Bongeunsa Temple is a Buddhist temple that dates back to 794 located south of the Han River and just north of the Starfield COEX Mall in Gangnam-gu. It was originally known as Gyeonseongsa when first built. This was during the rule of King Wonseong of Silla. Its location was 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) southwest of its current location.
Gyeonseongsa was refurbished in 1498 by Queen Jeonghyeon. At this time, it was renamed as Bongeunsa.
The temple was then moved to its current location during the reign of Myeongjong (1545-1567).
During the Joseon Dynasty, the government oppressed Buddhism and supported Confucianism. With the help of Queen Munjeong and Monk Bo-wu, Buddhism was revived in Korea.
Around 1550 Bongeunsa was expanded and became the head monastery of the national Jogye Seon Order. It also was the main Korean Buddhist Zen temple from 1551 to 1936.
In 1939, and again during the Korean War (1950-1953), most of the temple buildings were heavily damaged or destroyed by fire. Between 1941 and 1982, repairs and renovations have been done to try to restore it to its past glory.
The highlight of the temple though is a 28 meter (91 foot) stone statue of Maitreya, the Future Buddha. This statue is one of the tallest stone statues in the country.
The oldest remaining building is a library that was constructed in 1856. The library contains Flower Garland Sutra woodblock carvings and 3,479 Buddhist scriptures including the works of Kim Jeong-hee.
Today, Bongeunsa Temple is a pleasant, interesting, and peaceful retreat. Before the 1960s, the temple grounds were surrounded only by the countryside with farms and orchards. Since then, the area has become the center of one of the wealthiest and busiest places in Seoul making Bongeunsa Temple a rather interesting mix of traditional and modern Seoul.
Though still in the city, Bongeunsa Temple respectively features a more secluded and quieter atmosphere than Jogyesa Temple in Insadong. Many of the halls are spread out on a forested hillside.
Twice a day, at 4:10 and 18:40, a percussion ceremony using four instruments is performed by the monks of the temple. This ceremony is meant to save and awaken beings on the ground using the drum, beings underwater using the wooden fish, beings in the sky using the cloud drum, and beings under the ground using the gong.