Sogni-san  Beobju-sa
法住寺    법주사
The Dharma-Dwelling Monastery
One of Korea's very greatest temples,
within the Sogni-san National Park
A major sacred site on the Baekdu-daegan Cordillera
and one of Korea's UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites
One of Korea's Top-Seven Temples and Top-25 Temples to visit
View on ticket from my visit in September 1982, with cement Mireuk Statue
I first "discovered" the
Sanshin here, on an expert-led R.A.S.-KB Tour to this great temple!
From my Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism:
Beopju-sa 법주사 法住寺 [Dharma Dwelling Temple] is one of Korea’s largest and most important historic
monasteries, located on the western foot of Mt. Sogni-san, in Sognisan District of Boeun-gun 報恩郡 County
in Chungcheong-bukdo Province.  It is deeply within the borders of the Songni-san National Park, although
the temple retains ownership and jurisdictional control over its entire valley, due to a title-document granted
it by King Sejo (世祖王, r. 1455–68) in the Joseon Dynasty that was validated by Korea’s Supreme Court.
It is the proud host of 3 National Treasures and 13 Korean Treasures, and is altogether National Scenic
Site #61 and National Historic Site #503 -- and the top pride of Chungcheong-bukdo.

Beopju-sa Temple is believed to have been founded during the reign of Shilla King Jinheung
(眞興王, r. 540-78)
of the Silla Kingdom, by Master Uisin (義信) in 553, making it one of Korea’s oldest still-functioning temples.
Uisin named it Beop-ju [法住, Dharma Residence] because he enshrined the sutras he brought from India
there, in a library/study wooden-pagoda (like those of China) in the center of the grounds, that later evolved
into the unique 5-story wooden pagoda we see today (used for different religious purposes).  It was initially
devoted to the
Beopsang-jong [East Asian Yogacara; 唯識宗, Consciousness Only School], and later in the 780s this
temple became one of the primary Korean
doryang for the worship of Mireuk-bul [彌勒佛, Maitreya, the
Future Buddha] along with
Moak-san Geumsan-sa, Palgong-san Donghwa-sa and Yonghwa-san Mireuk-sa.

Great Master Uisang (義湘, 625-702) greatly expanded Beopju-sa as one of the ten main monasteries of his
Hwaeom-jong [華嚴宗, Avatamsaka or Flower Garland School], in the middle of the First Golden Age.  He
ordered the construction of its initial
Daejeokgwang-jeon [大寂光殿, Great Peace and Light Hall], possibly
the first one in all Korea, to enshrine
Biro-bul [毘盧遮那, Vairocana the Buddha of Infinite Cosmic Light] in
Amita-bul [阿彌陀佛, Amitabha the Buddha of Western Paradise], on the left and Seokgamoni-bul
[釋迦牟尼佛, Sakyamuni Buddha] on the right.  These three statues are 5.5 meters tall and 4 meters wide,
making them the largest seated Buddha-statues in Korea from before the 1950-53 Korean War.  This hall,
was reconstructed by Master Byeok-am in 1624, and he changed the name to
Daeung-bojeon [大雄寶殿,
Great Hero Treasure-Hall], and that remains its name today.
The Palsang-jeon with snow in January
The famous Palsang-jeon [Eight Phases Hall], a 5-story Pagoda enshrining Eight Paintings of the Life of
Sakyamuni the Historical Buddha.  This was built in 1624 and dedicated different worship purposes, but is
presumed to be on the site and roughly following the design of the library/study wooden-pagoda
(like those of China)
built by Master Uisin in 553 to enshrine the scriptures that he brought from India, that had been rebuilt several
times after.  Today it is
Korea's Only Traditional Wooden Pagoda, and Tallest Pagoda, National Treasure #55
From my Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism:
The Samguk Yusa records that in the late 700s during the Unified Shilla Dynasty, Beopsang Sutra School
Master Jinpyo (眞表) instructed his leading disciple Master Yeongsim to renovate the temple and rename it
“Gilsang-sa” (吉祥寺).  It was at this point that it became also devoted to veneration of Mireuk-bul.  Jinpyo
himself visited it in 786, and when he was approaching all the cows that were plowing in the fields stopped
working and bowed to him.  When the local farmers saw this, they were ashamed that even the animals
recognized Jinpyo’s greatness when they had not, and so they renounced their secular lives and followed
Jinpyo into Beopju-sa to become ordained.  This is said to be how the hosting mountain got its name
“sok-ri” (
sogni), which means “to leave the mundane world far behind” or “remote from the ordinary world.”
Interior through a doorway, 2006 -- 500 white Buddhas are arranged all-around, in front of paintings
Rock-carved Seated Mireuk-bul [Maitreya Buddha] of Beopju-sa's Entranceway, Korean Treasure #216
It was carved on this 6-meter boulder in 776-86, or maybe in the early Goryeo era (2nd Golden Age).
That the Future Buddha is sitting in a lotus-flower chair, and has distinctly curly hair, are very rare motifs in
these sorts of cliff-engravings.  His head is somewhat more 3-D while the lower body is carved shallowly,
giving him the appearance of leaning-forward from the perspective of a penitent standing or kneeling in-front
and looking up, which is common in these.  His hands are in front of his chest in a complex "Teaching" mudra.

In the lower-left corner of this carving (left of his right foot), there is an extremely weathered petroglyph
illustrating the name-foundation-story of Mt. Sogni-san, now almost imperceptible but confirmed by
archaeologists (see just below).  It depicts a person leading a loaded horse and a ox kneeling in front
of the horse -- this would be Great Master Jinpyo coming to visit with a load of Beopsang Sutra and
Mireuk-bul scriptures, and one of the cows that in the local fields that bowed to him, causing the
farmers to renounce the secular world in these remote mountains.
From my Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism:
During the early Joseon Dynasty, Great Master Sinmi (信眉) had the temple rebuilt again.  A story from the
official dynastic annals tells that as King Sejo (r. 1455-68) was carried in his sedan-chair towards the temple
to visit it in 1464, the lower branches of a large spreading pine tree seemed to block his path. However, as
they approached closely and the king announced his passage, they perceived that the branches lifted up
enough for the sedan-chair to pass safely underneath.  The king was mightily impressed at the tree’s noble
politeness, and so he granted it Ministerial rank [as Jeong-i-pum (正二品), a lower minister of the royal court],
complete with enfeoffed land providing a budget for its maintenance and periodic veneration, which lasted
until the end of the dynasty. The “Jeongipum-song” (正二品松) pine-tree is still faithfully cared for by the
provincial government today, although it has gotten very sick in its old age with many of its branches
dropping off, and great efforts are being made to preserve its life and form as long as possible.  It is still
widely used as the symbol of Boeun-gun County and  Chungcheong-bukdo Province
(see Sogni-san Page).

Most of the Beopju-sa's buildings were destroyed during the Imjin Waeran (壬辰倭亂, 1592-98 Japanese
Invasion). Masters Sa-myeong Yujeong (四溟 惟政) and Byeok-am Gakseong (碧巖 覺性) led its reconstruction
afterwards, with royal financial support. This included a fresh rebuilding of the five-story wooden pagoda hall,
formerly the study-library first established by Master Uisin in 553 and expanded by Master Uisang over 130
years later, now named the
Palsang-jeon (八相殿) in 1624, to enshrine a set of Palsang-do (八相圖, Eight
Paintings of Scenes of the Life of Sakyamuni.  This remains as the oldest wooden pagoda in Korea, and is
designated as National Treasure #55.  The Wontong Bojeon Hall (Treasure 916) with its Golden Wooden
Seated Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Statue (Treasure 1361) was also added in the mid 1600s4, and a
magnificent Bronze Bell (Treasure 1858) was cast & donated in 1636.
The Iron Pot of 2.7m diameter & 1.2m hight, created to cook 3000 bowls of rice, as a communal-meal
gesture when this temple had at least that many monks in-attendance, probably in the late 11th Century.
Korean Treasure #1413
The Giant Stone Lotus Basin, carved in the 800s, presumably used as a lotus-pond,
as a symbol of enlightenment that blossoms "pure-clean, above the mundane mud".
National Treasure #64
Octagonal Stone Lantern of the Sa-Cheonwang [Four Heavenly Guardian Kings]
Late 8th Century (
First Golden Age), Korean Treasure #15
Octagonal Stone Lantern with Twin Lions Pedestal
Korea’s 2nd-oldest existing "Lion"-motif stonework, after those on the Bunhwang-sa Brick Pagoda
Now thought to have been carved in 720 during the reign of Unified Shilla King
Seongdeok (r. 702-737;
First Golden Age), National Treasure #5
Photo in the Korea Times, October 1981 -- just one year before my first visit!
A 1997 North Chungcheong Province tourism-brochure shows the new but-yet-unpainted Mireuk Statue
Now fully gold-gilded, 2006
Left Photo used from:  Steve46814 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Beopju-sa's Daeung-bojeon, restored by Master Byeokam with royal financing in
1624, during the reign of Joseon King Injo -- improving upon the model of Master
Uisang's previous
Daejeokgwang-jeon which had been destroyed in the Imjin War.
It is one of the three biggest traditional (pre-1900) Buddhist Halls in Korea along
with the Geungnak-jeon of
Muryang-sa and the Gakhwang-jeon of Hwaeom-sa,
and a very rare 2-story one.  
Korean Treasure #915
It enshrines the Clay Seated Biro-bul [Vairocana the Buddha of Cosmic Light]
Triad, the largest seated buddha-statues extant in Korea before 1900.
also 1624,  
Korean Treasure #1360
From my Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism:
During the reign of King Munjong (文宗王, r. 1046-83) in the Goryeo Dynasty, Master Dosaeng Seungtong
(道生僧統, the king's fifth son) became Juji (住持, Abbot) of the temple, and its name was restored to the
original “Beopju-sa.”  It was expanded to gigantic size, consisting of more than sixty buildings with around
seventy hermitages scattered across the mountain slopes, with as many as 3,000 monks living there.  The
huge iron pot that was used to cook enough rice to feed that size of an assembly still remains in the main
courtyard, as a sacred treasure.   

In 1363 Goryeo King Gongmin sent an envoy to
Yeongchuk-san Tongdo-sa Monastery to remove one of the
sari (舍利, sarira, crystal post-cremation relics) of Sakyamuni Buddha from the Geumgang-gyedan shrine
there and deliver it to Beopju-sa.  This was a gesture signifying great royal favor, enhancing this temple as
one of Korea's greatest.  The
Sejon-saritap pagoda that enshrines it has been kept intact behind the
Neungin Hall (能仁殿) ever since then, making Beopju-sa one of the
Jeokmyeol-bogung Temples.
Stone Standing Huigyeon Bodhisattva offering a large incense burner on its head.
Its meaning and history remains a mystery, but the exquisite carvings of the ceremonial robe draped
on the back makes experts think that it was made by the same sculptor as the Twin Lion Stone
Lantern (above).  Face is severely damaged, but the rest of the statue is in relatively good condition.
About 720 (
First Golden Age), Korean Treasure #1417
Wontong Bojeon Hall, dedicated to Gwanse-eum Bosal the Bodhisattva of Compassion
Built in 1650-55   
Korean Treasure 916
Gold-Gilded Wooden Seated Statue of Gwanse-eum Bosal the Bodhisattva of Compassion,
unusually ornate, in the Wontong Bojeon Hall, made in 1655.     
Korean Treasure 1361
From my Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism:
Joseon Kingdom's Prime Minister Gwon Don-in sponsored Beopju-sa’s renovation on a national-project scale
in 1851, and it was further renovated in 1906 under King Gojong (高宗王) (“Emperor Gwangmu” at that time).

In 1964, President Bak Jeong-hui (朴正熙, Park Chung Hee, r. 1961-79) financed the construction of a 29-
meter cement standing Mireuk-bul statue on the western side of the main courtyard.  In 1967, Master Taejeon
Geumho began repair work on the temple buildings, and in 1974 the government helped finance the all-out
refurbishment of most buildings in an effort to restore them to their original state.  In 1990, Beopju-sa repaired
its Bronze Seated Amita-bul statue and tore down the cement Mireuk-bul statue.  Financed by donations
collected nationwide, it erected in its place a magnificent 33-meter-tall high bronze standing Mireuk-bul statue
in its place, with a large display-space named Yonghwa-jeon (龍華殿, Dragon-Flower Hall) as a kind of
temple museum displaying sacred cultural assets in its base.  This remains Korea’s tallest statue, and is a
very popular and often-photographed pilgrimage-destination.

Beopju-sa is now the gyogu-bonsa (敎區本寺, district headquarters temple) of the 5th District of the Jogye
Order, administrating about 50 smaller temples and hermitages.  It sometimes runs
TempleStay Programs,
and is a highly popular destination for Buddhist pilgrims, hikers and tourists.
The Bronze Bell of Beopju-sa, regarded as one of the very finest late-era traditional Korean temple bells
Korean Treasure 1858
The Jeokmyeol-bogung Shrine of Beopju-sa, with Neungin Hall in front of the Sejon-saritap pagoda
The current Neungin Hall (能仁殿) in 2017; this rare neungin term means
that Buddha is the one who can "edify and benefit all regeneration".
The Sejon-saritap Stupa that enshrines the saria Relics of Sakyamuni
This hall previously did double-duty, also serving as Nahan-jeon [Arhat Disciples of Sakyamuni Budda Hall]
It is now purely a Jeokmyeol-bogung Shrine, with the main altar window looking directly at the holy
stupa behind, without any statues, in the unique Korean style pioneeed by Master Jajang at Tongdo-sa.
Missionary photos of Beopju-sa about 1910
The Samseong-gak, and its new Sanshin-do, Nov 2006
I don't know what happened to the previous one above.
The early-Goryeo-era Iron Flagpole and Stone Lotus
Basin (see below) in front of the broken boulders
where this Mireuk-bul is carved, in early November
Magnificent mountains behind Beopju-sa, Nov. 2006 -- L-to-R:
Daeung-bojeon, two treasured Lanterns, Four Dharma Instruments Pavilion, Monastic Residence area
My photo of the wonderful previous modern Sanshin-taenghwa [Mountain-Spirit Altar-Painting], September
1982, my first visit, on an
RAS Tour.  This was my first "discovery" of Sanshin, it was fascinating -- "why is this
plainly Daoist (non-Buddhist) icon in the middle of a major Buddhist temple??" -- led to a 40-year obsession,
hobby & career!   Alan Carter Covell used this painting for the cover of his great
book on Korean Shamanism.
In this painting, the girl
dongja attendant holding a basket of Immortal Peaches is normal, but the boy dongja
attendant holding a CARROT (instead of a ginseng root!) is bizarre, unique -- I have never figured-out
whether it's a weird mistake, or an intentional joke: a play on similar words: carrot is 당근 dang-geun and the
mythical "Founder of Korea", often hinted-at in motifs in these icons, is 단군 Dan-gun -- sort-of close!?!?