Jogyesa Temple

Experience the serenity and festival atmosphere of this colorful temple, which is the spiritual heart of Zen Buddhism in Korea. 

Jogyesa Temple is an oasis of tranquility amid the chaos of Seoul’s bustling streets. Appreciate the soothing ambiance of this ancient Buddhist complex while wandering between its pagodas, prayer halls and shrines. See Buddhist practitioners perform their daily rituals and participate in flamboyant festivals.

Learn about the site’s past. Jogyesa Temple dates back to the late 1300s, when it was called Gakhwangsa Temple. It operated as a stronghold for Korean Buddhism during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the first half of the 20th century. The temple was moved to its current location in 1937.

Enter the complex via the colorful One Pillar Gate, so named for a horizontal post that represents one mind. Note the warrior sculptures and large lanterns. The main temple is the Daeungjeon Hall, a prayer room dominated by golden statues of Amitabha Buddha, Bhaisaiya Buddha and Shakyamuni Buddha. Listen as devotees chant the name of the celestial Amitabha Buddha, who is said to grant reincarnation, enlightenment and truth.

The courtyard in front of the main hall is a constant hive of activity with Buddhist followers saying prayers and laying offerings. It’s also scattered with sacred monuments. Among these is a 500-year-old lacebark pine tree and the 450-year-old Chinese Scholar Tree. The multi-tiered Jinsinsari pagoda stores a relic of Buddha brought from Sri Lanka by a monk. At the Brahma Bell Pavilion, listen to the music of morning and evening chants.

A great time to visit the temple is in May for the celebrations of Buddha’s birthday. See a major highlight of the festival, the exhibition of elaborate lanterns decorating the courtyard. If you’re interested in learning more about Korean Buddhism, sign up for the two-night temple stay program. Monks lead this event, teaching activities such as chanting, lotus flower making and meditation.

Reach the temple by taking the metro to either the Anguk or Jonggak station and then continuing on foot. Alternatively, catch a bus to the Jogyesa Temple stop.

Jogyesa Temple is open daily and admission is free. Find information about the temple stay on the temple’s official website.