chung Hee took over the government of the country and was a dictator until his assisinated in 1979.
There is a museum with pictures and 3-D di-aramas, fountains, a walking trail, small temple and some interesting art work. Unfortunately, all of the information is in Korean but the pictures do tell the story pretty well. The Cemetary is on the edge of Buk-han San park.
To get to the cemetary Take subway line 4 to Suyu station and follow the signs to the north of the station. The road the cemetary is on is called the 4-19 road, and it is well marked. If you write 4-19 any local can direct you the right way.