City Guide Review: Buseoksa Temple

Review by Arista Ngodinh, ETA 2019-2020

City: Yeongju
Type of Business: Temple (UNESCO Historical Site)
Address: 345 Buseoksa-ro, Buseok-myeon, Yeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do

Cost:
Adults: 1,200 won / Group: 1,000 won
Youths: 1,000 won / Group: 800 won
Children: 800 won / Group: 500 won

Nestled in the mountains of Gyeongsangbukdo lies one of Korea’s most unique UNESCO heritage sites, Buseoksa Temple, otherwise known as the “Floating Stone” temple. Visitors come to the temple mainly because it is one of the few places in Korea where you can see five of Korea’s national treasures at once, including the stone lantern in front of Muryangsujeon Hall, Muryangsujeon Hall, Josadang Hall, wall painting in Josadang Hall, and seated clay statue of Amitabha Buddha.

People love visiting not only for the national treasures and beautiful temple grounds, but also for the magnificent mountainside scenery. While the temple and scenery are stunning throughout the year, many visitors prefer to visit during late October to early November to enjoy the extraordinary reds, oranges, and yellows of fall foliage.

The temple is built on terraced hills, and the layout of the grounds is modeled after the chinese character ‘華’ (hua) as a tribute to the beliefs of the Hwaeom buddhist sect. Walking through the temple is meant to symbolize walking towards the heavens, and this is reflected in the architecture. There are 108 steps up to the top to represent the ascension to Nirvana (don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as it sounds). The main hall itself is constructed to draw attention towards the sky. The columns are arranged in ascending height order. The outer columns of the hall tilt inward, and the ends of its roof curve upwards to draw the eye upward towards the heavens.

Visitors will first follow a tree-covered path up to the entrance of the temple. Once reaching the entrance, visitors will go up the steps to the first terrace, where they will be met with beautiful temple grounds. Walking further up into the courtyard, visitors will see two pagodas from the Late Silla period. To the right is the first national treasure, Josadang Hall of Buseoksa, and within it the second treasure, the wall painting.

Continuing up more stairs, visitors can find the magnificent Beomjonggak pavilion leading up to the main hall. At the top, visitors will finally come upon the main hall, Muryangsu-jeon, another of the five national treasures at Buseoksa. The main hall contains another treasure, the statue of Amitabha in shining gold as well as a beautiful wall painting next to it. Outside of the hall is a final national treasure, the stone lantern.

To the left of the main hall, visitors can find the “floating” stone for which the temple is also known. In all honesty, it is not as exciting as the name seems. The stone is only said to be floating by a few centimeters. However, the rest of the temple is incredibly beautiful, and the national treasures allow visitors a firsthand look at the long-lasting and majestic nature of Korean history. For those looking for a unique place to visit that is rich with Korean culture and history but not overwhelmed by crowds of tourists, consider going off the beaten path to Buseoksa in Yeongju.