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Buddhist temples are an important part of the Korean landscape. This article gives a brief overview of Korean Buddhism, then describes some of the more important temples in Korea. Most Korean temples have names ending in -sa (사), which means "temple".


Introduction to Korean Buddhism

See Korean Buddhism for more information.

A distinctive form of Buddhism evolved in Korea. This was facilitated by the geographical location and cultural conditions. Buddhism first arrived in Korea in 372 in the Goguryeo Kingdom. In 374 the influential Chinese monk Ado arrived in the kingdom and inspired the King Sosurim in the following year. The first two temples Seongmunsa and Ilbullansa were built in 375 on the order of the king. Buddhism soon became the national religion of the Goguryeo.

With the advent of Taoism in 624 the rulers began to suppress Buddhism and its importance quickly declined. The Baekje Kingdom, on the other hand, flourished under the influence of Buddhism. In 552 Buddhist scriptures were sent to Japan. This eventually led to the establishment of Buddhism in Japan.

In Silla Buddhism was important, too. It flourished during the reign of the King Jinheung (540 to 576). The Heungnyunsa temple was completed where any commoner could become a monk. The study of scriptures was greatly highlighted. For about 250 years Buddhism thrived in Unified Silla.

Buddhism was admired by Wang Geon, the founder of the Goryeo Dynasty. Throughout the country pagodas and other Buddhist structures were built. In the late Goryeo period Buddhism became linked with the corruption of the regime. A great number of monks were involved in politics. Bit by bit anti-Buddhist sentiments grew, leading to chaos which was ended by the establishment of the Joseon Dynasty. The king Taejo himself was a devout Buddhist, but the influence of monks was reduced. At times monks were treated as outcasts, but generally there was no hindrance to their practising. Buddhist heritage can be found all over the country in the form of temples, pagodas, sculptures, paintings, handicrafts and buildings.

Famous Temples


South Korea

These famous temples are grouped by province.




North Chungcheong

South Chungcheong

North Gyeongsang


South Gyeongsang

North Jeolla

South Jeolla

Jeju Island

North Korea

It is reported, that many churches and temples have been taken over by the state. Once the government controls these buildings, they are used for secular purposes. Only a few temples are still in use, but they are considered national treasures. There are also some temples in remote areas. All in all, there are 300 temples [1], but only in a few are religious services permitted. These famous temples are grouped by province. [2]


Chosŏn'gŭl Hancha
Chŏngrŭngsa 정릉사
Kwangbŏpsa 광법사
Ryonghwasa 룡화사
Yŏngmyŏngsa† 영명사
Pŏbun Hermitage 법운암

South Pyongan

Location Chosŏn'gŭl Hancha
Anguksa P'yŏngsŏng-si 안국사
Chŏngjinsa Sŏngch'ŏn-gun 정진사
Pŏphŭngsa P'yŏngwŏn-gun 법흥사

North Pyongan

Location Chosŏn'gŭl Hancha
Ch'ŏnjusa Yŏngbyŏn-gun 천주사
Kaewŏnsa Chŏngju-si 개원사
Kŭmgwangsa Ŭiju-gun 금광사
Mannyŏnsa Kusŏng-si 만년사
Pohyŏnsa Hyangsan-gun 보현사 普賢
Powŏlsa Hyangsan-gun 보월사
Pakch'ŏn Simwŏnsa Pakch'ŏn-gun 심원사
Sŏunsa Yŏngbyŏn-gun 서운사
Yanghwasa T'aech'ŏn-gun 양화사
Ch'uksŏng Hall Hyangsan-gun 축성전 殿
Habiro Hermitage Hyangsan-gun 하비로암
Hwajang Hermitage Hyangsan-gun 화장암
Mansu Hermitage Hyangsan-gun 만수암
Nŭngin Hermitage Hyangsan-gun 능인암
Puryŏng Hermitage Hyangsan-gun 불영대
Sangwŏn Hermitage Hyangsan-gun 상원암

South Hwanghae

Location Chosŏn'gŭl Hancha
Chahyesa Sinch'ŏn-gun 자혜사
Kangsŏsa Paech'ŏn-gun 강서사 西
Myoŭmsa† Chaeryŏng-gun 묘음사
P'aeyŏpsa† Sinch'ŏn-gun 패엽사
Singwangsa Haeju-si 신광사
Wŏljŏngsa Anak-gun 월정사
Wŏnjŏngsa Ŭnryul-gun 원정사

North Hwanghae

Location Chosŏn'gŭl Hancha
Anhwasa Kaesŏng-si 안화사
Hwajangsa† Kaesŏng-si 화장사
Kwanŭmsa Kaesŏng-si 관음사 觀音
Kwijinsa Sŏhŭng-gun 귀진사
Ryŏngt'ongsa Kaesŏng-si 령통사
Yŏnt'an Simwŏnsa Yŏnt'an-gun 심원사
Sŏngbulsa Sariwŏn-si 성불사
Taehŭngsa Kaesŏng-si 대흥사
Wŏnmyŏngsa Kŭmch'ŏn-gun]] 원명사


South Hamgyong

North Hamgyong

See also


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