The Annals of the Chosun Dynasty, an official national treasure listed in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register, were written over the course of 472 years from the reign of King Taejo in 1392 to King Cheoljong in 1863. They record the society, economy, culture, and politics of the time. If it were not for these Annals, popular historical dramas such as "Dong Yi" and "Jewel in the Palace" would not exist.
Each volume of the annals was stored in specially installed libraries, but many were burned during the Japanese invasion of Korea and the Manchu invasion. Only the 1181 volumes kept in the Jeondeung Temple on Ganghwa Island, Incheon remain undamaged. The temple has the longest history among extant Buddhist temples in Korea and was first built in 381, the 11th year of reign of King Sosurim of Koguryo, by the monk Adowhasang.
A short walk through the temple will take visitors to the archive. From the gate, two tile-roofed houses come in sight. The annals here were moved here from the Jeonju archives after the Japanese invasion in 1592. Sine then, the temple's monks protected the books even through the Manchu and French invasions by hiding them in underground tunnels when necessary.
A monk at the archive said, "It seems many people who visit the Jeondeong Temple can feel the ancestors' spirit protect their country and realize the importance of history."
The temple's main hall, a designated national cultural asset, represents the architectural style of the mid-Chosun period. Of note in the building are the four Naboo sculptures atop its pillars propping up the roof as if they are being punished.
Legend has it that a master builder in charge of the temple's restoration carved the figures to reflect the betrayal of his lover who left him, in a kind of expression of hope that she would repent and live her life according to Buddhist principles.
Besides such treasures, the temple is home to valuable relics such as the Yaksa or medicine Buddha hall, the Bumjong bell, the Samrang fortress, and exquisite wall paintings. A tourist said "I like the temple because it has many legends and stories to learn and its environment is very natural," adding, "Taking the city tour bus makes it very convenient to get here." The Incheon city tour bus to the temple runs twice on Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.