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Korean Buddhist Cultural Heritage

Bongjeongsa Temple (봉정사)

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Writer Jogye Date23 Aug 2018 Read5,449 Comment0


3. Bongjeongsa Temple

Bongjeongsa, which is located in Andong City of Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, was established in 677 by Great Monk Neungin who was a student of Great Monk Uisang, the founder of Hwaeom School. Bonjeongsa Temple was originally established in the upper area of Songyacheon Stream at the foot of Cheondeungsan Mountain. The temple was expanded from the Geungnakjeon Hall to its east where the Main Hall was built in the 14
th Century. Bongjeongsa Tempe was not damaged during the Japanese Invasion of 1592~1598, therefore diverse buildings including Geungnakjeon Hall and the Main Hall have remained in their original form.

Bongjeongsa Temple locates itself at the steep area of the mountain with parellel axis formed at the Main Hall and Geungnakjeon Hall area. At Bonjeongsa Temple, one may find Geungnakjeon Hall built in the 13th Century and the Main Hall built in the 14th Century which are both some of the oldest wooden buildings in Korea. The two buildings are in the central area leading Maiterya and Shakyamuni belief. The characteristic of Bongjeongsa Temple’s yard is that the Main Hall and Geungnakjeon Hall are formed in parellel to one another. With the front yard of the Main Hall as the center, Bongjeongsa Temple placed the Main Hall, Hwaeom Lecture Hall, Muryanghaehoeon and Manseru on the four sides which is a Korean traditional temple arrangement. The yard at the center of Geungnakjeon Hall, Gogeumdang, and Hwaeom Lecture Hall along with the yard at the Main Hall makes a twin format.

Yeongsanam Hermitage is located on the other side of a small stream in the temple area. Yeongsanam Hermitage is formed into a square shape with Eungjinjeon Hall, Gwanshimdang, Songamdang and Uhwaru, and a small yard at the center. This shows that the temple arrangement has been reflected also at a separate area. Yeongsanam Hermitage also reflects ‘ㅁ’ shape of a typical aristocrat’ house in Joseon Dynasty.

At Bongjeongsa Temple, there remains historical documents to prove the efforts of the monks to protect the mountain monastery from the Anti-Buddhist movement of Joseon Dynasty by promoting self-reliant monastic life and cultural exchange with Confucius scholars. Andong Protectorate-General where Bongjeongsa was located used to be the center of Confucianism in Joseon Dynasty since the 16th Century. The monks of Bongjeongsa Temple tried their best to salvage the temple even under anti-Buddhist policy through cultural exchange with scholars in the region. Along with the aforementioned Eugjinjeon area which resembles the ‘ㅁ’ shape of a typical aristocratic house, the entrance of te pavillion, Deokhoeru(德輝樓, later Manseru (萬歲樓)’s name also has a Confucius etymology. Additionally, Andong’s renowned Confucius scholar Yi Hwang visited Bonjeongsa with his students and Myongokdae (鳴玉臺) was built right outside of Bongjeongsa Temple to commemorate his visit in 1665. Bongjeongsa Temple also operated a publisher called Ganyeokso (刊役所) printig not only the Buddhist sutras but also literatures of the local scholars. Such effort provided economic opportunity to the temple as well as opportunity to become have closer relations with the Confucius scholars. Therefore, the cultural exchange with the scholars in Andong area allowed Bongjeogsa Temple to maintain as a fully operating mountain monastery during Joseon Dynasty.

Even today, Bongjeongsa Temple operates its own farm within the temple area where monks and lay followers raise various types of vegetables so that it can be a community that provides for itself. The members of the community consider farming as a part of practice and such tradition of living with nature as one has been continued until today.



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