Korea's Religious Places - 1.1.6 Beopjusa Temple (Boeun, Chungcheongbuk-do)
|Understanding Korea Series No.6|
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|* Tongdosa Temple (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)||* Beopjusa Temple (Boeun, Chungcheongbuk-do)||* Magoksa Temple (Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do)|
Beopjusa Temple (Boeun, Chungcheongbuk-do)
On the slopes of sacred Mt. Songnisan, which literally means “separated from the secular or mundane world,” not far from Cheongju, sits a beautiful temple complex called Beopjusa Temple. Dating from the Silla period, it has several National Treasures, including National Treasure no. 5, the Twin Lion Stone Lantern, a stone lantern supported by two lions standing on their back legs. There is also a tall wooden pagoda that is five stories tall (pagodas are always an odd number of stories tall): National Treasure no. 55, the Palsangjeon Wooden Pagoda.
There is a stately old pine tree there that is called Songni Jeongipumsong Pine Tree (the Pine Tree of Government Rank Senior 2). Ranks were only given to officials in the government, starting with a junior nine rank, then working up through senior nine, junior eight, senior eight, on up to senior one rank. For a pine tree to be a senior two rank is very high. There is a story. When King Sejo (r. 1455–1468) traveled to Beopjusa Temple on a royal excursion in 1464, as he passed by, the tree branches bowed to his carriage chair. He stopped and got off the carriage, whereupon the branches of the tree rose up, as if to offer protection as he approached. He was so impressed with the loyalty and dignity of the tree that he promoted it on the spot to the second rank in the government! It is the only tree, in fact the only non-human, to ever be so honored.
Beopjusa Temple is a temple dedicated to the spirit of Maitreya, the future Buddha. Most temples feature one of the three as the primary Buddha: Shakyamuni, Amitabha, or Vairocana, but here the main figure is the Buddha of the future, Maitreya. Buddhist traditions teach that not only is Maitreya a Buddha yet to come, but he represents hope for those in this life as well.
The temple was founded in 553 by a monk named Uisin, who founded it after returning from a trip to China. The temple name, Beopju, means “where the dharma abides” because the temple once housed the manuscripts or sutras that Uisin brought back from China.
As a temple devoted to Maitreya, the Buddha of the future, there is also a new magnificent representation of Maitreya there. In addition to the ancient image, there is a modern golden Buddha image that was placed there in 1990 and is called the Buddha for National Unification. It is thirty-three meters tall and covered in eighty kilograms of gold leaf.