Friday, September 2, 2016

Jogyesa Temple.

Jogyesa Temple.

My second sightseeing destination of the day was Jogyesa Temple which turned out to be just about a 20 minute walk from my apartment. I had put together map of some of the places I wanted to see in Seoul and had offlined the map so I could use it on my phone.  With phone and map in hand, I set out for Jogyesa.

The area that the apartment is located in is very near to several government building complexes so it's not really a residential neighborhood.  Even so, there are plenty of restaurants near by and today, a few vendors had set up their stalls just one block away.  I was tempted to get some apples which looked very tasty though super large.  As my brother would comment, they looked like apples on steroids.

A block later, were the government buildings and several guides carefully positioned outside the gates, checking cars who wanted to enter in.  I guess you could say that I picked an apartment in a safe neighborhood. :-)


My walk took  me past lots of office buildings and a few hotels.  It was a warm day but I took my time walking - it turned out to be a pleasant stroll.

I passed by a construction site.  On the wall, surrounding the site, were hundreds of Post-It notes with individual writing on them.  Graffiti perhaps?



I arrived at what I would say was the start of a commercial strip.  However, Google maps pointed me in the opposite direction.  I should have known that a Buddhist temple would not be located in the heart of a commercial area.  Less than a block later, I saw a building that looked like a temple. At first I thought it was Jogyesa but I thought it was awfully small to be such an important temple. Indeed, it wasn't the temple - it was an old post office building.

Ujeongchongguk (Central Post Office) was established as the first post office of Korea on April 22, 1884 during the reign of King Gojong. Postal service began on November 18, 1884.  Over the years, service was suspended and resumed several times and at after the liberation of Korea in 1945, the building also served as a personal residence.  The building no longer serves as a Central Post Office; my guess is that it's now a museum??  The door was open today but I did not go inside.  In hindsight, I should have darted in to just check it out but today, I was so preoccupied with getting to Jogyesa, it didn't even dawn on me to step inside the building.


Standing in the courtyard and looking through the treetops, I saw the tile roof of a much larger building. That was Jogyesa.


Jogyesa is the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. The temple was first established in 1395, at the dawn of the Joseon Dynasty. It thus plays a leading role in the current state of Seon Buddhism in South Korea.

As I approached the temple, I heard the sound of a monk chanting. I picked up the pace of my walking as I wanted to see what was going on - hurrying as I wanted to get to the temple before the chanting stop.


There was a service taking place. I managed to find a spot to stand at, by an open window, to watch what was going on. The prayer hall seemed to be filled with mainly women.


The chanting went on for quite a few minutes and at one point, the devotees joined the monks in chanting.



With no idea of when the service was going to end, I decided I would wander around the complex and take photos.

What I would describe as the main building of the temple complex, where the service was taking place, is known as Daeungjeon.  The building is is named after Shakyamuni Buddha, whose golden image is found inside. The building opened in 1938.  I'm surprised at how relatively new this building is but based on what I've seen - at Gyeongbokgung and wandering around the Bukchon neighborhood, much of what looks old in Seoul is actually relatively new construction.  I guess a lot was destroyed during the war.  Very sad if that is indeed the case.

The entrance courtyard, facing Daeungjeon.

Paper fish hanging from the canopy that covers the entrance courtyard.




Daeungjeon displays classic dancheong, the Korean traditional decorative coloring on wooden buildings. The word literally means "cinnabar and blue-green" in Korean.  Dancheong is based on five basic colors; blue (east), white (west), red (south), black (north), and yellow (center).

Detail of the eaves.

With my zoom lens, I discretely took photos of two of the Buddha images inside the temple.  I'm not sure that photography was allowed but no one stopped me and I only two shots.





The temple's Drum Tower.  It was closed so I took the photo standing on the balcony of an adjacent building.


Women quietly praying outside as the service was going on inside.


Looking up at the ceiling inside Daeungjeon.

Prayers were taking place inside rooms in this building. I think I could have entered but I didn't want to disturb anyone.

Jogyesa also has a very small garden with a few small sculptures but mainly of different varieties of lotus plants growing in plastic pots.

Bottled water for Buddha??  I think we can do better than that!




By the time I circled back to Daeungjeon, the service had come to an end. The monks made their way out as did many of the peole but quite a few remained inside. I had thoughts of entering the temple at that point in time to take photos but after seeing that many of the remaining people were still in deep prayer I decided to stay outside. I don't think the folks would have appreciated a curious outsider invading their prayer space.



It was time for me to leave Jogyesa.   On my way out of the complex, I realized I had entered in by a different way as I left through the entry arch.  I had to pause under the archway to take a photo of the beautiful paper drum suspended above.


I made a quick stop at the Information Center that was located nearby to confirm directions to my next destination - a restaurant called Sanchon which specializes in Buddhist temple cuisine.

It's time for lunch!