Tapsa Temple – Jinan-gun, South Korea - Atlas Obscura

Tapsa Temple

Jinan-gun, South Korea

120 mortarless pagodas built by one Korean hermit. 


The difference between having a singular artistic vision and obsessive insanity can be quite narrow. Straddling the line is Buddhist hermit Yi Gap Yong.

Yong created 120 stone pagodas below the Horse Ear Mountains in South Korea. And he did so without any tools, mortar or help from his friends.

Yong came to the area to meditate in 1885 when he was only 25 years old. When he first arrived, it was a tranquil landscape, but was not yet a temple, and he was not yet an ordained monk. Lack of formal training did little to slow down his work, and over the next 30 years he built the pagodas while living alone as a hermit.

Created out of circles of larger rocks, the pagodas eventually come to a point, giving them their conical peak. All made solely of local rocks from streams and rivers, some of the largest pagodas tower 30 feet above the rest of the temple complex.

Yong died in 1957 nearly 100 years old. Today, over 80 of the pagodas remain and have been preserved for tourists. A white statue near the temple depicts the creator of the complex, Yi Gap Yong, so he can watch over his impressive statues forever.

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November 21, 2011

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