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Korean Buddhist Cultural Heritage

Seonamsa Temple (선암사)

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Writer Jogye Date23 Aug 2018 Read266 Comment0

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6. Seonamsa Temple


Seonamsa Temple which is located in Suncheon City of Jeollanam-do Province was established in the 9
th Century as a Seon School temple. Seonamsa was built on the flat area near Seonamsacheon stream at the foot of Jogyesan Mountain. Seonamsa Temple is included in the exquisite Samamsa (three mountain temples) of Jeolla region along with Yongamsa and Unamsa Temple. As Seonamsa expanded to the north, it has changed its building arrangement and scale to what is seen today. From the area with the Main Hall and two three-story stone pagodas, the temple expanded to the north. However, due to Japanese invasion and a large-scale fire, the temple had to be rebuilt in the 19th Century and the temple has maintained the arrangement since then. The two three-story stone pagodas prove Seonamsa Temple’s founding year.

Seonamsa Temple represents Shakyamuni belief having only enshrined Shkyamuni Buddha statue in the Main Hall. Youngsanjae takes place periodically at the front yard of the Main Hall and Manseru to demonstrate Shakyamuni belief.

Seonamsa Temple has well preserved the living quarters and facilities where monks live the traditional lifestyle. Seonamsa Temple used to be a large-scale monastery where many monks lived therefore there are many buildings in the ‘ㅁ’ shape. The origin of such building is from Goryeo Dynasty where ‘ㅁ’ shape buildings were independent community units. The six buildings of such shape helps us estimate how many monks resided in the temple. The restroom at Seonamsa is one of the oldest traditional restroom which shows the eco-friendly lifestyle of the mountain monastery. Along with Seon practice, Seonamsa Temple is known for the tea farm cultivated by the monks. Seonamsa Temple stores the flowing water in three levels of stone tub and use it for cultivating the tea farm. The temple tries to spread tea drinking culture in the mountain.

The reason for such large scale living facilities remaining in Seonamsa Temple is because Seonamsa Temple played an important role in monastic education in the southwestern region of Korean Peninsula during the early 20th Century. At Seonamsa Temple, the monastic education was reformed to follow the trend of modernization in the early 20th Century. As the result, modern education institutions including Seonamsa Seungseon School (1906), Gwangju Propagation Center (1914), Regional School (1920) were established. Seonamsa Seungseon School was restructured in 1913 and operated separately as a regular school and a specialized sutra education center. The modernized education instutitions established at Seonamsa Temple in the early 20th Century is an important example in which the traditionally inherited education system has been modernized and reformed.

At the entrance of Seonamsa Temple, there is a walking bridge called Seungseongyo. Surrounding the bridge, one can find many rocks that bear the name of groups and famous people who have visited the temple proving the long history of the temple. Also, the foot bridge was built by the monks showing that the monks with high-level of construction skill have directly participated in the temple construction.

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