Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Buddha’s birthday, ‘Wish upon a lotus lantern’

May 10 is Buddha’s birthday.
 As the largest festival in the Buddhist calendar, it will see a range of events taking place in the city, including Buddhist ceremonies, lotus lantern festivals, the release of animals in captivity, circling the pagodas and much more.

Temples will be full of lotus lanterns with good wishes written on them. By lighting up lotus lanterns, Buddhists express their wish to light up the dark world with good deeds.

For visitors looking to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday this May 10, a few of Busan’s major temples are introduced here.

Thousand-year-old temple and the face of Busan
     Beomeosa Temple

Beomeosa Temple in Mt. Geumjeong is the largest and oldest temple in Busan City, with 1,300 years of history.

Beomeosa Temple’s great charm is its fantastic scenery and serenity. Once you step within the grounds of this traditional temple, the scent of pine permeates the air.

Beomeosa Temple is home to many of Korea’s national treasures. Beomeosa’s main temple, Daewungjeon, national treasure No. 434, is here, as is a stone tower in the front yard that Busan has designated cultural asset No. 16.

Iljumun, the temple’s first gate is soon to become a national treasure as well. The Jogyemun of Beomeosa Temple features four pillars with three Iljumun, and is considered one of the best entrance gates in any Korean temple.

Beomeosa Temple boasts stunning scenery for every season. A stream to the left of the temple is lined by around 500 wisteria that are registered natural monument No. 176. As is plain to see, the wisteria area is meticulously cared for.

The old pine trees near the Eosangyo present an unchanging, evergreen beauty. Watching the beautiful autumn moonlight from the Gyemyeongam, or listening to the evening bell ringing in Naewonam as the sun sets near the big temple, are Beomeopalkyung (Beomeosa’s eight wonders).

With all this, it’s easy to see why Beomeosa Temple is among the very best of Busan’s top 10 attractions.

* How to get there: Take metro line No. 1 to Beomeosa Temple station and leave via exit 5 or 7. Walk 5 minutes from the exit, and take bus No. 90 heading to Beomeosa Temple

* Information: 051-508-3122

Busan’s largest temple within the city 
             Samkwangsa Temple

Located in Choeup-dong in Busanjin District, Samkwangsa Temple sits in the middle of Mt. Baikyang and is the largest temple within the city.

The temple has 350,000 registered followers, and is a particularly big draw with Buddhists visiting from Japan and China, as well as dignitaries coming from overseas. Samkwangsa Temple enjoys very high status among Buddhists, and not just because of its size or its number of followers. Part of Cheontae Order, one of the three big schools of Korean Buddhism (the others being Jogye Order and Taego Order), Samkwangsa Temple emphasizes day to day behavior in its practice of Buddhism.

Within the 132,231-square-meter grounds stands Daewungjeon (the main temple), a traditional wooden construction occupying 330 square meters. Right next is the 30-meter-tall, the nine-story, eight-sided Daebo Pagoda carved with 53 Buddhas, along with a Buddhist center, Jikwanjeon, which can accommodate as many as 10,000 Buddhist believers.

Constructed in 1997, the 14.55-meter-wide, 30-meter-tall Daebo Pagoda contains small crystals of 10 cremated monks from Tibet, Myanmar and India. It attracts constant visits all wishing for world peace and the reunification of Korea.

This temple particularly cherishes patriotism, life and public expressions of Buddhism. It is open 24 hours a day and offers a range of events that resonate with the lives of ordinary people, such as art exhibitions, Korean language schools, tea ceremonies and other cultural programs.

* How to get there: Take metro line No. 1 or 2 to Seomyeon station. Take shuttle bus No. 15 from in front of the Medical Center across from the Lotte Department store.

* Information: 051-808-7111

One of three sacred Buddhist sites with a view of the mysterious East Sea
            Haedong Yonggung Temple

Haedong Yonggung Temple, on the shore of the East Sea in Busan Gijang County, is a famous place to enjoy the sunrise of the new year. In Haedong Yonggung Temple, the scenery is truly magical.

Eleven meters high, the Haesu Gwaneum Daebul (Seawater Great Goddess Buddha) is made from just a single stone looking down the temple and the East Sea. In a 20-minute drive from Haeundae, you will pass the Songjeong Tunnel and cross the Donghae Nambu rail road before being greeted by an endless stretch of ocean. Once at the temple, you’ll see 12 zodiac statues made of rock standing sentinel in front of the entrance. According to the temple, Haedong Yonggung Temple is the only Buddhist temple in the country to house the 12 zodiac statues, whose human bodies are topped with the heads of animals. There are 108 steps leading to Daewungjeon (the main temple), and the 108 Buddhist agonies are said to dissapear one by one as you climb them. When you lift your head, you can see the whole East Sea in a single glance.

To the front of the temple is the ‘Deuknambul’ Dharma statue. According to legend, if a pregnant woman touches the statue she will give birth to a boy ? and visitors hoping for just that outcome have touched the nose and belly on the statue so much, they have turned smooth and shiny.

Rumors also abound that visitors to Haedong Yonggung Temple will have at least one of their dreams come true, a prospect that attracts swarms of foreign visitors every year. Thomas Hubbard, the former United States ambassador, and Chinese politician Hu Yaobang have been here, and tour groups from Japan, China and Taiwan are frequent visitors, too.

* How to get there:Take bus No. 181 from Haeundae for about 30 minutes, and after getting off the bus, walk for 10 minutes.

* Information: 051-722-7744

One of Korea’s best Buddhist temples
          Tongdo Temple

Tongdo Temple, on the slopes of Mt. Yeongchuk in Yangsan City, South Gyeongsang Province, is one of the best known Buddhist temples in Korea. Founded by Master Jajang in the 15th year of Queen Seondeok’s reign (634), Tongdo Temple is known as one of the Sambo (three treasures) temples of Korea: Bulbo represents the Buddha, the religious leader; Beobbo is the Dharma or the teaching of the Buddha; and Seungbo represents the group of followers who learn the teachings of the Buddha and practice them. As it houses the Buddha’s sariras, designated national treasure No. 290, and golden robes, Tongdo Temple is famous as a Bulbo Temple.

Besides the sariras, Tongdo has about 35,000 items of Buddhism historical remains. Thanks to the Seongbo Museum and breathtaking scenery, the temple attracts more than a million visitors and Buddhist faithful every year. The antique style buildings, the Geumgang stairs and the pine trees road along the entrance make for a charming backdrop. After passing the entrance and the Iljumun (temple’s first gate), you’ll come to the Seongbo Museum and a series of other buildings including Cheonwangmun, Bulimun, Geuknakjeon, Yeongsanjeon, Beomjongru, Mansaeru, Mirukjeon, Daewungjeon, Yonghwajeon and Daemyeongkwangjeon.

*How to get there: From Dongbu Inter-city Bus Terminal (Nopo-dong metro station, Gyeongnam Bus) take the bus heading for Shinpyeong (Tongdo Temple) and get off at the temple.

* Information: 055-382-7182


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