Beopjusa is one of the most celebrated spiritual places and popular tourist attractions in South Korea. Just like Beomeosa Temple located in Busan, the Beopjusa Temple is one of the head temples of the traditional order of Korean Buddhism known as the Jogye Order. This particular brand of Buddhism dates back to the period of the unified Silla Empire. The Beopjusa Temple was originally constructed in the seventh century by a monk named Uishinjosa. It is a magnificent place located in the southwestern foothills of Songni Mountain in South Korea’s North Chungcheong Province. The Palsangjeon Pagoda and Golden Maitreya Statue are the two most recognizable and sought after attractions at the temple, but the entire complex and setting is enchanted and serene.
The Beopjusa Temple is most commonly associated with the worship of the Maitreya Buddha, or essentially, the Buddha in waiting. This entire stream of thinking and belief system stems from a prediction by Gautama Buddha that his teachings would disappear after his earthly death (500 years after to be exact) and that another enlightened one (the Maitreya) would then need to return to reawaken the teachings of the Buddha and reestablish the path to nirvana or enlightenment. The Golden Maitreya Statue signifies and pays homage to the Buddha-to-be in a sense. Part of the way this belief works is that it will not be until the Buddha (Gautama) is literally forgotten and all accounts of his teachings are gone that a need for the Maitreya to come. Buddhism however remains a strong system of belief and faith around the world so perhaps the Golden Maitreya Statue will have to wait for quite some time longer, standing watch over the celebrated temple at Beopjusa.
One of the most appealing parts of a visit to the Beopjusa Temple is the tranquil environment where you can witness the harmony between nature and humanity. Monks have resided on these grounds for millennia and the Songni foothills could not provide a more perfect setting for this spiritual place. Two massive pine trees of the exact same height guard either side of the main entrance to the temple, creating one of the most aesthetically stunning characteristics of Beopjusa. Although the temple was burnt down when Japan invaded the Korean mainland in the late 1500s, some of the artifacts and items remain from some 1,300 years ago, including an iron kettle that used to serve up to 3,000 monks their daily rice. All around the temple you will find ancient inscriptions carved into big boulders near the pine tree-covered hills.
After entering through the main gates, the most celebrated building at Beopjusa can be seen. The Palsangjeon Pagoda stands five stories high and is ornately decorated with stunning reliefs, carvings, and paintings. Another main attraction at Beopjusa is the Jeongipumsong Pine Tree, a tree that is said to be 600 years old. This is one of the most spiritually significant places in South Korea. If you have a chance to visit this part of the county, you should make it a priority to see this magnificent site.
Image: Mr. Laser (Flickr)