Sunday, March 9, 2008

Buddhist Temples: Seonamsa, Songgwangsa, & Ssanggyesa

This last weekend I ventured out to nearby Suncheon to see some temples and do some hiking.

A brief Korean lesson:

Sa (사) in Korean means temple, so the names of all the temples end in -sa. San (산) means mountain, so most mountains end in -san, although some end in bong (봉), which means peak.

Note: The first link is to the official web site, which is in Korean. The second link is to the tourism web site in English.


My first stop on Saturday was Seonamsa. Seonamsa is located at the base of Jogyesan. It dates back almost 900 years and is one of the major temples of Korean Buddhism.

A few of the temple buildings

A monk in one of the temple buildings


Songgwangsa is located on the other side of Jogyesan. To get there, you can take a bus from Seonamsa back to Suncheon and another bus out to Songgwangsa. Or you can hike a 7 km trail over Jogyesan. I, of course, chose the trail. It was a fairly easy 3-hour hike, with a manicured path and lots of stone steps. Like Seonamsa, it is another old temple with great importance to Korean Buddhism.

The main hall of Songgwangsa

A closer look at the main hall

A few of the roof tops


On Sunday, I headed to another nearby temple, Ssanggyesa. It is located near Jirisan, one of the top mountain hiking destinations in Korea. While I didn't have time to hike there this weekend, I am sure to be back sometime this year. I'm currently eyeing a couple three day weekends in May. Like the other temples, Ssanggyesa is located in a picturesque mountain setting with a large array of buildings and treasures.

One of the scenes at Ssanggyesa

Another temple building

All in all, it was an excellent weekend getaway. The temples were excellent and the scenery around them is quite beautiful as well. I'm currently looking to find other temples in the area, and hope to design a temple hike around southern South Korea. Most pilgrimages consist of 33 or 88 temples, so I'll probably set 33 as my initial goal. So look for my list to grow in the near future.

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