Saturday, December 22, 2012

A picture tour of Bulguksa Temple, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do - Day 7 in South Korea

In my previous post about Gyeongju, I shared my experience on going to Seokguram Grotto.

After the 30-minute hike down from the Grotto, we finally arrived at one of South Korea’s most beautiful temples and also a UNESCO World Heritage site, Bulguksa Temple.

Bulguksa is a large complex of shrines and pagodas built as early as 535 AD and has survived a number of fires and wars. It also houses traditional Buddhist Art during the Silla Kingdom. It is positioned at the slopes of Mt. Tohamsan which is also quite near from Seokguram Hermitage.

Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa is open 7AM until 5:30PM and adult admission is 4,000 Won. To go to Bulguksa, take a Gyeongju Intercity Bus number 10 or 11. Bus ride would take almost 30 minutes – given that there is no traffic. Go on a weekday to avoid the flock of tourists.

Bulguksa Temple

Time to explore Bulguksa! Once you pass the main entrance, you’d be able to see a lotus pond for an eye feast. It was absolutely breathtaking and the view was just calming to the senses.

Bulguksa Temple
The lotus pond inside the temple

Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple blogger

Bulguksa Temple was built in 535AD during Silla dynasty and was originally called ‘Hwaeom Bulguksa Temple’. The construction was led by King Pob-hung for his queen’s sanctuary or room to pray for the welfare of their kingdom. It was rebuilt around 700-774AD by Kim Daeseong that also lead the designing of the temple by adding shrines and pagodas in honor of his ancestors, and was then renamed ‘Bulguksa’.

It underwent renovations during the Goryeo dynasty and was burned during the Japanese invasion in the 1500s. It was then reconstructed during Joseon dynasty in the 1600s. Finally, it was fully restored under President Park Chung-hee’s reign during the 1960s.

Bulguksa Temple
Entrance to Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple autumn

Once you pass by the pond, you’d be able to arrive closely at one of the most picturesque points of Bulguksa’s architecture – the Bulguksa’s stairways which is also considered as one of the official treasures of Bulguksa.  The lower portion is Cheongungyo (청운교, Blue Cloud Bridge). The upper portion is called Baegungyo (백운교, White Cloud Bridge). The stairway leads to Jahamun (자하문, Purple Mist Gate), which then goes to the main hall.

These stairways symbolize a person’s path from the worldly desires to the spiritual realm of Buddha. A lot of tourists were taking pictures of these stairs and unfortunately you can’t go up to the main hall using these stairs.

Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple

You’d soon enter the main courtyard of Bulguksa that houses two twin pagodas called the ‘Dabotap’ (Pagoda of Many Treasures) and ‘Seokgatap’ (Pagoda of the Historical Buddha) that are also both national treasures. When we arrived, the Seokgatap was being re-constructed, so I was only able to take a picture of Dabotap. The hallway in the courtyard is very pretty too.

Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple blog

Bulguksa Temple korea

Behind the main hall is the meditation hall Museoljeon (무설전, Hall of No Words). The name was quite interesting as it was named after the saying that Buddha's teachings cannot be taught by mere words alone. It is one of the oldest buildings in the complex. Prayer halls are also found near here and there would be an old lady guarding them that would prohibit you from taking pictures.

Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple autumn

Near Museoljeon, you may also be able to see Birojeon (비로전, Vairocana Buddha Hall), that houses a gilded statue of Vairocana, which is national treasure 26.

Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple gyeongju

There are tons of rock-stackings in Korea, they are especially evident at temples and on hiking trails – definitely there are lots at Bulguksa as well. It is said that rock stacks would make your wishes come true.  Most of these symbolizes prayer and wishes for their family's health and wellness.

Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple
One could easily spend half a day or even one whole day at Bulguksa – as there lots of spots to take pictures and you’d be tempted to do some self-reflection. The atmosphere is very quiet and serene that I was almost tempted to take a nap because of the cold wind and the calming effect of the scenery before my eyes. 

autumn korea gyeongju

Bulguksa Temple

If I have to recommend only one temple that you must visit during your trip to South Korea, it will be this temple. I’d say that is imperative that everyone visiting Gyeongju go to Bulguksa and it is definitely not to be missed! The beautiful garden, meticulous set-up of the temple’s architecture, the nature that surrounds the whole temple, overwhelming views, and the serenity of the place are the points I absolutely loved. Of course, going here on an autumn was a plus for us. Bulguksa Temple has been one of the highlights of my trip to South Korea and I would not miss a chance of going back here again.

Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple

Day 1: Gangwon-do
Chuncheon and Nami Island

Day 2: Gangwon-do
Mt.Seorak (Seoraksan)

Day 3: Gyeonggi-do
Yongin and Food Tour

Day 4: Gyeonggi-do
Suwon: Hwaseong Fortress, Korean Folk Village

Day 5: Gyeonggi-do

Day 6: Gyeongju
Food Tour

Day 7: Gyeongju
Seokguram Grotto

Bulguksa Temple

Cheomseongdae and Anapji Pond

Day 8: Busan
Railway Train in Korea

Day 9: Busan
Igidae Coast

Busan Fireworks Festival

Day 10: Busan
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Flying with Jeju Air

Day 11: Jeju (E)
Food Tour- Altang

Dragon Rock

Jusangjeolli Cliff

Teddy Bear Museum

The Seaes Resort

Day 12: Jeju (W)
Sunrise Peak


Trick Art

Folk Village

Sangamburi Crater, Mt.Halla

Manjanggul Cave, Maze Park


Day 13: Seoul
Flying with T'way Airlines

Couchsurfing in Korea

Day 14: Seoul
Palaces and Bukchon Village

Day 15&16: Seoul
Myeongdong and Ewha University

N Seoul Tower

Booking Flights
via T'way Airlines

Travel Report for South Korea
16 days travel itinerary and tips

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