Yongjusa is the result of a son's longing for his dead father and a tribute to filial piety. When the father of King Chongjo (r. 1776-1800) died, the king could not forget him. Some time passed and then, one day, he heard a lecture on the Parental Benevolence Sutra, a text which explains the debt that children have to their parents. He decided to rebuild Kalyangsa on memory of his father and move his father's tomb there.

<< Courtyard, Yongju-sa

Korean culture traditionally have emphasised the value of being faithful to our parents, although these days this concept seems to be getting weaker. But Yongju-sa is one temple which still tries to impart this important fact to people.

Yongju-sa is located in Hwasung-si in Kyounggi Province. Unlike other temples which are located in the mountains or in cities, Yongju-sa is just on the outskirts of Suwon, close to a paved road, so it is very convenient to visit. To understand this temple’s present situation, we should look into its historical background.


This temple was first built during the Silla dynasty, and called Galyang-sa, but was destroyed during a war. During the Chosun dynasty, king Chung-jo rebuilt it. As you may know, in the Chosun dynasty, the government encouraged Confucianism but suppressed Buddhism. Then you may wonder why king Chug-jo rebuilt this temple even in those circumstances. At first his policy concerning Buddhism was like other kings in the Chosun dynasty. 

His father, the heir-apparent, was killed in a rice box (a wooden container used to store rice) by his grandfather. There was schism between factions. He was a victim of that quarrel. Anyway Chug-jo always felt sorry for his father’s disgraceful death. One day he happened to listen to a Dharma talk about the Filial Piety Sutra by Venerable Bo-gyoung. 
This sutra teaches us how great parents’ love and sacrifice are. The king was so moved by the contents of the sutra that he decided to build a temple. He appointed Ven. Bo-gyoung as a money collector for all of Korea. The night before they were going to have a celebration of the completion of the temple, Chug-jo dreamed that a dragon was flying in the sky with a magic ball in its mouth. After this dream he named the temple ‘Temple of a dragon with a magic ball’.

What to see

There are several pieces of art to look at in Yongju-sa. First when you go in the main building (the Buddha hall), on the main altar there is the historical Buddha in the center, flanked by the Amita Buddha and medicine Buddha. But what you have to look closely at is the painting behind these images. (the cover picture)This painting gives you a unique feeling when you look at it from a little distance because it was painted using a shading technique that was very rarely used in Buddhist paintings of that era. The technique highlights the three Buddhas at the center of the work, giving them more prominence than the surroundings. The artist is believed to be Kim, HongDo, who was known as the best painter of the Chosun dynasty. This painting is not as colorful as many others, but you might feel the Buddhas in the painting are animated and friendly, and even trying to suppress laughter.

Yongjusa Temple Beomjong (Sacred Bell of Yongjusa Temple)

This is an unusual big bell made in the early Goryeo Period, but with the style of Silla bells. It is 1.44m tall with a 0.87m wide mouth and weighs 1.5 tons.

Yongju-sa bell >>

There is Yongtong, a special device to facilitate the echo of sound, at the top of the bell. Yongnyu, a link, has the shape of a dragon vigorously standing on its feet with a bead in its mouth. The bell has a wide sash on its shoulders. The wide sash is framed with beads and it has crisscrossing semicircles with flowers and beads carved in them. One side of the sash is adjacent to a rectangular Yugwak. There were 4 Yugwaks with 9 Yudus, which are shaped like projected lotus flowers, but only one remains now. There are Bicheonsangs, images of flying angels, on the front and rear sides of the bell. There are also Samjonsangs, images of three Buddhist gods, worshipping with folded hands and crossed legs on the right and left sides of the bell. The Dangjwa, the striking point on a bell, is in 4 different places. Bicheonsangs and Samjonsangs are flying on clouds with their skirts fluttering. The Dangjwas are decorated with whirlpool-shaped circles that have lotus flowers carved in the middle. The wide sash on the mouth is a distinctive feature of this bell because it is framed with beads and decorated with a vine-shaped pattern different from the shoulder.

There are words on the bell that were carved on it after the casting of the bell. They say that the bell was made in the 6th year of King Munseong of Silla (854). However, most experts estimate that the bell was made in the early Goryeo Period because its shape and patterns are not similar to Silla bells. It is relatively well preserved except for its broken Yudu and ruptured Yongtong and it has a highly sophisticated body, making this bell one of the great masterpieces of the Goryeo Period.

Though this bell dates to the early years of the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392),the flue tube and the dragon-shaped knob are typical of bells of the earlier Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D.935).The stripes of lined beads and the four designs, each containing nine ornamental nipples, are typical of Korea's traditional Buddhist bells. In the center of the bell are Buddha triads, which are rather unusual arrangements for Goryeo bells, to each side of which as heavenly maidens, or apsaras as they are known. The inscription was not done at the time the bell was cast but was added at a later date. The bell is 144cm high and 87cm round at teh mouth. The walls are 7cm thick.

The Filial Piety Sutra wooden blocks

Next are the blocks that the Filial Piety Sutra is carved on. These blocks represent the meaning of Yongju-sa. At present there are 54 wooden blocks, 7 brass blocks, and 24 stone blocks. The Sutra is carved there, as are some pictures depicting the Sutra. The blocks with these pictures are said to be carved so intricately that upon viewing a print made from them, a person’s natural filial spirit is rejuvenated. It is commonly believed that these art works are the product of Kim, HongDo, mentioned above. Other museum-quality pieces are permanently housed at the temple, too.

When you enter the temple, after the first gate there are stone pillars along both sides of the path. On one side Buddha’s life story is carved and on the other side the Filial Piety Sutra is carved. After the next gate there is a building called Chonboru. On the wall of Chonboru there are wooden vertical signs on the pillars. The words written on the signs clearly show what Yongju-sa stands for. The words are;

Even though the mother is 100
she always worries about her 80-year old son
when will the love for children stop?
only when life ends will it finally dissolve.

Buddhist programs at Yongju-sa

Yongju-sa has several programs which especially emphasize the importance of respecting parents. One of the biggest events it holds is an annual festival honoring Chug-jo’s father. Many citizens of Kyounggi province participate in this event and remember the beautiful story of King Chug-jo’s filial act. Also Yongju-sa opens its doors to about 200 students in summer, teaching temple life and respect for parents. This temple tries to awaken the importance of filial piety to the people around the area in many other ways, too.



188, Songsa-ri, Taean-myeon, Hwaseong-si, Gyeonggi-do. S.KOREA.
Tel: 031-234-0040

By Car
There are two routes to Yongjusa:-
a) Drive from Suwon Station toward Hwaseong. Turn left, drive toward Suwon Univ. for about 10 min., passing Yoongkunneung. The temple is on your left.

b) Or, alternatively, drive through downtown Suwon toward Osan. In about 10 min., you will get to Byungjeom. Watch out for a sign for the 'Entrance to Yongjusa, Yungkeonneung and Suwon Univ.‘ at the entrance of the west-bound road. Drive toward that direction and in less than 10 min., you will see the temple on your right.

By Public Transport
Get to Suwon Station by subway, train or a bus. from the station, bus No. 24, 46 or 46-1 will take you to the temple entrance. You can take a taxi from Suwon Station to the temple, for approximately 7,000 won.