South Korea has definitely earned the respect of the world not just as a leading economy but also an import tourism destination. It successfully blends its modern facilities and structures with its traditional temples and palaces. South Korea’s Yakcheonsa Temple is notable for two things: it is not located in the capital city of Seoul and was built only in the 1990s. Yet, it remains as a leading tourist attraction and place of worship also for two reasons: it is found in the beautiful volcanic island of Jeju and physically it is so huge and intricately decorated.
The stunning temple is colossal and definitely one of the most impressive and enchantingly decorated temples in the country. It is 30 meters high with a total land area of 3,305 square meters. Although it was much recently built than the other Buddhist temples in Seoul and elsewhere in Korea, its architecture faithfully follows the architectural style of the older Buddhist temples that were built during the early Joseon Dynasty.
The first attraction inside the temple is a 5-meter-tall statue of Vairocana, which is the tallest in Korea, and mounted on 4-meter pedestal. The surrounding walls have sculpted altar portraits of Buddha while a giant 18-ton Buddhist temple bell is found in front of Dharma Hall. Everything here is huge. Many believe that Yakcheonsa’s four-storey main hall is the biggest in Asia. At the center of this huge hall is a gigantic golden Buddha, which is best viewed from the upper levels. The upper levels, meanwhile, are also crowded with thousands of smaller Buddhist figurines. In the exterior halls in front of the complex are also littered with more than five hundred more Buddhist images that were individually crafted. Many of the images look happy and interesting, while some are strange looking.
Hundreds of worshippers and visitors come to the temple every day at different times of the day and for different reasons. However, the best time to visit Yakcheonsa Temple is 7:00 p.m. in summer when worshippers call chants with their backs to the sunset. Joining the ensemble of sounds are insects and birds calling and temple bells ringing. At the same time, squid boats sail out to sea and shine in the horizon as the stars begin to twinkle in the darkening sky.
Other attractions in Yakcheonsa are the Dharma Hall or “Gulbeopdang”, which is built inside a natural cave, Samseonggak Shrine, Sarira Pagoda and a 3-story residential area for Buddhist monks. This modern temple also has a cafeteria and library.
Yakcheonsa Temple is open from sunrise to sundown, allowing worshippers to worship and offer prayers anytime of the day. Non-Buddhist tourists are encouraged to get on a temple stay tour so that they could better appreciate and understand Buddhism and this amazing temple. Temple visits, tours and temple stays are all for free. Getting to the temple is easy since it is only a bus ride from the Jeju International Airport. Travelers may take Bus 600 and get off at the Temple before making a short 300-meter walk to the temple grounds. The temple offers peace and tranquility to all who enter its gates.