From Heart And Seoul

Gakwonsa Temple: The Big Buddha

February 10, 2017 24 Comments

The second largest temple in Korea, Gakwonsa is also home to one of the largest sitting Buddhas in Asia. Weighing in at 60 tons and (sitting) 50 feet tall, the Buddha statue is made totally of bronze. It was enshrined specifically to pray for the reunification of North and South Korea.

Cheonan, South Korea Big Buddha Gakwonsa Temple

Getting There:

The temple is located in Cheonan (about an hour from Seoul), so you do have to go off the beaten path a little for this one. If you’re driving in Korea, download Waze to use maps in English. Otherwise, if you’re just visiting and don’t have a car, you can always take the KTX train from Seoul Station to Cheonan-Asan Station (only 35-40 min) and then catch a cab.

But back to the main event. Gakwonsa Temple is a great place to wander around for an hour. Parking is free (as far as we could tell both times we’ve been), and there’s no cost to get in. It’s a fairly small area so you can see everything without spending an entire day there. Make sure to pull all the way up to the top to park, and you won’t have to take the long set of stairs up to the big Buddha.

Gakwonsa Temple Cheonan, South Korea

Gakwonsa Temple Cheonan, South Korea

The Temples:

When you first get there, take some time to walk around the temples. They are all similar, but slightly different-if you go around the sides or to the back, you’ll see lots of interesting paintings on the outside walls. Take a quick peek inside if the doors are open and no one is praying. You’ll hear them from outside if they are! If you go mid-morning on a weekday (and especially if you go in the snow), chances are almost no one will be around.

Gakwonsa Temple doors Cheonan, South Korea

Gakwonsa Temple dragon painting Cheonan, South Korea

Gakwonsa Temple paintings Cheonan, South Korea

Gakwonsa Temple inside Buddha Cheonan, South Korea

In other news, don’t be disturbed if you notice what looks like a swastika symbol on all the buildings. It’s not, so no need for alarm. In my naivety, the first time I saw it I was in complete horror—nothing like a quick Google search to fix that. It’s actually a Buddhist symbol, so it won’t be the last time you see one!

Gakwonsa Temple in the snow Cheonan, South Korea

The Buddha:

After you’ve seen all there is to see, make your way up the short set of stairs to the big Buddha statue. When you arrive at the top, you’ll probably see people walking around the statue continuously in prayer. Supposedly, the ritual is that you walk around the Buddha clockwise three times to pay your respects. But don’t worry – there’s no pressure, and plenty of people come just for the novelty factor. Just try to be respectful when taking photos.

Gakwonsa Temple Big Buddha Cheonan, South Korea Gakwonsa Temple Big Buddha Cheonan, South Korea

Gakwonsa Temple Lanterns Cheonan, South Korea

Mt. Taejosan:

If you get your fill of the big Buddha and still have time to spare, right behind it is the path to the top of Mt. Taejosan. We didn’t take the hike up, but it looks fairly easy if you’re in decent enough shape.

Gakwonsa Temple Mt. Taejosan in the snow Cheonan, South Korea

But if you spend the day in Cheonan, there are plenty of coffee shops nearby (steps away) and if you really get desperate for something other than Korean food you can always stop into Mom’s Touch (Korea’s version of KFC). Otherwise, head over and check out Independence Hall while you’re in town for another free attraction.

All in all, Cheonan is an easy and interesting day trip if you’re up for exploring outside of Seoul! Regardless, make sure to hit up these must-see spots while you’re in Korea. Hope you guys enjoy!

If you're exploring South Korea, make sure you get out of Seoul and make a day trip to the countryside of Cheonan for this experience. Gakwonsa Temple and the big Buddha are sights that shouldn't be missed!

24 Comments

  1. Reply

    Sandy N Vyjay

    February 12, 2017

    The art is so divine and beautiful! There are so many amazing facts about this place, the Buddha, art-work, temples, everything! Snow has added more beauty to it!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 12, 2017

      Agreed! The snow makes it that much better!

  2. Reply

    Samantha Sparrow

    February 12, 2017

    Asia is a part of the world I am yet to explore, but posts like yours make me want to go very soon! I love how different the architecture is to anything in Europe that I have seen,m and of course to see a Buddha in situ would be amazing!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 13, 2017

      Thanks Samantha! I think the architecture is one of my favorite things too. All the buildings are just so interesting to look at when you aren’t from here.

      Hope you get to make a trip soon!

  3. Reply

    Bhushavali

    February 13, 2017

    Wow!!! This must have been out soul-stirring experience. Just last month I was blessed to have a look at a monastry in India which had a 60ft tall seated Buddha!!! Btw, the Swastika symbol is holy both in Buddhism & Hinduism as well! You’ll get to see many in India as well.

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 13, 2017

      Thanks for the info, lady! I would love to visit India – hopefully before we leave Asia!

  4. Reply

    Monika

    February 13, 2017

    Such a beautiful place, I would love to go there one day but seema like it will not happen anytime soon 😢

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 13, 2017

      There are similar sites all over Asia – you have plenty of time 🙂

  5. Reply

    Ariane

    February 13, 2017

    I almost went to South Korea a year ago, unfortunately I couldn’t make it. It’s still a country I want to visit. The temples and the art are just so beautiful and impressive!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 13, 2017

      Oh no! You definitely should try to still go – It’s hard to explain just how different and unique it is until you see for yourself!

  6. Reply

    sophie

    February 13, 2017

    I think this kind of structure is what you can’t see anywhere else in the world. This things is something special about Asia, though I have never been to Asia, but the end of this year, I am planning to travel to India hope to see some amazing temples over there 🙂

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 13, 2017

      Agreed! We haven’t made it to India yet, but I’ve heard great things! They have some of the most extravagant palaces and temples anywhere. You’ll have to take a ton of photos!

  7. Reply

    Marge

    February 13, 2017

    That’s some huge Buddha right there. I would love to see it. So far, the biggest buddha I’ve seen was in Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. It was a sitting buddha and a reclining buddha. I really want to go to Korea, I hope I could do it this late this year, also when it’s snowing. The temple looks pretty by the way. I like the colors that they used to it, not the usual brown, gold, or red tones. Somehow it makes the temple more interesting for me.

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 14, 2017

      That was my favorite thing too – the colors are different from your usual red and gold! I love the blue tones! What colors did they use in Vietnam? We are hoping to make it there later this year.

      BTW – You’ll love Korea in the snow!

  8. Reply

    Andreea Bujor

    February 14, 2017

    I didn’t know there is this temple one hour away from Seoul. I think i was eating too much kimchi and i forgot to check out other things to do. That Buddha statue is really huge, and the temple looks beautiful in its details. Thanks for introducing me to another place i want to visit. (i need 7 lives like the cat to accomplish all that)

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 14, 2017

      Yes! It’s so easy to get caught up in everything there is to do in Seoul – but the rest of Korea is beautiful too 🙂

  9. Reply

    Divsi

    February 14, 2017

    Fabulous! I love the blue! Didn’t know about the sign, guess it differs from sect to sect. It’s different in Myanmar , India and Bhutan! The biggest statue I have seen is in yangon( sleeping posture). Hope to see this too! 🙂 also I loveee the vibrant colours of the lanterns against the snow!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 14, 2017

      Thanks so much! Jealous that you’ve been to Bhutan and Myanmar – two spectacularly beautiful places!

  10. Reply

    Tae

    February 14, 2017

    Your photography skills are amazing! I love the beautiful teal color of the temples and of buddha. I would walk around clockwise just to make sure I soak up all of the magic 😉

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 14, 2017

      Thanks so much! It’s a work in progress, but the colors and designs on these temples sure make it easier 🙂

  11. Reply

    Marta

    February 15, 2017

    This comes handy! I am planning my trip to South Korea and now The Big Budda is on the list!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      So exciting! Definitely check back for more info if you’re planning a trip – I’ll have some new posts up on Korea soon!

  12. Reply

    Nancie

    February 25, 2017

    I remember visiting this temple years ago. Time to visit again!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 25, 2017

      Nice! Glad someone else has sought it out 🙂

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