Korea's Ten Greatest
Hwaeom Temples
화엄십찰    華嚴十刹
Historic Korean Monasteries dedicated to
teaching the Hwaeom-gyeong Sutra-based Sect,
Established by Master Uisang-josa and his Disciples
This is a traditional conceptual set of the greatest temples established by great Master Uisang and
his main lineage of disciples during the early Unified Silla Dynasty (統一新羅王朝, 668-935) period,
that served to propagate the Hwaeom-jong (華嚴宗, Avatamsaka or Flower Garland Sect) that he
had established. It is said that Uisang had ten superior and enlightened disciples: Ojin, Jitong, Pyohun,
Jinjeong, Jinjang, Doyung, Nangwon, Sangwon, Neungin and Euijeok; and that each one of them and
his own disciples their own family lineages in different parts of the peninsula, perpetuating it in these
“Ten Mountains of Hwa-eom.”

However, the exact listing of temples included in this set is unclear due to the ravages of history.
The eight ones we are certain belong on the list and are still extant are:

Taebaek-san / Bonghwang-san Buseok-sa    鳳凰山 浮石寺

Gaya-san Haein-sa   伽倻山海印寺

Jiri-san Hwaeom-sa   地理山 華嚴寺

Gyeryong-san Gap-sa   鷄龍山 甲寺

Geumjeong-san Beomeo-sa   金井山 梵魚寺

Toham-san Bulguk-sa with Seokgul-am Grotto

Yeonhwa-san Okcheon-sa (蓮花山玉泉寺)

Andong City (安東市) Hakka-san Bongjeong-sa (학가산鳳停寺)


Other temples listed by various authorities such as the great Confucian/Daoist scholar "Go-un"
Choi Chi-won on a stele in the early 10th Century, and Master Iryeon in his Samguk Yusa (三國遺事,
Supplementary Tales of the Three Kingdoms, c.1280), are no longer extant but include:
Wonju Bimra-sa (毘摩羅寺), Palgong-san Miri-sa (팔공산美理寺), Ungju Gayahyeop Bowon-sa
(웅주가야협普願寺 ) and Samgak-san Cheongdam-sa (삼각산靑潭寺), and another Okcheon-sa
(玉泉寺) said to have been at Biseul-san (비슬산). In addition, some scholars list Guksin-sa
(國信寺), the present Guisin-sa Temple (귀신사), instead of Bimara-sa.  Other great monasteries
important in the transmission of the Hwaeom philosophy are
Hwangak-san  Jikji-sa, Sogni-san Beopju-
sa, Odae-san Woljeong-sa, Geumgang-san Pyohun-sa, Myhyang-san Bohyeon-sa, Naejang-san
Naejang-sa and.

These temples can then be regarded as primary
doryang of Birojana-bul (毘盧遮那佛, Vairocana
the Buddha of Cosmic Light) and all doctrines & practices associated with him.   6 of the 7 temples
that we are sure were included are located in the southernmost quarter of the Korean Peninsula
(except for Gap-sa), with 5 of the 7 in the Gyongsang Provinces (Yeongdong Region, the original
Shilla Kingdom area).   Two of them are along the lower half of the
Baekdu-daegan, Korea's
mountain energy-spine and mainstream national range, a gigantic nation-spanning
doryang for
Munsu-bosal the Bodhisattva of Wisdom in itself.
The mainstream of the Hwaeom School in the Unified Silla Period was the lineage of Uisang who had ten
superior disciples: Ojin, Jitong, Pyohun, Jinjeong, Jinjang, Doyung, Nangwon, Sangwon, Neungin & Euijeok.
Each of them formed their own family lineages in different parts of the peninsula, and they established the
Ten Mountains of Hwaeom belonging to the lineage of Uisang. In the latter part of the Unified Silla Period,
however, the Seon School became very popular. At that time, the Hwaeom followers were divided and
established their own, different traditions, somewhat opposing each other. However, there were two great
Hwaeom thinkers residing in Mt. Gaya-san Haein-sa Temple during the late Silla and early Goryeo eras:
Master Gwanhye and Master Heuirang. They were supported by King Gyeonhwon who ruled the short-lived
Later Baekje Kingdom and King Taejo Wang Geon who became the founding-king of the Goryeo Dynasty,
respectively. The Dharma families of these two masters were respectively called Namak (
Southern Mountain)
and Bugak (
Northern Mountain). The two traditions were "as different from each other as fire and water", so
that there were many disputes between the two.

At that time, Master Gyunyeo, who was from the Namak lineage, deplored the fact that the two traditions of
Korean Hwaeom philosophy were inconsistent with each other. He tried to bring the different viewpoints
together and to unify them.  The writings of Gyunyeo were systematized during the middle period of the
reign of the 4th Goryeo king, Gwangjong (r. 949-975).