Haein Temple

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Chiin-ri, haeinsa, South Korea
Haein Temple - Shortly after sunrise, illuminating the surrounding mountains
Haein Temple - Monk dormitory
Haein Temple - The sun finally peeking up over the mountaintop
Haein Temple - Flags lining the entrance
Haein Temple - Lots of flags on the way in.  This one was my favorite:  WAKE UP!
Haein Temple - On the hike up to Haeinsa

Haein Temple haeinsa Reviews

cynthiasmiller cynthias…
62 reviews
Stunning! Worth going out of the way for! Oct 27, 2013
There is a lot worthy of note about this temple. It's the third largest temple in Korea. It houses the world's oldest wood block printed sutras. The buildings that house the sutras are so holy that birds never land on them and spiders never occupy them. I'm not sure about that last one, but it certainly adds to the magic.

Haeinsa is a functioning monastery and UNESCO world heritage site where aspiring monks go to study for four years to become a full-fledged monk. It's pretty popular with the locals too, so expect thick crowds of hiking Koreans and working monks if you go on the weekends. You can hear the hypnotic chanting of the monks and monks-in-training at 3 a.m., 10 a.m., and 6 p.m. I think you would be surprised at how many people are there for the 3 a.m. ceremony.

The temple takes special care of its Tripitaka Koreana, or the wooden block printed sutras. The wood blocks are housed in specially-designed buildings that maximize ventilation and control humidity with a foundation of salt, clay, and charcoal. Tourists can actually only see the wood blocks from September to November, the rest of the year it is closed to the public. Even when accessible, no photos are permitted.

You also have the option of staying at the temple overnight for a "temple stay" program. You receive training on prostrations, meditation, Korean Buddhism, and a full tour of the temple. Part of the stay is you are woken up at 3 a.m. to witness the banging of the Dharma drum and the pre-dawn chanting. After which you perform 108 bows and 40 minutes of meditation. It sounds intense, but it was actually very relaxing, and it provides an insider look at monastic life.

Haeinsa can feel very out of the way. If you're in Daegu, then it's a 1.5-2 hour bus ride away. If you're anywhere else, you'll most likely have to make your way to Daegu because not many other cities have direct buses there. If you go on the weekend, plan for traffic. The bus ride from Daegu should only take 1.5 hours, but there will be a lot of other vehicles on this tiny, winding road going up the mountain. And if a bus breaks down on a curve (which happened when I was there), then you may be stuck for an hour or more. But there's one way in, and one way out, so leave extra time for traffic! Even though it's so out of the way, it was definitely worth it making my way out there. It was beautiful, and I felt so humbled to experience such a historic and stunning temple.

One last piece of advice: Bring cash! I was told there was an ATM, but I never found it. Nobody takes cards.
On the hike up to Haeinsa
Lots of flags on the way in. This…
Flags lining the entrance
The sun finally peeking up over th…
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photo by: siri