The Buddhist Monk Soldiers of Mangwolsa
Within the walls of Namhansanseong Fortress there are ten Buddhist temples, one of which is Mangwolsa (망월사).
Ten temples within one fortress may seem like a lot, but these aren’t your normal temples. These temples once housed Buddhist soldiers who practiced Buddhism while also helping to guard and protect the fortress walls. Each temple had a role to play in the protection of the fortress which is clear by their position either near an outer wall, a hidden gate or a cannon tower.
Namhansanseong was built in 1624 through the labor of the Buddhist monks and once construction was completed the temples inside were built to house the monks that would then become Buddhist monk soldiers who were tasked with leading the defense of the area until the 1894 Gabo Reform when the Buddhist monk soldier system was abolished. The temples housed armories and gunpowder stores so that they were ready and able to defend the fortress whenever it was necessary. Most of the temples were burnt down by the Japanese in 1907, but they’ve since been rebuilt and offer a different look into Korean Buddhism and the monks involvement in Korea’s history.
Mangwolsa has the longest history of the ten temples in the fortress and was built before the fortress walls which eventually surrounded it. Originally, it went by the name of Mangwolam hermitage during the Goryeo Period. It is said that the Buddha statue and a copy of the Lotus Sutra written in gold were moved to this temple from Jeongeuisa Temple when King Taejo, the founder of Joseon, decided to move the capital to Hangyang(Seoul) and had Jeongeuisa torn down and the items from it moved to Mangwolsa.
Namhansanseong is a great place to take a hike, or a spirited walk in the woods and also provides some insight into Korea’s history.Directions:
Subway: Get off at Sanseong Station, exit 2. Take City Bus No. 9, and get off at Namhansanseong bus stop. (Travel Time : 20 Min., Interval of Buses: 20 Min.)
Bus: Take 13-2 bus at Dongseoul bus terminal Gangbyeun station and transfer to 15-1 bus at the entrance of Namhansanseong, get off at the last stop