This is the odd Buddhist temple. Most temples I have been to are located in these quiet areas surrounded by trees and nature, not so at Jogyesa. This is right in the middle of downtown Seoul, and it does a lot of business!
I have never seen a temple so busy. But it was not a problem, because there were english speaking guides who were present to assist the miguks and tell us what was going on.
If you go, it is ok to take pictures outside the temple, but out of respect for those who practice Buddhism and who are using the temple, please do not take flash pictures. It is rude to do so.
Located just east of Insadong is Jogyeasa (조계사), Seoul's largest Buddhist Temple and the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. It consists of a main temple and several out-buildings including the bell-tower. Feel free to enter the temple to watch the worshipers and look at the interior -- just remove your shoes and keep quiet!
There are many shops selling Buddhist gifts and supplies on the street in front of Jogyesa. Every May for Buddha's birthday, the street is closed for a great festival.
The temple was constructed in 1910 during Japanese occupation, and is the only temple within the Chosun Dynasty's four gates of historic Seoul.
Throughout my time in Korea, the temple was constantly under construction.
Jogyesa is a famous Buddhist temple which also contains the largest Buddhist Shrine in Seoul. The murals and the statues are amazing. You can join a prayer if you would like to. It is very crowded since it attracts both tourists and believers at the same time.
I tend to find Budhist temples an intimidating but open place to visit. The awe from the building to the Budhas and other articles of worship is brought into contrast to people freely entering and praying. Jogyesa is not the oldest temple, it was built in 1938, but it is still impressive.
I was lucky to catch the Lotus Lantern Parade on a Sunday (April 30) prior to Buddha's Birthday. The Lotus Lantern Parade is held late April or early May in celebration of the birthday of Buddha.
Multi-colored paper lanterns of different shapes (Buddha, animals, flowers, candle) create a magical effect in the Jogyesa Temple. Paper strips hung from below the lanterns were wishes were written. Locals dressed in hanboks parade the streets carrying their own hand-made lanterns.
That Sunday, participants gathered at Dongdaemun Stadium, paraded in Jongno and then prayed and gathered with the monks at the main hall of Jogyesa temple. Celebration ended around 10:30 pm.
Even thought Seoul has seen many wars, some of the temples and palaces have been restored to near perfection. I had a wonderful introduction into Korean Buddhism at the Jogyesa Temple in town. The free tour provided by a volunteer is an interesting insight into Buddhism in general. I even kneeled three times in a prayer to Buda (no, I?m not converting into Buddhism... love my meat too much for that...hehehe).
This is the largest active buddhist temple in central Seoul. It's the headquarters of the Jogye sect, a uniquely Korean buddhist sect.