Beopjusa: The temple that almost starred in a Bruce Lee film

Chungcheongbuk-do was the last of Korea’s 9 provinces that I had never traveled in yet, and I wanted to make sure I visited all 9 before leaving Korea. I considered going to the small town of Danyang, which is generally considered to be the province’s top tourism spot. But the main attraction there (or one of them) is Gosu Cave, and I just did a cave trip (Hwanseon in Samcheok) the weekend before, so I decided to go to Beopjusa to see what is essentially Korea’s only remaining historical wood pagoda.

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As the title of this post says, Beopjusa was almost the setting of a Bruce Lee film, but he unfortunately died before the filming was completed in 1973. Lee’s last film, Game of Death, was never finished, but in 1978, director Robert Clouse made a new Game of Death with a different screenplay and only some original footage, and no scences from Beopjusa were used.

Beopjusa was built during the Silla kingdom in 553. Like most temples and historical buildings in Korea, it was burnt down during the Japanese invasion in the 1500’s. However, it was rebuilt in 1624 and the 5 story pagoda dates from that year. Most of the other wooden pagodas and several other temples in Korea were not rebuilt after that war, so Beopjusa’s Palsangjeon pagoda is left as the only Korean wooden pagoda.

Along with the pagoda Beopjusa has a number of cultural relics dating from the 700s, such as a stone pot and stone lanterns.

There’s also a carving of Buddha on a large boulder, and some writing etched in the stone.

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Beopjusa is also known for it’s very tall gold-leaf plated Buddha, which was made in the 20th century. This statue is apparently that of the Maitreya Buddha, or the Future Buddha. I don’t know that much about Buddhism, but from looking it up on Wikipedia the Future Buddha is another Buddha meant to be a successor to Gautama Buddha.

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The complex isn’t that big but there’s a few buildings with different images of Buddha and other figures to check out.

Beopjusa is kind of far out, but is best reached from either Daejeon or Cheongju (don’t confuse with nearby Chungju). Just take a bus from either city to Songnisan/Sokrisan Terminal, and then walk about 20 minutes to the temple. From Cheongju’s intercity bus terminal, it took about and hour and a half, making a stop at Boeun terminal before Songnisan. The entrance fee is 4,000 won. I chose to base in Cheongju because the buses from there were a little more frequent but the buses from Daejeon are also pretty regular.

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Since it was late November, there’s some snow scenery but it isn’t as frigid as January.

Songnisan is very pretty covered with snow and I wish I had planned to arrive earlier so I could’ve spent more time in the area. But it gets dark very early now so there just wasn’t much time. I had planned to just check out the temple, but given how long it took me to get there it would have been better to plan for some time in the mountain to make the most of it.

I spent one night in Cheongju, the provincial capital, which is a decent sized city that even has an airport for flights to Jeju and China. The Intercity and Express terminals are pretty large and close to each other. There’s plenty of fast food restaurants around the terminals like Burger King, KFC and Popeyes. It’s pretty lacking in things to do for a visitor though, but it’s one claim to fame is being the birthplace of the Jikji, which is the world’s first book printed with movable metal type. I visited the Jikji Museum there which will be the subject of a future post.

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