CNN named the lantern festival at Samgwangsa Temple in Busan as one of the top 50 most beautiful sites in the country. Samgwangsa is not a historic temple like Busan’s historic Beomeosa temple. Beomeosa was founded in 678 by the monk Uisang. Uisang was one of Korea’s greatest Buddhist patriarchs and was a close friend of another great Korean Buddhist, Wonhyo. Beomeosa was destroyed by the Japanese during the Hideyoshi invasions of the 16th century. It was subsequently rebuilt in the 17th century, only to be burnt down again. In 1613, Beomeosa was rebuilt. Samgwangsa, on the other hand, was built in the 1980s. There are several sects of Korean Buddhism. The largest is the Jogye Order. Samgwangsa belongs to the Korean Buddhist Cheontae Order.
The Cheontae Order is a revival of the Chinese Tiantai lineage. It was founded by the monk Sangwol Wongak, whose image may be seen on the altar of Samgwangsa Temple along with those of the Buddha, the Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta (known in Korean as 大勢至 or Dae Se Ji) and the Buddha Amitabha (known in Korean as 阿彌陀佛, or Amitabul). Cheontae Order temples tend to be quite spectacular. They may not be the most historic. Those tend to belong to the Jogye Order. The headquarters of the Cheontae Order, Guinsa Temple, are so large that they can easily accomodate 10,000 monks and feed about 30,000.
Buddha’s Birthday is a huge event for Samgwangsa Temple. It is said that it has some the most impressive celebrations of Buddha’s Birthday in Korea. Here’s the stone indentifying this place as Samgwangsa ( 三光寺) located on Mount Baekyangsan (白陽山).
Here’s a shot of the building which houses classrooms and dormitories for the monks.
Here’s a close-up shot of some of the lanterns.
This hall can accomodate a large number of people who come for lectures by eminent monks or for Dharma services.
Here’s looking towards the building housing classrooms and the monks’ quarters.
Some animatronic dragons, elephants, and a lotus flower which opens to reveal a Buddha inside could be found as well.
The Daeungjeon is the heart of any Buddhist temple. The Main Buddha hall is where many of the practitioners gather to practice their devotions. It is also where the monks gather for chanting twice a day. It is generally a very busy place and not really all that conducive to meditation. It is for this reason that many Korean temples also include places where the monks, or lay people on retreat, may meditate in peace away from the visitors who come to either fulfill religious devotions or who, like me, come to look at the architecture.
Unlike China, which tends to make its pagodas out of brick and Japan which tends to make them from wood, Korean pagodas are made of stone.
Finally, I leave you a shot of the temple at dusk just as the lanterns are lit.
I also found over on YouTube a short video which gives an even better look at Samgwangsa’s annual celebrations.