Suguksa Temple – Seoul, South Korea - Atlas Obscura

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Suguksa Temple

The name of the only golden Buddhist temple in Korea translates as "the temple that protects the country." 


The gold glimmers between the buildings as cars drive by. Suguksa Temple sits in an assuming neighborhood in northwestern Seoul where tourists are few and far between. When the light catches the golden temple just right, it’s a glorious sight.

The temple was built in 1459 after Crown Prince Uigyeong died at the age of 20. His father, King Sejo, had the temple, originally named Jeonginsa, built in the prince’s honor. In 1712, the temple was designated as the guardian temple for the tombs of King Sukjong and Queen Inhyeon buried at nearby Seooreung Royal Tomb grounds. Around that time, the temple’s name was changed to Suguksa, or “the temple that protects the country.”After a fire at the temple, it was left to ruin for some time until 1900 when it was rebuilt.

At that time, King Sunjong became ill and King Gojong, his father, asked Monk Wol Cho to pray for him. King Sunjong became well again and because the monk’s prayers seemed to be quite effective, the king was impressed and wanted to give him riches. The monk declined the offer and instead asked for a gold-covered Buddhist sanctuary that ordinary citizens could visit. Today, the Buddhist temple shines with a special golden paper that has been applied to the front, while the other three sides have been painted gold.

Know Before You Go

Note that this is an active temple so be respectful when you visit, keep quiet, and remember that this is a holy site.

Visit the golden building and then be sure to walk behind the building to find a path into the forest. Follow it up for more.

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