- Ujonggungno Insadong
- tel, info: 02 725 6641
Lonely Planet review for Jogyesa
Within the grounds of this temple is Daeungjeon, the largest Buddhist shrine in Seoul. It was built in 1938, but the design followed the late-Joseon-dynasty style. Murals of scenes from Buddha’s life and the carved floral latticework doors are two of its attractive features. Inside are three giant Buddha statues : on the left is Amitabha, Buddha of the Western Paradise; in the centre is the historical Buddha, who lived in India and achieved enlightenment; on the right is the Bhaisaiya or Medicine Buddha, with a medicine bowl in his hand. The small 15th-century Buddha in the glass case was the main Buddha statue before he was replaced by the much larger ones in 2006. On the right-hand side is a guardian altar with lots of fierce-looking guardians in the painting behind, and on the left side is the altar used for memorial services (white is the funeral colour).
Believers who enter the temple bow three times, touching their forehead to the ground – once for Buddha, once for the dharma (teaching) and once for the sangha (monks), 20 of whom serve in this temple. Outside there are candles (like Buddha they light up the world, dispelling darkness and ignorance) and incense sticks (the smoke sends wishes up to heaven).
Behind the main shrine is the modern Amitabha Buddha Hall, where funeral services are held. The statues are the 10 judges who pass judgement, 49 days after someone’s death, to decide if they go to heaven or hell.
The belfry houses a drum to summon earthbound animals, a wooden fish-shaped gong to summon aquatic beings, a metal cloud-shaped gong to summon birds and a large bronze bell to summon underground creatures. They are banged 28 times at 4am and 33 times at 6pm.
The new Central Buddhist Museum (adult/child W2000/1000; open 9am-6pm Tuesday to Sunday) has three galleries of antique woodblocks, symbol-filled paintings and other Buddhist artefacts. In one corner is a teashop, Namu (teas W3000-5000; open 10am to 7pm Monday to Saturday). In another corner is the Information Centre for Foreigners (open 10am to 5pm), staffed by English-speaking Buddhist guides. Making lanterns and prayer beads, doing woodblock printing, painting and drinking green tea are usually possible. The activities are free but donations are welcome. Ask about having a meditation lesson and a four-bowl Buddhist monk meal (W30,000). A temple stay can also be arranged.