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

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

Hello Again Everyone!!

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

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

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

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

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A mountainside view of Beopjusa Temple in 1932.

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The flag pole supports from 1916.

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A stone artifact from 1916 called the Seokryeon-ji.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate in 1932.

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A closer look at the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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

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The amazing Palsang-jeon pagoda in 1932.

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A closer look at the Palsang-jeon pagoda.

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And one more look at the Palsang-jeon pagoda.

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

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

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

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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

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The Cheonwangmun Gate in 2011.

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The Palsang-jeon pagoda in 2015.

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The Twin Lion Stone Lantern in 2015.

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A look up at the main hall in 2015.

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

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

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.

Now and Then: Beopjusa Temple

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Beopjusa Temple in the early 20th century.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Beopjusa Temple was first established in 553 A.D. by the monk Uisin. The name of the temple means “The Place Where the Dharma Resides Temple,” in English. The reason that the temple was named Beopjusa Temple is that Uisin brought back a number of Indian sutras from his travels that he wanted to house at the temple.

During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Beopjusa Temple housed as many as 3,000 monks. At one point in the 1100’s, over 30,000 monks gathered at Beopjusa Temple to pray for the dying national priest, Uicheon. Beopjusa Temple remained an important part of Buddhism throughout Korea during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910); however, the temple shrank in size as state support for Buddhism nearly disappeared in Confucian led ideology at this point in Korean history. It’s believed that King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, retired to a spot near Beopjusa Temple after tiring from all of his sons’ fighting. Like most other temples in Korea, Beopjusa Temple suffered from extensive damage at the hands of the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). A majority of the buildings at the temple were restored in 1624, including the famed Palsang-jeon wooden pagoda.

The temple is beautifully located in Songnisan National Park in Boeun County, Chungcheongbuk-do. In the 1960s, the temple underwent extensive repairs and refurbishment. In 1988 the massive bronze statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) that stands at 33 metres in height replaced the twenty year old cement statue that resided at the temple. Most recently, Beopjusa Temple participates in the highly popular Temple Stay Program that’s conducted in English. In total, the temple houses three national treasures and twelve additional treasures. Of the three national treasures, the five-story wooden pagoda is National Treasure #55.

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The Iljumun Gate at Beopjusa Temple.

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The famous Palsang-jeon Hall at Beopjusa Temple.

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A farmer to the side of the temple.

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Beopjusa Temple during the 1960s.

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Today, what the Iljumun Gate looks like.

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The Beopjusa Temple courtyard.

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With a closer look at the Palsang-jeon wooden pagoda.

Guinsa Temple – 구인사 (Danyang, Chungcheongbuk-do)

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 The Beautiful View from between the Iljumun Gate at Guinsa Temple in Danyang, Chungcheongbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Guinsa Temple, which means “Salvation and Kindness Temple,” in English, is situated up the centre of a valley fold just below Yeonhwabong Peak on the Sobaeksan mountain range. It was first completed in 1945, when the contemporary founder of the Cheontae Order, Sangwol-wongak, built a small hut made from arrowroot vines. During his time here, he received a revelation about the truth of the universe. The temple was renovated and expanded in 1966. Guinsa Temple is the headquarters of the Cheontae Order, and it governs over 140 other temples spread throughout the Korean peninsula. In total, the temple houses a couple dozen shrine halls, meeting centres, dorms, and administrative offices.

You first approach the temple up a gradual incline that becomes a bit steeper as you approach the temple grounds. The first structure to greet you is a commanding and stately Iljumun Gate. Passing through this gate, you’ll notice a building that stacks up neatly against the slopes of the neighbouring mountain. This is just a precursor for all the temple structures at Guinsa Temple. Next, you’ll approach a fortress-like gate that acts as the Cheonwangmun Gate with some fierce looking Four Heavenly Kings on the second floor of this structure.

Past a couple dorms and administrative buildings that are both stacked high on either side of you, you’ll finally come to some buildings at Guinsa Temple that you can actually visit; however, this temple is always busy, even on weekdays. The first structure is a three tier stone pagoda with three elephants at its base. Purportedly, the Buddha’s sari (crystallized remains) are housed inside this pagoda, as they were brought back from the Jetavana monastery in India.

To the right of this hall, and up a flight of stairs, is the Geukrak-jeon. A beautiful collection of Shimu-do, Ox-Herding murals, adorns the exterior walls to this hall. As for inside this rather busy hall, are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And he’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Power and Wisdom of Amita-bul). Just to the right of this hall is the elevated temple bell pavilion.

Just to the north of the Geukrak-jeon is the Gwaneeum-jeon, which is beautifully painted on its exterior walls with the different incarnations of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). As for inside this hall, and seated on the main altar, is a jade statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. She is surrounded on all sides by the Ten Kings of the Underworld and backed by a beautiful multi-armed mural of herself. From both the Geukrak-jeon and the Gwaneeum-jeon, you can get some great pictures of the temple buildings that occupy the valley floor.

Just a little further up the mountain and you’ll come to the massive five story modern main hall. Inside, you’ll find an equally massive statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) sitting on the main altar and being backed by a stunning Vulture Peak relief.

And just to the left of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon, which is golden in colour and somewhat Chinese in design. Inside this hall are some masterful statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). And to the right of the main hall, and up yet another flight of stairs, is the crowning Daejosa-jeon, or the Great Founders Hall. This golden three story hall is fronted by a pair of protective Vajra warriors. As for inside this hall, and sitting on the main altar, there is a golden statue of Sangwon-wongsa.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Guinsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Danyang Intercity Bus Terminal, which is the closest city to the temple. From the bus terminal, you’ll need to board a bus to Guinsa Temple. The bus first leaves at 9:20 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 8:20 p.m. This bus leaves every hour. The very last bus leaves for Guinsa Temple at 8:50 p.m.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with this temple. From what I had read and from what I had seen, I had expected a lot more. First, and a bit of hang-up for me, is that all the buildings are made of concrete, which lends a sense of coldness to a temple. Also, the buildings can be somewhat hard to locate in and among the numerous administrative and dorm halls that toweringly line the narrow valley. However, when you are able to find the halls, they are quite beautiful, but the unexpected climb up to the top of the long valley can take a bit out of even the most curious and inquisitive of temple adventurers.

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The walk up towards the temple grounds.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate at Guinsa Temple.

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The narrow valley that houses towering temple buildings.

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The stone walls that line a portion of the grounds.

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The three tier pagoda that houses some of the Buddha’s remains.

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The view from one of the temple buildings.

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The Geukrak-jeon at Guinsa Temple.

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A look inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

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The neighbouring bell pavilion.

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The view from the Gwaneeum-jeon.

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A look inside the Gwaneeum-jeon at the jade Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A look up at some of the cramped temple halls.

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The modern main hall at Guinsa Temple.

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 One last look across the tops of temple buildings at Guinsa Temple.

Temple Stay: Beopjusa Temple (Chungcheongbuk-do)

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 The beautiful Beopjusa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Introduction to the Temple:

Beopjusa Temple (The Place Where Buddha’s Teachings Reside Temple) is beautifully situated in Mt. Songnisan National Park. You first approach the temple up a wide riverside path that is shaded by mature pine trees. There are quite a few unique highlights to this temple like the massive main hall, the Four Heavenly Kings stone lanterns, and the lion based lantern that dates back to 720 A.D. But the two major, and massive, highlights to the temple are the 33 metre tall bronze statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) and the Palsang-jeon wooden pagoda that dates back to 1624.

There are two different Temple Stay programs at Beopjusa Temple. The first, The Relaxation Schedule, is one designed for a person that simply wants to enjoy the stress free environment of Beopjusa Temple on their own. A person can wander the grounds without having to follow a set schedule.

The other program, the Regular Schedule, follows a set schedule. During your stay, you’ll enjoy making lotus flowers, Seon meditation, and a meditative walk through the beautiful surrounding woods. So whatever your fancy, Beopjusa Temple has you covered.

For more information on Beopjusa Temple.

(Courtesy of the Korean Temple Stay website).

Directions:

To get to Beopjusa Temple, it’s a bit out of the way. You first have 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 to the Beopjusa Temple/Mt. Songnisan Ticket Office.

From Seoul, there are three different ways you can get to Beopjusa Temple by using the bus:

1. From Seoul Gangnam Central Bus Terminal (Seoul Metro Line #3, Express Bus Terminal):

Departure Time : 7am, 10:30 am, 2:30 pm, 5:30 pm
Fee : 16,500 won
Duration : 3 to 3 and a half hours

2. From Dong Seoul Bus Terminal

Departure Time : 7:30 am, 8:30 am, 9:30 am ~ 12:35 pm, 14:30, 15:30 ~~
Fee : 16,900 won
Duration : 3 and a half hours

3. From Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal

Departure Time : 13:00 16:20 20:00
Fee : 16,900 won
Duration : 3 and a half hours

General Schedule:

A: Regular Schedule, Temple Stay Program: For this type of program you follow a set schedule.

Day 1:
1:00 pm: Arrival
1:30 pm: Room Assignment
2:30 pm: Orientation & Temple Tour
3:30 pm: Hiking
5:30 pm: Dinner
6:30 pm: Buddhist Ceremonial Service (Evening Chanting)
7:30 pm: Making a Lotus Flower
8:30 pm: Zen Meditation
8:30 pm: Washing Up
9:00 pm: Sleep

Day 2:
3:00 am: Wake Up
3:20 am: Early Morning Buddhist Ceremonial Service (Morning Chanting)
4:20 am: Zen Meditation
5:30 am: 108 Prostration (Bows)
6:00 am: Breakfast
7:30 am: Walking Meditation in the Woods
9:00 am: Tea Ceremony / Q&A
10:30 am: Clean Your Room
11:30 am: Lunch
12:00 noon: Departure

B: Relaxation Schedule, Temple Stay Program: For this program, there is no set schedule. Instead, the focus is simply on relaxation and rest.

(Courtesy of the Beopjusa Temple website).

Beopjusa Temple Information:

Location: Songnisan-myeon, Boeun-gun, Chungbuk, Korea
Hours of Operation: 09:00 -17:00 Korean time [Open all year round ]
Phone: +82-43-544-5656 (Korean, English)
Email: beopjusa@gmail.com (Korean, English)
Website: http://beopjusa.org/eng/main.php?menukey=23
https://twitter.com/beopjusa
http://www.facebook.com/beopjusatemple1

Address : 405, beopjusa-ro, Sokrisan-mye Boeun-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do

Tel : +82-43-544-5656 / Fax :
homepage : www.beopjusa.org
E-mail : beopjusa@gmail.com

Fees:

Adults: 70,000 won; Teens: 0 won; Under 13: 0 won (Regular Schedule: 1 night, 2 days).

Adults: 50,000 won; Teens: 0 won; Under 13: 0 won (Relaxation Schedule: 1 night, 2 days).

Link:

For Reservations to the Regular Program at Beopjusa Temple.

For Reservations to the Relaxation Program at Beopjusa Temple.

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The oldest wooden pagoda in Korea: The Palsang-jeon pagoda.

Temple Stay: Guinsa Temple (Chungcheongbuk-do)

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(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Hello Again Everyone!!

Introduction to the Temple:

Guinsa Temple (“Salvation and Kindness Temple”) is beautifully located on Mt. Sobaeksan. Unlike most other temples in Korea, Guinsa Temple only dates back to 1945, when the Cheontae Order was re-established by the Grand Patriarch Sangwol-wongak. Originally, Guinsa Temple was nothing more than a thatched hut. After a time, Sangwol-wongak achieved enlightenment, and his followers have continued to grow to this day. Guinsa Temple is the headquarters to the Cheontae Order, which administers over 140 temples and 2 million practitioners. As for the temple itself, it’s on the rather large and ornate side of things. From the smallest of buildings, to the largest, this temple is pretty awe-inspiring.

The Temple Stay Program at Guinsa Temple runs regularly throughout the year. At Guinsa Temple, you can enjoy a lot of interaction with the monks, as well as time to yourself. Additionally, you can enjoy making lotus lanterns or a Nirvana walk. This program has a fair bit to offer a visitor to the temple.

For more information on Guinsa Temple.

(Courtesy of the Korean Temple Stay website)

Directions:

A: Seoul 
1. Yeongdong Highway (South Wonju) -> Manjong Fork Point -> Central Highway (Daegu Direction)
① -> West Jecheon IC -> Yeongwol (No.38 Road) Direction -> Changwon-ri -> Guinsa Temple
② -> North Danyang IC -> Maepo, Danyang -> Guinsa Temple

2. Bus departs from Dong (East) Seoul Bus Terminal 12 times a day every hour.

B: Busan
Central Highway -> Danyang IC -> Through Danyang City -> Guinsa Temple



General Schedule:

Day 1:
~13:00 Arrival
13:00~13:30: Check-In
13:30~14:00: Orientation
14:00~15:30: Temple Tour
15:30~17:30: Making a Lotus Lantern and Experience Training
18:00~18:30: Evening Ceremony
18:30~19:20: Dinner
19:30~20:30: Free Time
20:30~03:00: Bedtime

Day 2:
03:00~03:15: Wake Up
03:30~04:30: Early Morning Ceremony
04:30~06:30: Free Time
06:50~07:20: Breakfast
07:30~09:00: Walking Meditation (Nirvana Tomb)
09:00~10:30: Conversation over Tea with Monks
10:30~11:00: Survey
11:00~11:30 Room cleaning
12:00~ Ending
*Schedule is subject to change.

(Courtesy of the Korean Temple Stay website)

Guinsa Temple Information:

Address : 73 Guinsagil Yeongchun-myeon Danyang-gun Chungcheongbuk-do

Tel : +82-43-420-7493 / Fax : +82-43-420-7399

homepage : http://temple.cheontae.org/
E-mail : guinsa@templestay.com

Fees:

Adults: 40,000 won; Teens: 20,000 won; Under 13: 20,000 won

Link:

Reservations for the Guinsa Temple Stay program.

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(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Story of…Beopjusa Temple

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Before the rain started to fall at Beopjusa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

In an all new segment on the blog, I thought I would give some of the back stories behind my travels to various temples and hermitages around the Korean peninsula ever since I started exploring them back in 2003. Some of the stories are funny, some are warm, and some are even absurd. So follow me as I go beyond the pictures, maps, and descriptions, as I explore Korean temples at their best.

During my summer vacation in 2011, I decided to visit a handful of temples on the northern end of the Korean peninsula. One of those temples was Beopjusa Temple in Boeun-Gun, Chungcheongbuk-do, and it’s the first story that really stands out.

Earlier in the day, in early August, we had already visited Buseoksa Temple in Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do. Pushing our luck, my wife and I decided to attempt to see Beopjusa Temple, as well. Keep in mind, we had passed by numerous nice hotels and the sky was blue when we left Buseoksa Temple.

When we arrived at Beopjusa Temple a couple hours later, and unbeknownst to us, there just so happened to be the provincial track and field meet at Songnisan National Park, which is where Beopjusa Temple is situated. At first glance, it didn’t seem all that bad. But not long after, when we went to book a hotel room, they were all sold out. So we went to the next: sold out. And the next: sold out. We got to the point where the only hotel left to us was this really run down motel, and they had one room left that had no beds. So for a marked up 60,000 won a night, we could sleep on the floor. I quickly nixed that one. With no other option but to see Beopjusa Temple and then find a hotel afterwards, we resigned ourselves to this fate.

So still with all our gear in our car, we decided to make our way towards Beopjusa Temple after having parked the car in the parking lot, which was a good 700 metres away from the admittance gate at Beopjusa Temple.

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The batteries are out, and I had to switch to the back-up camera at Beopjusa Temple.

 Making the most of the beautiful summer weather, we started to explore the temple grounds. After a couple of pictures, the battery on the camera was running low. Rooting through my camera bag, I was sure that I had packed the second battery pack. Wrong! It was nowhere to be found. So after our new camera ran out of its battery at the Palsang-jeon pagoda, and somewhat fortunately for me, I used the older camera that my wife thoughtfully brought with her. However, the quality of the pictures quickly went from an A+ with the new camera, down to a C- with the old.

And finally, to add insult to injury, the previously bright sky quickly became overcast and started to lightly rain. Believing we had enough time to explore the rest of the temple, since we had only seen about half of it, we pushed on. Near the end, and after seeing the lion-based lantern that dates back to 720 A.D., the sky opened up and the rain started to fall heavily. No more than two hundred metres into our sprint back to our car, we were already soaked. Finding a bit of respite under a bus shelter, I told my wife to wait with the cameras, as I made my way back to the car. When I finally did arrive at the car, it was like I had taken a shower with my clothes on.

After rescuing my wife, and still soaked, we still had to find somewhere to sleep. So while Beopjusa Temple is one of the most beautiful temples in all of Korea, nothing quite went right in my adventure to this revered temple.

To learn more about Beopjusa Temple, check out here.

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The clouds started to get stormy!

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

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The beautiful and massive bronze statue of Mireuk-bul at Beopjusa Temple with the ancient and original Palsang-jeon Pagoda behind the Four Heavenly Kings’ Gate.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Beopjusa Temple was another one of those temples that I’ve never been able to see because of distance and time. I know what you’re thinking, but you’ve lived in Korea for nearly five years. True. But of those five years I’ve gone to see a lot of other temples. This time, on this summer vacation, it was finally time to see the much famed Beopjusa Temple.

Beopjusa Temple (법주사) means “The Place Where Buddha’s Teachings Reside Temple.” The temple was founded in 553, and it was later rebuilt in 776. It’s situated on Mt. Songnisan. In its heyday, there were over 60 buildings at the temple and some 70 hermitages that surrounded it. At one point in the 1100’s, over 30,000 monks gathered at Beopjusa Temple to pray for the dying national priest, Uicheon. Like most temples in the country at the time, the temple was utterly destroyed by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War of 1592. Fortunately for us,  Beopjusa Temple was rebuilt in 1624, and several of the buildings that presently reside at the temple date back to this year such as the five-tier wooden pagoda, Palsang-jeon. In the 1960’s, the temple underwent extensive repairs. And in 1988 the massive bronze statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) that stands at 33 metres in height replaced the twenty year old cement statue that resided at the temple.

You’ll approach the temple from a dirt path that straddles a meandering stream. As you walk, you’ll pass by the stately Iljumun Gate. As you continue to walk you’ll pass by a row of stupas raised on a grassy clearing. Finally, you’ll come to a clearing where you’ll see a monument that was dedicated to the monk Byeogam-daesa in 1664. Just past this monument is the Liberation Gate that houses four statues. This gate is extremely unique. I’ve only ever seen it at Magoksa Temple in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do. There are two offensively postured Vajra Devas that look like they’re ready to attack. To the right is Moonsu-bosal, The Bodhisattva of Wisdom, riding a blue tiger. And to the left is Bohyun-bosal, the Bodhisattva of Power, riding a white elephant. This gate is situated here as a reminder that by passing through the gate, one passes through the human world and into the Buddhist world where they will hopefully seek liberation. As you pass through this gate, the full view of the amazing Beopjupsa Temple reveals itself with the Cheonwangmun Gate first revealing itself in the foreground. Out in front, like two tall standing sentries, are a pair of pine trees. Inside the Cheonwangmun Gate are four tall, but not so menacing, Heavenly Kings. Unfortunately, all the statues in both the Liberation Gate and the Cheonwangmun Gate are protected by chicken-wire that interferes with any pictures that you might want to take of any or all of these statues.

Finally, passing through this third and final gate, you’ll get to see what you’ve probably travelled all this way to see: both the nearly 400 year wooden pagoda, and the 33 metre tall, and 150 ton, bronze statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). Straight ahead is the only original five-tier wooden pagoda in all of Korea: Palsang-jeon. It was rebuilt in 1624 after the Japanese burnt down the original one that resided at Beopjusa Temple during the Imjin War. The pagoda is supported by one massive wooden pole that runs up the centre of it. There are four supporting beams as well as posts and beams that keep the pagoda standing. At the top of the pagoda is a beautiful gold finial that adorns the top of the ancient pagoda. Inside Palsang-jeon, as the name indicates, there are eight murals showing the life of Seokgamoni-bul. These murals are known as Palsang-do. Also inside the pagoda are 1,000 white miniature Buddha’s and four larger golden Buddha statues that sit at the four directional corners of the pagoda.

To the left of Palsang-jeon is the massive 33 metre tall bronze statue dedicated to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). This bronze statue is supposedly the largest free-standing Buddha statue in all of Asia, and it truly is remarkable. It replaced a cement statue in 1988. This Mireuk-bul statue is dedicated to the unification of Korea and peace throughout the world. This seems appropriate as the first figure that sat on the altar of the main hall in 776 was dedicated to the unification of the Korean Peninsula under Silla reign. Remarkably, the inside of the bronze statue is hollow, and there are 108 steps that lead the way up to the head of Mireuk-bul.  Interestingly, you can go beneath the bronze statue to an underground prayer hall. Underneath, there are numerous gold statues dedicated to the dead as represented by miniature statues of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) with a white cloth uniquely drawn over his face.

In the temple courtyard there are a few interesting pieces of stone artwork. The most interesting is directly behind Palsang-jeon pagoda. The Twin Lion Lantern dates back to 720, and it is only one of a handful with such an original design. One of the lions has his mouth wide open, as the two stand on a lotus bud. In front of this lantern is another directly in front of the main hall, Daeungbo-jeon. This lantern is adorned with beautiful devas on the upper portion of the lantern. The main hall, Daeungbo-jeon, was originally built in 553, but like the rest of the temple, it was burnt down during the Imjin War; but just like the Palsang-jeon pagoda, it was rebuilt in 1624. The main hall is a giant double-roofed building, and it’s the third largest historical temple hall in all of Korea. The main altar piece has a massive Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) statue in the centre of the triad, and to the right is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), and to the left is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). The interior is painted with fading decorative designs and a beautifully intricate guardian painting that is equal to the size of the main hall. The exterior of the main hall is designed simply with floral patterns on the second tier of the hall.

There are an assortment of some twenty halls at Beopjusa Temple. Some of the more impressive halls are the Wontongbo-jeon that is dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The seated gilt wooden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal is beautifully designed. Next to this hall is Josa-gak that is dedicated to some of the more famous monks that resided at the temple through the years. Next to this hall is the unbelievably beautiful and eerie Myeongbu-jeon Hall that is dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). The exterior of the hall is painted with grotesque paintings of those being judged in hell. They are amongst some of the best throughout all of Korea. And the interior of the hall has a beautiful statue depicting Jijang-bosal with 10 large seated Kings of the Underworld on either side of him. Finally, behind the Myeongbu-jeon hall is the Samseong-gak hall dedicated to the three Shaman gods. All three, Chilseong (The Seven Stars), San shin (The Mountain god), and Dokseong (The Recluse) are all beautifully depicted in their murals. And the outside of this hall houses some highly unique paintings of all three of the gods.

Admission to the temple is a rather hefty 4,000 won, even though the temple’s official website still says 3,000 won. Added to this is the 4,000 won parking fee for your car (if you drive).

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Beopjusa Temple, it’s a bit out of the way. You first have 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 to the Beopjusa Temple/Mt. Songnisan Ticket Office.

To learn more about Beopjusa Temple, check out here.

View 법주사 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING:  9.5/10. The reason that Beopjusa Temple doesn’t rate as highly as some others, is much like Buseoksa Temple, it’s a bit of a chore to get to and there isn’t all that much besides the temple to visit. However, there is plenty to see at the temple like the beautiful and historic Palsang-jeon pagoda and Daeungbo-jeon main hall. If that isn’t enough for you there is also the massive 33 metre tall bronze statue of Mireuk-bul. There are also the amazingly illustrated and artistically designed halls for Jijang-bosal, the three Shaman gods, and Gwanseeum-bosal. Finally, there are the uniquely designed and anciently crafted lanterns at the temple. For all these reasons, it’s well worth the effort to get to Beopjusa Temple either for a day trip or a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

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The Iljumun Gate at Beopjusa Temple.
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The highly unique, and rare to find, Liberation Gate at the temple.
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Inside the Liberation Gate is this statue of Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) riding his white elephant.
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A look through the Liberation Gate at the Cheongwangmun Gate that houses the Four Heavenly Kings. And behind that is the ancient and beautiful Palsang-jeon wooden pagoda.
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A better look at the Four Heavenly Kings’ Gate with the golden finial of Palsang-jeon poking out above the gate.
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One of the Four Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.
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Finally, Palsang-jeon Hall, that is situated in the centre of the temple courtyard.
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A look inside Palsang-jeon Hall. Inside there are eight murals depicting Seokgamoni-bul’s (The Historical Buddha) life. There are two paintings that are adorning each of the four directions. There are also 1,000 of the tiny white Buddha statues surrounding the four altar’s Buddhas.
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Another look up at the wooden pagoda that dates back to 1624.
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A look at the massive bronze statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) in the background with another look of the Palsang-jeon Hall in the foreground.
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The 33 metre tall bronze statue of Mireuk-bul. It’s the largest standing statue in all of Korea.
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The entrance that leads under the massive statue of Mireuk-bul.
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A look at Wontongbo-jeon Hall dedicated to the Bodhisattva of Compassion: Gwanseeum-bosal.
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A look inside the Wontongbo-jeon Hall at the majestic looking Gwanseeum-bosal.
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A look at the Myeongbu-jeon Hall at the temple. It has some of the more disturbing paintings of the pains and punishments in hell in all of Korea.
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A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall at Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
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Just one of the gruesome paintings that adorns the exterior walls of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
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Next to the main hall is the Samseong-gak hall dedicated to the three Shaman gods: Chilseong, San shin, and Naban Jonja.
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A look at just one of the paintings that adorns the altar of the Samseong-gak Hall. This one depicts Dokseong (The Recluse).
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A sideways look at Daeungbo-jeon, which is the two storied main hall at Beopjusa Temple.
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A look inside the main hall at the centre piece that adorns the altar. The massive Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) sits at the centre of the altar between Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).
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The equally massive guardian painting that compliments the equally large size of the triad of Buddhas on the altar inside the main hall.
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Another unique feature of the temple is this lion based lantern that dates back to 720 A.D.
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And one last look up at the Mireuk-bul bronze statue with steps to Palsang-jeon pagoda to the right.