Bongeunsa is a millennial Buddhist temple with a long history of over more than 1,200 years old, located at Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu, in the center of Seoul City, Korea.
Founded by National Master Patriarch Yeonhoei in 794 during the reign of King Wonseong of the Shilla Dynasty, Bongeunsa later became the cornerstone of the revival of Korean Buddhism as the head temple of the Korean Seon(meditation) lineage owing greatly to the religious devotion of the Venerable Bowoo. National examination qualifying monks took place in this area of the current COEX location, which was called ‘Seunggwapyeong’ at that time. Distinguished masters including the Venerable Seosan and the Venerable Samyeong, who carried on the Seon(meditation) legacy of Korean Buddhism, were produced right here through the system.
During the late Joseon Dynasty, the Venerable Yeonggi built Panjeon, where 81 volumes of the wood blocks of the Avatamsaka Sutra are enshrined. Also, Kim Jeonghee, one of the greatest scholars and calligraphers of the time, stayed at Bongeunsa Temple in his latter years and completed his own calligraphy style called the ‘Chusache’ style named after his pen name.
His caligraphy displayed on the hanging board at the Panjeon is known as his last work representing his Chusache style at the highest level of calligraphic art.
Nowadays, Bongeunsa is writing a new history of Korean Buddhism through its practice-oriented temple management.
More over, Bongeunsa not only spreads Korean Buddhism and Korean culture at home and around the world with diversified programs including Templestay, but also continues to maintain its place as a important sizable temple with contribution to the public welfare in the center of Korean society.
Daewoongjeon was rebuilt in 1982. Inside the hall, the Statues of three wooden sitting Buddhas are enshrined (National Treasure, No.1819). In the center is the Sakyamuni Buddha with the Medicine Buddha (Bhaisajyaguru) on his left and the Amitabha Buddha of the Western Pure Land (the Buddha of infinite Light) on his right. Behind the statues of the three Buddhas, there is a beautiful painting portraying the theme of the three Buddhas. Also unique architectural features add dignity to its beauty: the dragon image on the railing of the stairs, which was used exclusively for the palaces of kings. The pillars, stylish window frames, roofs and eaves also show the echo-friendly beauty of traditional wooden buildings of Korea.
Panjeon was built in 1855 by the Venerable Yeonggi and a great scholar and calligrapher Kim Jeong-hee whose pen name was Chusa to preserve the wooden blocks of the 81 volumes of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Added later were the wooden blocks of the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Collection of Poems written by hermit Hansanja, the Initial Self-Discipline by monk Jinul and the printing of Sakyamuni Buddha's feet among others. Currently 3,438 wooden blocks are well kept in this hall. This is the oldest building in the Bongeunsa Temple where the Vairocana Buddha is enshrined. The hanging board of Panjeon and the wooden blocks of the Avatamsaka Sutra have been designated as the Tangible Cultural Property No. 83 and No. 84 of the Seoul City. The hanging board features the last work of Chusa Kim Jeong-hee as a calligrapher of the Joseon Dynasty.
One hundred and three letters are inscribed on Bongeunsa Bronze Incense Burner inlaid with silver thread. By this inscription, it is known to be made by Kim Kyung who was a master artisan, with Ven. Oyeo, Ven. Jinoh, and Ven. Gyeho in the fifth year of 28th King Chunghae of Koryo Dynasty in CE1344. Incense Burner is an offering tool to the Buddha used in the temple for incense burning . Incense is a symbol of Buddha's teachings and the mind purification.
This Bronze Incense Burner is believed to be originally located at Jungheungsa Temple in Mt. Bukhansan and transferred to Bongeunsa during King Myeongjong in Joseon Dynasty. The period of King Myeongjong was 150 years later of the foundation of Joseon Dynasty, which suppressed Buddhism. But Queen Munjeong, mother of King Myeongjong, was a sincere Buddhist, she nominated Ven. Bowoo as the Head monk of Bongeunsa Temple. He revived both section of Seon and Doctrine of Buddhism in 1550, and established Sunggwa, the examination to become a Buddhist monk, the next year.
The reason why Bronze Incense Burner was transferred to Bongeunsa Temple, the center of reviving Buddhism, was because of the earnest vow of Ven. Bowoo and all Buddhists whom wanted Buddha's teachings to spread from Bongeunsa. to whole country. Now, as the power of vow, Bongeunsa represents Buddhist temples of Seoul, Korea.
This Bronze Incense Burner is shown not only the good proportion of appearance but also lots of beautiful patterns on surface, and the inlay with silver thread is done refinedly. It is exhibited at Central Buddhist Museum.
Wooden Statues of Sakyamuni Triad in the Main Buddha Hall of Bongeunsa Temple are designated as National Treasure No. 1819, in March 12, 2014. Monk Seungil who was the great Sculptor in the late Joseon Dynasty (the 2nd years of King Hyojong's reign :CE1651), came to Bongeunsa Temple and saw the most buildings seriously destroyed by war. So he newly made the statues of the Sakyamuni, Bhaisagyaguru and Amitabha Buddhas, called Statues of Sakyamuni Triad, with all his sincere energy and ten Buddhists' earnest vows. And the Statues of Sakyamuni Buddha Triad were enshrined on the alter in the Main Buddha Hall [Daewoongjeon]. According to the Gaegeumgi (Document of Gild Work) in 1765, Sakyamuni Buddha Statue was damaged again by fire in 1689 and repaired afterwards.
The wooden Statues of Sakyamuni Buddha Triad are the representative of Buddhist sculptures from the mid-17th century showing power in a simple image, They are Buddhas of Hope saving satient beings from all sufferings. They will remain as the great National Treasure in Korea.
The Sitting Buddha Triad, not only showing the outstanding figures from the sculptural point of view but also equipped with a statement of aspiration, is evaluated as one of the important Buddhist Cultural Properties in understanding the post mid-17th century Buddhist sculptures. The Sakyamuni Buddha Triad enshrined in the Main Buddha Hall is the Buddha of Hope who soothes the sufferings of all sentient beings and helps fulfill their wishes. This Sakyamuni Buddha Triad will remain as a National Cultural Heritage of Korea as well as a Buddhist Cultural Property of Korea for a long and long time.