Korea’s Buddhist mountain monasteries added to World Heritage List

Seven Buddhist monasteries located in South Korea’s mountains have been added to Unesco’s World Heritage List.

Daeheungsa Temple aerial view. Image by © CIBM

Sansa, the Buddhist mountain temples, are found through the southern provinces. They have been recognized by the UN’s cultural branch for boasting certain characteristics that are specific to Korea, including a “madang” or open courtyard, surrounded by four buildings, a Buddha Hall, pavilion, lecture hall and dormitory. The monasteries were established from the seventh to ninth centuries and are described by Unesco as “sacred places, which have survived as living centres of faith and daily religious practice to the present”.

Beopjusa Temple, Hall of Eight Pictures. Image by © CIBM

According to a website for the monasteries, they differ from those in other countries as they were shaped by the integration of Buddhism and indigenous religions. It also explains that in later years, as Confucianism became the dominant school of thought, the only Buddhist temples that remained were those in the mountains.

Buseoka Temple aerial photo. Image by © CIBM

The monasteries that have been added to the list are called Tongdosa, Buseoksa, Bongjeongsa, Beopjusa, Magoksa, Seonamsa and Daeheungsa. One unique experience for travellers in Korea is a Templestay, an official program that lets travellers spend a couple of days at a monastery taking part in Buddhist daily life. If you are keen to take part, Beopjusa and Magoksa are listed on the site.

Tongdosa Temple – Diamond Precept Platform. Image by © CIBM

The temples are just one of many places around the world that have been recently added to Unesco’s list. A rainforest national park in Colombia, Mumbai’s Gothic and Art Deco architecture, and a volcanic region in France are among the latest additions.

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