Colonial Korea: Silleuksa Temple – 신륵사 (Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do)

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Sillleuksa Temple in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do from 1916.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Silleuksa Temple is located in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do. The name of the temple means “Divine Bridle Temple,” in English, and it has to do with a legend that surrounds the temple. The name of the temple relates to a horse that was uncontrollable. The horse was reined in by the power of the Buddha.

There is little known about the early years of the temple. There are two stories related to the establishment of Silleuksa Temple. One believes that Silleuksa Temple was first established during the reign of King Jinpyeong (r. 579-632); while another story relates how the temple was first founded by the famed monk Wonhyo-daesa (617-686).

However, after the temple was first established, Silleuksa Temple has been expanded and destroyed by fire. And in 1469, Silleuksa Temple became the prayer sanctuary to the royal mausoleum to the great King Sejong. Silleuksa Temple has a scenic location and beautiful shrine halls; it also houses numerous treasures.

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The Geukrak-jeon main hall at Silleuksa in 1932.

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A closer look at the front facade of the main hall at Silleuksa Temple.

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A look at some of the eaves work on the main hall.

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A look around the decorative interior of the Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1932.

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The seven tier marble pagoda that lies out in front of the Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1933.

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A closer look at the marble pagoda.

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And an even closer look at the base of the pagoda.

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The Josa-jeon Hall. It’s also the oldest building at the temple. This picture dates back to 1932.

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The intricate woodwork adorning the Josa-jeon Hall.

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The six-story brick pagoda. The picture was taken in 1916.

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A closer look at the design of the bricks.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall in 2015.

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The seven tier marble pagoda as it appears today.

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A closer look at the unique pagoda.

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The six story stone pagoda that overlooks the river.

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A thing of beauty.

Temple Stay: Hwaunsa Temple (Gyeonggi-do)

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(Courtesy of the Hwaunsa Temple Facebook Page)

Hello Again Everyone!!

Introduction to the Temple:

Hwaunsa Temple, which means “Shining Cloud Temple,” in English, was established as a training centre for Buddhist nuns in 1962. The temple was originally constructed in 1938 by Jaeyun Cha, a Buddhist devotee. He constructed the temple at the foot of Mt. Myeokjosan as a small Buddhist sanctuary. Then, in 1962, the Venerable Biguni Ji Myeong came from Sudeoksa Temple to become the abbot at Hwaunsa Temple. It was under her direction that the temple became a Sangha College for Korean Buddhist nuns. Under her tutelage, over 500 nuns graduated directly under her guidance. In fact, Ven. Ji Myeong was a revered national Seon Master. It was under her that her disciple, Ven. Seonil, the abbot at the temple now, studied.

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(Courtesy of the Hwaunsa Temple Facebook Page)

Directions:

From Seoul:

From Seoul, you’ll first need to get to Jogyesa Temple. From the temple, you’ll need to find the Templestay Information Center, which is directly in front of Jogyesa Temple. From the Templestay Information Center, you’ll see the bus stop for the Red Bus #5000 about 50 metres to your right.

The Red Bus #5000 runs Monday to Sunday from 6:30 to 24:00. The bus runs every 10 minutes, and the bus ride to Hwaunsa Temple takes an hour and thirty-eight minutes.

You can take the Red Bus #5000 from Jogyesa Temple, or you can catch Red Bus #5003 directly at Gangnam Station. From Gangnam Station, the bus ride lasts anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.

Which ever bus you decide to take, you’ll need to follow the signs where they drop you off out in front of Hwaunsa Temple. The walk is a mere 600 metres to the temple.

 

General Schedule: Hwaunsa Temple conducts two different types of programs. The first is the “Korean Buddhist Educational/Cultural Tour.” And the second program is the “Sunim’s Space: Experience Monastic Life Just as Sunims in Korea Live It!” The first is a one day program, while the other is a two day program.

 

A: Korean Buddhist Educational/Cultural Tour:

Day 1:

14:00 – 15:00: Arrival at Hwaunsa Temple. Introduction to temple etiquette, history, and culture.

15:00 – 16:00: Tour of Hwaunsa Temple (Main Buddha Hall, Healing Center, Meditation Hall, etc.)

16:00 – 17:00: Tea Time with Venerable Biguni Seonil, PhD

17:00 – 18:00: Dinner

18:00: Departure from Hwaunsa Temple

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(Courtesy of the Hwaunsa Temple Facebook Page)

 

B: Sunim’s Space: Experience Monastic Life Just as Sunims in Korea Live It!:

Day 1:

15:00 – 16:00: Arrival at Hwaunsa Temple. Introduction to temple etiquette, history, and culture.

16:00 – 17:00: Tour of Hwaunsa Temple (Main Buddha Hall, Healing Center, Meditation Hall, etc.)

17:00 – 18:00: Dinner

18:00 – 19:00: Evening Prayer in the Main Buddha Hall

19:00 – 20:00: Salt Mandela Making

20:00 – 21:00: Shower

21:00: Bedtime

Day 2:

04:00 – 05:00: Wake Up

05:00 – 06:00: Early morning prayer (Begins at 4:45)

06:00 – 07:00: Breakfast

07:00 – 08:00: Walking Meditation through the Mountain

08:00 – 09:00: Meditation/Sutra Study (On Your Own)

09:00 – 10:00: Communal Temple Work (Yurak)/Free Time

10:00 – 11:00: Mid-Morning Prayer

11:00 – 12:00: Tea Time with Venerable Biguni Seonil, PhD, Abbott of Hwaunsa Temple

12:00 – 13:00: Lunch

13:00: Departure from Hwaunsa

 

Hwaunsa Temple Information:

Address: Hwaunsa Int’l Templestay & Training Center 111-14 Dongbaekjukjeon-daero (Samga dong) Cheoin-gu, Yongin-so, Gyeonggido, Korea 449-060

Tel : 031-337-2576/Fax : 031-335-0465

homepage: http://hwaunsa.kr

E-mail: hws2555@templestay.com

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/ProjectHwaunTemple

 

Fees:

To get more information on the two different temple stay programs, you’ll need to contact the temple directly.

 

Link:

Reservations for the Korean Buddhist Educational/Cultural Tour

Reservations for the  Sunim’s Space: Experience Monastic Life Just as Sunims in Korea Live It!

 

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(Courtesy of the Hwaunsa Temple Facebook Page)

 

Yongjusa Temple – 용주사 (Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do)

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An overcast sky at Yongjusa Temple in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yongjusa Temple, which means “Dragon Jewel Temple,” in English, is located in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do. Yongjusa Temple was first founded in 854 A.D. It was first known as Galyangsa Temple. During the 10th century, the temple was further expanded. The temple was completely destroyed in 1636 during the Manchu War. But in 1790, under the orders of King Jeongjo, the temple was rebuilt in honour of his deceased father, Prince Sado (1735-62). This was one of the few times during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), under the heavy influence of Confucian ideology, that the Joseon royal house supported Buddhism directly. It was also at this time that the temple changed its name to its current one: Yongjusa Temple.

You first enter the temple grounds through the Cheonwangmun Gate. Housed inside this gate are some of the fiercest Heavenly Kings that you’ll find in Korea. With their eye-popping intensity, they exemplify the intimidating poses these figures should make when welcoming visitors to temples.

Past the admission booth, and up a meandering pathway, you’ll next come to the Hongsalmun Gate at Yongjusa Temple. With two red painted poles connected by a top beam, this gate speaks to the temple’s royal ancestry. Typically, this style of gate is found at a royal tomb.

Through the neighbouring Sammun Gate that is adorned with some ancient stone statues, you’ll enter the outer courtyard that houses a five-story stone pagoda. It’s only after you get your fill of the natural beauty that surrounds the temple in this part of the grounds that you’ll pass through the Boje-ru Pavilion. It is only then that you stand inside the temple courtyard.

Sitting in the centre of the temple grounds is the Daeungbo-jeon. The exterior walls of the hall are painted with Palsang-do murals; but uniquely, there’s no pagoda framing the main hall at Yongjusa Temple. Inside, the main hall is highly elaborate. Sitting on the main altar are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined on either side by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). The statues on the main altar are backed by a highly original platform painting. Measuring four metres in height and three metres in width, it was painted by Kim Hongdo, who was a famous Korean painter as well as the county magistrate. The life-like features of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are quite unique in their design. The older looking canopy, as well as the white-clad Gwanseeum-bosal and Gamno-do painting make the interior to this hall a must see at Yongjusa Temple.

To the left of the main hall is the Cheonbul-jeon Hall. Housed inside this hall are a thousand tiny white Buddha statues, as well as spherical golden lights that front the golden triad of statues that sit on the main altar. Behind this hall is the compact Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. All three of the shaman murals inside this hall are unique, but it’s the Sanshin mural that stands out the most with the big headed tiger protectively standing next to The Mountain Spirit.

To the right of the Samseong-gak, and across a bit of a field, is the elegantly designed pagoda. In front of this pagoda are two more shrine halls. One of the two is the Jijang-jeon Hall that houses a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the main altar. The exterior walls to this hall are painted with murals that illustrate the various stages in life. The other shrine hall, the Hoseong-jeon, houses the memorial tablets of Prince Sado. Out in front of this hall is a uniquely designed three-story pagoda with a black body that has Korean writing on it about filial piety.

In total, the temple houses National Treasure #120, as well as two additional Treasures.

Admission to the temple is 1,500 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Yongjusa Temple, you’ll first need to get to Byeongjeom Station on  Line 1 on the Seoul subway system. From there, you’ll need to take the bus from behind the station. You can take any number of green buses like Bus #34, 34-1, 44, 46, 47, or 50. The bus ride to the temple should take ten to fifteen minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. There are quite a few unique features to Yongjusa Temple which starts at the entry with the intense statues of the Heavenly Kings and continues towards the Hongsalmun Gate. Another amazing feature is the temple bell, which also just so happens to be National Treasure #120. In combination with these features, you can enjoy all the amazing murals around the temple grounds like the Sanshin mural and the murals inside the main hall. With the temple pagodas, you have more than enough reason to visit this royal temple from the 18th century.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate that welcomes you to Yongjusa Temple.

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One of the intimidating, and eye-bulging, Heavenly Kings.

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The path that leads up to the temple grounds.

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The Hongsalmun Gate at Yongjusa Temple.

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Some of the decorative artwork in front of the Sammun Gate.

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A look towards the Boje-ru Gate at Yongjusa Temple.

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The five-story stone pagoda out in front of the Boje-ru Pavilion.

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Passing under a ceiling of dragons and the Boje-ru Pavilion.

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The Daeungbo-jeon main hall at Yongjusa Temple.

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

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

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A look towards the Cheonbul-jeon and Samseong-gak.

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National Treasure #120.

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A look inside the Cheonbul-jeon at Yongjusa Temple.

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The uniquely styled Sanshin mural.

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The view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The white two story pagoda at Yongjusa Temple.

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A closer look at the highly stylized pagoda.

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A look towards the Jijang-jeon.

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One of the life-cycle murals that adorns the Jijang-jeon.

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And a look inside the Jijang-jeon at Jijang-bosal.

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A look towards the neighbouring Hoseong-jeon and the three-story pagoda that stands out in front of it.

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A look inside the Hoseong-jeon at the memorial tablets housed inside it.

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One last look at the temple grounds at Yongjusa Temple.

Sammaksa Temple/Sangbulam Hermitage – 삼막사/상불암 (Mt. Samseongsan, Anyang, Gyeonggi-do)

Sammaksa Temple

Hello, everyone!

Giuseppe back, with my third temple and yet another mountaintop temple. This time, Sammaksa Temple, “Three Curtain Temple,” near the peak of Mt. Samseongsan, “Three Saint Mountain.”

Sammaksa Temple was first established in 677 during the Silla Dynasty as a small hermitage by the great monk Wonhyo. If this sounds familiar, it’s the same year that Uisang established what is now Yeonjuam Hermitage, just across the narrow valley, on Mt. Gwanaksan. The mountain is actually named after Wonhyo, Uisang, and Yeonpil, “three saints” who spent time here. It’s a well-known fact that Wonhyo and Uisang were close friends and travel companions, but I was not able to find any information at all about the monk Yeonpil, other then he was at the mountain. I don’t know if he was there with Wonhyo and Uisang or came at a later date. Other prominent monks who spent time at the temple during its history were Doseon-guksa, Seosan-daesa, and Muhak-daesa.

Snaking up the mountain road, with a few dramatic glimpses of the granite peaks, you arrive at the temple, which sits high up on a granite brick terrace. A steep set of stairs brings you up between the bell pavilion and the Jijang-jeon, into a tightly compact courtyard. An interesting floral pattern “mural” sits in the center of the courtyard. Straight and to the immediate left upon entering the courtyard is the Myeongbu-jeon, Cultural Property of Gyeonggi-do No. 60, housing the ten Yamas of the underworld, including Ksitigarbha (Jijang-bosal).

Front and center is the Yuk Gwaneum-jeon, the Six Gwaneum Hall, in which are enshrined, you guessed it, seven Gwaneum statues (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). No, six, but I accidentally typed seven and thought I’d make a bad joke about it… 😉 There actually isn’t a main hall at this temple, but the Yuk Gwaneum-jeon serves as the main hall. The temple was formerly known as Gwaneumsa Temple but was changed to Sammaksa Temple after the Joseon Dynasty renovations and the temple was said to resemble a Chinese temple name Sammaksa Temple. I was extremely impressed by the six statues. There isn’t anything specifically impressive about their features or artistry, but as a whole, and just their overall impression, is remarkable. Lined up along the long shrine, from right to left, are Yeoui Gwaneum (The Wish Fulfilling Avalokitesvara), Sibil Myeon Gwaneum (The Eleven Faced Avalokitesvara), Junjae Gwaneum (The Cundi Avalokitesvara), Cheonsu Cheonah Gwaneum (The 1000 Hands and 1000 Eyes Avalokitesvara), Seong Gwaneum (The Sacred Avalokitesvara), and Madu Gwaneum (The Horse Headed Avalokitesvara). I was especially drawn to the ones on the opposite ends, Yeoui and Madu, which also had opposing demeanors. The Yeoui Gwaneum sits relaxed, calmly posed, leaning an arm on her raised knee with her face equally calm and relaxed. The Madu Gwaneum is fierce, with a vicious expression. A small golden horse kneels at the front of Madu’s crown.

Passed the office building to the right is the Cheonbul-jeon, Thousand Buddha Hall. The statues inside weren’t of much interest, including the main trio, with a central Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). The only thing of note at all is that there were a thousand of them.

Up behind the Cheonbul-jeon, at the edge of a large, flat granite stone, is an old three-storey stone pagoda, Gyeonggi-do Tangible Cultural property No. 112, erected to commemorate victory over an invading Mongol army during the early 1200’s. Kim Yunhu, priest of the temple, let an arrow fly from an impossible distance and managed to drop the Mongol general dead in his tracks. As he fell from his horse, as if by a magical arrow, his army took it as an omen and they immediately turned back. If you’re at all like me, you may find it strange that a monk would take a life and stranger still that it would be celebrated; but if you consider the evil intentions of the Mongol invaders, taking the generals life certainly averted a whole mess of death and suffering. Needless to say, they weren’t dropping by for tea and scones!

Though the small complex is worth the visit on its own, following the trail that leads further up the mountain is where things get a little more interesting. The trail, starting just beside the Cheonbul-jeon, ultimately leads to the Samjon-bul. But taking a quick detour around a large traditional house leads to the Sanshin-gak, Mountain Spirit Shrine, carved into a large granite face. There is no roof or building covering it, just open along the mountain, it has a nice appeal. Looping back down to the main trail, there is one of the most interesting carvings on another granite formation. At first, I thought it was some sort of physics symbols, but after asking around, I discovered that it was actually three symbols representing a turtle. From right to left, the first is the Chinese character for turtle, the second is the ancient Chinese Oracle bone symbol, and the third is a combination of the two. Once I knew it was a turtle, it seemed pretty obvious!

Continuing another few minutes along the well constructed path, you arrive at the Samjon-bul, but the first thing you encounter are two prominent stones protruding from the edge of the slope. They are Nam Yeo Geun Seok, Male and Female Gender Stones, as they are said to resemble male and female genitals. They have been worshiped for thousands of years as fertility stones. People came from all across the country to make offers and pray for a safe delivery, long life and health for their child, and to have a son. The male stone, other than being certainly erect, is sort of, “Okay, if you say so…”, but the female stone, on the other hand… well that one is quite convincing! They are Folklore Cultural Treasures of Gyeonggi-do No. 3.

Beside the fertility stones, at last, we arrive at the Samjon-bul, a granite relief carving of Chilseong, the Big Dipper. The large, central figure is Chilseong Guang-yeorae-bul, accompanied by Ilgwang-bosal on the left and Wolgwang-bosal on the right, the Sun and Moon Bodhisattvas, respectively. It was made in 1763 and is Tangible Cultural Treasure of Gyeonggi-do No. 94. Originally an open shrine, it is now protected by a small but elegant structure, built on stilts. There were eight people crammed in it when I first arrived, and I have no idea how they were able to do their bows as when I came back later with just two other people it still felt crammed, but cozy. Looking at their noses, you can see that they’ve been damaged, and though this is often a sign of vandalism, it is (at least was) common belief in Korea that grinding down and consuming the noses of stone statues will lead to conceiving a son.

Now, you can return to the main complex or, as it was recommended by a friend who lives nearby, you can continue up the trail, about 400 meters, and over the ridge to just below the peak where sits Sangbulam Hermitage, a small hermitage with a cave shrine at the rear of the Daeung-jeon, Main Hall. There are great views of Anyang city down below and the surrounding mountains. I’m glad I made the effort for these reasons, but the true gem was the Samseong-gak, Three Spirit Shrine, that had stunning paintings of Sanshin (the Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (the Big Dipper), and Dokseong, (The Lonely Saint). The paintings are rendered with incredible detail and artistry and have a very interesting earth tone color scheme, opposed to the usual bright, colorful paintings you typically find. Even if temple paintings don’t usually interest you, these are works of art worth seeing.

Back at Sammaksa Temple, they were serving a simple bowl of noodle soup and kimchi and it amazed me that there were no more than a dozen people all morning in the halls but I counted at least 300 people lined up for lunch!

HOW TO GET THERE: First, take the Line 1 subway to Gwanak Station, one stop before Anyang if you’re Suwon bound. From exit 2, continue straight to the main road, cross, and find the bus stop for the 6-2  bus which will bring you to Gyeongin University of Education, the last stop. From there it’s about a 30-40 minute walk, at a good pace, following the paved road all the way up to the temple. There is also a hiking trail that turns off from the paved road not too far along after the parking lot. I haven’t taken it, so I can not comment further.

The easy way is if you can catch the temple shuttle bus directly across from Hanmaum Seonwon. The first shuttle leaves at 8:30 a.m. and is scheduled to depart about every 30 minutes in the morning and a few more times into the afternoon; but I found the schedule to be rather unreliable (at least after 8:30 a.m.). The shuttle is for temple-goers, not hikers, so you may have to tell them you are visiting the temple. The shuttle costs 1,000 won and fills up quickly. To find Hanmaum, again, leave exit 2, walk to the main road and cross (carefully!) at the large intersection. If you can’t see the massive Seon center, with the unique seven-sphere pagoda on the roof, you either plain well can’t see or it’s the worst yellow dust storm in history, and you shouldn’t be out in it, anyway! 😉 The shuttle is a white van and the sign is just down from the intersection. Keep an eye out and you can’t miss it.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Sammaksa Temple itself is not overly spectacular but does offer some objects of interest as well as a long history with great monks having stayed here. The setting is beautiful and the fertility stones along with the Samjon-bul give the temple something special to see while there.

Sangbulam Hermitage, I give a 4.5/10. As far as hermitages go, it’s a good one, but it is still a hermitage. Their value is mostly beyond what you’d experience as a visitor. Most of it’s rating is for the main hall cave and the Samseong paintings. Great view, too!

Sammaksa Temple photos!

The Myeongbu-jeon

The Yuk Gwaneum-jeon

Yuk Gwaneum-jeon to the left, office on the right and Cheonbul-jeon in the far center.

Side of Yuk Gwaneum-jeon and Myeongbu-jeon on the left.

Three-story stone pagoda

Cheonbul-jeon

Sanshin-gak

turtle, turtle, turtle

The path to the Samjon-bul and Nam Yeo Geun Seok

A small Yongwang-gak, Dragon King Shrine, on the way to Sangbulam Hermitage

Sangbulam Hermitage photos

Sanshin-gak

Sanshin, Chilseong, and Dokseong

The view over Anyang valley

Back at Sammaksa Temple:

Day hikers lining up for lunch

slurp, slurp, slurp…

Firing up the noodles

Waujeongsa Temple – 와우정사 (Yongin, Gyeonggi-do)

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The eight metre tall Buddha head that greets you at Waujeongsa Temple in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Waujeongsa Temple, which is located in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, was first established in 1970 by the monk Kim Hae-Geum. Kim was a displaced monk during the Korean War. The temple is a reflection of this displacement, as Waujeongsa Temple’s stated goal is the reunification of North and South Korea. It’s also the birthplace and headquarters to the highly unique Korean Buddhist Nirvana Order.

You first approach the temple, which is beautifully located on the southern slopes of Mt. Eunesan. Having passed through the gravel parking lot, you’ll first notice the massive, golden Buldu (Buddha’s head) straight ahead of you. Eight metres in height, this wooden head is the largest of its kind in the world and is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for this feat. Perched over top an artificial pond, this unique statue is an indication of things to come at Waujeongsa Temple.

Past the visitors’ centre, you’ll make your way up an incline towards the rest of the temple grounds. The first site to greet you is a collection of pagodas that are both unique in style and substance. These pagodas are made from stones from various religious sites throughout the world.

To the right of these pagodas is the temple’s Daeung-jeon main hall. Newly built, the main hall still lacks the typical dancheong paint scheme that makes Korean temple buildings so unique. Housed inside the main hall are a collection of five statues centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). To the right of the main hall is a twelve ton Unification Bell that is gold in colour and was struck at the start of the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Spread throughout the entire temple grounds are over 3,000 statues, which starts with the twelve diminutive zodiac generals out in front of the main hall. They are also joined by a contemplative bronze Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) statue.

A little further along, and up the gradual inclines of the mountain, are a pair of fierce Vajra warrior statues that protect the entry to a cave that houses a twelve metre long statue of a reclining Buddha that was made from juniper trees from Indonesia.

To the right of the cave shrine hall is a cathedral like shrine hall that houses a Thai-influenced statue of the Buddha. The cathedral hall is beautifully adorned with intricate stain-glass windows. To the left of this hall, and past a collection of cairn pagodas reminiscent of Tapsa Temple, you’ll make your way up a path that leads you past a peeling collection of Palsang-do murals. While slowly losing their battle to time, these murals are some of the most beautiful that you’ll see at any temple in Korea.

Having made your way half-way up the slope, you’ll notice an enclave of stone statues that represent the five hundred Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). From this vantage point, you’ll notice a unique structure perched just above the tombstone-like statues of the Nahan. So make your way up the path to see yet another shrine hall housed inside a cave. The large pillars and the swirling Biseon artwork that adorns the bottom of the dome, welcomes you to the site where (I believe) some of the Buddha’s sari (crystallized remains) are housed at Waujeongsa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways to get to Waujeongsa Temple from Seoul. The first is from Jamsil Station (Line 2). After taking exit #6 or #7, board Bus #5600 or #5800 to Yongjin Intercity Bus Terminal. From this terminal, take a bus to Wonsam. You’ll need to get off at the Waujeongsa Temple stop.

Another way you can get to Waujeongsa Temple from Seoul is to catch a bus from Gangnam Station (Line 2). After taking Exit #10, you can take either Bus #5001 or #5002 to the Yongjin Intercity Bus Terminal. Again, board a bus destine for Wonsam. And again, get off at the Waujeongsa Temple stop.

All the buses bound for Wonsam come at about a 15 minute interval.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10. Just for its originally alone, it rates as highly as it does. The temple’s uniqueness starts at the entry of the temple with the eight metre tall Buddha head, Buldu, and makes its way up the winding paths that comprise Waujeongsa Temple. Other amazing features are the uniquely designed pagodas, the Unification Bell, the cathedral hall, the juniper tree Buddha, as well as the Buddha’s sari. If you want to see something a little different than your typical Korean Buddhist temple, have a look at Waujeongsa Temple.

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The eight metre tall Buldu at the entry of Waujeongsa Temple.

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The beautiful bell that stands out in front of the eight metre tall wooden Buddha head.

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The pagoda made from various religious sites from around the world.

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Some of the amazing statues strewn throughout the temple grounds.

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A look towards the main hall at Waujeongsa Temple.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon.

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The courtyard surrounding the main hall.

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The contemplative Mireuk-bul.

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A roof-tile pagoda and Vajra warrior.

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The cave shrine hall that houses the juniper statue of the Buddha.

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The Thai-like statue of the Buddha surrounded by stain-glass windows.

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A look at the field of cairns at Waujeongsa Temple.

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One of the masterful Palsang-do murals at the temple.

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A collection of stone statues dedicated to the Nahan.

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The second cave shrine hall at Waujeongsa Temple.

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The entry to the shrine hall.

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The ceiling painting at the entry.

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A look inside the cave shrine hall with an emaciated stone statue dedicated to the Buddha.

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The view of the temple grounds.

Silleuksa Temple – 신륵사 (Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do)

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The beautifully scenic view at Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do means “Divine Bridle Temple,” in English. While there isn’t all that much concrete information on the foundation of the temple, it’s believed by some that it was established during King Jinpyeong’s reign (r. 579-632), others believe it was founded by the famed monk, Wonhyo-daesa (617-686). The name of the temple is related to a legend where an uncontrollable horse was reined in by the power of the Buddha. Throughout the years, it’s been expanded and destroyed by fires. In 1469, Silleuksa Temple became the prayer sanctuary to the royal mausoleum to the great King Sejong. Currently, the temple houses numerous treasures.

You first approach the temple grounds to the west of Silleuksa Temple. With the Temple Stay facilities to your left, you’ll pass through a guardian gate with two fiercely painted Vajra warriors on its entry doors. A little further along, and with the Han River to your right, as well as a pavilion that looks over the serene body of water, you’ll finally come to the outskirts of the temple grounds.

The first thing to greet you at the temple is the rather wide Boje-ru pavilion. To the right of this pavilion, and past a stone marker, you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard. Straight ahead is a beautiful seven-tier marble pagoda that dates back to the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It’s masterfully adorned with dragon and lotus carvings. This pagoda is framed by the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Silleuksa Temple. The exterior walls are adorned with some recent, and amazingly rendered, Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for inside this main hall, there are a triad of statues that rest on the main altar. Seated in the centre sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by two standing statues of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul).

To the rear of the Geukrakbo-jeon, and slightly to the left, is the Josa-dong. Unfortunately, the hall was under renovation when I visited; but typically, it houses the portraits of the famed monks Naong (1320-76), Muhak (1327-1405), and Jigong (d.1363). This hall is also the oldest at Silleuksa Temple.

To the left of the Josa-dong is the Myeongbu-jeon, which houses a green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the main altar. He’s joined on all sides by seated statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. Just outside this hall is an altar with a highly original piece of circular artwork dedicated to Jijang-bosal, as well. To the rear of this hall are a collection of stupas that house the remains of former monks at Silleuksa Temple, including the Naong’s stupa.

To the right of the main hall, and past the monks’ dorms, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Inside this hall are some of the more original paintings dedicated to the three most popular shaman deities in Korea. Have a close look at the meditative posture Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) is striking, as well as the elfish-looking Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) who is joined by a massive tiger.

But perhaps Silleuksa Temple is most famous for its location. With it being one of a handful of river temples in Korea, it makes for some great pictures. As you approach the river from the hillside, you’ll pass by the six-tier brick pagoda, which is somewhat reminiscent of the brick pagoda at Songnimsa Temple in Daegu. Just to the rear of this pagoda at Silleuksa Temple is a memorial tablet to the Daejang-gak, which was a two-story library built during the late Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

Just past these two treasures, treasure #230 and #226, is the Han River. Beautifully perched alongside a historic pagoda is a pavilion that people can enjoy the peace and quiet of the flowing river. This area of the temple also allows for some of the most picturesque photos that you’ll get at any temple in Korea.

Admission to the temple costs 2,200 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Silleuksa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal and take an intercity bus bound for Yeoju. The first bus leaves at 6:30 a.m. and the final one leaves at 22:30. These buses to Yeoju leave every thirty minutes. From the Yeoju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to catch Bus #980. You can catch this bus after leaving the terminal and heading right for about 100 metres. Cross the road and you can catch the #980 bus from this stop. Finally, you’ll need to get off at the Silleuksa Temple bus stop.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10. There is so much to love about Silleuksa Temple. Probably its number one feature is its location amongst a park where the temple is located, as well as the beautiful Han River that flows just south of the temple grounds. Add into the mix the amazing paintings housed inside the Samseong-gak, as well as a handful of treasures including Naong’s stupa, and you have ample reason to get out and see the beautifully scenic Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do Province.

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The guardian gate as you first approach Silleuksa Temple.

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One of the Vajra warriors protecting the temple.

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The park and pavilion you’ll pass by and through to get to the temple.

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The neighbouring Han River.

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The first view of Silleuksa Temple as you approach.

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The Boje-ru Pavilion at Silleuksa Temple.

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Some of the initial sites at the temple.

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The Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Silleuksa Temple.

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The seven-tier marble pagoda.

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Some of the intricate artwork adorning the pagoda.

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One of the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals on the main hall.

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Another angle of the main hall at Silleuksa Temple.

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The Myeongbu-jeon at the temple.

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Some of the neighbouring artwork of Jijang-bosal.

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The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon.

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The stupas behind the Myeongbu-jeon.

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The view from the stupas of Silleuksa Temple.

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A look towards the Samseong-gak.

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The amazing Sanshin mural.

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A look towards the six-story brick pagoda at Silleuksa Temple.

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A better look at both the brick pagoda and the neighbouring river.

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The tranquil river and the watchmen pagoda.

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 A better look at both.

Yeonjuam Hermitage/Yeonjudae – 연주암/연주대 (Gwacheon, Gyeonggi-do)

 

Yeonjudae, viewed from the look off

Throughout my years of living and traveling in Korea, I’ve always had a small collection of “comfort” places that I tried to get back to now and again, depending on where I lived. I appreciate the sense of intimacy that develops from this relationship with a place; getting to know some of the locals, enjoying a specific restaurant, finding hidden trails, knowing a place through the four seasons. Since moving to suburban Seoul, Yeonjuam Hermitage, and its spectacular Yeonjudae, perched on the edge of a sharp cliff, has been one of those places.

The great and fondly remembered monk, Uisang Daesa, is credited with having first established the temple in 677. The complex of halls and shrines were rebuilt, starting in 1392 and continuing throughout the 1400’s. This early-Joseon era complex was completely wiped out and buried by a landslide, eventually being relocated higher up the slopes, on safer grounds, I assume. Much of the temple, in its current incarnation, was built during or after the 1970’s. Its original name was Uisangdae, but was changed to Yeonjudae (戀主臺), which roughly translated to “Adoring the Kingdom Cliff”. There are two legends attached to this name. The first is that loyalists of the fallen Goryeo Dynasty came to stay here as the view allowed them to peer across at their former kingdom in longing. The second is that two princes, Yang-Ryeong and Hyo-Ryeong, retreated here after their younger brother was named their father’s successor (and became the Great King Sejong). From here they looked over the kingdom, longing for the throne. I think both instances are plausible. If it was already a place known for its view of Seoul, it makes sense that the two brothers would have also chosen to come here. In the ruins that were excavated, several dragon and phoenix insignia were found, meaning this temple was strongly connected to the royal palace.

It’s not an easy temple to get to, you must hike, and it wasn’t until my third attempt that I managed to find the right trail. If your goal is just to see this temple (not a bad reason to climb Mt. Gwanaksan!), the most direct route starts by Gwacheon Hyanggyo, 500 meters up from Gwacheon subway station. Following a gorgeous, rocky trail along the stream that flows down from the temple, you eventually arrive at a steep, massive stone staircase that leads to the courtyard between the Gwaneum-jeon and the temple office. The Gwaneum-jeon houses a severe looking 1000-armed Gwanseum-bosal, quite stunning actually. During my last visit, in May, the Hall of Arhats had been completely torn down and the collection of hand-carved statues, each one unique, were sitting in the far-side of the Gwaneum-jeon. They are some of the best wooden Arahat carvings in Korea, and the largest collection I’ve encountered

Turning left, you face the courtyard and a medium-sized stone pagoda with the main hall standing behind. To the left of the main hall, upon a terrace is the temple bell and further up the slope is the Hyo Ryeong Hall enshrines the portrait of Grand Prince Hyo Ryeong. To the right of the main hall, the trail continues beneath some twisted pines, where I often see a couple of morning doves. It leads a short way up to a beautiful little Samseong-gak, with a wonderful old set of paintings, from left to right, Sanshin, Chilseong, and Dokseong. The quality of the work executed on these paintings is quite exquisite.

From here, bear right and follow the path to the top of a small crag where a brand new white pagoda has been installed. Or, head left, past where the Hall of Arhats had been and continue along the stone path about 400 meters to Yeonjudae. There is a couple of tricky steps, so watch your footing. About halfway to the top, there is a look-off that gives you the best photo-op. I usually spend a fair amount of time here, soaking it in. For some, just this view might be enough but if you wish to continue to the shrine, at the peak follow the rope and stainless rail as it veers right of the peak.

Climbing over the granite stones is a bit treacherous, especially in the ice or rain, but with a little extra care, it’s not too bad. As you approach, there is a sign asking that day-hikers do not enter, as it’s a site of devotion, but no one will turn you away. That said, an amount of respect is best shown. As you round the wall of granite that keeps Yeonjudae hidden until you’re right beside it, there is a white Medicine Buddha carved in the wall that is said to have magical healing powers for those who pray to it. In front of the shrine, there is usually a crowd gathered doing bows (it’s a great place for 108 if your knees feel up to it!). The view from in front of the shrine is spectacular, spanning all of Seoul. Taking pictures of the view isn’t a problem but you’ll have to use cunning to photograph the shrine, when none of the attendants are looking. My favorite spot to sit and have a snack is on the far side of the shrine, between the rail and the cliff. I like to grab a mat and looking across, over Yeonjuam Hermitage.

At this point, I’ll head back to the Gwaneum-jeon, where on the bottom floor, half way down the stone stairs, there is a dining hall (Don’t wait too long, it’s not open long passed noon). The bibimbab is a bit salty but the doenjang guk hits the spot and is always appreciated for the hike down the hill. The food is free but it’s temple etiquette to eat all your food.

HOW TO GET THERE: The best root is from Gwacheon Station, Line 4. Take exit 7 and head straight up the path, about 400 meters, then turn left when you reach the end. After another 100 meters or so, you will arrive at the trail-head, an open space with a large stream bed and a bridge that leads to Gwacheon Hyanggyo. Cross the bridge and continue past the vendors selling gimbap, boiled eggs, drinks, and hiking gear. It could take anywhere from one to two hours to reach Yeonjuam Hermitage, depending on your pace.

There are several trails that lead to the peak, including from Sadang Station and the Seoul National University grounds, but I’m not familiar enough to recommend them. These trails have stunning mountain scenery but are quite long and very easy to get lost on if you do not know the way.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10 I give Yeonjuam Hermitage bonus points for being a lively temple with a great atmosphere at the top of a mountain. This is a rare experience. If it were at the base of the mountain, it wouldn’t seem nearly as spectacular. Also, the view of Yeonjudae is a 10/10. Absolutely stunning, and worth a bonus point, for sure!

Gwacheon Hyanggyo, you’ll know you’re at the trail when you see this

scenery early along the trail

arriving at Yeonjuam, the dining hall and large Gwaneum-jeon on the left

the thousand-armed Gwanseum-bosal

Yeonjuam Hermitages’s Three-Storey Stoen Pagoda and Daeung-jeon (Great Dharma Hall) beyond

in the snow

The temple bell. I love being around when they are rung. It vibrates through your chest.

detail

cushions

reciting a sutra

this small hall houses Prince Hyo-Ryeong’s painting

Arhat Hall

Yeonjudae

follow the rail to the right (BTW, you should have excellent cellphone reception up here!)

almost there!

 

the health-giving Medicine Buddha

lay-people, bowing at Yeonjudae

late spring

early fall

mid winter

lunch

Temple Stay: Yongjoosa Temple (Gyeonggi-do)

(Courtesy of the Yongjoosa Temple Stay website).

Hello Again Everyone!!

Introduction to the Temple:

Yongjoosa Temple (Dragon Jewel Temple) was first established in 1790 by King Jeongjo (r. 1752-1800) to honour his late father, Prince Sadosaeja (1735-1762). The temple was built on the former site of Galyangsa Temple, which was built in 854 A.D. The reason that the temple was built was to protect the royal tomb and to pray for King Jeongjo’s father’s soul, which were formally located in Yangju, Gyeonggi-do. The night before the opening ceremony to the temple, the King dreamed of a dragon holding a magic pearl in its mouth; and hence, the name for Yongjoosa Temple.

Very little has changed at Yongjoosa Temple since it was first established. However, modern development has changed the landscape surrounding the temple. As for the highlights at the temple, the trees leading up to the temple courtyard from the Iljumun Gate are certainly one of those highlights. Another is the Daeung-jeon Hall that dates back to 1790. Also, the bell at the temple is said to date back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

Yongjoosa Temple runs a variety of Temple Stay programs. The first two, the one night, two days, allows for a participant to get a full taste of what Korean Buddhism has to offer. You can enjoy a temple tour, make prayer beads, and a dharma talk. The other program, the day program at Yongjoosa Temple, allows participants to enjoy a talk with a temple monk, a tour, and even a meal at this historical temple for an optional two to four hours.

(Courtesy of the Yongjoosa Temple Stay website).

Directions:

Take the #1 line on the National Railroad, and get off at Byeongjeom Station. After coming out through the rear exit of the station, you should take Bus #34 or #34-1 for about 15 minutes.


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General Schedule:

There are three programs at the Yongjoosa Temple Stay program. The first is a one night, two days program that runs during the weekdays. The second program is a one night, two days program that runs during the weekend. And the third is a one day retreat, where you can enjoy a two to four hour experience at the temple. Here are the three schedules for the Temple Stay program at Yongjoosa Temple.

A: One Night, Two Days Weekday Program:

Day One:
14:00~14:30 : Registration & Orientation
14:30~16:00 : Learning Temple Etiquette, Opening Ceremony and Self- Introduction
16:00~17:00 : Yongjoosa Temple Tour
17:00~18:30 : Learn Traditional Buddhist Meal
19:00~20:30 : Make 108 Prayer Beads or Finding Your True Self
20:30~21:00 : Ready for Sleep
21:00~ : Sleep

Day Two:
03:00~03:30 : Wake Up & Wash
03:30~04:00 : Dawn Service
04:00~06:00 : Chanting Sutra, 108 Bows and Seon Mediation
06:00~06:30 : Breakfast
07:30~08:00 : Communal Work
08:00~09:30 : Walking Meditation at Flower Mountain Dharma Talk
09:30~11:00 : Tea Ceremony and Dharma Talk with a Monk

(Courtesy of the Yongjoosa Temple Stay website).

B: One Night, Two Days Weekend Program:

Day One:
14:00~14:30 : Registration & Orientation
14:30~16:00 : Learning Temple Manners, Opening Ceremony and Self- Introduction
16:00~17:00 : Yongjoosa Temple Tour
17:00~18:30 : Learn Traditional Buddhist Meal
19:00~20:30 : Make 108 Prayer’s Beads or Finding True My Self.
20:30~21:00 : Ready for Sleep
21:00~ : Sleep

Day Two: 
03:00~03:30 : Wake up & Wash
03:30~04:00 : Dawn Service
04:00~06:00 : Chanting Sutra, 108 Bows and Seon Mediation
06:00~06:30 : Breakfast
07:30~08:00 : Communal Work
08:00~09:30 : Walking Meditation at Flower Mountain Dharma Talk
09:30~11:00 : Tea Ceremony and Dharma Talk with Monk

C: One Day Program:

Participation Fee:
-2hr: 20,000 Won
-3hr: 30,000 Won
-4hr: 40,000 Won
* Pricing for teenagers will be decided after consulting

Programs:
-Temple Tour (including a guided of national treasures)
-Tea Ceremony or Conversation with a Monk
-Barugongyang (monastic formal meals, which is optional)

(Courtesy of the Yongjoosa Temple Stay website).

Yongjoosa Temple Information:

Address : 188, Songsan-dong Hwaseong-si Gyeonggi-do
Tel : +82-31-235-6886 / Fax : +82-31-234-2818
homepage : http://www.yongjoosa.or.kr
E-mail : yongjoosa@templestay.com

Fees:

Adults: 70,000 won; Teens: 50,000 won; Under 13: 0 won (One Night, Two Days Weekdays Program).

Adults: 50,000 won; Teens: 40,000 won; Under 13: 0 won (One Night, Two Days Weekend Program).

Adults: 20,000 to 40,000 won; Teens: 20,000 to 40,000 won; Under 13: 0 won (One Day Program)

Link:

Reservations for the One Night, Two Day Weekday Temple Stay Program at Yongjoosa Temple.

Reservations for the One Night, Two Day Weekend Temple Stay Program at Yongjoosa Temple.

Reservations for the Day Program at Yongjoosa Temple.

(Courtesy of the Yongjoosa Temple Stay website).

Temple Stay: Jeondeungsa Temple (Gyeonggi-do)

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(Courtesy of the Jeondeungsa Temple Stay website)

Hello Again Everyone!!

Introduction to the Temple:

Jeondeungsa Temple is situated on Ganghwa-do Island. Jeondeungsa Temple was first established in the 4th century by the monk Ado, and it was formally called Jinjongsa Temple. It received its current name in 1282. It’s believed by some that Jeondeungsa Temple is the oldest temple on the Korean peninsula. The temple helped defend against the invading Mongols. In fact, the Goryeo Royal Family temporarily took up residence at the temple after the capital of Gaeseong had been overrun. From 1719 until 1910, Jeondeungsa Temple was in charge of protecting the ancestral records of the Joseon Dynasty royal family. As a result, senior monks from Jeondeungsa Temple were highly regarded during the Joseon Dynasty.

As for the temple itself, Jeondeungsa Temple is situated inside the walls of Samnang Fortress, which was originally built to protect Korea from foreign invaders. You’ll have to pass through the fortress gate, which is now the gate to the temple. Jeondeungsa Temple is one of the smaller Temple Stay temples that you can stay at; but with that being said, it still has a fair bit to see like the naked woman carved into the eaves of the main hall.

Jeondeungsa Temple offers two Temple Stay programs at their temple. The first is the Recuperation Schedule, which allows participants to relax and choose whatever activities they want to ensure a stress free and relaxing stay. The other schedule, the Regular Schedule, allows participants to enjoy  a genuine monastic experience. Participants take part in Buddhist services, communal work at the temple, monastic meals, meditation, and a talk with a monk.

Winter

(Courtesy of the Jeondeungsa Temple Stay website)

Directions:

First, you’ll have to get to Incheon. Once there, and from the Shinchon Subway Station (Line #2), use exit #4 and walk 100 metres. From there, take bus #3100 to Onsuri Terminal, which can be found in front of Artreon Cinema. Get off at Onsuri. Walk to the temple from there. It should take about 20 minutes.

Or, and again from Incheon, you can take the Incheon Express City Bus, #700. From there, get off at the Onsu-ri Station. Signs should lead you the rest of the way to the temple



General Schedule:

There are two types of programs at Jeondeungsa Temple. The first is the Regular Temple Stay schedule, while the other is the Recuperation Schedule, which runs year round.

A: The Regular Temple Stay Schedule:

Day 1:
13:00: Registration & Room Allocation
14:00: Orientation – Familiarization with Basic Temple Rules & Practices
15:00: Temple Tour
17:00: Temple Dinner
18:00: Buddhist Ceremonial Service (Striking the Temple Bell)
18:30: Healing Yoga or Seon Meditation
21:00: Sleep

Day 2:
04:00: Wake Up
04:30: Buddihist Ceremonial Service (Ye-bool)
05:00: 108 Prostrations & Seon Meditation
06:00: Balwoo Gongyang (Formal Monastic Meal)
07:30: Community Work
08:00: Walking Mediation (Mt. Jeongjoksan)
09:00: Rest
09:30: Tea Time with a Monk (Tea Ceremony)
11:00: Room Cleaning
11:30: Temple Lunch
12:00: Check Out

Happy Evening with the chanting bell

(Courtesy of the Jeondeungsa Temple Stay website)

B: The Recuperation Schedule:

Day 1:

13:00~13:30: Registration & Room Allocation
13:30~17:00: Free Time
17:30~18:00: Temple Dinner
18:30~19:00: Evening Buddihism Ceremony
19:05~20:30: Tea Time with a Monk
20:30~21:00: Ready for Sleep
21:00~: Sleep

Day 2:
04:00~04:30: Wake Up
04:30~05:00: Buddhist Ceremonial Service(Ye-bool)
05:00~06:30: Free Time
06:30~07:00: Temple Breakfast
07:00~11:30: Free Time
11:30~12:00: Temple Lunch
12:00: Check Out

Jeondeungsa Temple Information:

Address : 635, Onsu-ri, Gilsang-myeon Ganghwa-gun, Incheon
Tel : 82-32-937-0152 / Fax : 82-32-232-5450
homepage : http://www.jeondeungsa.org
E-mail : jeondeungsa@templestay.com

Fees:

Adults: 60,000 won; Teens: 40,000 won; Under 13: 0 won (Regular Schedule; 1 nights, 2 days).

Adults: 40,000 won; Teens: 30,000 won; Under 13: 0 won (Recuperation Schedule; 1 nights, 2 days).

Link:

Reservations for the Regular Schedule at Jeondeungsa Temple.

Reservations for the Recuperation Schedule at Jeondeungsa Temple.

(Courtesy of the Jeondeungsa Temple Stay website).