The scoop on Korean monasteries

The scoop on Korean monasteries

by Emi Hailey Hayakawa
Groove Korea (

Visit the seven monasteries that Korea is seeking to be declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They represent some of the most important Buddhist sites in the country, boast a history of over 1,000 years and house important historical and cultural assets.

Here’s the scoop on the monasteries and how to get there.


Beopjusa is over 1,500 years old and is located on top of Mt. Songnisan in North Chungcheong Province. It holds National Treasure no. 55, the Palsangjeon Hall of Beopjusa,15 other national treasures and 300 Buddhist cultural assets. Adjacent to the temple are various dwellings and cliffs, which makes this temple both historically and naturally important.

Getting there
To get to Beopjusa from Seoul, take the intercity bus to Boeun Intercity Terminal, and then take a direct bus to Mt. Songnisan. After getting off at Songnisan Intercity Bus Terminal, walk 20 minutes to arrive at Mt. Songnisan Ticket Box and Beopjusa.

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Tongdosa is on Mt. Chiseosan in South Gyeongsang Province. It is otherwise known as the Buddhist Jewel Temple. Within this 1,300-year-old temple lies Daeungjeon Hall, which is recognized as National Treasure no. 290. Tongdosa is also known for the “Eight Famous Scenes of Tongdosa,” which consists of 700-year-old pine trees, waterfalls, a pond with rocks, an amazing sunset, and a bell and drum.

Getting there
From Seoul, take the intercity bus to Sinpeyong (Tongdosa, 통도사). This direct bus runs five times a day.

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Bongjeongsa is located in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, and is the largest Buddhist temple there. Bongjeongsa has an ancient wood building, Geungnakjeon Hall, which has been recognized as National Treasure no. 15. Another hall, Daeungjeon Hall, is recognized as National Treasure no. 55. There are other important architectural treasures there as well. They also have an important rock carving of the Maitreya, which is said to be the most important Buddhist rock carving in Korea.

Getting there
To travel to Bongjeongsa, take an intercity bus to Andong Intercity Bus Terminal. From there, take bus no. 51 to Bongjeongsa Temple.

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Seonamsa is located on Mt. Jogyesan in South Jeolla Province. Seonamsa is home to a rainbow-shaped bridge called the Seungseon Bridge (National Treasure no. 400). There are 15 other cultural assets and national treasures such as a 17-meter-tall Buddha rock carving. At Seonamsa the structures harmonize with nature.

Getting there
From Busan, take Busan Metro line 1 to Seomyeon Station (서면역) or Busan Metro line 2 to Buam Station (부암역). From Seomyeon Station or Buam Station, take the Seonamsa Temple bound city bus 17 or 17-1 to the last station in front of the temple. It’s a 40-50 minute bus ride and a 20-minute walk from the bus stop to the temple.

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Buseoksa is located in North Gyeongsang Province, and is said to have the most beautiful wooden structure in Korea, the Muryangsujeon Hall of Buseoksa (National Treasure no. 18). Inside you will find National Treasure no. 45, a seated clay Buddha statue. Additionally, a colorful and elegant wall painting that hangs here is National Treasure no. 46, and the magnificent architecture of Josadang Hall is a National Treasure. Buseoksa is over 1,400 years old and boasts other treasures and cultural assets.

Getting there
From Seoul, take the intercity bus to Yeongju Intercity Bus Terminal (영주터미널). From there, cross the street to Yeongju Banjum Bus stop (영주반점앞 버스정류장), and take bus 27 or 55 to Buseoksa temple.

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Magoksa was founded in 640 and is located in South Chungcheong Province. The Taegukcheon flows next to the temple in the shape of a tajitu. This monastery holds various Buddhist cultural assets such as Daeungbo Hall (National Treasure no. 801). There is a pagoda in the Tibetan style, one of only three such structures left in the world.

Getting there
From Seoul, take the intercity bus to Gongju Bus Terminal (공주터미널). From there, take bus 610 or 611 to the Magoksa Temple Parking Lot (마곡사주차장) bus stop. Then follow Magok Stream for 800 meters to arrive at Magokasa Temple.

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Daeheungsa is located on Mt. Duryun in South Jeolla Province. This monastery is said to be from the Three Kingdoms period and is over 1,500 years old. The monastery is known as the historical center of Korean tea culture, and is the site where the warrior monk Seosan Daesa trained a guerilla monk army to defend the Korean people during the Imjin War of 1592.

Getting there
From there, take the Daeheungsa temple bound city bus (25-minute ride) to the temple office.

More info

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