Jeju Island: Yakcheonsa Temple
Yakcheonsa (약천사), or Yakcheon Temple, is not old in any sense of the word. Only recently built in the 90s, it has a short history, though one cannot tell from the architecture as it was built in the style of Buddhist temples of the early Joseon Dynasty.
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The main hall is massive and there are claims that it is the largest in East Asia making it very worthy of a visit while in the area. Located on the south western coast of Jeju Island, surrounded by other tourist hot spots, it’s an easy enough place to stop for a few pictures and a quiet respite.
Tourists are a common sight on the grounds and therefore the groundskeepers are very kind and welcoming to those hoping to take a look around, even ushering those unsure
inside to take photos. Around the outside of the first floor of the structure are intricately carved window shutters, each featuring a different carving telling a story. After walking around the outside upon entering the main hall is a massive Buddha statue with two more Buddha statues on either side. Dragons encircle golden pillars in the front of the Buddha and the walls are covered with beautifully colored paintings, making it almost a shock to the eyes upon entering with so much to see. As this past week was Chuseok, or the Korean Thanksgiving, there were quite a few Buddhists inside praying and so I thought I ought not to photograph the scene and disrupt those in worship. That was until I realized there was a staircase that would take me up to the second and then third floor of the building where I had an even better vantage point of the Buddha statues and wouldn’t be intruding on any of the believers down below.
The second floor had another area for people to pray, though no one was there, and the third floor offered up thousands of small seated Buddhist statues. All of the floors are open to the public and offer great views of the main altar area as well as have their own unique sights to behold.
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The beautifully manicured lawn in front of the main hall is surrounded by small elephant statues and walking down the path in the center leads down to a pond and then further into an orange and palm tree grove. Flanking the lawn are two structures, one containing a large drum that we were lucky to see pounded by one of the onsite monks in the morning, and the other houses an 18-ton bronze bell. The whole area is colorfully enticing to the eye and well taken care of and a perfect cultural stop on the way to see some of the natural beauty of Jeju’s landscape.
This is just one stop on Jeju Island that should be seen. Down the road is the majestic Jeongbang Waterfall and of course the tallest mountain in Korea is here on Jeju Island as well. Another religious stop would be the mysterious grotto on Sanbang Mountain and don’t miss a trip out to nearby Gapa Island too.
서귀포시 대포동 1165
1165 Daepo-dong Seogwipo, Jeju, Korea
Directions: From Jeju International Airport Bus Stop 1 take bus 600. Get off at the stop named for the temple and the walk is about 300m.
If renting a car, take road 1139 to Seogwipo and go left on 1132. Signs are in English and Korean making it easy to find.
Facilities: Parking lot, restrooms