Founded in 1376, Yonggung-sa Temple, also known as the Korean Dragon Palace Temple, is one of the three sacred places related to Great Goddess Buddha in Korea. Unlike most temples in Korea that are built on the mountainside, this temple is located at the rocky seaside on the northeastern part of Busan.
Thousands of visitors and pilgrims visit from different part of the country, especially during New Year’s Day to get a glimpse of the first sunrise as well as during March to April as the temple is filled with lanterns to celebrate the birth of Buddha. Often referred to as an aquatic Buddhist sanctum, Yonggung-sa Temple preserves deeper religious concepts than any other temple nearby as the dragon, sea and the Great Buddha embody a harmonious connection in this place.
Founded by the Naong, a great monk and consultant of King Gongmin, the temple was originally called Bomun Temple, which means “absolute and immeasurable power of Great Buddha”. The mountain where the temple stands was also named by Naong as Bongrae, which means something pure and mysterious for which wise hermits descended. Unfortunately, the temple was burned and destroyed during Imjin Waeran (Hideyoshi Invasion) in 1592. It was not until the early 1930’s that the temple was rebuilt by monk Ungang of Tongdo temple.
After that, numerous head monks supervised the temple until monk Jungam prayed that the temple return as a seminary for Great Goddess Buddha. Within his 100-day prayer ritual, he dreamt of the Great Goddess Buddha behind a dragon emitting five-color light, and after his dream, he renamed the temple Haedong Yonggungsa. Many people believe that at least one of your wishes will be answered if you pray in this temple, and because of this belief, many tourists visit this temple.
Entering the temple, you have to start through a corridor of shops selling various wares, then proceed to the courtyard where the 12 zodiac sign statues, also called the 12 spirit generals, can be found. After passing some statues, you’ll see a nine-tiered pagoda loftily standing outside the gold-painted entrance gate adorned with a huge dragon figure. A black structure next to the pagoda can be visited to pray for protection from road accidents. Upon passing the golden gate, you will notice an unusual granite Dharma with his nose and stomach smeared with black. There is a traditional belief that if you are pregnant and wish to have a boy, you must touch its belly or nose.
A man-made tunnel was constructed before entering the main hall and shrine. After passing through the tunnel, you have to climb the 108 stairs that represent the 108 worldly desires and agonies of Buddhism. Before crossing the bridge that connects the temple to the shore, there is a small outcropping where visitors can either pray to the statue of Seokgamoni-bul or Historical Buddha, or down to the shoreline to look out the impressive East Sea.
Other sceneries inside Yonggung-sa Temple include the sunrise every morning, the bright moon during autumn, the endless ocean view from Sirangdae, the cherry blossoms during spring and the night scenery during Buddha’s birthday. You can also see the four lions outside the pagoda, which stands for joy, anger, sadness and happiness, Yacksayeorae Healing Buddha and Haesu Gwaneum Daebul (Sea water Great Goddess Buddha).