Haeinsa Temple and the Tripitaka Koreana
One of the oldest temples in Korea that has never been destroyed by invasion. Visited June, 2012
One of the oldest temples in Korea that has never been destroyed by invasion. Visited June, 2012
Visited: June, 2012
Background and Opinion:
The Temple of Haein (‘sa’ means ‘temple’) is probably the most important Buddhist temple in all of Korea. It is located within the surprisingly scenic Gayansan National Park. While very famous among Koreans, it’s lack of international prestige is appalling, since it contains the Tripitaka Koreana. It is an amazing artifact, and uncharacteristic of Korean treasures by being original and not a rebuilt replica. It is a set of over 80,000 woodblocks that are the oldest known complete and flawless  Buddhist Sutra, scriptures which serve as a guide to the Buddhist way of life. The only downside of this site is that photos of the Tripitaka Koreana itself are not allowed.
One great, additional activity to do is a “temple stay,” where you practice the customs of monks for a full day. This temple is perfect to combine that experience with visiting this UNESCO world heritage site.

One note I must make (for backpackers that travel with everything you own) is that Haeinsa is a good three km (1.6 miles) from the bus stop out of Daegu. This means you have to hike a good while uphill to even get into the temple, so be prepared to sweat a little. In my opinion, it adds to the feeling of accomplishment if you had to work for it.Haein Temple (Haeinsa) was constructed in 802 AD by followers of Korean Buddhism (Zen Buddhism). The land surrounding Haeinsa was awarded to the temple which has an additional 20 satellite temples (one of them pictured below). Currently the land is co-owned by Haeinsa and the Korean Government. In 1236, work began to make the Tripitaka to be copied and replicated for others to read. This ‘sutra‘ which is analogous to a Christian bible, was carved by hand in over eighty thousand wooden blocks, with over 50 million Chinese characters (hanja), as it predated the invention of the Korean alphabet (hangeul). Since it is the oldest known ‘sutra’ to be intact and flawless, it is essentially the oldest known version of the ‘Buddhist bible’ to again borrow the Christian comparison.

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