Haeinsa (Temple of Reflection on a Smooth Sea) is one of the foremost Chogye Buddhist temples in South Korea. It is most notable for being the home of the Tripitaka Koreana, the whole of the Buddhist Scriptures carved onto 81,258 wooden printing blocks, which it has housed since 1398.
Haeinsa is one of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea, and represents Dharma or the Buddha’s teachings. It is located on Gaya Mountain in South Gyeongsang Province. It is still an active Seon practice center in modern times, and was the home temple of the influential Rev. Seongcheol, who died in 1993.
The temple was first built in 802. Legend says that two Korean monks returned from China, Suneung and Ijeong, and healed King Aejang wife's of her illness. In gratitude of the Buddha's mercy, the king ordered the construction of the temple. Another account, by Choe Chi-Won in 900 states that Suneung and his disciple Ijeong, gained the support of a queen dowager who converted to Buddhism and then helped to finance the construction of the temple.
The temple complex was renovated in the 900s, 1488, 1622, and 1644. Hirang, the temple abbot enjoyed the patronage of Taejo of Goryeo during that king’s reign. Haiensa was burned down in a fire in 1817 and the main hall was rebuilt in 1818. Another renovation in 1964 uncovered a royal robe of King Gwanghaegun, who was responsible for the 1622 renovation, and an inscription on a ridge beam.
The main hall, Daejeokkwangjeon (Hall of Great Silence and Light), is unusual because it is dedicated to Vairocana where most other Korean temples house Seokgamoni in their main halls.
The Temple of Haeinsa and the Depositories for the "Tripitaka Koreana" Woodblocks, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. The UNESCO committee noted that the buildings housing the Tripitaka Koreana are unique because no other historical structure was specifically dedicated to the preservation of artifacts and the techniques used were particularly ingenuous.
The temple also holds several official treasures including a realistic wooden carving of a monk and interesting Buddhist paintings, stone pagodas, and lanterns.