CONTRIBUTED BY JANVIKA SHAH
Even if you think you have seen enough temples in Korea to last a lifetime, you must not miss out on the opportunity to visit Haeinsa Temple in Gayasan National Park. This famous temple is marked a UNESCO world heritage site as it houses the Tripitaka Koreana, the most complete, oldest and respected collection of Buddhist scriptures in Chinese script.
Haeinsa Temple was created by two monks, Suneung and Ijung, in 802 during the Unified Silla period. Haeinsa means the “Temple of Reflections on a Calm Sea,” portraying the stillness and serenity of Buddhist wisdom and enlightenment. During the Mongolian invasion of Korea, the Buddhist texts and laws were carved on approximately 80,000 wooden blocks as an appeal to Buddhist authority in defense against Mongolia. In addition to their religious importance, these sacred texts have survived natural disasters, wars and internal turmoil over hundreds of years.
The blocks were meticulously prepared from the soaking of the birch wood in salt water for three years to the extensive carving in calligraphy. The Tripitaka remained inaccessible to the most recent generations of Koreans since they were written in classical Chinese; however, in the 1990s, tech-savvy monks took on the daunting task of transcribing the entirety of scriptures on a CD-ROM. The copies have been distributed to several countries and international organizations.
The temple complex includes an overnight temple-stay program for visitors, a school for monks in training, the famous Janggyeong Pajeon building which protects the wooden blocks, the main worship hall, stupas, statues and more.
With the stunning backdrop of the Gayasan craggy mountain peaks, the relaxing sound of water flowing down a nearby stream and the fresh air, it’s impossible not to feel the energy of the ancient sages at this beautiful temple complex.
Adults (ages over 19): 3,000 won / Group: 2,500 won
Youths (ages 13-18): 1,500 won / Group: 1,000 won
Children (ages 7-12): 700 won / Group: 500 won
* Group: 30 people or more
*Special note: I discovered there was an admission fee after my visit and just stumbled into the temple grounds after five hours of hiking.
Website (in Korean): www.haeinsa.or.kr
Address: 10 Chiin-ri, Gaya-myeon, Hapcheon-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do, South Korea
GPS Coordinates: 35.8013042, 128.0975621
How to get here from Daegu:
Go to the Seobu Inter-city bus terminal which is located right outside exit 3 of the subway stop, Seongdangmot. The buses for Haeinsa Temple leave every 40 minutes and will take you to the temple. The ride is about one and a half hours. The fare costs approximately 7,000 won.
The temple is also accessible by trail if you’re already hiking in Gayasan’s National Park.