OWL Magazine Korea

Buddhist Temple in the Heart of Seoul – Jogyesa Temple

In Korea, Buddhist temples, known as “jeol,” are typically found in the mountains. This is because during the Joseon Dynasty, many temples in urban areas were relocated to the mountains to avoid persecution due to the “Sungyu Eokbul” policy.

Due to this, most temples can be found in mountainous areas. However, “Jogyesa Temple” is unique in that it is located right in the heart of Hanyang, the historical name for Seoul.

“Encountering a Buddhist Temple in the Heart of Seoul – Jogyesa Temple”

Jogyesa Temple is a Buddhist temple with a complex history. As one might anticipate from its current location, Jogyesa has undergone a long and intricate journey. It was established in 1395 during the reign of King Taejo Lee Seong-gye. However, Jogyesa only took root in its current location in 1910.

The establishment of Jogyesa within the urban area enclosed by the Four Great Gates of Seoul took place during the period of the Korean Empire. At that time, Korean Buddhism lacked a central organizing body, and Japanese Buddhist forces were gaining influence. In response, figures like “Manhae Han Yong-un” worked to establish new central organizations.

This led to the founding of “Wonheungsa” outside Dongdaemun in 1902, and in 1908, representatives from various provinces established “Wonjong Jongmuwon” (the central monastery of the Won sect). Their goal was to establish a temple within the Four Great Gates of Hanyang. However, during the Joseon Dynasty, this was not an easy feat due to the “Sungyu Eokbul” policy. Thus, it was only during the Korean Empire period that this plan gained traction. A temple called “Gakhwangsa” was established next to the present-day Jogyesa, but the Korean Empire fell before receiving official approval.

Subsequently, there were various misjudgments. Some became pro-Japanese collaborators, while others continued the nationalistic movement. Through these processes, Jogyesa became a place with a complex and memorable history.

“The Main Daeungjeon Hall and the Four Heavenly Kings of Jogyesa Temple”

The building that occupies most of Jogyesa Temple is the “Daeungjeon Hall.” In this hall, three Buddha statues are enshrined, collectively referred to as the “Three Jeweled Buddhas.” They are Amitabha Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Bhaisajyaguru Buddha, who stand guard.

On November 26, 2013, statues of the Four Heavenly Kings were newly installed in front of the main hall. They are crafted by cutting and stacking iron plates, resulting in a substantial weight. Each statue weighs a whopping one ton. The names of the Four Heavenly Kings, from left to right, are Jeungjangcheon, Gwangmokcheon, Damuncheon, and Jigukcheon.

“Jogyesa, as Featured in The Simpsons”

Jogyesa Temple was even featured in the American animated series “The Simpsons.” It appears in Season 30, Episode 17. Homer Simpson’s visit to Jogyesa Temple and his enlightenment through a salt mandala play a significant role in the episode’s conclusion. The “Salt Mandala” is an actual program offered at Jogyesa Temple.

Due to its exceptionally intricate history, delving into every aspect of Jogyesa Temple’s past is challenging. Being situated within the walls of Hanyang, as opposed to the mountains where most other temples are found, makes it an accessible destination. Particularly, its proximity to Gyeongbokgung Palace and Insadong makes it a convenient stop when exploring Seoul’s landmarks.

“Buddhist Temple in the Heart of Seoul – Jogyesa Temple”