Colonial Korea: Muryangsa Temple – 무량사 (Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do)

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Flag pole supports in 1916 at Muryangsa Temple in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On the far western side of the Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do city limits is Muryangsa Temple. Scenically situated in a long valley at the base of Mt. Mansusan, Muryangsa Temple has a long history that stretches back to the 9th century.

Muryangsa Temple was first built during the reign of King Munseong (r. 839-856) by the National Preceptor, Beomil. Later, and during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), the temple was later repaired. And in 1592, during the Imjin War (1592-98), Muryangsa Temple was destroyed by the invading Japanese. A half century later, and during the reign of King Injo (r. 1623-49), the temple was rebuilt by the monk Jinmuk.

In total, the temple houses five Korean Treasures, which notably includes Treasure #356, the Geukrak-jeon Hall at Muryangsa Temple, as well as Treasure #185, the Five Story Stone Pagoda of Muryangsa Temple. The temple was also the last home to the Joseon Korean scholar and author, Kim Siseup.

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The five tier pagoda in 1916 that also just so happens to be Treasure #185.

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The stone lantern at Muryangsa Temple from 1916. It’s also Treasure #233.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1933. The main hall is also Treasure #356.

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The exterior to the main hall  from 1933.

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A look inside the main hall from 1933. The triad inside this hall is Treasure #1565.

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The Geukrak-jeon main hall with the five tier pagoda and stone lantern from 2015.

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A closer look at the main all, which also just so happens to be Treasure #356.

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The large triad on the main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall. This triad is Treasure #1565.

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One more look at Korean Treasure #356.

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.

Seonsuam Hermitage – 선수암 (Yesan, Chungcheongnam-do)

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

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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.

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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.

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.

Gwanchoksa Temple – 관촉사 (Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do)

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The amazing 18 metre tall Mireuk-bul statue at Gwanchoksa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Situated on the eastern slopes of the diminutive Mt. Banyasan (elevation 100 metres) in Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do, Gwanchoksa Temple was first established in 968 A.D. by the monk Hyemyeong at the start of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

You first approach the elevated temple grounds from the north passing through the two-pillared Iljumun Gate. After passing through this gate and making your way past all the local restaurants, you’ll next encounter the Cheonwangmun Gate. Inside this hall are the shrunken-headed Four Heavenly Kings.

You’ll make your ascent up a zig-zagging set of stairs towards the temple grounds. After passing under the Banya-ru Pavilion, you’ll be greeted to the grounds by the massive two-story Daegwangmyeong-jeon. The exterior walls to this hall, uniquely, are decorated with various Nahan murals. Also, the front latticework is second-to-none. Stepping inside this hall, you’ll be welcomed by a long, slender main altar and canopy. Sitting on the main altar are a triad of statues centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s joined to the left by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and to the right by Nosana-bul (The Perfect Body Buddha). Hanging on the far left wall is a large guardian mural, as well as numerous, smaller golden Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) statues that will prepare you for the historic Stone Standing Maitreya of Gwanchoksa Temple.

To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon. With a staff pointed outwards sits a green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) inside this hall. Up a set of wandering stairs, and next to twisted red pines, is the temple’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Inside this hall are a set of underwhelming murals dedicated to the three most popular shaman deities in Korea: Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

But let’s be honest, the main reason you’ve come to Gwanchoksa Temple is to see the famed 18 metre tall statue of the Stone Standing Maitreya of Gwanchoksa Temple. And it’s from the heights of the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall that you get your first look at the iconic Goryeo Dynasty statue. Korean Treasure #218 was built over a 38 year period. From 967 to 1002, the massive statue was built. Known as the Eujin Mireuk Buddha, it’s the largest stone Buddha in Korea. With its elongated and capped head, Mireuk-bul looks otherworldly compared to other statues in Korea. According to legend, while a woman was picking wild herbs on Mt. Banyasan, she heard a baby crying. When she went to the spot where she heard the baby crying, there wasn’t a baby. Instead, there was a large rock sticking out from the ground. Learning this, the government ordered a Buddha statue to be made from this rock. And this statue would become, you guessed it, the Stone Standing Maitreya of Gwanchoksa Temple.

In front of this statue is the Stone Lantern of Gwanchoksa Temple. Like the statue of Mireuk-bul, the stone lantern is a treasure: Treasure #232. These two are then joined by a four-tier stone pagoda and a stone worshiping square with a beautiful lotus pattern etched on it.

The final building at the temple that people can visit is the Mireuk-jeon, which is dedicated to Mireuk-bul. Interestingly, there are several paintings on this building dedicated to the discovery and creation of the famed stone statue on it. Stepping inside this hall, you’ll notice no statues on the main altar. Instead, there’s a golden ring painted on the front window that looks out onto the Goryeo-era Stone Standing Maitreya of Gwanchoksa Temple. To the side of the main altar, besides a rather plain guardian mural, is an altar for the controversial Park Chung Hee and his wife, Yuk Young Soo.

After seeing everything at the temple, you can pass through the historic Haetalmun Gate that’s believed to date back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) to leave Gwanchoksa Temple.

Admission to the temple is 1,500 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Nonsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you can simply take a taxi to Gwanchoksa Temple. The ride should cost you about 4,000 won and last about seven minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. It’s surprising that the Stone Standing Maitreya of Gwanchoksa Temple isn’t a National Treasure. There simply isn’t anything like it for its originality, age, and size. Take your time and get your fill of this unique statue because you’ll not see anything like it in Korea. Couple this statue with the other treasures around the temple, as well as the massive main hall, and you can have quite the nice visit to Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do.

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A look through the Iljumun Gate as you approach the temple grounds.

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 A look back at some of the Four Heavenly Kings.

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A beautiful bridge that guides the way up to the Gwanchoksa Temple grounds.

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A beautiful view of the Banya-ru Pavilion.

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A closer look at the welcoming pavilion.

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The Daegwangmyeong-jeon main hall at Gwanchoksa Temple.

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The surrounding mountains up close against the temple’s main hall.

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One of the muscular Nahan adorning the main hall.

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The long, slender main altar inside the Daegwangmyeong-jeon.

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Some of the cute, miniature Mireuk-bul statues.

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The Myeongbu-jeon and Samseong-gak halls at Gwanchoksa Temple.

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A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon at Jijang-bosal.

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And a look up towards the Samseong-gak.

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The Mireuk-jeon and four-story pagoda at Gwanchoksa Temple.

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One of the paintings dedicated to the creation of the Stone Standing Maitreya of Gwanchoksa Temple.

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A look through the main altar glass inside the Mireuk-jeon out towards the Stone Standing Maitreya of Gwanchoksa Temple.

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A group photo at Gwanchoksa Temple.

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A closer look at the 10th century statue of Mireuk-bul.

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An opportunity to see the sheer size of the 18 metre tall statue dedicated to Mireuk-bul.

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And finally, the Haetalmun Gate that you can exit or enter through at Gwanchoksa Temple.

Muryangsa Temple – 무량사 (Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do)

DSC_2182-1024x678 A look through the Cheonwangmun Gate at Muryangsa Temple in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located at the foot of Mt. Mansusan, Muryangsa Temple was first built during the reign of King Munseong (r. 839-857). It was built by National Preceptor Beomil, and it was later repaired during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). Like so many temples throughout the Korean peninsula, Muryangsa Temple was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War in 1592. Later, it was rebuilt by the monk Jinmuk during the reign of King Injo (r. 1623-1649). In total, the temple houses five Korean designated Treasures. It was also the last home to Joseon Korean scholar and author Kim Siseup.

You first approach the temple past the aged Iljumun Gate at the entry and across the Mansu-cheon Stream. It’s looking through the boxy Cheonwangmun Gate with its mutant looking Four Heavenly Kings that you get a great view of the historic Geukrak-jeon and the treasured five-tier pagoda at Muryangsa Temple.

Beautifully framed by a low-lying tree and the surrounding mountains, the five-tier pagoda is believed to have been built sometime between the Baekje Dynasty (18 B.C to 660 A.D.) and the Unified Silla Dynasty (668 A.D to 935 A.D). But it’s the two story Geukrak-jeon main hall at Muryangsa Temple that truly stands out. Treasure #356 dates back to the mid-Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and houses the three largest seated statues in all of Asia. The triad is centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), and 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 these structures lies the temple’s bell pavilion and Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Inside the bell pavilion is stored the Muryangsa Temple bell that dates back to 1636. As for the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, there’s a slender statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) that’s surrounded by ten equally slender seated statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the left of the Geukrak-jeon main hall are a collection of shrine halls. The first of these halls underneath another mature tree at the temple is the Cheonbul-jeon Hall with a thousand tiny white Buddha statues inside. These statues are joined by a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) on the main altar. To the front right of this hall is the Yeongjeong-gak with a mural of the famed patriot, Kim Siseup, inside. And the final hall in the collection is the Wontong-jeon with a multi-armed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside. He’s joined by hundreds of wooden statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Just a little further up the path, and just before taking a trail that leads you to the top of the neighbouring Mt. Mansusan, is the temple’s Samseong-gak. To the left of the head monks living quarters is the unassuming shaman shrine hall. The frowning/contemplative look of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), as well as the tiger-riding Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) are something to keep an eye out for when visiting the Samseong-gak.

Admission to the temple is 2,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: 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 about 400 metres towards Muryangsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. With a number of Korean Treasures, it’s the much vaunted Geukrak-jeon Hall that stands out the most at this serenely located Muryangsa Temple in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do. Other highlights to your visit will include the shrine hall dedicated to Kim Siseup, as well as the massive statues housed inside the Geukrak-jeon.

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The Iljumun Gate at Muryangsa Temple.

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The Mansucheon Stream at the temple.

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The path that makes its way up to Muryangsa Temple.

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The mutant-looking Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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A look towards the treasured five-tier pagoda and Geukrak-jeon.

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A different angle with the 19th century Myeongbu-jeon in view to the right.

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The 1636 bell at Muryangsa Temple.

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The slender Jijang-bosal statue inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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A look at the two-story Geukrak-jeon at Muryangsa Temple.

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The largest seated statues in Asia inside the Geukrak-jeon.

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A look towards the Cheonbul-jeon.

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A look towards the Yeongjeong-gak.

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With a framed picture of Kim Siseup inside the Yeongjeong-gak.

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 The Wontong-jeon with Gwanseeum-bosal front and centre.

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Some of the surrounding wooden statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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Awaiting you is the tiger-riding Sanshin painting.

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 One last look at two Korean Treasures.

Sudeoksa Temple – 수덕사 (Yesan, Chungcheongnam-do)

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The oldest building in Korea is housed at Sudeoksa Temple in Yesan, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on Mt. Deoksungsan in Yesan, Chungcheongnam-do, the exact date of Sudeoksa Temple’s construction is unknown. Because of this ambiguity in its origins, there are numerous stories surrounding its creation. According to records at the temple, the Buddhist monk Sungje-beopsa built the temple during the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C to 660 A.D). It’s also believed that the temple was first established in 599 A.D. by the Buddhist monk, Jimyeong-beopsa. And later, the temple was repaired and restored by the famed Wonhyo-daesa. Either way, it’s believed that Naong (1320-76) repaired the temple during the reign of King Gongmin (r. 1351-74). Like Buseoksa Temple in Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Sudeoksa Temple was one of the very few temples to remain unscathed during the extremely destructive Imjin War (1592-98). As a result, it houses the oldest wooden structure in Korea, the Daeung-jeon main hall, which dates back to 1308. The main hall is also recognized as National Treasure #49. Throughout the years, the temple has undergone numerous renovations in 1528, 1751, 1770, and 1803. Currently, Sudeoksa Temple participates in the popular Temple Stay program.

You first approach the temple through streets of restaurants and stores. Eventually, you’ll come to the temple’s ticket booth, which is also where the four pillared Iljumun Gate stands. Further up the path, you’ll encounter the Geumgangmun Gate. The exterior green walls are painted with guardians, and the interior to this gate houses two muscular Vajra warriors. To the rear of the gate are two large painted images of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) riding his blue haetae and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) on top of his white elephant.

Thirty metres up the trail, you’ll next come to the wide Sacheonwangmun Gate. Like the Geumgangmun Gate, the exterior walls are adorned with four fierce guardian murals. Inside the boxy Sacheonwangmun Gate are four of the scariest and intimidating Heavenly Kings that you’ll find at any Buddhist temple in Korea. The entire path up to the expansive Hwanghajeong-ru Pavilion, you’ll spot a number of pagodas along the way including an elephant-based stone lantern, as well as a seven-tier pagoda and dharma.

Passing under the Hwanghajeong-ru Pavilion, and mounting the rather steep set of stairs, you’ll finally enter the temple’s main courtyard. Straight ahead, and framing the historic main hall, is a three-story pagoda whose finial is crowned by a golden top. The Geumgangbo pagoda was constructed in 2000. Contained inside the pagoda are three sari (crystallized remains) from the Historic Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul, that the temple received from Sri Lanka. To the right of this pagoda is the Beopgo-gak that houses the fish gong and the Dharma drum. To the left stands the Beopjong-gak that houses the temple’s large bronze bell.

A little further up and you’ll next come to another pagoda. This historic three-tier pagoda is believed to date back to the early Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). Behind this pagoda is the Daeung-jeon main hall, which is not only National Treasure #49, but it’s also the country’s oldest wooden structure. Dating back to 1308, the hall is almost unlike any other more modern building. Squarish in design, Sudeoksa Temple’s main hall is similar to the Geukrak-jeon hall at Bongjeongsa Temple in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do and the main hall at Buseoksa Temple in Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do. Unassuming on the exterior, the main hall houses five statues on the main altar centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the right hangs a mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). Additionally, there are numerous Goryeo era paintings spread throughout the interior of this historic main hall.

To the right of the main hall stands the Myeongbu-jeon. Contained within this hall is a green haired seated statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s surrounded on all sides by beautiful wooden reliefs of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the left of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon. Out in front of this hall is a white granite statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who is also joined by another greener incarnation of Gwanseeum-bosal on the lower terrace. Housed inside this hall is a stout statue of Gwanseeum-bosal under a vibrant red canopy and a contemporary painting of this Bodhisattva.

There are numerous hermitages spread throughout the folds of Mt. Deoksungsan like Geukrakam Hermitage and Seonsuam Hermitage.

Admission to the temple is 2,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: 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.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10. Beautifully situated in northern Chungcheongnam-do, Sudeoksa Temple lies just below the peak of Mt. Deoksungsan. With it housing the oldest wooden structure in Korea, there really is no better reason to visit this ancient temple. Besides this, the entry gates and the wooden reliefs inside the Myeongbu-jeon should be enough to pique your interest.

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The welcoming Iljumun Gate at Sudeoksa Temple.

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One of the adorning dragons on the Iljumun Gate.

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The Geumgangmun Gate at the temple.

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A decorative, yet fierce-looking, guardian on the gate.

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One of the protective Vajra warriors inside the Geumgangmun Gate.

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The elephant-based stone lantern.

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The Sacheonwangmun Gate seen from behind.

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One of the intensely fierce-looking Heavenly Kings.

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The expansive Hwanghajeong-ru Pavilion

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A look around the surrounding environs at Sudeoksa Temple.

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The Geumgangbo pagoda and historic main hall.

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The fish gong inside the Beopgo-gak.

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A better look at the historic Daeung-jeon main hall that dates back to 1308.

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The Myeongbu-jeon Hall at Sudeoksa Temple.

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And to the left is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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A look inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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And then it was time to go.

Temple Stay: Magoksa Temple (Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do)

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The sun shining on the main hall at Magoksa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Introduction to the Temple:

Magoksa Temple is situated on the beautiful Mt. Taehwasan in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do. Magoksa Temple was first established in 640 A.D. by the famed monk, Jajang-yulsa. Having fallen into a bit of disrepair, the temple was reconstructed in 1172 by Bojo-guksa. The name of the temple has a bit of an interesting story behind it. After a believer looked at the temple and said it looked like a flax stack in a flax field while Bocheol, from the Silla Dynasty, was preaching. So Magoksa Temple, in English, means “Flax Valley Temple.” Uniquely, and unlike almost all other temples on the Korean peninsula, Magoksa Temple was spared any damage during the destructive Imjin War (1592-98). In fact, during the entire Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the temple suffered no wartime damage.

There are two Temple Stay programs that Magoksa Temple offers a visitor. The first is called the Magoksa Experiential Templestay. This program focuses on experiencing various activities that a monk would participate in like prayer and meditation. The other program, the Recharging Templestay, focuses on a more restive stay with less activities and more free time for participants. The schedule is a little more open than the latter program.

For more information on Magoksa Temple.

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The beautiful stream that flows next to Magoksa Temple.

Directions:

From the Gongju Intercity Bus Terminal, you can get local Bus #770 that will take you directly to Magoksa Temple. The ride lasts about 40 minutes. The first bus leaves at 6:10 in the morning, and the last bus departs at 20:30. In total, the bus leaves 15 times a day.

General Schedule:

Magoksa Temple runs two different programs for their Temple Stay program.

A: Magoksa Experiential Templestay: This program is a scheduled program that runs one night and two days.

Day 1:

4:00-14:30: Arrival and registration in the Yeonhwa-dang

14:30-15:00: Orientation in the Yeonhwa-dang

15:00-16:00: A temple tour

16:00-17:00: Making 108 beads in the Yeonhwa-dang

17:30-18:30: Supper

18:30-19:00: Ringing the Dharma bell at the bell pavilion; and in the evening Yebul (Chanting) in the Dharma Hall

18:30-20:00: Tea with a monk in the tea room

22:00: Bed-time

 

Day 2

03:00-03:30: Wake up

03:30-04:00: Dawn Yebul (Chanting) in th Dharma Hall

04:00-05:00: Individual practice or rest

05:00-06:00: Seon meditation in the Yeonhwa-dang

06:00-08:00: Breakfast (a traditional temple meal) in the Yeonhwa-dang

08:00-09:00: Team work

09:00-10:30: A guided walking meditation

10:30-11:00: Feedback and group photo in the Yeonhwa-dang

11:00-11:30: Cleaning-up and packing

11:30: Closing

 

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(Courtesy of the Korean Temple Stay website).

B: Recharging Templestay: This program is a scheduled program that runs one night and two days.

Day 1:

15:00-17:00: Registration and a temple tour

18:00-18:30: Dinner

19:00-19:30: Evening Buddhist chanting ceremony

19:30: Free time and sleeping.

 

Day 2:

03:00: Morning Buddhist chanting ceremony

06:00-07:00: Breakfast

07:00-12:00: A free schedule

12:00~12:30: Lunch and check out

 

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(Courtesy of the Korean Temple Stay website).

Magoksa Temple Information:

Address : 567, Unam-ri, Sagok-myeon Gongju-si Chungcheongnam-do

Tel : +82-41-841-6221 / Fax :

homepage : http://eng.magoksa.org

E-mail : magoksa@templestay.com

 

Fees:

Adults: 70,000 won; Teens: 60,000 won; Under 13: 40,000 won (Magoksa Experiential Templestay)

Adults: 50,000 won; Teens: 40,000 won (Recharging Templestay)

Link:

Reservations for the Magoksa Experiential Templestay at Magoksa Temple.

Reservations for the Recharging Templestay at Magoksa Temple.

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The Sanshin-gak on Mt. Taehwasan.