Korea's Religious Placesa - 4.1.2 Cheondogyo Central Temple (Seoul)
|Understanding Korea Series No.6|
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|* Yongdamjeong Pavilion (Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do)||* Cheondogyo Central Temple (Seoul)||2) Daejonggyo (Religion of Dangun)_* Mt. Manisan (Ganghwado Island, Incheon)|
Cheondogyo Central Temple (Seoul)
After the First Sino-Japanese War, Donghak returned to its non-political roots by changing its name, to disassociate itself from the Donghak Peasant Movement, to Cheondogyo, meaning the “Religion of the Heavenly Way.” A new leader, Son Byeong-hui, led the religion through a new era that was capped by one more political action—the March First Independence Movement. Of the thirty-three signers of the declaration, fifteen were Cheondogyo followers, sixteen were Christian, and two were Buddhist. The Cheondogyo network of churches, as well as the Christian network, was utilized to disseminate copies of the declaration.
The Cheondogyo Central Temple, located in the heart of Seoul near the former palaces of the Joseon kings and across the street from the grand residence of the Heungseon Daewongun, the father of King Gojong, is a church built in Western style reminiscent of the Myeong-dong Cathedral or the Chungdong Methodist Church. Built of brick, like the other churches of the time, at the height of anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea, which culminated in the March First Movement of 1919.
The Central Temple is an impressive structure with a large meeting capacity. In the front of the chapel, where there might be a crucifix in a Christian building, is the symbol of Cheondogyo, a set of circles inside half-circles, a symbol of in nae cheon.
Cheondogyo does not have a large membership today. Some estimates say there are around 50,000 followers in South Korea. In North Korea, although religion is proscribed, Cheondogyo survives as a political party—one of the few parties other than the Communist, or Workers’ Party of Korea. Of course, North Korea sees virtue in the native movement, for, after all, the first peasant revolution in Korea, and in its narrative, the precursor of the twentieth-century Communist movement, was the nineteenth-century Donghak Peasant Movement.