The name "Haein" comes from the expression "haeinsammae," which is taken from Hwaeomgyeong Buddhist scripture and which means "truly enlightened world of Buddha and our naturally undefiled mind." One of the Three Jewel Temples of South Korea, Haeinsa was founded by two monks during the third year of King Ae-Jang's reign (A.D. 802). A typical mountain temple, the buildings on the grounds are arranged according to Buddhist beliefs.
A World Heritage site, the temple houses the famed Tripitaka Koreana. Begun in 1236 (the 26th year of the Goryeo Dynasty), these three holy Buddhist books took 16 years to complete. They were created as a way to win favor from the Buddha and overcome invading Mongols. The word "tripitaka" comes from Sanskrit, meaning "three baskets." The Tripitaka is the Buddhist equivalent of the Christian Bible or the Muslim Koran. The 81,340 blocks include 6,791 volumes. Each wooden block is 68cm (27 in.) wide, 24.5cm (10 in.) long, and 3cm (1 1/4 in.) thick with wood fixed at each end to maintain balance and lacquer applied to prevent corrosion. The oldest engraved wooden block characters in the world (over 770 years old), it contains a comprehensive collection of the Buddhist Tripitaka.
Not only are the Koreana Tripitaka housed here in the Janggyeong Panjeon, but also several public and private treasures, including almost 3,000 other wooden printing blocks of Buddhist scriptures, carved during the Goryeo Dynasty (between 1100 and 1350). They are stored in small halls in the courtyard around the Janggyeong Panjeon and you'll have to peer in through open slats to see them.
If you arrived after 6pm, when the Koreana Tripitaka are locked up, wait a bit on the temple grounds and you can see the drums and the gongs played by the monks. The Janggyeong-gak and the grounds were under renovation when I last visited. They say that the renovations should be finished by the end of 2008.
For a complete experience, you can do a temple stay at Haeinsa.
A Temple Stay in Haeinsa -- Although you can do an overnight stay in many of the country's temples, an overnight at Haeinsa is truly special. For 2 days and 1 night, you'll get a rare glimpse into monastic life. You'll be provided with a simple grey monk's outfit and be served vegetarian meals to help cleanse your body. You'll get a brief lecture on temple etiquette (how to sit, how to behave at meals, how to drink tea, and how to behave during meditation). At 6pm, the drum and gong are struck for about 10 minutes. At 3am, there is an early morning service and meditation, with another ringing of the drum and gong for 10 minutes, followed by a service in the Daejeok gwanjeon. The service is followed by a 1-hour meditation in the assembly hall. You can take a morning stroll with the monks, enjoy conversation and a cup of tea with them, view the Koreana Tripitaka, and see the Ingyeong printing tablets. Bring an open mind and be ready to spend a lot of time sitting cross-legged on the floor. W50,000 ($54/£27) per person.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Very Highly Recommended 2010