South Korea // Chungcheong //


Inside the park, a short, shaded path leads to the park’s main draw – the glorious temple Beopjusa (법주사). Entirely surrounded by pine and peaks, its name means – somewhat tautologically – “the temple where Buddhist teachings reside”, and indeed it has been an active place of worship and religious study since built in 653. Standing with his back to the west (the direction of his death), the huge bronze Buddha statue stands atop an underground hall housing hundreds of figurines, including a rather splendid golden goddess of compassion. Back outside and facing the statue is Palsangjeon (팔상전), an unconventional five-storey building that, despite a rather squat appearance fostered by the shallow lattice windows, is also the tallest wooden structure in Korea. As with all Korean temple halls bearing this name, it contains eight painted murals depicting various stages from the life of the Buddha; however, this is likely to be the oldest such building in the land. Nearby are two elaborately decorated stone lanterns; two lions hold up the torch segment on one (though the flames have long been extinguished), while the other is adorned with four carved devas and a statue of a bodhisattva. This deity incarnate once held an incense burner until he was consumed by fire, presumably reaching nirvana during his show of determination.

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