Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Korea's Historical Temple | Donghwasa Temple in Daegu

Exploring A Famous Temple in Daegu, Donghwasa

Donghwasa Temple

A Temple of Paulownia Blossoms, Donghwasa

Nestled in the Dohak-dong Valley and surrounded by Pokpo-gol, Bindae-gol, and Susut-gol Valleys, Donghwasa Temple is a time-honored temple from the Silla Dynasty. It was originally built by Monk Geukdal (Geukdalhwasang) in 493 AD, the 15th year of King Soji’s reign of Silla. It was originally called Yugasa Temple (유가사). It was renamed by Priest Simji (Simjiwangsa) in 832 AD during the reign of King Heungdeok. Inspired by the beauty of the Paulownia trees, locally known as odong namu (오동나무), surrounding the place, Priest Simji renamed the temple Donghwasa (동화사) which means “Paulownia Blossom Temple.”

Being one of the most popular temples in Daegu, I have heard a lot about Donghwasa Temple and I have been wanting to visit it.

Exploring Donghwasa Temple

On May 16th, I finally found myself on the Daegu City Tour bus heading to the temple!
With Buddha’s Birthday around the corner, the road leading to the temple is adorned with colorful lotus lanterns.

Since Donghwamun is still closed, due to the on-going construction of the road, we entered the temple through the Bonghwangmun.

Donghwasa Temple’s Iljumun

After receiving our admission tickets, we walked towards the One Pillar Gate (Iljumun)) which is located right next to the parking area. Before reaching the gate, an image of a seated Buddha surrounded by clouds neatly carved on the rock on the side of the road caught my attention. The carved image is believed to have been made by Priest Simji using a chisel. Priest Simji successfully made the seated Buddha look as if it is smiling tenderly to every temple visitor that passes by.

Seated Buddha Image in front of Iljumun

A few minutes walk from the One Pillar Gate, we found the Information Map of the temple.

Surrounded by the lush green trees, we continued walking on the concrete path, enjoying the sound of the water rushing down the nearby creek. It was so refreshing!

Colorful lanterns along the path leading to the temple

Then before we knew it, we reached this intimidating flight of stairs called 108 Gyedan (108게단) because it has 108 steps. We were all catching our breath when we reached the top.

Baek Pal Gyedan (동화사 108계단)

After catching our breath, we climbed another flight of stairs to the left, a shorter one.. It lead us to the Tongil-daejeon Hall. In front of the Tongil-daejeon Hall is a gigantic Buddha statue called Tongil-daebul Buddha Statue. Completed in 1992, Tongil-daebul Buddha Statue (The Unification Buddha) stands 33-meters high and is 16.5-meters round. It is apparently the largest Buddha Statue in Asia. It is considered as one of the main attractions at Donghwasa Temple.

The Unification Buddha Statue

On the right of the statue, there is a passage way leading to the Buddhist Culture Center. The Buddhist Culture Center is like a tunnel with many rooms. One of the sections was made into a meditation hall which was made to replicate a forest scene with a large rock that has a flat surface and trees. It really made me feel like I was in the forest listening to the bubbly sound of the water flowing and the birds chirping. There was also a room with beautiful paintings and gold and bronze carved images related to Korean Zen Buddhist Culture.

A meditation room at Donghwasa Buddhist Culture Center

Beautiful paintings displayed inside the Buddhist Culture Center

Continuing our exploration of Donghwa Temple, we headed towards the Daeungjeon Main Worship Hall.  On the way, we passed by the Bongseoru Pavilion. Bongseoru Pavilion signifies a phoenix with its tail flowing downward. The rock in the middle of the stairs is the tail and round stones symbolize the phoenix’s eggs.

Phoenix sculpture in front of Bongseoru Pavilion

Vibrantly colored lanterns added beauty to the already beautiful pavilion.
We climbed the Pavilion Stairs (Nugak Gyedan) and were greeted by even more lanterns in front of the Daeungjeon Hall.

Colorful lanterns in front of Daeungjeon Hall

Daeungjeon Hall is believed to have been built between 1727 and 1732, using twisted trees as pillars. Daeungjeon Hall is a three kan (section) wide and three kan (section) long building. It possesses natural beauty. It enshrines the Amitabha Buddha (Amitabul), Shakyamuni Buddha (Seokgamonibul), and Pharmaceutical Buddha (Yaksayeoraebul).

Yet Sunrye Gil, Donghwasa’s Old Pilgrimage Trail

After exploring the temple, we headed back to the parking area. But instead of taking the concrete path again, our tour guide led us to the Old Pilgrimage Trail of Donghwasa (Donghwasa Yet Sunrye Gil). The head of the trail starts from the side of the path leading to Donghwamun Gate. It runs through the thick forest and along the creek. Walking on this trail did not only allow me to enjoy the greenness of nature but also the soothing sound of the water from the creek.  The gentle forest breeze and the subtle fragrant of nature was so refreshing.

Heading down the Old Donghwasa Pilgrimage Trail

While approaching the wooden bridge, I imagined how beautiful that place could be in autumn when all the green leaves turn yellow, orange and red. I was really glad our tour guide introduced us to that hidden gorgeous trail. If you visit Donghwasa with your friends, I highly recommend taking this trail on your way back.

A beautiful wooden bridge over the creek
The Creek

 How to Get to Donghwasa

Option 1: Join Daegu City Tour Theme Course: Palgongsan Course. You can reserve online and pay on-site. It costs 5,000 won. The admission fee at Donghwasa is not included. The tour bus departs at Sinnam Station Exit 2 and Dongdaegu Station. Visit www.daegucitytour.com for more details.

Option 2: Take a city bus from Dongdaegu Station or Subway Line 1: Ayanggyo Station Exit 2, get on Express 1 (Geuphaeng 급행 1) and get off at Donghwagyo Stop. Turn right and walk straight until you reach the ticketing booth. Purchase your admission ticket and just follow the concrete road going up.
*Tip: Keep your ticket. You can use it to get a 2,500 won discount when you take the Palgongsan Cable Car.

Tourist Information

Destination: Donghwasa Temple (동화사)
Address: 1, Donghwasa 1-gil, Dong-gu, Daegu (대구 동구 동화사1 1)
Website: www.donghwasa.net (Korean Only)
Telephone #: +82539850980

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