Colonial Korea: Donghwasa Temple – 동화사 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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An overview of Donghwasa Temple in Daegu in 1932.

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Donghwasa Temple, which means Paulownia Blossom Temple,” in English, was first established in northern Daegu on the southern slopes of Mt. Palgongsan in 493 A.D. The temple was first constructed through the efforts of monk Geukdal-jonja. The name of the temple is linked to the temple’s creation story. According to legend, the name of the temple comes from Donghwasa Temple’s reconstruction in 832 A.D. At that time, and during the middle of winter, the wild paulownia trees bloomed all around the temple grounds. So it was at this time that the temple changed its name from Yugasa Temple to Donghwasa Temple. The reconstruction of the temple occurred because of the efforts of the monk Simji-wangsa. And all of this happened during the reign of King Heungdeok (r. 826-836).

The last of Donghwasa Temple’s major rebuilds took place in 1732. And the last major addition to Donghwasa Temple took place in the fall of 1992 with the addition of the thirty metre tall statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) to the south of the main temple courtyard. This statue of Yaksayore-bul was constructed in hopes of having the Korean peninsula one day reunified.

From the day of its reconstruction in 832 A.D., and throughout its long storied history, Donghwasa Temple remains one of the most important temples throughout the Korean peninsula. In fact, Donghwasa Temple was one of only four temples during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) to administer the civil service exam for monks. And even during the highly restrictive, Confucian led, Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Donghwasa Temple not only continued to flourish but it also continued to grow in size, as well. In total, Donghwasa Temple and its associated hermitages house nine Korean Treasures.

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The flagpole supports at Donghwasa Temple in 1916, which are Treasure #254.

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The Iljumun Gate at the temple.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall in 1932, which is Treasure #1563.

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A look around its exterior walls.

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And a look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1932.

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And a look around its exterior walls.

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The Donghwasa Temple grounds from 2005.

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A look up at the main hall during Buddha’s birthday in 2013.

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Buddha’s birthday in 2013.

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The 1992 extension as seen in 2013.

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A closer look at Yaksayore-bul during Buddha’s birthday.

Bulyeongsa Temple – 불영사 (Uljin, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The Bulyeong-ji Pond at Bulyeongsa Temple in Uljin, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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Bulyeongsa Temple is located in the very scenic Uljin, Gyeongsangbuk-do at the base of Mt. Cheonchuksan. The name of the temple, Bulyeongsa Temple, means “The Reflection of the Buddha’s Shadow on the Pond Temple,” in English. The temple was first constructed in 651 A.D. by the famed monk Uisang-daesa. The temple was built alongside Mt. Cheonchuksan because it purportedly resembled Mt. Cheonchuksan in India, where the image of the Buddha was reflected on the water there. In 1396, Bulyeongsa Temple was completely destroyed by fire. Not long after its destruction, it was rebuilt by the monk Soun. And in 1592, at the start of the Imjin War (1592-98), all the buildings at Bulyeongsa Temple were completely destroyed by fire except the Yeongsan-jeon Hall. In 1602, the Daeung-jeon Hall was rebuilt; and then, in 1608, the rest of Bulyeongsa Temple was completely restored. Once more, the main hall was destroyed by fire in 1720. It was restored, once more, in 1725 by the monk Cheonok. As you can tell, Bulyeongsa Temple has had its fair share of loss.

Bulyeongsa Temple is situated a fair distance from the Iljumun Gate. The walk is one of the more beautiful walks as the path intersects forests and farmlands used by the nuns that call the temple home. When you finally do near the temple grounds, the first thing to greet you is the Bulyeong-ji Pond that harkens back to the origin of the temple’s name. Circumnavigating the pond to the left, you’ll see the first collection of temple shrine halls.

The first shrine hall is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Inside the rather plainly painted Chilseong-gak is a beautiful mural dedicated to the shaman deity. Book-ending both sides of the painting are rows of Buddhist texts.

To the right of the Chilseong-gak is the older looking Eungjin-jeon Hall, which looks far older in design that the preceding hall. This largely unadorned exterior houses the sixteen disciples of the Buddha, the Nahan. The two rows of eight Nahan are centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) on the main altar of this hall.

The next hall to be enjoyed at Bulyeongsa Temple is dedicated to the founding monk of the temple: Uisang-daesa. Resting all alone on the main altar to this hall is a small stone statue of Uisang-daesa. He’s surrounded on both sides by other famous monks like Wonhyo-daesa and Samyeong-daesa, as well.

The final hall in this area, other than the pavilion that backs the beautiful pond at the entry, is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Unlike the other three halls, the Myeongbu-jeon Hall is beautifully illustrated both inside and out. The exterior and interior walls, rather strangely, are painted with murals from Uisang-daesa’s life instead of the more traditional afterlife murals. Seated on the main altar is a large, green-haired statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s surrounded on all sides by curiously faced statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the right of this courtyard is where the enclosure for the Daeung-jeon main hall is situated. As though it’s shielding the Daeung-jeon Hall, the Seolbeop-jeon blocks people from directly looking at the main hall. Out in front of the Daeung-jeon Hall is the three tier stone pagoda that dates back to the early Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The exterior walls of the main hall are occupied with the dancheong traditional colours. Entering the main hall, you’ll see a triad of statues resting on the main altar. In the centre sits Seokgamoni-bul, who is joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). In the left rear of the hall is a tiny statue and beautiful mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). To the right rear of the main hall are sari (crystallized remains). As for the rest of the main hall’s interior, it’s beautifully decorated with paintings from the early 18th century from when the main hall was rebuilt.

The final hall that visitors can explore at Bulyeongsa Temple is the Sanshin-gak to the left rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall. While small in size, and largely unadorned on its exterior, it houses a beautiful rendering of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Of note are the intense green eyes of the tiger beside the more traditional painting of Sanshin.

The admission fee is 2,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Uljin Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go out to Bulyeongsa Temple. But instead of having numbers, they simply have the name of places. Here are six of those bus names that go out to Bulyeongsa Temple: 1. Deokgu – Gwangbi, 2. Deokgu – Saejeom, 3. Bugu – Saejeom, 4. Uljin – Gwangbi, 5. Jukbyeon – Saejeom, 6. Jukbyeon – Sogwang. The bus ride from the bus terminal to Bulyeongsa Temple will take about 27 minutes over 13 stops. From where the bus drops you off, you’ll need to walk an additional 7 minutes, or 500 metres, to the temple grounds.

You can take public transportation or simply take a taxi. The taxi ride from the Uljin Intercity Bus Terminal takes 30 minutes and costs about 17,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Bulyeongsa Temple is beautifully located in a valley below the peaks of Mt. Cheonchuksan. There are numerous halls for visitors to explore like the amazing interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall, as well as the Myeongbu-jeon Hall and the shrine hall dedicated to Uisang-daesa. All of these halls are beautifully fronted by the Bulyeong-ji Pond.

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The sites that await you as you first approach Bulyeongsa Temple.

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Making your way towards the temple shrine halls, while enjoying Bulyeong-ji pond.

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The Chilseong-gak at Bulyeongsa Temple.

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A look at the traditional Chilseong painting.

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The Eungjin-jeon Hall, which is the oldest building at Bulyeongsa Temple.

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The main altar inside the Eungjin-jeon Hall.

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To the left is the shrine hall dedicated to Uisang-daesa, the founder of Bulyeongsa Temple.

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A look inside the Uisang-daesa shrine hall with a statue of the famed monk to the left.

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Inside the shrine hall dedicated to one famous monk is this mural dedicated to another famous Korean monk: Samyeong-daesa.

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Inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall that’s to the right of the Uisang-daesa shrine hall.

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The strange face of one of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

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The temple bell inside the Beopyeong-ru Pavilion.

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The protective Seolbeop-jeon Hall.

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It was a cool and icy -20 degrees when I visited Bulyeongsa Temple.

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The Daeung-jeon Hall that’s fronted by the early Goryeo-era three tier pagoda.

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Another look at the three tier pagoda from the main hall.

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The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Dokseong statue and mural to the left rear of the main hall.

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And in the right rear corner of the main hall are these sari.

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A historic dragon mural adorning the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A crane riding assistant.

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The Sanshin-gak to the left rear of the main hall.

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With the alien-like eyes of the tiger painted in the Sanshin mural.

Colonial Korea: Buseoksa Temple – 부석사 (Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The flag supports out in front of Buseoksa Temple in 1916.

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Buseoksa Temple is located in the southwest portion of Mt. Bonghwangsan in Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do. The name of the temple means “Floating Rock Temple,” in English, and relates to the creation myth that surrounds the temple (more on that later). The temple was first established in 676 A.D. by the famed monk Uisang-daesa, who also had the nickname of “Temple Builder” for all the temples he helped construct like Hwaeomsa Temple, Naksansa Temple and Beomeosa Temple.

After living in China for ten years, where he furthered his Buddhist studies, Uisang-daesa returned to the Korean peninsula. Uisang-daesa built Buseoksa Temple under the orders of the Silla king, King Munmu (r. 661-681 A.D.). Uisang-daesa used Buseoksa Temple as a base to help spread the message of Hwaeom Buddhism (Flower Garland Buddhism) for which he is famous.

As for the myth that surrounds Uisang-daesa and Buseoksa Temple, it pertains to a love story that’s recorded in the Samguk-Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms). As a teenager in the Silla capital of Gyeongju, Uisang fell in love with Seonmyo (Virtuous Mystery). They fell in love, but Seonmyo was chosen as a part of a tribute mission to Tang China. During her absence, Uisang became a Buddhist monk to help his broken heart. After learning this news, Seonmyo threw herself from the boat that was carrying her up the Yellow River. She was to survive this attempted suicide, and she was adopted by a wealthy merchant.

Uisang also used the Yellow River on his journey towards furthering his studies in China. Briefly, he was reunited with Seonmyo. And while their passion still burned for each other, Uisang refused to betray his monastic vows. Before departing, he promised to see her one more time, which he eventually did seven years later. During that time, Seonmyo had embroidered a beautiful silk monk gown as a gift for him. Not wanting to falsely lead her on, he refused this gift. The next morning, without saying good-bye, Uisang boarded a boat that would bring him back to the Korean peninsula. Heart-broken, Seonmyo threw the silk gift into the river. Following her gift into the river, she drowned herself out of despair. It was from this love story that Seonmyo was reborn as a dragon that would protectively look over Uisang.

As a dragon, Seommyo followed Uisang back to Korea to protect him. And Uisang would need her help when he attempted to build Buseoksa Temple. Instead of being inviting, the locals violently tried to stop Uisang from building the new temple because of their local shamanic belief in Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Seonmyo, as a dragon, lifted a boulder in the air three times to make the locals cower submissively. This worked. The boulder came to rest behind the main hall, the Muryangsu-jeon Hall, which is also the second oldest building in Korea (dating back to 1376). After this, Seonmyo the dragon died and her bones were used as the foundation for the creation of the Muryangsu-jeon Hall. So that’s how the temple gets its name: Floating Rock Temple.

With the main hall, the Muryangsu-jeon Hall is the second oldest wooden building in Korea, dating back to 1376, after being destroyed after a rebel army destroyed it in 1358. The expansion and rebuilding of the temple dates back to this period in history. Under the guidance of Woneung, and under the patronage of the Goryeo king, King Gongmin (r. 1351-74), which lasted from 1372-77, Buseoksa Temple was rebuilt. Amazingly, Buseoksa Temple was spared any damage during the destructive Imjin War (1592-98), which saw almost all major temples completely destroyed by the invading Japanese. Next to Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, Buseoksa Temple houses the second most National Treasures at a single temple site. In total, and including the Muryangsu-jeon main hall, Buseoksa Temple houses five National Treasures and five additional Treasures.

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Buseoksa Temple in 1916.

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A closer look at National Treasure #17, the Stone Lantern at Muryangsu-jeon Hall.

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A closer look at the Stone Lantern at the Muryangsu-jeon Hall.

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Treasure #249, the Three Story Stone Pagoda at Buseoksa Temple.

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An auxiliary building at Buseoksa Temple in 1932.

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Buseoksa Temple grounds in 2011.

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From the foundation myth of Buseoksa Temple. This painting is from Naksansa Temple and was taken in 2014.

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A painting from the creation myth that surrounds Buseoksa Temple. Lady Seonmyo is to the right with Uisang riding in his dragon-guided boat. This picture was also taken at Naksansa Temple.

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The beautiful Buseoksa Temple in 2011.

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Muryangsu-jeon Hall that dates back to 1376 and is National Treasure #18.

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The clay seated statue of Amita-bul inside the Muryangsu-jeon Hall. The statue is National Treasure #45.

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The floating rock from the creation myth story that surrounds Buseoksa Temple. It lies to the left rear of the Muryangsu-jeon Hall.

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The shrine dedicated to Lady Seonmyo to the right rear of the Muryangsu-jeon Hall.

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The gift bearing painting of Lady Seonmyo.

Yeonmisa Temple – 연미사 (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The Jebiwon Seokbul stone statue at Yeonmisa Temple in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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North-east of the Andong city centre, in Gyeongsangbuk-do, and in Jebiwon, Icheon-dong, is Yeonmisa Temple. Yeonmisa Temple, which means “Swallow Tail Temple,” in English, was first founded in 634 A.D. by the monk Myeongdeok. There used to be a roof over top of the Jebiwon Seokbul statue, which made it look like a swallow’s beak. And because the monks’ dorms, the Yosahche, was located to the rear of the statue and looked like a swallow’s tail, the temple was called Yeonmisa Temple.

During the pro-Confucian period in Korean history during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the temple fell into ruin. It was only during Japanese Colonial rule (1910-45) that Yeonmisa Temple was finally reconstructed in 1934. The temple halls were rebuilt on the original grounds of Yeonmisa Temple. In 1978, the main hall was extended and the temple paintings were added in 1986 completing the main halls current form.

There are several buildings at Yeonmisa Temple, but it’s only the Daeung-jeon Hall at the temple that has things to see for visitors. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with various Buddhist inspired motifs, but the most noteworthy are the masterful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Additionally, the front latticework, which is adorned with radiant wooden flowers, are something to keep an eye out for when exploring the Daeung-jeon Hall’s exterior walls.

As for the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This statue is joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of this triad is the orangish hued Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural. And to the left of the main altar are two additional murals. The first is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and the other is the temple’s guardian mural.

Down a short path to the left of the Daeung-jeon Hall is the main highlight to the temple: the Jebiwon Seokbul statue of Amita-bul. Along the way, there are several statuettes of various Buddhas, as well as a coin collecting statue of a jovial Podae-hwasang. Finally arriving at the twelve metre tall statue of Amita-bul, you’ll first be greeted by a intimidating statue of a Vajra warrior and a stone lantern.

The Jebiwon Seokbul image of Amita-bul is housed in a stone cul de sac. There is a prayer area in this part of the temple grounds that people can pray to the Buddha of the Western Paradise. Your neck will be strained as you look up at the image. The image was created in two stages. This was a common method during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The head of the Buddha was first sculpted and then attached to the image carved on the rock wall. The image of Amita-bul stands on a lotus pedestal. There is still a little bit of orange paint left on the head, which indicates that the statue used to be painted. It’s believed that the image was carved sometime in the 11th century. You can get a better idea of the full size and scope of the statue if you stand in the nearby park from some distance. It’s also at the base of the rock that somewhat obscures the full image of the statue that you can read the inscription 아미타불 (Amita-bul), which identifies the specific image of the Buddha. The Jebiwon Seokbul statue is Treasure #115.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Andong Intercity Bus Terminal, and to get to Yeonmisa Temple by bus, you’ll need to take Bus #56. After 13 stops, which will take 22 minutes, get off at the Icheon-dong Seokbulsang stop. Walk 167 metres, or three minutes, to get to the temple.

You can take a bus or you can simply take a taxi from the Andong Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should last 12 minutes and cost 7,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. By far, the main highlight to this temple is the 12 metre tall image of Amita-bul at Yeonmisa Temple. The Jebiwon Seokbul statue is easy to access, which only adds to its overall appeal. Other highlights at Yeonmisa Temple is the artwork in and around the Daeung-jeon Hall like the Sanshin mural and the flowery latticework.

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The Daeung-jeon Hall at Yeonmisa Temple.

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A look up at the intricate artwork adorning the main hall.

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A beautiful flower that makes up part of the latticework on the Daeung-jeon Hall doors.

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One of the paintings from the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, mural set.

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The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall with Seokgamoni-bul front and centre.

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The Sanshin mural to the right of the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The small trail that leads to the main highlight at the temple.

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A diminutive coin collecting statue of Podae-hwasang along the trail.

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A fiercely protective Vajra warrior in front of the Jebiwon Seokbul.

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An up close of the 12 metre tall statue of Amita-bul.

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A better look at the statue of Amita-bul at Yeonmisa Temple from a bit of distance.

Colonial Korea: Magoksa Temple – 마곡사 (Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do)

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The mountainside view of Magoksa Temple in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do in 1932.

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Magoksa Temple is beautifully located in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do. The temple was first believed to be established either in 640 or 642 A.D. The temple was established by the famed monk Jajang-yulsa (590-658 A.D.).

There are two stories about the origins of the temple’s name. The first relates to Jajang and when he first established Magoksa Temple. When he established the temple, he called it “magok,” which means “Flax Valley,” in English. Jajang-yulsa believed that if numerous monks came to the eastern slopes of Mt. Taehwasan, which is where Magoksa Temple is located, it would result in the rapid growth of Buddhism throughout the Korean peninsula.

Another story about the creation o the temple relates to how a believer looked at the temple and said that Magoksa Temple looked like a flax stack in the middle of a flax field. This was said during the Silla Dynasty as the monk Bocheol was preaching. So however the temple got its name, Magoksa Temple means “Flax Valley Temple,” in English.

Later, in 1172, the temple was reconstructed by the monk Bojo-guksa. The temple was used as a place of refuge during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Amazingly, Magoksa Temple was spared any damage during both the destructive Imjin War (1592-98) and the Korean War (1950-53). In fact, it didn’t suffer any damage during the entire Joseon Dynasty. And in the 20th century, it was used as a hiding place for the independence leader Kim Gu.

In total, Magoksa Temple is home to five Treasures which includes the five-story Tibetan-inspired stone pagoda that’s listed as Treasure #799.

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The five-tier Tibetan-inspired pagoda and Daegwangbo-jeon Hall behind it in 1932.

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The amazing two storied Daeungbo-jeon main hall at Magoksa Temple in 1932.

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The entry to Magoksa Temple in 2011.

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The Daegwangbo-jeon Hall with the Tibetan inspired five tier pagoda in front of it in 2011.

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And the Daeungbo-jeon main hall in 2011.

Jaeseoksa Temple – 제석사 (Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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Inside the Wonhyo shrine hall at Jaeseoksa Temple in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located just east of the Gyeongsan city centre, in Gyeongsangbuk-do, is Jaeseoksa Temple. This urban temple is also located in the famed Wonhyo-daesa’s hometown (more on that later).

You first approach the temple down a few narrow side-streets, until you stumble upon Jaeseoksa Temple almost by chance. The entrance gate that awaits you is beautifully painted with various images like Sanshin Dosa and a pair of intense Vajra Warriors adorning the temple doors.

Stepping inside the temple courtyard, you’ll first notice the temple buildings that line the exterior walls to the temple confines. These are the nuns’ living quarters, the visitors centre, as well as the temple kitchen. Straight ahead lies the temple’s main hall. This hall is beautifully decorated both inside and out. Around the exterior walls, there are the traditional Palsang-do set that depict the life of the Buddha. The front latticework consists of the Four Heavenly Kings. And there are some extremely descriptive Nathwi (Monster Mask) reliefs at the base of the latticework. As for inside the main hall, and resting on the main altar, there’s a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who is joined on either side by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). The rest of the hall is filled with beautiful murals like the Dragon Ship of Wisdom and the guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall, and slightly elevated, is the smaller sized Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The exterior walls are adorned with the three most popular shaman deities in the Korean pantheon as is the interior. Resting in the centre of the main altar inside the Samseong-gak is an older, elaborate mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This painting is joined to the left by an older, longer ear lobed mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), who is joined by a leopard-looking tiger at his side. Rounding out the three is a more modern painting of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

The final hall that visitors can explore is one of the most original halls I’ve seen at a Korean temple. This hall is dedicated to the hometown monk, Wonhyo-daesa. The exterior walls are adorned with various murals from his life like the fish pointing scene from Oeosa Temple in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do or his friendship with Uisang-daesa. As for the interior, there’s the highly original Palsang-do set of eight paintings. But instead of depicting the Buddha’s life from birth to death, they depict the life of Wonhyo-daesa. And resting on the main altar is a golden statue of Wonhyo-daesa.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to walk about 300 metres, or five minutes, to get to the Gyeongsan Shijang (market) bus stop. From there, you’ll need to take Bus #990. After twenty stops, or twenty-two minutes, you’ll need to get off at the Jainmyeon Sahmuso (office).From there, walk about 450 metres, or seven minutes, to get to Jaeseoksa Temple.

You can take a bus, or you can simply take a taxi from the Gyeongsan Intercity Bus Terminal. If you do decide to take a taxi from there, it’ll last about 17 minutes and cost 11,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. This is a difficult temple to rate. While smaller in size, Jaeseoksa Temple has quite a few highly original features like the stunning set of eight Palsang-do murals dedicated to Wonhyo-daesa. Also, the Four Heavenly Kings adorning the main hall’s front latticework, as well as the beautiful shaman murals, make this temple a must see if you’re in the Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do hometown of the famed Wonhyo-daesa.

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The entry gate at Jaeseoksa Temple.

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What appears to be a Sanshin Dosa painted on the entry gate.

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One of the fierce Vajra warriors adorning the entry door at the temple.

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A look towards the main hall and an arching tree that obscures the view.

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One of the faces of the Four Heavenly Kings that adorns the lattices of the main hall.

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One of the Nathwi adorning the main hall.

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A giant ornamental dragon on the exterior of the main hall.

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The main altar inside the main hall.

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The guardian mural inside the main hall.

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The Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural inside the main hall, as well.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Jaeseoksa Temple.

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The older looking, and elaborate, Chilseong mural inside the Samseong-gak.

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As well as this amazing older looking mural dedicated to Sanshin.

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The highly unique Wonhyo shrine hall at Jaeseoksa Temple.

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The exterior painting on the Wonhyo shrine hall that commemorates the friendship between Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa.

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An up close of Wonhyo-daesa’s birth from the Wonhyo-daesa Palsang-do set.

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And a mural from the Wonhyo Palsang-do set that illustrates Wonhyo’s enlightenment.

Colonial Korea: Ssanggyesa Temple – 쌍계사 (Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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National Treasure #47, The Stele for Master Jingam at Ssanggyesa Temple in Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Ssanggyesa Temple, which means “Twin Streams Temple,” in English, was first founded in 722 A.D. The temple was first established by the monks Daebi and Sambeop, who were the disciples of the famed Uisang-daesa. After being instructed by the Jirisan Sanshin, in the form of a tiger, to create a temple in a valley where the arrowroot blossomed even during winter, the two set out to establish Ssanggyesa Temple just north of modern day Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do in the heart of Jirisan National Park.

So after returning from China, where they furthered their Buddhist training, they returned with the skull and portrait of Huineng (the Sixth Patriarch of Seon [Zen] Buddhism). They enshrined both under the main hall at Ssanggyesa Temple. It was only later that the skull was retrieved and enshrined in a stone pagoda behind the Daeung-jeon Hall at Ssanggyesa Temple.

Originally called Okcheonsa Temple, the monk Jingam-seonsa (774-850 A.D.) renamed the temple in 840 A.D. to Ssanggyesa Temple. A stele, which is dedicated to Jingam-seonsa, and written by Choi Chi-won (857- ?), stands in the temple courtyard. It’s designated National Treasure #47.

During the Imjin War, all the temple buildings were completely destroyed by fire. Now, most of the temple buildings date back to the 17th century.

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A wooden totem outside Ssanggyesa Temple.

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The Iljumun Gate at the temple in 1933.

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Which is joined by the Cheonwangmun Gate in 1933.

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As well as the Geumgangmun Gate in 1933.

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The Cheonghak-ru Pavilion at Ssanggyesa Temple in 1933.

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The special Palsang-jeon Hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 1933.

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A closer look at the Palsang-jeon Hall.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 1933.

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Another look at the Stele for Master Jingam. This picture was taken in 1916.

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And a closer look at the dragon swirling capstone to the stele.

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A closer look at the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The expansive main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Guksa-jeon Hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 1933.

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The Chilseong-gak at the temple.

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And one of the stupas at Ssanggyesa Temple.

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The Iljumun Gate in 2012.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate in 2012.

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The Palsang-jeon Hall in 2005.

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The main hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 2012.

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National Treasure #47, The Stele for Master Jingam at Ssanggyesa Temple in 2005.

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The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 2012.

Seonggulsa Temple – 성굴사 (Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The Yaksayore-bul statue inside the Yaksa-jeon cave shrine at Seonggulsa Temple in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seonggulsa Temple, in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do, is located on the northeastern side of Mt. Sangwonsan. Seonggulsa Temple is located south of the better known Gyeongheungsa Temple and was formerly known as Mansusa Temple.

You first approach the temple up a long valley. On the eastern banks of a narrow stream is the eccentric Seonggulsa Temple. The first thing to greet you at the temple is a beautiful three metre tall statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). To the left lies the temple parking lot with numerous stone pagodas reminiscent of Tapsa Temple. On the side of the largest pagoda is an Indian inspired multi-arm and headed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). It’s just beyond this, and dug out of the rock face, a wooden entry to an artificial cave is situated. Inside this bomb shelter-like cave sits a solitary statue of Yaksayore-bul at the end of the cave. The walls are lined with a solitary string of pink paper lotus lanterns, and water drips from the roof of the cave down onto the wooden platform for devotees to pray.

To the right of the Yaksa-jeon cave shrine hall is the two storied main hall. This modern looking 1970s influenced Geukrak-jeon Hall’s exterior paint job is fading. Inside the second floor main hall rest multiple statues and paintings. On the main altar, there sits a triad of statues. In the centre is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power of Amita-bul). To the left of the triad rests a painting and statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the right of the main altar triad are a pair of paintings. The first is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Star) and the second is the temple’s guardian mural. Both are modern and masterful in their design.

To the right rear of the main hall is another artificial cave at Seonggulsa Temple. This cave is all but abandoned and I had to stumble around in the dark because there were ultimately no lights to guide my way. Formerly, the statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) that now takes up residence in the main hall once called this cave home. If you do venture inside this abandoned cave, be careful because the wooden floor boards are now brittle caused by the dripping ceiling water.

To the right of the abandoned cave is an altar with what looks to be a moon rock on it. In front of the moon rock stands an upright stone with red painting on it. The red painting reads Buddha’s Mind. It’s past the monks residence that you’ll also find the Sanshin-gak at Seonggulsa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to walk about 5 minutes (300 metres) to get to the Gyeongsan Shijang (market) bus stop. From this stop, you’ll need to board the Namcheon bus. After 15 stops, or 18 minutes, you’ll need to get off at the Sinseok (Cheongdo) stop. From where the bus lets you off, you’ll need to walk 3.5 kilometres, or 52 minutes, to the temple. You can take public transportation or a taxi directly to Seonggulsa Temple. The taxi ride should take about 30 minutes and cost 12,500 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. This temple has to be one of the most bizarre temples I’ve visited in Korea with its dual caves (one of which is abandoned), as well as the numerous stone pagodas and the retro main hall. This is a good temple to visit if you want something a bit different from the every day.

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The front entry statue of Yaksayore-bul.

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Some of the stone pagodas at Seonggulsa Temple.

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The wooden entry to the first cave shrine at the temple.

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The multi-armed and headed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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Inside the first cave shrine hall.

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A look around the cave.

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The main altar statue of Yaksayore-bul.

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The modern inspired main hall at Seonggulsa Temple.

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A look around the main hall.

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A statue of the Buddha that someone has left behind.

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The moon rock altar with the writing in red ink that reads Buddha’s Mind.

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The second cave at Seonggulsa Temple.

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A look around the abandoned cave.

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And the main altar inside the second cave.

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One more look around the temple grounds.

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As well as another look at some of the stone pagodas.

My All New Book!!

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The Cover to my All New Book!

Hello Again Everyone!!

Once again, I’m very proud to announce the publication of an all new temple book. This, Korean Temples: Art, Architecture and History, is the second temple book I’ve published.

Korean Temples: Art, Architecture and History is a book that focuses on the twenty-five most important temples throughout the Korean peninsula. The book includes such famed temples as Bulguksa Temple, Tongdosa Temple, and Haeinsa Temple. All nine provinces have at least one temple in this book.

Also, by exploring the art, architecture and history of South Korea’s most famous temples, the book helps introduce the intricacies and beauty of South Korean Buddhism. In total, there are nearly 100 colour pictures throughout this all new book.

You can order Korean Temples: Art, Architecture and History through Amazon.com either in hard copy or as an e-book.

You can order the hard copy here.

And you can order the e-book here.

If you’d like a signed copy for $25 dollars (plus shipping and handling) of my book, please contact me at: dostoevsky_21_81@yahoo.com   We can discuss the details.

Please support the website and order your copy today!

-Dale

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Colonial Korea: Beopjusa Temple – 법주사 (Boeun-Gun, Chungcheongbuk-do)

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National Treasure #55, the Palsang-jeon Hall at Beopjusa Temple in 1932.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Beopjusa Temple, which means “The Place Where the Dharma Resides Temple,” in English, is located in Boeun-Gun, Chungcheongbuk-do. The temple was first established in 553 A.D. by the monk Uisin. The reason that Beopjusa Temple has its name is that Uisin brought back a number of Indian sutras from his travels to be housed at the temple.

During the Goryeo Dynasty, which lasted from 918 to 1392, Beopjusa Temple housed as many as 3,000 monks at its height. In fact, at one point in its history, in the 1100s, 30,000 monks gathered at Beopjusa Temple to pray for the dying Uicheon, a national priest. As a result of a lack of support for Buddhism during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Beopjusa Temple shrank in size and influence. And during the Imjin War (1592-98), Beopjusa Temple suffered extensive damage. Fortunately, Beopjusa Temple was restored to its former glory in 1624. It’s also at this time that the famed Palsang-jeon wooden pagoda was rebuilt.

More recently, and in the 1960s, Beopjusa Temple underwent extensive renovation and repairs. Then, in 1988, the massive bronze statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha), which stands at an impressive thirty-three metres in height, was erected to replace the concrete one that had previously taken up residence at Beopjusa Temple.

In total, Beopjusa Temple houses three National Treasures and an additional twelve Treasures.

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A mountainside view of Beopjusa Temple in 1932.

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The flag pole supports from 1916.

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A stone artifact from 1916 called the Seokryeon-ji.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate in 1932.

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A closer look at the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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The stone lantern out in front of the Cheonwangmun Gate in 1916.

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The amazing Palsang-jeon pagoda in 1932.

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A closer look at the Palsang-jeon pagoda.

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And one more look at the Palsang-jeon pagoda.

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The Twin Lion Stone Lantern out in front of the main hall from 1916.

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Another look at the Twin Lion Stone Lantern with a monk to the right.

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The massive Daeung-jeon Hall at Beopjusa Temple in 1932.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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And a look at the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate in 2011.

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The Palsang-jeon pagoda in 2015.

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The Twin Lion Stone Lantern in 2015.

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A look up at the main hall in 2015.

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The view from the Daeung-jeon main hall in 2015.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at the main altar in 2011.