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Korean Buddhist Cultural Heritage

Magoksa Temple (마곡사)

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Writer Jogye Date23 Aug 2018 Read274 Comment0

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5. Magoksa Temple


Magoksa Temple which is located in Gongju City of Chungcheongnam-do Province was established in the 9
th Century when Seon School was expanding. Afterwards, the temple continued to represent Shakyamuni belief during Goryeo and Joseon Dynasty. Magoksa is located on a flat ground near Magoksacheon stream at the foot of Taehwasan Mountain. The temple expanded from the Main Hall are on the north to Youngsanjeon area on the south along the stream to the size we see today. Though Magoksa Temple faced damage during the Japanese Invasion of 1592, the temple recovered most of its features by the 18th Century and the features have been maintained until today.

Magoksa is formed into the southern and northern area with the stream flowing in the middle. In the large yard of the northern area, there is a five-story stone pagoda from the 14th Century. This stone pagoda has Tibetan-style bronze finial decoration on the top and four surfaces with Buddha engraved proving that there was much cultural exchange with Yuan Dynasty at the time. The five-story stone pagoda is registered as a treasure. The southern area has a small yard that divides Youngsanjeon Hall and Seon practice center. Many living quarters are well preserved showin the traditional living style of a Sangha community.

Magoksa Temple symbolizes Buddhist role in national defense. During the Japanese invasions, Magoksa Temple was the center for the army of monks. Due to its role as a vestige for the army of monks, the temple was critically damaged during the invasions. After Japanese Invasion in the 17th Century, there were outdoor ceremonies to commemorate those who passed away during the war. Many people came to participate and they contributed greatly to the recovery effort of the temple.

After the large-scale outdoor ceremony became more popular, large hanging paintings of Buddha appeared from the 17th Century. The early hanging paintings were created at the center of Korea around Magoksa Temple and the unique features were spread to the southeastern region which is currently Gyeongsangbuk-do and Gyeongsangnam-do Province. The hanging paintings of the Buddha stored in the temple show not only the unique format but also provides information related to Joseon society. On the record of <Hanging Painting of Shakyamuni Buddha at Magoksa Temple>(1687), there is a detailed list of the monks and lay followers who contributed various types of items for the operation of the temple. This shows that donation and contribution for temple construction and reconstruction which had come from the royal family or central government has come from local residents by the time of the late Joseon Dynasty. Also, the painter-monks actively worked on their projects around Magoksa Temple. The ritual to commemorate the painter-monks is still taking place in the forest.

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