Jogyesa is the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, becoming so in 1936. It thus plays a leading role in the current state of Seon Buddhism in South Korea. The temple was first established in 1395, at the dawn of the Joseon Dynasty; the modern temple was founded in 1910 and initially called "Gakhwangsa". The name was changed to "Taegosa" during the period of Japanese rule, and then to the present name in 1954.
Jogyesa is located in Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu, in downtown Seoul. Natural monument No. 9, an ancient white pine tree, is located within the temple grounds. Jogyesa Temple is located in one of the most popular cultural streets in Seoul, Insa-dong, near the Gyeongbokgung Palace.
The Jogyesa Temple used to be known as Gakhwangsa Temple which was founded in 1395. During the Japanese colonial invasion of 1910-1945, the temple become one of the strongest fortresses of Korean Buddhism. Gakhawangsa Temple emerged as the temple of the resistance to Japanese efforts to suppress Korean Buddhism. In 1937, a movement for the establishment of a Central Headquarters began which was successful with the building of the Main Buddha Hall of Jogyesa Temple in Seoul in 1938.
The temple became known as Taegosa Temple in 1938 and by its current name of Jogyesa Temple in 1954. The name Jogyesa Temple was chosen to denote the structure's status as the main temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism (Buddhist sect which combines and integrates the Korean Zen and Textual Schools of Buddhism). The Jogye Order has 1700 years of history and is the most representative of Korean Buddhism Orders. The Jogye Order is based on the Seokgamoni doctrine and teachings of the Buddha, and it focuses on the mind and nature of this.
The Daeungjeon (Main Buddha Hall) was constructed in 1938 of pine wood from Baekdu Mountain, and it's always filled with the sounds of chanting. In the main temple courtyard there are two trees which are 500 years old, a White Pine and a Chinese Scholar tree.
The White Pine tree is about 10 meters high and gave the nearby area “Susong-dong” its name (Song means 'pine tree'). This tree was brought by Chinese missionaries during the Joseon Dynasty. This pine tree sits besides the Main Hall, and its branch towards the Main Hall is only partially alive. One side of this tree is adjacent to the passage, while the other side sits next to the building. Therefore, because the area is inadequate for the tree to grow, the Lacebark pine is not preserved well and since the Lacebark pine is a rare tree species and is valuable in biology, it is designated and protected as a Natural Monument.
The Chinese Scholar tree, which is 26 meters tall and four meters in circumference, silently stands watch over the temple grounds.
To enter the temple Jogyesa have to go through first Iljum or the one pillar gate. The Iljumun is an entry that represents is the division that separates the mortal world from the world of Buddha.
Jogyesa Temple's features is a mix of traditional temple and palace architecture. The lattice designs found on the doors and windows of the Daeungjeon are unique in their own right. The temple also features the Geuknakjeon (Hll of Supreme Bliss) in which the Amitabha Buddha is enshrined, the Beomjongnu, a structure where a bell which enlightens the public with its sound is housed, and an information center for foreign nationals.
Temple also has colorful matsya (Sanskrit for "fish") which is scared to Hindu-Buddhists as it is one of the avatar (incarnation) of Hindu deity Vishnu which has been described in detail in Matsya Purana and 6th BCE Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya.
The festival, designated Korea's Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 122, will take place at Jogyesa and Bongeunsa temples and along Jongno Street on May 6–8. The origin of the three-day festival dates back to the Unified Silla era over 1,300 years ago, when the festival was held on Daeboreum, a day celebrating the first full moon of the lunar calendar; During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Yeondeunghoe turned into a festival marking Buddha’s birthday.
Lanterns featuring lotus and other traditional figures and objects representing people’s wishes will be hung on May 6–22, from 6 p.m. to midnight at Jogyesa Temple The highlight of the three-day-long celebration is the Lotus Lantern Parade, which winds along Jongno Street from Dongdaemun Gate to Jogyesa Temple. With thousands of participants, each carrying their own lantern, the parade becomes a river of light flowing through the heart of Seoul.
- Jogye Order
Jogyesa came to the attention of the international news media in December 1998 due to several monks occupying the temple in a power struggle between factions of the Jogye Order. In the end, riot police were called in to take control of the temple and oust the protestors after they had occupied the building for more than 40 days.
- Kyeongsin Persecution
From 27 to 31 October 1980, during the Kyeongsin Persecution, the government raided major Buddhist temples throughout the country, including the headquarters at Seoul's Jogyesa, under the guise of anti-government investigations and an attempt to "purify" Buddhism.
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Temple stay is a cultural program which anyone can experience the life of buddha practitioners and also learn about the cultural knowledge transmitted throughout Korean Buddhist history. The temple stay of Jogyesa consists of various activities related to Korean tradition and buddhism. Everyone who wants to make distinctive and valuable memories such as experiencing Buddhism or talking with Buddhist practitioners can take part in. And also this program show people how to control their mind and introspect themselves. People can make those techniques their second nature and can achieve inner peace by practicing them. It is a chance to know how to be happy.
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