Jukrimsa Temple – 죽림사 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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One of the beautiful stupas at the entry of Jukrimsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just below Mt. Yubongsan, and west of the Geumho River, is Jukrimsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. About a kilometre and a half up a mountainside road lies Jukrimsa Temple. The first thing to greet you at the temple is the Iljumun Gate, which has a pair of chubby pillars at its base.

A little further up the road, but before you arrive at the temple grounds, you’ll notice an ornate stupa to your right. This stupa is a near replica of the one at Seonamsa Temple on Mt. Baekyangsan in Busan. With ornate ornamental dragons, tigers, and Biseon, as well as a decorative Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) at the entrance of the stupa, this stupa is probably the most beautiful piece of funeral stone masonry in all of Korea. The pair of large sized stupas are joined by smaller sized stupas.

With the slight incline of the mountain elevation kicking in, you’ll finally near the outskirts of the temple courtyard. Passing under the Boje-ru Pavilion, which is beautifully adorned during Buddha’s birthday, the pavilion is surrounded on all sides by rose bushes, Japanese maples, and shrubs.

Stepping into the temple courtyard, a three-tier stone pagoda welcomes you to Jukrimsa Temple’s courtyard. The monks’ dorms lie to the left, while the main hall stands straight ahead of you. In front of the main hall are a collection of granite statues. To the far right is a triad statue centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To the far left are two more statues. The first is the “hear no evil, speak no evil, and see no evil,” motif statue; while the other statue is a graceful granite statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

Surrounding the main hall’s exterior walls are a collection of simple Palsang-do murals. Inside the hall, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal. There are a few accompanying murals housed inside the main hall like the guardian mural that hangs on the left wall, as well as a red mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal that hangs on the right wall. Interestingly, and just to the left of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife, there are a collection of pictures of former presidents like Park Chung Hee (and his wife), and Roh Moo Hyun.

To the left of the main hall are two shrine halls that visitors can enjoy while exploring Jukrimsa Temple. The first to the immediate left of the main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Of the three shaman murals that include Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), it’s the tiger-riding Sanshin mural that stands above the others for its originality.

The other hall at Jukrimsa Temple is the Nahan-jeon. The white-clothed stone statues of the Nahan are joined on the main altar by Seokgamoni-bul. Also, the stone statues are backed by beautiful murals of the Historical Disciples of the Buddha.

HOW TO GET THERE: There is no direct bus that will take you to Jukrimsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. So the most direct way to get to Jukrimsa Temple is to take a taxi from Yeongcheon Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should last about 25 minutes and cost about 7,200 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. The main highlight at Jukrimsa Temple are the two ornate stupas at the entry of the temple. The beautiful grounds are filled with masterful statues of Gwanseeum-bosal and Amita-bul. And to top it off, you can also enjoy all the murals housed inside both the Nahan-jeon and the Samseong-gak at Jukrimsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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The chubby pillared Iljumun Gate at Jukrimsa Temple.

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A look towards a pair of stupas.

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A closer look at one of the ornate stupas.

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Adorning the door on the stupa is this image of Jijang-bosal.

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Some of the tiger reliefs on the stupa.

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As well as a decorative dragon.

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A look up towards the Boje-ru Pavilion at Jukrimsa Temple.

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The temple courtyard in preparation for Buddha’s birthday.

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The main hall at Jukrimsa Temple.

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The statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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The chubby “hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil” statues.

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One of the Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.

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Inside the main hall at Jukrimsa Temple.

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The view of the grassy temple courtyard at Jukrimsa Temple.

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A look up towards the Samseong-gak.

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A look inside the Samseong-gak; yes, with a ladder in it.

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A better look at the tiger-riding Sanshin mural.

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The Nahan-jeon at Jukrimsa Temple.

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And a look inside the Nahan-jeon.

Gwangsansa Temple – 광산사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The beautifully framed temple courtyard at Gwangsansa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

You first approach Gwangsansa Temple up some country back-roads and then finally up a long winding road that runs part of the way up Mt. Gwangryeosan in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do. With all 752 metres of the towering mountain to frame the temple, it makes for quite the beautiful location.

As you first approach the temple grounds, the view is blocked by a stone front façade. Up a set of stairs, you’ll pass through the Haetalmun Gate to enter the temple courtyard. Straight ahead lays the temple’s main hall. Surprisingly, a stone pagoda is missing out in front of the main hall. Surrounding the exterior walls to the main hall are some masterful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Sitting on the main altar are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s flanked on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). Hanging to the right of the main altar is a painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and hanging to the left is the main hall’s guardian mural.

The other two halls that visitors can explore at Gwangsansa Temple are two shamanic halls. The first, which lies to the right of the main hall, is the Sanshin-gak. Before entering the hall, have a look on the right exterior wall to see a fiery coloured tiger with her two cubs. As for inside this hall, there hangs a modern painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) with a ginseng carrying donja (attendant) that has the ginseng, for some unexplained reason, wrapped in white cloth. To the left of the main hall stands the hall dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). While this hall was locked when I visited, you can peer through the front latticework to get a look at the equally modern incarnation of Dokseong.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to exit the terminal and make your way to the bus stop across from the Juchajang Pharmacy parking lot. From there, take Bus #710 for 12 stops, or about 20 minutes. Get off at the Lotte Mart stop and walk to get to the Samgye Hyundai apartments. It’s really close, about 150 metres, so you should be able to see the apartments. From the Samgye Hyundai apartments, take Bus #52 for 12 more stops, or 18 minutes, and get off at the Sinmok pongjeom stop, which is also the last stop on the route. From this stop, walk about 10 minutes, or 650 metres, to Gwangsansa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. There are just a couple highlights to Gwangsansa Temple like the beautiful location and the masterful modern painting of Sanshin. But be warned, there is an older Korean woman that volunteers at the temple that will not allow any photography of the temple, even though the temple is little known and less traveled by foreign visitors. So if you want to get a couple pictures of the place, be forewarned that it might be difficult with her around.

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The stairs that lead up to the temple courtyard.

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A look through the Haetalmun Gate.

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The view from the Dokseong-gak towards the main hall.

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One of the Shimu-do murals.

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The entry to the main hall.

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The main altar inside the main hall with Amita-bul front and centre.

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The Jijang-bosal mural to the right of the main altar.

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A look towards the Sanshin-gak.

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The sign for the Sanshin-gak.

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The decorative tigers adorning one of the exterior walls of the Sanshin-gak.

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And a look at the Mountain Spirit.

Sujeongam Hermitage – 수정암 (Boeun-Gun, Chungcheongbuk-do)

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A look inside the Geukrak-jeon main hall at Sujeongam Hermitage near Beopjusa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just to the south-west of the famed Beopjusa Temple is the affiliated Sujeongam Hermitage. And while the courtyard is under an extensive renovation, there are still a couple buildings for a visitor to explore in and around the grounds.

Walking down a beautiful pathway that skirts a neighbouring stream, and past a budo field, you’ll finally come to the compact hermitage grounds. Welcoming you at the gate are a pair of protective Vajra warriors.

Directly to your right, and a bit past the monks’ dorms, is the Geukrak-jeon main hall at Sujeongam Hermitage. Beautifully wrapped around the exterior walls to the main hall are a collection of rustic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the right of this triad is a golden stone statue dedicated to Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). While the date of this statue is unknown, it’s historic in nature. This statue is joined on the right wall by a red-motif guardian mural.

But the real highlight to this hermitage lies just to the left of the main altar. There are a collection of older looking shaman murals. Of the set of three, which also includes a mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars), it’s the mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that is the most original of the lot. With a folk-style tiger to his left, Sanshin can be seen holding tight to one of his dongja (an attendant). The painting almost appears as though Sanshin is proudly holding tight to a son of his. A definite first for me!

The other hall to the right of the Geukrak-jeon that visitors can explore is the tiny Josa-jeon Hall. Like sometimes happens at other hermitages, it appears as though the Josa-jeon Hall at Sujeongam Hermitage also acts as a storage hall, as well. However, there are three murals resting on the main altar inside this hall dedicated to prominent monks that once called Sujeongam Hermitage home.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Sujeongam Hermitage, you’ll first need to take a bus to Boeun city. From the Boeun Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll have to take a direct bus to Mt. Songnisan. This bus runs every 30 to 40 minutes throughout the day. When you arrive at Songnisan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll have to walk 20 minutes towards Beopjusa Temple/Mt. Songnisan Ticket Office. However, a couple minutes shy of Beopjusa Temple, you’ll need to hang a left where Sujeongam Hermitage resides.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Beautifully located in Songnisan National Park, and buttressed up against the amazing Beopjusa Temple, is Sujeongam Hermitage. With its collection of highly original shamanic paintings, as well as a historic Yaksayore-bul statue inside, there is more than enough reason to visit Sujeongam Hermitage while enjoying a day out at Beopjusa Temple.

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The path that leads to Sujeongam Hermitage.

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The Geukrak-jeon main hall at Sujeongam Hermitage.

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One of the Palsang-do murals around the exterior walls of the main hall.

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A look inside the Josa-jeon Hall.

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The red guardian mural as you first step inside the Geukrak-jeon.

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The historic Yaksayore-bul statue inside the main hall.

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A look at the main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon.

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The Dokseong mural to the left of the main altar.

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He’s joined by this elaborate mural dedicated to Chilseong.

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And the dongja holding Sanshin mural.

Seonsuam Hermitage – 선수암 (Yesan, Chungcheongnam-do)

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A look inside the well-populated interior of the Gwaneeum-jeon at Seonsuam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just to the south-west of the temple courtyard at Sudeoksa Temple is Seonsuam Hermitage. Directly associated with the famed Sudeoksa Temple, Seonsuam Hermitage is built for Korean Buddhist nuns.

When you first approach Seonsuam Hermitage, just before the Sacheonwangmun Gate at Sudeoksa Temple, you’ll notice a miniature Dabo-tap pagoda from Bulguksa Temple halfway up the path. Nestled under towering trees, the pagoda is an exact replica of the stone monument, but just a quarter of its size.

Finally entering the hermitage’s courtyard, you’ll notice the large main hall to your right with the nuns’ quarters off to the left. The main hall itself is adorned with a dual set of murals around its exterior walls. The ones on top are vibrant Palsang-do murals dedicated to the eight scenes from the Buddha’s life, while the second set are various murals from the various stages of life. The latticework on the front door to this hall are beautiful flower blossoms in full bloom. Strangely, but caringly, there is a large umbrella to shield people from the sunlight while worshiping at the main entry.

Inside the hall, and sitting all alone on the main altar, is a large seated statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The entire interior to this hall is decorated with various murals. To the right of the main altar are a set of four such murals. To the far right is the dynamic guardian mural joined to the left by an elaborate Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. This is then joined to the left by one of the larger Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) murals you’ll find in Korea. Rounding out the set is an equally large mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

To the left of the main altar is another collection of Buddhist murals. The first of the four to the left of Gwanseeum-bosal is a larger, multi-arm and headed mural of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The next mural to the left is the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) mural. Another in the set is an intricate mural dedicated to the Ten Kings of the underworld. The final mural in the set is a beautiful Gamno-do mural with various acts of misdeeds at the base of the Sweet Dew mural for the dead.

It should be said that one of the nicest Buddhist nuns (or monks for that matter), I met at Seonsuam Hermitage. Her name was Nama, for Namaste. She took the time to explain some of the details behind each painting. Also, she gave me a beautiful wooden dancheong piece of artwork. If your Korean is good enough, and she’s around, take the time to talk to this beautiful soul.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Seonsuam Hermitage, you’ll first need to get to Sudeoksa Temple. There are a variety of ways that you can get to Sudeoksa Temple. From Seoul, you’ll need to get to the Nambu Bus Terminal and board a direct bus to Sudeoksa Temple. The bus ride lasts about two and half hours and should cost about 8,000 won. From anywhere else in the country, you’ll first need to get to the Yesan Intercity Bus Terminal. From there, you can take a rural bus to Sudeoksa Temple. Here is a list of potential buses that you can take: Bus #553 (8:20), Bus #547 (9:40), Bus #558 (10:50, 17:35), Bus #551 (12:00, 15:00), Bus #557 (13:20), Bus #549 (14:00), Bus #555 (15:55), Bus #556 (19:15). These buses will take about an hour and forty minutes to get to the temple.

Once at Sudeoksa Temple, make your way towards the main temple courtyard. Just before the Sacheonwangmun Gate, hang a left and head towards Seonsuam Hermitage. It’s about 100 metres up the pathway.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. There is a beautiful collection of Buddhist and shaman artwork inside the Gwaneum-jeon main hall at Seonsuam Hermitage. Also, and if you’re lucky enough to meet her, Nama can help explain some of the finer points of the hermitage and Korean Buddhism as a whole. So if you’re visiting the neighbouring Sudeoksa Temple, drop by Seonsuam Hermitage along the way.

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The miniature Dabo-tap pagoda at Seonsuam Hermitage.

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The main hall at the hermitage.

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Some of the beautiful latticework adorning the main hall.

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One of the life cycle pieces of artwork on the exterior walls of the main hall.

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Which is joined above by some vibrant Palsang-do murals.

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The guardian mural inside the main hall.

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Joined by the Sanshin mural.

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The Jijang-bosal mural to the right of the main altar.

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Gwanseeum-bosal sitting in the middle of the main hall.

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A mural of the Bodhisattva of Compassion to the left of the main altar.

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Joined by Dokseong.

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As well as the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

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The final painting in the collection is this Gamno-do mural.

Mujinam Hermitage – 무진암 (Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do)

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An early morning image of Mujinam Hermitage in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Directly to the south of its associated temple, Muryangsa Temple, lies Mujinam Hermitage in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do. As you first approach the hermitage, you’ll be welcomed to the grounds by a dozen outlying stupas. It’s just past this monastic cemetery, as well as past the monks’ dorms, that you’ll finally enter the compact Mujinam Hermitage courtyard.

Immediately, you’ll notice the temple’s main hall with a three-story stone pagoda out in front of it. The base is adorned with four directional lions, as well as ornamental images of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. As for the main hall itself, there are simple Palsang-do murals adorning the exterior walls to the hall. Inside the main hall is probably one of the larger canopies hanging over the main altar that you’ll find in Korea. As for the main altar, there are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) seated underneath the golden canopy. He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This is a rather typical triad at smaller temples and hermitages throughout Korea. What is less typical are the golden hued murals that hang throughout the main hall. The first painting directly to the right of the main altar is the golden Chilseong (Seven Stars) mural. It’s joined on the right wall by the equally golden guardian mural. Both are highly original in their composition.

To the right rear of the main hall is the Yaksayore-bul statue with an ornate, fiery nimbus surrounding the seated image of the Buddha of Medicine. To the left of the main hall is the still unpainted Sanshin/Dokseong-gak. Much like the Chilseong mural and the guardian mural housed inside the main hall, both Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) are beautifully highlighted in golden hues.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Mujinam Hermitage, you’ll first need to get to Muryangsa Temple. From the Nambu Terminal in Seoul, you should take an express bus to the Buyeo Intercity Bus Terminal. From this terminal, head left out the exit and continue to walk towards the big street. After crossing the road, take Bus #127 from the Buyeo Market Bus Stop. Then, at the Muryang Village Bus Stop, which is 37 stops away, get off and walk towards Muryangsa Temple. However, before arriving at the larger Muryangsa Temple, hang a left for about 200 metres before arriving at the temple to get to Mujinam Hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While small in size, there are a few highlights to Mujinam Hermitage near Muryangsa Temple. One of these highlights are all the golden clothing of the various shaman figures in the hermitage’s paintings. Also, the masterful stone statue of Yaksayore-bul, as well as the hermitage’s pagoda are something to have a closer look at while visiting this hermitage.

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The monastic cemetery at Mujinam Hermitage.

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The early morning light at Mujinam Hermitage in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do.

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The three-story stone pagoda at the hermitage.

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One of the Palsang-do murals adorning the main hall at Mujinam Hermitage.

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The main altar inside the main hall.

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The golden guardian mural inside the main hall.

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As well as the equally golden Chilseong mural.

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The elegant Yaksayore-bul statue at Mujinam Hermitage.

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The Sanshin/Dokseong-gak at the hermitage.

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A look at the golden Sanshin.

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As well as the golden robed Dokseong.

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One last look around Mujinam Hermitage.

Jukjangsa Temple – 죽장사 (Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The ten metre tall stone pagoda at Jukjangsa Temple, which also just so happens to be a National Treasure.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Depending on what map you’re using, Jukjangsa Temple can appear by two names. The original name seems to be Jukjangsa Temple, while the more recent one was Seohwangsa Temple. However, it seems as though the temple more recently has reverted back to Jukjangsa Temple. And Jukjangsa Temple is located in Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do on the very southern slopes of Hyeongjaebong.

You first approach the temple off the highway, which is quickly followed by subsequent farmers’ fields. It’s next to these farmers’ fields, and up a valley under Hyeongjaebong, that you’ll arrive at Jukjangsa Temple. And it’s the commanding ten metre tall stone pagoda at the temple that you’ll notice first. This pagoda, the Five-story Stone Pagoda in Jukjang-ri, Gumi, stands ten metres in height; it’s the tallest of its kind in Korea. It also just so happens to be National Treasure #130. This pagoda is believed to date back to the Unified Silla Dynasty. The pagoda is made from over 100 pieces of stone, and there is an opening for a golden Buddha to sit (the current one is new). An interesting legend surrounds the pagoda. It’s believed that a girl and her younger brother competed to complete a pagoda. The girl won the race, and it’s this pagoda that remains on the temple grounds to this day.

Just behind this ever-present pagoda at Jukjangsa Temple is the temple’s Daeung-jeon main hall. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with various Buddhist motif murals like the Bodhidharma and Wonhyo-daesa’s enlightenment. The pink flowered latticework that adorns the doors of the main hall is also something to keep an eye out for, as well. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, you’ll notice a triad of golden statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).

To the left of the main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. There are some masterful shaman murals inside this hall. The ferocious tiger painted inside the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural, as well as the dour-looking expression on Yongwang’s (The Dragon King) face are something to enjoy for their originality.

HOW TO GET THERE: From in front of the Gumi Intercity Bus Terminal, there’s a bus stop. From this bus stop, you can board either Bus #20 or #20-1 that heads towards Seonsan (선산). Get off at the Seonsan terminal, which also just so happens to be the last stop. From the Seonsan terminal, walk about 200 metres to get to the Seonsan jongjeom stop and take Bus #38-6 or #338-6. After three stops, or five minutes, get off at the Jukjang-ri stop. From this stop, walk about 15 minutes to get to Jukjangsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. By far, the main highlight to Jukjangsa Temple is the ten metre tall National Treasure. Lesser sites to see at the temple are the triad of shaman murals, as well as the intricate artwork adorning the exterior walls to the temple’s main hall. In combination, the artwork at Jukjangsa Temple can make for a nice little trip to Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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The view that greets you as you approach Jukjangsa Temple.

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The amazing ten metre tall stone pagoda at Jukjangsa Temple.

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A look inside the towering pagoda.

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The temple’s main hall.

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Some of the cute artwork lying around.

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The latticework adorning the Daeung-jeon.

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The Wonhyo-daesa enlightenment painting.

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The Bodhidharma and Dazu Huike mural.

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 The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon.

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The view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The Sanshin mural housed inside the Samseong-gak.

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The intense look of Yongwang.

Daedunsa Temple – 대둔사 (Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The temple courtyard at Daedunsa Temple in Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Daedunsa Temple is located east of Mt. Bokwoosan in northern Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do. The temple is believed to have first been established in 446 A.D. by the famed monk, Ado. This very same monk built the first Silla Dynasty temple, Dorisa Temple. In 1231, Daedunsa Temple was completely destroyed by fire by the invading Mongols. The temple was rebuilt during the reign of King Chungryeol (r.1274-1308). Not long after the Imjin War (1592-98), in 1606, the warrior monk, Samyeong-daesa, enlarged Daedunsa Temple to house 10,000 warrior monks if a war should arise, once more, with the Japanese. Now, while not quite as large as it once was, Daedunsa Temple gives you an insight into its former glory.

You first approach the temple up a steep incline. It’s along this incline, in a rather remote part of Korea, that I saw my first wild deer. Nearing the temple’s parking lot, a young deer skittered across the long entry to the temple. To the right of the large stone retaining wall, and up a set of stairs, you’ll stand in the centre of the temple courtyard.

Straight ahead stands the temple’s main hall. This hall was constructed in the late 1600’s. The exterior walls to this hall are painted with guardian murals. Stepping inside the hall, you’ll notice a lone Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) statue sitting under a tall, red canopy. The statue dates back to Late Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The head and body of the statue are made of dry lacquer, while the hands are made from wood. This is one of the very few lacquer statues in Korea, and it also just so happens to be Treasure #1633. To the right of the main altar hangs a guardian painting. And between both the main altar and the guardian mural is an older-looking Amita-bul mural.

To the left of the main hall, and slightly up an embankment past an old, gnarled tree, is the temple’s Samseong-gak. It’s inside this hall that you get to look at an older set of shaman murals. The tiger with its intimidating eyes inside the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural, as well as the white spider crawling over Dokseong (The Lonely Saints) right ear, are something to look for while inside this hall.

Directly to the right of the main hall is Daedunsa Temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Uniquely, there are the twelve zodiac generals adorning the exterior walls to this hall. Housed inside this dimly lit hall, and resting on the main altar, is a golden statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Jijang-bosal is backed by a beautiful wooden relief of himself, as well as the Ten Kings of the Underworld. Other statues inside this hall are ten seated statues of the kings, as well as two fierce Vajra warriors at either entry. Adorning the interior walls are murals dedicated to the Ten Kings and the worlds they rule over in the Underworld, as well as a Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural.

Perched to the far right, and past a field of vegetables, is the Nahan-jeon Hall. While largely unadorned on the exterior walls, all but for the fading, and unrecognizable murals near the top of the eaves, it’s what’s inside that matters most about this temple hall. Resting on the main altar is a triad of unusual looking statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). They are surrounded on both sides by rather large wooden statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gumi Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to catch a bus bound for Angye Bus Terminal. The trip should last one hour and cost 6,300 won. From Angye Bus Terminal, you’ll next need to take a taxi to Daedunsa Temple. The ride should take about 40 minutes and cost about 18,000 won. Of course, the best option is a personal car, but this isn’t always an option for an expat.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. While lacking one keynote feature, Daedunsa Temple is an accumulation of features for temple adventurers to enjoy. They start with the main hall itself and leads in towards the 14th century Amita-bul statue. Other interesting features around the temple are the shaman murals, as well as the statues inside the Nahan-jeon. And who knows, if you‘re lucky like me, you might just see a wild deer running through the surrounding forests at Daedunsa Temple.

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The entry at Daedunsa Temple where I saw the wild deer.

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The tall, stone retaining wall at the temple.

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The main hall at Daedunsa Temple.

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The main altar inside the main hall with the 14th century Amita-bul statue front and centre.

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 The guardian mural inside the main hall.

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The older-looking Amita-bul painting inside the main hall.

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And an older image of Yongwang (The Dragon King) inside the above mural, as well.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Daedunsa Temple.

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The amazing Sanshin mural at Daedunsa Temple.

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The guardian paintings that adorn the late 17th century main hall.

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A picture of Jijang-bosal inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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An up-close with one of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

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One of the fierce-looking Vajra warriors.

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The Nahan-jeon at Daedunsa Temple.

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Inside the Nahan-jeon.

Janggoksa Temple – 장곡사 (Cheongyang, Chungcheongnam-do)

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The lower courtyard at Janggoksa Temple in Cheongyang, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in Cheongyang, Chungcheongnam-do on the slopes of Mt. Chilgapsan, Janggoksa Temple was first established in 850 A.D. by Master Bojo-guksa. Janggoksa Temple is beautifully situated in the western part of Chilgapsan Provincial Park. Additionally, the temple is home to two National Treasures and four Treasures.

The first structure to greet you at Janggoksa Temple is the temple’s stately Iljumun Gate. An additional four hundred metres up the road will bring you to the temple parking lot. Staring back at you is Janggoksa Temple’s front façade with both an overhanging bell pavilion and a compact Unhak-ru Pavilion to pass under. Passing through the pavilion, and only after climbing the uneven set of stone stairs to be situated in the lower temple courtyard, will you notice National Treasure #300 housed inside the Unhak-ru Pavilion. Before exploring anything else at the temple, have a look inside the Unhak-ru Pavilion at the large Gwaebul mural that dates back to 1673. Standing over 8.6 metres in height and nearly 6 metres in width, the massive mural was painted by five monks. It was painted in hopes that King Hyeonjong (r.1659 to 1675), and his Queen, would live a long life. In total, there are six Buddhas and six Bodhisattvas painted on the mural with a commanding Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) standing in the centre. His crown has four Buddhas on it, and the mural is similar to a Vulture Peak mural.

To the front of the Unhak-ru Pavilion is the lower Daeung-jeon at Janggoksa Temple, which dates back to the mid-Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Typically, it’s Seokgamoni-bul that’s housed inside the Daeung-jeon; but at Janggoksa Temple, the lower courtyard’s main hall houses Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). This gilt-bronze statue dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). This statue is flanked on both sides by to separate paintings dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), as well as a guardian mural on the far right wall.

To the right of the lower Daeung-jeon stands the temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall, which is dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Housed inside this hall is a golden-capped statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal. To the left of the lower courtyard’s main hall is the Seolseon-dang, where people can meditate.

Climbing the stairs to the upper courtyard, you’ll find three more halls at Janggoksa Temple. Shaped in an “L,” The first of the two buildings is the Upper Daeung-jeon. Uniquely, the hall has brick lotus-shaped flooring. There are three statues that sit inside this hall; of which, it’s the Yaksayoure-bul statue that sits on a stone pedestal that’s the most famous. Dating back to the late 9th century, this statue is designated National Treasure #58. Joining this statue of Yaksayore-bul are two additional statues dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). The Birojana-bul statue is believed to have been built during the Goryeo Dynasty. Strangely, all three statues are absent earlier in the morning; instead, just a cloth hat appears on the pedestal until the statues make an appearance later in the day.

The adjoining hall next to the Upper Daeung-jeon is the Eungjin-jeon. With a solitary statue of Seokgamoni-bul on the main altar, he’s surrounded by stone statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) in the hall. It’s also from this part of the upper courtyard that you get an amazing view of the valley where Janggoksa Temple takes up residence, as well as the lower courtyard, as well.

The final hall that people can visit at the temple is the crowning Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Up a side-winding pathway, you’ll be led up to a hall that houses three masterful shaman murals. While both the Dokseong (The Lonely Spirit) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) murals are amazing in their own rights, it’s the Santa-like mural of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that stands above the others in its artistic execution.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Cheongyang Intercity Bus Terminal, you can catch a taxi to Janggoksa Temple. It’ll cost around 17,000 won and take about 25 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. It’s rare for a Korean Buddhist temple to house a single National Treasure, but Janggoksa Temple houses two of them. Both the vibrantly painted Gwaebul and the stone seated iron incarnation of Yaksayore-bul add a lot to this valley hugging temple. In addition to its national identity, Janggoksa Temple also houses several other Treasures, as well as two distinctly situated courtyards.

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The bell pavilion that welcomes you to the temple grounds.

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 The view as you enter the temple’s lower courtyard.

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The Gwaebul painting at Janggoksa Temple, which also just so happens to be National Treasure #300.

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The lower Daeung-jeon at the temple.

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A look inside the lower Daeung-jeon with Birojana-bul front and centre.

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The neighbouring Myeongbu-jeon.

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A look inside reveals a golden capped Jijang-bosal.

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The long stairs that lead up towards the upper courtyard.

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The view from the upper courtyard.

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Both the upper Daeung-jeon and the Eungjin-jeon, together.

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A look inside the upper Daeung-jeon. Unfortunately, the three treasured statues were conspicuously absent.

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A look inside the Eungjin-jeon at both Seokgamoni-bul and the Nahan.

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The view across the front face of the upper Daeung-jeon.

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The trail that leads up towards the Samseong-gak.

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A better look at the Samseong-gak.

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Which houses this amazing Sanshin mural.

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 A look down towards the upper Daeung-jeon from the Samseong-gak.

Now and Then: Magoksa Temple

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Magoksa Temple in the early part of the last century.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Magoksa Temple, in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do, is thought to have first been established either in 640 or 642 by the famed monk, Jajang-yulsa. The name of the temple relates to Jajang-yulsa, as well. Legend has it that when Jajang first established the temple on the eastern slopes of Mt. Taehwasan he called it “magok,” which means “Flax Valley,” in English. Jajang believed that if several good monks came from the neighbouring area, they could “cause the rapid growth of Buddhism” just like the rapid growth of flax that grew in the area. Another story about the creation of the temple relates that the name of the temple was created when a believer looked at the temple and said that it looked like a flax stack in a flax field. This was said as the famous monk Bocheol, from the Silla Dynasty, was preaching. Either way, Magoksa Temple, in English, means “Flax Valley Temple.”

The temple was later reconstructed by the monk Bojo-guksa (or Jinul) in 1172. In fact, manuscripts found at Magoksa Temple were made with liquid gold and silver that date back to the late Goryeo period (918-1392).

Throughout the years, the temple was used as a place for refuge starting as far back as the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). And remarkably, the temple was spared any damage that other temples suffered at the hands of the Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). In fact, the temple didn’t suffer any damage in wartime from 1392 to 1910. Even in the 20th century, Magoksa Temple was used as a hiding place for the Korean independence leader, Kim Gu.

In more recent years, Magoksa Temple participates in the highly popular Temple Stay program that provides their program entirely in English. In addition to its natural beauty and the Taeguk-shaped Taegeuk-cheon stream that meanderings around and through the temple grounds, Magoksa Temple also houses five Treasures. Of these five treasures, one that you should definitely keep an eye out for is Treasure #799. The five-story Stone Pagoda is topped by a beautiful bronze finial, and it’s Tibetan inspired. The Goryeo Dynasty pagoda is only one of three in the entire world.

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The Goryeo Dynasty pagoda with both the Daegwangbo-jeon Hall in the foreground and the Daeungbo-jeon Hall in the background.

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A more recent picture of part of the Taeguk-shaped stream that flows through Magoksa Temple.

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As well as a more recent picture of the temple grounds.

Wibongsa Temple – 위봉사 (Wanju, Jeollabuk-do)

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The stately Ijumun Gate at Wibongsa Temple in Wanju, Jeollabuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on the south-western slopes of Mt. Wibongsan is Wibongsa Temple. There’s some disagreement as to when Wibongsa Temple was first established. Some believe that Wibongsa was first constructed in 604 A.D. by the monk Seoam-daesa. Others, on the other hand, believe that it was created by Choe Yonggak at the end of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). According to this story, and the legend that surrounds it, the temple was named Wibongsa Temple because while riding a horse one day, he looked around at the features of the land and it looked like three phoenixes were wrapped around it. Later, in 1358, the famed monk Naong rebuilt and enlarged the temple in 1358. Then, in 1466, the temple was repaired by Seokjam-daesa.

You first approach the temple grounds through the top-heavy, yet stoic, Iljumun Gate. It’s a fine example of Korean Buddhist architecture. The next structure to line up with the Iljumun Gate is the Cheonwangmun Gate, which houses four contemplative Heavenly Kings. It’s through the third, and final entry-like gate, the Boje-ru Pavilion, that you’ll gain admittance to the Wibongsa Temple courtyard.

To your right, as you enter the courtyard, is a larger sized Beopjong-gak bell pavilion, as well as the nuns’ dorms and a centrally located mature twisted red pine. But beyond all these is the temple’s main hall, the Bogwangmyeon-jeon (The Limitless Light Hall). This hall is designated Treasure #608. The shrine hall houses a triad of statues on the main altar. In the centre sits a seated statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by two standing statues dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul). It’s believed that this hall was first constructed during the mid-Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Behind the main altar is a large all-white image of Gwanseeum-bosal. There are several older paintings spread throughout the interior of various Biseon playing musical instruments. The main altar’s canopy is decorated with dragons and yeouiju (a magic stone).

To the right of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon. The exterior walls to this hall are decorated with some fine depictions of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). Housed inside this hall on the main altar is Seokgamoni-bul, who is then joined by colourful statues of the Nahan.

To the left of the main hall is the Yosa-jeon and Gwaneum-jeon Halls. Kinda a two for one deal. This historic building is shaped like an “I” with the two dorms acting as bookends with the central room housing the Gwaneum-jeon shrine hall.

And to the left rear of the grounds is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Either this building has been newly built or refurbished. Either way, the colourful interior is complimentary to the three shaman murals that hang inside this shaman shrine hall. Still in the upper courtyard, but off-limits, is the Wibong Seonwon for nuns to meditate in at the temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Wibongsa Temple in Wanju, Jeollabuk-do, you’ll first need to get to neighbouring Jeonju. From the city of Jeonju, take local Bus #806 and get off at Wibong Village. From there, you can either walk or take a taxi (if you can locate one).

Or you can go to Wibong Village or take a bus from Jeonju, Buses #814 or #838 and get off near neighbouring Songgwangsa Temple. From the temple, you can either walk the  distance (about six kilometres) or take a taxi (again, if you can locate one).

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. While beautifully situated under the mountainous peaks of Mt. Wibongsan, Wibongsa Temple’s main highlight is the Bogwangmyeon-jeon. This hall, which is dedicated to Amita-bul, houses several features like the ornately decorated canopy and the large mural on the backside of the main altar.

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The welcoming gates at Wibongsa Temple.

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A look through the Iljumun Gate at the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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One of the Four Heavenly Kings.

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A look at the Boje-ru Pavilion at Wibongsa Temple.

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 The central highlight at Wibongsa Temple: the Bogwangmyeon-jeon.

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The main altar inside the Bogwangmyeon-jeon.

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The painting of Gwanseeum-bosal on the backside of the main altar.

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Just one of the Biseon paintings floating around the main hall.

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The view from the Nahan-jeon towards the main hall.

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One of the masterful Nahan paintings adorning the exterior walls of the Nahan-jeon.

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A look inside the Nahan-jeon at the main altar.

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The Yosa-jeon/Gwaneum-jeon at Wibongsa Temple.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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A look inside the colourful shrine hall.

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The temple’s main courtyard.

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A look through the Cheonwangmun Gate towards the Iljumun Gate, as it was time to go.