Friday, July 12, 2013

The Story Behind a Temple: Yongjusa (용주사)

Buddhism is one of the oldest religions arriving in South Korea circa 300 AD. During the Shila Dynasty, Buddhism became popular and it was the national religion of Shila in the 5th century. Yongjusa was a well-known temple located in Hwaseong City, just over an hour drive from the center of Seoul.

Getting there:    

Get down at Byeongjeom Station, 병점역 (use Seoul Subway Line 1), this journey will take approximately an hour plus from Seoul Station (서울역). This journey by subway will cost you around 1,850 Won (if paid by cash). Then, take Bus 34-1 to Yongjusa Temple (용주사).

Entrance fee is 1,500 Won for adult or 1,000 Won for youth. Group entry (if more than 30 people) discount is available here. Opens from 8 am to 7 pm. 

The Story:

Some distance from this temple, we can find the royal tombs of Crown Prince Sado and his son King Jeongjo, the 22nd ruler of the Joseon Dynasty. According to history, Prince Sado was condemned to death by his own father, King Yeongjo.

He was locked in a rice chest during the hot summer day and after eight days, he died of suffocation. Prince Sado was wrongly prosecuted and died at 27 years old while his son, Jeongjo was still 11 years old.    

Once his son, Jeongjo became the king, he moved his father's grave site from Mt. Baebong in Yangju to Hwasan in Suwon. Hwasan was regarded as the most auspicious site at that time. This was because he was touched by a Dharma from a monk named Bok-yeong about how great parents' love and sacrifices were.

Entrance to the temple housing Buddha statues
The night before the celebration for the completion of temple in 1790 to protect his father's tomb. King Jeongjo dreamt of a dragon flying in the sky with a magic ball in his mouth. After his dream, he named the temple Yongjusa meaning "Temple of Dragon with a Magic Ball".

Based on old records, the temple housed the mortuary tablet of Prince Sado and Princess Gyeongui (Sado's wife) as well as his son, King Jeongjo and Queen Hyoeui. Religious services in commemoration of the four were offered six times a year until the services were forcibly stopped during the Japanese occupation of Korea. 

Our temple guide
Yongjusa is a temple widely equated with filial piety as well as to honor King Jeongjo's love for his father, which continued long after his passing. My trip there was quite interesting because we were fortunate to have a local guide explaining various "national treasure" around the site. Temples in Korea are generally the same but Yongjusa is different in that sense, because it is larger than most temples I've been.

The story of Buddha
Temple stay
I felt it would be much nicer to visit this place during the autumn when the foliage around the temple changes its color. Overall: An educational trip! On a side note, this temple also offers temple stay program for anyone interested in understanding the meaning of filial piety in Buddhism point of view.

"... the gentleman devotes his efforts to the roots, for once the roots are established, the way will grow therefrom. Being good as a son and obedient as a young man is, perhaps, the root of a man’s character..." Confucius.

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