Officials at South Korea’s Tongdo Temple enshrined a bronze statue of the Buddha donated by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations during a ceremony on Sunday in the city of Yangsan, some 420 kilometers southeast of Seoul. The occasion was attended by monks of the temple and the Indian ambassador to South Korea, Sripriya Ranganathan.
The enshrinement followed a handover ceremony for the statue that took place on 30 April at the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre at India’s embassy in Seoul.* During that event, Ranganathan said that she looked forward to upcoming events at the temple and Buddhist celebrations during May.
The statue, weighing 225 kilograms, was enshrined in the temple’s Cheongpungdang hall, which hosts part of its international temple-stay program. Temple-stays have become popular in Korea in recent years as a way to share Buddhist culture with foreigners and as a source of funding for the upkeep of temple complexes.
Ven. Hyunmoon, the head monk at the temple, praised the gift at the ceremony in April, saying that he hoped that it would further strengthen bonds between the two countrie, which share a rich Buddhist heritage.
In a statement for the enshrinement ceremony, Ven. Hyunmoon said: “Through the ceremony, India and South Korea held a joyful event where two countries became one under the spirit of Buddhism.” (Yonhap News Agency)
The temple also donated 30 million won (US$26,530) to the Indian ambassador to help fund India’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In India, new confirmed cases of COVID-19 exceeded 400,000 per day in early may before beginning to decline. However, the country still has the largest outbreak of the coronavirus in the world and is the origin of the new B.1.617.2 variant that has proven to be more contagious than earlier strains. On Monday, the World Health Organization upgraded the B.1.617.2 strain to a “variant of concern.”
Noted as one of Korea’s five “Palaces of the Jewel of Nirvana,” Tongdo temple (or Tongdo-sa) has no outdoor statues of the Buddha, instead housing relics of the Buddha inside key buildings on its grounds. In 2018, the temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site along with six others in Korea based on its “outstanding universal value.”** It was initially established during the Silla Kingdom (57 BCE–935 CE).
As previously reported by Buddhistdoor Global, on 19 May, the day celebrated as the Buddha’s Birthday in South Korea, the statue will be unveiled to the public. People around the world will also be able to see the statue and other art and artifacts tracing the rich history of India-Korean Buddhist ties online in an exhibition titled “Bodhicitta: Interweaving Buddhist Art Traditions from India across Asia.” The exhibition—curated by the National Museum of India—was launched on 16 May to coincide with the enshrinement ceremony at Tongdo Temple.
* India and South Korea Strengthen Bonds with Buddha Statue Gift (Buddhistdoor Global)
** Seven Buddhist Mountain Temples in South Korea Receive UNESCO World Heritage Status (Buddhistdoor Global)
S. Korean temple enshrines Buddha’s statue gifted by India (Yonhap News Agency)
S. Korean temple enshrines Buddha’s statue gifted by India (The Korea Herald)