South Korea // Jeju Island //

Yakcheonsa temple

A few kilometres east of Jungmun, and best reached by taxi or bike, is the stunning temple of Yakcheonsa (약천사). Built in the 1990s, what it lacks in historical value it more than makes up for with its main building, a feast of intricate decoration despite its colossal size – the cavernous four-storey main hall is claimed to be the biggest in Asia, and is one of the most impressive in the country. The huge golden Buddha at the centre is best viewed from the encircling upper levels, which are themselves crowded with thousands of Buddhist figurines. Yet more (over five hundred, and all individually crafted) can be found in an exterior hall to the front of the complex; most are jovial (cheer up, no. 184) and many are individually interesting – take a look at no. 145’s disturbing party trick, if you can find him. The best time to visit is 7pm on a summer evening, when worshipping locals chant under the interior glow with their backs to the sunset. Insect and bird calls add extra resonance to the bell rings that mark the beginning of the service, while squid boats out at sea shine like fallen stars on the horizon.

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