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Illuminating Tranquility: Celebrating Buddha’s Birthday at Tongdosa Temple

Celebrating Buddha’s Birthday at Tongdosa Temple: A Spectacular Experience

Nestled on the southeastern slopes of Mount Yeongchuksan in Yangsan, Tongdosa Temple stands as one of Korea’s most revered spiritual sites. This year, on May 15th, the temple hosted their annual celebration for Buddha’s Birthday, adorned with beautiful lanterns that illuminated the spaces between its historic buildings. Though the event has passed, be sure to keep your travel options open for next year’s celebration to experience this magical spectacle firsthand.

A Historical Gem

Tongdosa Temple, one of the three jewel temples of Korea, represents the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) among the three jewels of Buddhism, which also include the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha) and the Sangha (the Buddhist community). Founded in 646 AD by the monk Jajang, who brought back sacred relics from Tang China, Tongdosa does not house a statue of the Buddha in its main hall. Instead, it is dedicated to these relics, making it unique among Buddhist temples.

Spanning over 64 hectares with more than 60 buildings, Tongdosa is a head temple of the Jogye order, Korea’s largest Buddhist denomination. Despite suffering significant damage during the Japanese invasion from 1592 to 1598, the temple has maintained its spiritual and cultural importance through extensive reconstruction efforts.

Highlights of Tongdosa

One of the standout features of Tongdosa is the Geumgang Gyedan, or Diamond Altar. This three-story stone altar, surrounded by 37 stone statues of Buddhist deities, is a masterpiece of Buddhist art and architecture. The complex also includes the Daeungjeon (Great Hero Hall), which serves as the main hall for Buddhist rituals and teachings.

The Lantern Festival

During Buddha’s Birthday, Tongdosa is transformed by a sea of vibrant lanterns, each one meticulously crafted and glowing with a serene light. These lanterns create an enchanting atmosphere, casting a warm glow across the temple grounds and offering visitors a chance to reflect on the teachings of the Buddha amidst an ethereal setting. Walking through the temple during this time is a truly unforgettable experience, with the lanterns highlighting the beauty of the ancient architecture and the surrounding nature.

Getting There from Ulsan

For those living in Ulsan, Tongdosa is conveniently accessible. The journey to this spiritual haven is relatively straightforward and offers a delightful day trip opportunity. To get to Tongdosa from Ulsan, follow these steps:

1. Bus from Ulsan to Yangsan: Take bus number 807, 133, or 337 from Ulsan Intercity Bus Terminal to Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride takes about 40 minutes.
2. Transfer to Tongdosa Temple: From Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal, take a local bus (number 13 or 67) or a taxi directly to Tongdosa Temple. The temple is approximately a 20-minute bus ride or a 15-minute taxi ride from the terminal.

Click here for the Kakaomaps Link for more information

Plan Your Visit

While this year’s celebration has come to an end, it’s never too early to start planning for next year. Tongdosa Temple offers a rich tapestry of history, spirituality, and natural beauty, making it a must-visit destination. Whether you’re drawn by the promise of the stunning lantern festival or the chance to explore one of Korea’s most important Buddhist sites, Tongdosa welcomes all with open arms and serene beauty.

Mark your calendars for Buddha’s Birthday next year and prepare to be enchanted by the luminous lanterns and profound tranquility of Tongdosa Temple. For more information, please click here for the Tongdosa English website.