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


The pink flowers that were in bloom behind the main hall at Ssanggyesa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

North of Hadong is Ssanggyesa Temple, which means “Twin Streams Temple,” in English. The temple’s origins date back to 722 A.D., when it was first called Okcheonsa Temple. Instructed in a dream by the Jirisan Sanshin, monks Daebi and Sambeop, were told to find a valley where arrowroot blossomed even during the wintertime. This is how they came to find the valley location for their new temple. In this location, after having returned from China, they buried the skull of the Sixth Zen Patriarch, Huineng. In 840 A.D., the temple was enlarged, and its name was changed to its present name of Ssanggyesa Temple by Jingam-seonsa.

You first approach Ssanggyesa Temple up a beautifully wooded forest. The first structure to greet you is the top-heavy Iljumun Gate. The next building, with the twelve zodiac generals painted on it, is the Geumgangmun Gate that houses both two child-like images of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). Amazingly, this gate dates back to 1641. The final gate of the three is the squarish Cheonwangmun Gate. This gate houses four intimidating statues of the Four Heavenly Kings, and the gate dates back to 1704.

Up a flight of stairs, you’ll next come to the Palryeong-ru Pavilion. This pavilion blocks most of the lower courtyard; however, the Beopjong-ru, bell pavilion, lies just to the left of it. And to the right stands the Nine-Story Stone Pagoda. While the pagoda only dates back to 1990, purportedly, it enshrines three sari (crystallized remains) from the Buddha. If you follow a pathway and a steep set of stairs just past the bell pavilion, you’ll come to an elevated courtyard that houses a unique collection of shrine halls including the Palsang-jeon and the Geum-dang. Inside the Palsang-jeon are eight extremely intricate murals dedicated to the Buddha, as well as solitary statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) on the main altar. Up another flight of stairs, you’ll see the Geum-dang, which houses an ancient pagoda inside its walls.

Back at the Palryeong-ru Pavilion and looking north-east, you’ll encounter National Treasure #47. This treasure is the historic Jingam’s stele. The body of the stele was written by the famed Confucian-Daoist scholar, Goun (Choi Chi-won). The stele dates back to 886-887, and the body of the biseok describes the history of the temple. Nine dragons dance around its capstone, while a dragon-like turtle bears the burden of the ancient stone’s weight. Take the time to have a look at this remarkable artifact.

Just past this beautiful biseok lies the Daeung-jeon, main hall, at Ssanggyesa Temple. Sitting inside this large main hall are seven statues on the main altar. Sitting in the centre of the seven is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined to the right by a triad of statues centred by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). The other two figures that make up this triad are Ilgwang (The Sun Bodhiasttva) and Wolgwang (The Moon Bodhisattva). The triad to the left of the Buddha is centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul). Also inside these walls are a beautiful guardian mural and a Gamno-do painting.

Directly to the left of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon, which houses some of the most intricate murals dedicated to the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) in all of Korea. They are joined by a simplistic wooden collection of the 16 Nahan. And directly to the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon.

To the rear of the main hall, and newly built, is an outdoor altar similar to the one at Tongdosa Temple. Purportedly, the altar at Ssanggyesa Temple, just like Tongdosa Temple, also houses a sari from the Buddha. This shrine is joined to the left by the Hwaeom-jeon, which houses some holy texts, as well as a golden statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) sitting in the centre chamber.

Just to the rear of the Hwaeom-jeon is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are some of the most unique incarnations of the three most popular shaman deities in the Korean pantheon. In the centre hangs the well-populated 49 star Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This mural is joined by the Seongmo Halmae Sanshin (The Holy-Mother Grandmother Mountain Spirit). She appears quite regal even without a crown. And the final of the three is Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

Admission to the temple is 2,500 won.

HOW TO GET THERE:  From the Hadong Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take bus bound for Ssanggyesa Temple. The bus ride should take about 20 to 25 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10.  Ssanggyesa Temple is filled with temple shrine halls to visit. It also includes an altar and a pagoda that purportedly house the Buddha’s remains, as well as a National Treasure that dates back to the 9th century. And with the temple being situated in Jirisan National Park, well, Ssanggyesa Temple quickly becomes a must for any temple adventurer.

The first gate to greet you at Ssanggyesa Temple.
The large second gate that houses the four heavenly kings that are the guardians at Ssanggyesa Temple.
A view of the lower courtyard at the temple.
A better view of the beautiful nine-tiered pagoda at Ssanggyesa Temple.
 A view of a stream, and the bridge that spans it, on the west side of the temple.
One of the temple buildings from the lower courtyard.
The colourful bell pavilion at Ssanggyesa Temple.
A memorial tablet dedicated to the national priest Jin’gam.
The view from the main hall (that was under construction at the time).
The seven altar pieces inside the main hall.
Geum-dang hall in the upper courtyard behind main hall.
Palsang-jeon hall, also in the upper courtyard, behind the main hall.
A look from the upper courtyard at the overcast sky and the rolling Jirisan Mountains.
The pink flowers that were in bloom behind Palsang-jeon and Geum-dang in the elevated courtyard behind the main hall.
Just one of the beautiful creeks that surrounds the temple grounds.

Updated: Hwaeomsa Temple – 화엄사 (Gurye, Jeollanam-do)


The beautiful Three-Story Stone Pagoda with Four Lions at Hwaeomsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Hwaeomsa Temple, which means “Flower Garland Sutra,” in English, was first founded by Yeon-gi Josa in 544 C.E. The temple was continuously expanded until its total destruction during the Imjin War of 1592. Fortunately for us, it was rebuilt three decades later. And today, it’s one of Korea’s largest and most well respected temples. In total, the temple houses four national treasures.

You first make your way up to the temple along the Hwaeomsa Temple Valley, which neighbours the stunning Masan River. When you finally do arrive at the temple, you’ll be greeted by the two-pillared Iljumun Gate. Stepping through this gate, you’ll next be greeted by Geumgangmun Gate and the Cheonwangmun Gate. Both typify the splendour of these Korean entry gates.

After skirting the Boje-ru Pavilion to the right, you’ll finally enter the temple courtyard. To the far left stand both the Jong-gak, bell pavilion, that has fierce lions surrounding all four corners of the pavilion. It’s joined to the left by the Yeongsan-jeon, which houses eight stunning murals dedicated to the Buddha’s life. In this courtyard, and just before you mount the stares that lead up to the main hall, are two ancient pagodas: Seo-ocheung Pagoda (west-five-story pagoda) and Dongocheung Pagoda (east-five-story pagoda).

Finally climbing the stairs, you’ll come face to face with the main hall at Hwaeomsa Temple, the Daeung-jeon. The weather-worn main hall houses a large triad of statues on the main altar. In the centre sits Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He is joined on either side by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) to the left and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Body Buddha) to the right. These three Buddhas form the different incarnations of the Buddha. The interior to this hall, including the canopy that hangs above the triad of statues on the main altar, is highly elaborate in both its colour and craftsmanship.

To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon, which houses a green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Jijang-bosal is accompanied by ten seated statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld, as well as masterful representations of these kings in painted form. To the left of the main hall, and between the Daeung-jeon and the massive Gakhwang-jeon, are the Wontong-jeon and the Nahan-jeon. The Wontong-jeon houses Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The Nahan-jeon houses both paintings and statues dedicated to the Historical Disciples of the Buddha (The Nahan). And the final shrine hall of the set is the Samseong-gak, which displays a collection of shaman murals dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

But it’s the Gakhwang-jeon hall that truly stands out architecturally at Hwaeomsa Temple. The two-storied hall dates back to 1699, and it’s one of the largest historic halls in all of Korea. Housed inside this cavernous hall are a set of seven statues along the main hall. Unfortunately, photography is prohibited inside this hall. The massive 6.4 metre tall stone lantern out in front of this hall is designated National Treasure #12.

Another highlight to this temple lies just to the left of the Gakhwang-jeon hall and up a steep set 108 uneven stairs on the hillside. At the top of these stairs lays the Sasaja Samcheung (or the Three-Story Stone Pagoda with Four Lions, in English). This most magnificent, and highly original, pagoda is designated National Treasure #35 for very obvious reasons. The five metre tall granite pagoda has three-tiers on top and four lion-shaped supports at its base. Each lion represents the four primary human emotions: love, sorrow, anger, and joy. At the centre of these lions stands a human figure with hands held to his chest. There are numerous other designs etched onto this pagoda, so take your time and enjoy the intricacies of this pagoda. And just in front of this pagoda is the equally unique stone lantern with a squatting figure at the centre of its base. Some have suggested that this is the founder of the temple kneeling in obedience to his mother.

Admission to the temple is 3,500 won.

HOW TO GET THERE:  From the Gurye Bus Terminal, you can take a direct bus bound for Hwaeomsa Temple. This bus leaves every ten to twenty minutes, and the first bus leaves at 8 a.m. The final bus to the temple leaves at 8:10 p.m. From where the bus lets you off, it’s another 15 to 20 minutes to Hwaeomsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 10/10.  For its historical significance alone, Hwaeomsa Temple rates highly amongst Korean temples. But if you add the giant splendor that is Gakhwang-jeon, and the temple rates that much higher. And to top it all off, on the hill stands two of the most uniquely designed pagodas and lanterns in all of Korea.  So if you couldn’t tell already, I highly, highly recommend a visit to Hwaeomsa Temple for both its cultural significance and artistic beauty!

Part of the Hwaeomsa Temple Valley.
The beautiful mountains that surround Hwaeomsa Temple.
The Iljumun Gate that first welcomes you to the temple.
A look inside the Geumgangmun Gate.
 A look towards the Cheonwangmun Gate.
A look inside the Cheonwangmun Gate at just one of the Heavenly Kings.
Both the Jong-gak and Boje-ru Pavilion.
A look towards the main hall and the Nahan-jeon.
Inside the Daeung-jeon during morning prayers.
The elaborate interior to the Myeongbu-jeon.
A look at the main altar inside the Nahan-jeon.
The Chilseong mural inside the Samseong-gak.
And a look at Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), as well, inside the Samseong-gak.
A look towards the massive, and historic, Gakhwang-jeon.
The massive 6.4 metre tall stone lantern that is National Treasure #12.
A look inside the cavernous Gakhwang-jeon.
One more look before climbing the 108 stairs.
The awe-inspiring Three-story Stone Pagoda with Four Lions.
A closer look inside the base of the pagoda.
And finally, playful tiling adorning the roof of the monks’ living quarters.

Updated: Jikjisa Temple – 직지사 (Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

Inside the Biro-jeon Hall at Jikjisa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Jikjisa Temple, which means “Direct Indicator Temple,” in English, sits at the base of Mt. Hwanaksan. Without a doubt, the temple is located in one of the most beautiful spots in all of Korea with quiet forests, rolling streams, and ancient ruins all around. As the legend goes, Jikjisa Temple was built in 418 C.E. The temple was built under the guidance of monk Ado; a monk who introduced Buddhism to the Silla Kingdom after visiting China long before it was accepted in the Silla Kingdom. After first seeing the location, he pointed to a spot on the mountain and said a large temple should be built at its base (hence “Direct Indicator Temple”). And during Taejo’s reign, the first king of the Goryeo Dynasty, the temple became the largest in all of East Asia. However, as part of the Imjin War from 1592 to 1598, numerous military monks from Jikjisa Temple rose up against the Japanese, and as reprisal, Jikjisa Temple was burnt to the ground. In 1610, Jikjisa Temple was rebuilt, and continued to be expanded upon until the 1980’s. Now, Jikjisa Temple is one of the eight largest temples in Korea and has five associated hermitages scattered throughout the mountainside.

You first approach the temple up a lush forest path. Along the way, you’ll see the elevated Iljumun Gate. Eventually, you’ll pass by the massive Mandeok-jeon conference hall to your left, but continue right towards the Geumgangmun Gate, which houses painted child-like incarnations of Bohyun-bosal and Munsu-bosal. Past the Geumgangmn Gate is the large Cheongwangmun Gate. Perhaps, this gate is one of the largest in Korea with its towering Four Heavenly Kings inside. Both the interior and exterior walls are beautifully painted with swirling dragons, floating Biseon, and pastoral paintings.

Just past this gate, and around the Mansye-ru Pavilion, you’ll climb a couple sets to be squarely situated in the main temple courtyard at Jikjisa Temple. Straight ahead is the Daeung-jeon main hall which dates back to 1649. Around its exterior walls are some chipped, but still vibrant, Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). These slender statues are backed by six metre tall murals that date back to 1744. Out in front of the main hall are a pair of three-tier stone pagodas that date back to the 9th century. They beautifully framed the main hall. Also, the Jong-gak, or bell pavilion, is housed just to the left of the western pagoda.

Just to the rear of the main hall is the Seongjwa-gak, which houses three shaman murals. All three, which are masterfully executed, are dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

To the left of the main hall, and entering a forested area, you’ll next come to an all new collection of halls. The first to greet you is the Gwaneeum-jeon with a minimalized interior. The main altar, however, has an elegantly seated statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the left of this hall is the Eungjin-jeon, which houses the Historical Disciples of the Buddha in glass cases, as well as a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. Out in front of this hall is the Samyeong-gak, which is dedicated to the warrior monk, Samyeong-daesa (1544-1610), who was the former abbot at the temple. Housed inside this hall is a beautiful painting dedicated to this amazing monk. And just slightly to the rear of this hall is the Myeongbu-jeon, which houses a green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). The statue of this Bodhisattva is matched by an equally stunning mural of Jijang-bosal. And the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife is joined on both sides by the Ten Kings of the Underworld. All four of these halls have amazing murals around each of their exteriors, so take the time and have a look.

There are two more halls to the west of these four halls. The rather understated Yaksa-jeon is situated just to the left of the temple’s museum (which is also worth a visit, if you have the time). Housed inside the Yaksa-jeon is a beautiful, golden statue dedicated to Yaksayore-bul. But it’s the Biro-jeon, or the Cheonbul-jeon, in the western courtyard, that truly stands out. This hall dates back to 1661. And housed inside this hall, alongside Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) on the main altar, are a thousand white Buddha statues.

Admission to the temple is 2,500 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: When you arrive at the Gimcheon train station, you can catch local buses #11, #111, or #112 from the intercity bus terminal that is right next to the train station parking lot. The bus ride is 1,300 won and lasts about 10 to 20 minutes. You can also take a taxi from just out in front of the train station, as well. If you’re travelling in a group, this may be an easier way to go, as the ride costs about 7,000 to 10,000 won. The bus will drop you off at the bus stop which is a nice 15 minute walk to Jikjisa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 9.5/10. There are very few drawbacks to visiting Jikjisa Temple. The only drawback is that it’s a bit difficult to get to. Other than this slight negative, Jikjisa Temple is enormous in size and artistic scope. The beautiful paintings are spell-binding, and the 1,000 white miniature Buddhas are amazing. With being the oldest (purported) temple in all of Korea, it is well worth a day trip out to see Jikjisa Temple.

The Iljumun Gate at Jikjisa Temple.
A look to the other gates that welcome you at the temple.
The Mansye-ru Pavilion.
The large Cheonwangmun Gate at the temple.
Two of the Four Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.
The main hall and ancient pagodas to the east and west of the Daeung-jeon.
The triad of statues inside the main hall.
Some of the artwork inside the main hall; this time, of Gwanseeum-bosal.
Another piece of artwork inside the main hall.
The Seongjwa-gak shaman shrine hall to the right rear of the main hall.
A look at Sanshin inside the shaman shrine hall.
The main temple courtyard.
The well-hidden Gwaneum-jeon at Jikjisa Temple.
A look inside the Eungjin-jeon.
A look towards the Samyeong-gak.
The beautiful mural of Samyeong inside the Samyeong-gak.
Both the Myeongbu-jeon and Biro-jeon together.
The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon with Jijang-bosal front and centre.
Some of the artwork that adorns the halls at Jikjisa Temple. This particular painting commemorates the founding of Jikjisa Temple and monk Ado.
Here is a winterscape of Jikjisa Temple.
A look inside the Biro-jeon Hall with a thousand white Buddha statues.
The western courtyard that houses several of the temple’s halls including the Yaksa-jeon.
A look inside the Yaksa-jeon at the Medicine Buddha.

Beomeosa Temple – 범어사 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)


A view from the former second gate at Beomeosa Temple.

Hello Everyone!

Beomeosa Temple –  범어사 (“Fish of the Buddhist Scripture Temple”) is the largest and most important temple in all of Busan. In all the time I’ve lived in Busan, or near, I think I’ve visited Beomeosa Temple five times. And next to Tongdosa Temple, Bulguksa Temple, and Seokguram Hermitage, this is the temple that I’ve visited most frequently while living in  Korea.  I’ve visited with my wife, Mom, friends, and co-workers, and each time I visit I find a new aspect of the temple that is amazing and beautiful. I first visited Beomeosa Temple in 2003 and continue to visit it regularly to the present day.

Beomeosa Temple was founded in 678 by the monk Master Uisang-josa. Most of its present buildings date from the 17th and 18th century, and they typify mid-Joseon Dynasty temple architecture. Presently, Beomeosa Temple is one of the six or so largest temples in all of Korea.

From the Beomeosa Temple parking lot, you’ll make your way up a broad staircase, past a patch of pines and bamboo trees, to the first of three temple gates. The first gate, the Iljumun Gate, is an open design. What makes this gate design unique from most in Korea is that it has four pillars, instead of the customary two, to support its weight. Beomeosa Temple has its fair share of flagpole supports and stupas as you make your way to the temple. The second gate previously housed four uniquely sculpted heavenly kings to protect the temple from evil spirits. Unfortunately, on December 16, 2010, a Korean that worked at Beomeosa Temple committed an act of arson and burnt this structure to the ground. Recently, this act of arson was corrected in the summer of 2012, and there is now a beautiful new Cheonwangmun Gate at Beomeosa. In fact, it’s a near exact replica, Heavenly Kings and all, of the former gate. The third gate displays paintings of nature on both the inside and outside of its surface. Unfortunately, you are unable to see the third gate as they are now constructing a new hall above this gate. Instead, you have to head right, near some monk dorms, up some stairs and turn left. This will bring you to the main courtyard, beside the newly furbished two storied bell pavilion. The gift shop is no longer below the bell pavilion, but instead, it’s been moved across the courtyard into a building all its own.

Beomeosa Temple seems to be under a lot of construction as of late. What is also gone from the temple is the Bojae-ru, the temple’s lecture hall. No longer does it obstruct the entrance of the temple’s courtyard from the three gates. This has opened up the temple’s courtyard. Occupying the courtyard is a Silla Dynasty stone lantern and ancient three-tier pagoda. Straight ahead, and up a small staircase adorned with mythical Haetae (controllers/consumers of fire), is the rather plain looking main hall: Daeung-jeon. This building was rebuilt in 1614 and houses altar pieces consisting of the Seokgamoni Buddha and two bodhisattvas. Up in the rafters of this building are numerous dragon heads and fairies dancing around. Buildings surrounding the main hall are a row of halls dedicated to both Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) and Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Light). The interior of both of these buildings is amazingly colourful. To the right of the main hall, on the upper courtyard, is the Gwaneum-jeon hall dedicated to the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Gwanseeum-bosal. And to the left of the main hall is an equally beautiful and ornate hall, Jijang-jeon, dedicated to the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife, Jijang-bosal. All these halls are wonderfully decorated both inside and out and exemplify the beauty of what Korean temple’s can be.

To the left of the main hall is the most unique building at Beomeosa Temple. It’s an older looking and faded building that is divided into three sections. On the far left is Palsang-jeon, which displays the eight major scenes of the Buddha’s life. The middle section, Dokseong-jeon, is dedicated to the Lonely Nahan. And the section to the right is the Nahan-jeon, which houses statues of the Buddha’s disciples. In total, there are a couple dozen buildings at Beomeosa Temple to visit. Additionally, there are eleven hermitages sprinkled throughout Geumjeongsan Mountains associated with Beomeosa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE:  You can get to Beomeosa Temple in one of two ways. In both scenarios you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk a thirty minute hike up a winding road to Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the Beomeosa Temple entrance.

Admission to the temple is free, which is a real steal for a temple of this size and magnitude.

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OVERALL RATING: 9.5/10. The only reason that Beomeosa Temple rates a little lower than the other important temples in Korea is that it doesn’t have the same historical significance and some other temples. However, the buildings themselves are both beautiful and ornate. One example of what I mean is that the main hall is a bit unassuming. But with that being said, Beomeosa Temple holds a lot of charm like the uniquely designed and built three sectioned building beside the main hall, the entrance gates at the temple, as well as the elaborate interiors to all of the halls. For a great day trip in Busan, and a good example of what a city temple can potentially be, I highly recommend this temple.

The pathway that leads up to Beomeosa Temple.
Picture 346
A view of the beautiful first gate at Beomeosa Temple.
A better look at just how beautiful the former second gate use to be. Hopefully they’ll build it again soon.
Picture 155
A view of the beautiful pagoda and temple museum at Beomeosa Temple.
One of the four former residence of the second gate.
They were some of the most spectacular guardians in all of Korea.
A view of the third and final gate at Beomeosa Temple. All three gates are good examples of just how uniquely beautiful these gates can truly be.
Picture 007
A picture from this spring with the magnolia trees in bloom, and the temple preparing for Buddha’s birthday.
Picture 014
A view of the new looking courtyard at the temple. The old lecture hall is no longer there and there’s a new giftshop at the temple. The courtyard looks a lot more open.
One of the brightly coloured interiors at the temple. This hall, Mireukjeon, is dedicated to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).
Picture 157
A look inside the hall that houses Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Light) with Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) on either side of him.
The three-tiered stone pagoda in the courtyard.
Picture 031
A look at both Gwaneumjeon hall to the immediate right and Daeungjeon, the main hall, straight ahead.
Picture 032
The beautiful interior of Gwaneum-jeon hall with the ornate statue of Gwanseeum-bosal at the centre of the hall.
The rather small and unassuming main hall, Daeungjeon hall, at the temple.
However, the interior, like most other halls at Beomeosa Temple, is decorative and colourful. Seokgamoni sits at the centre.
Another look inside the gorgeous main hall.
Picture 162
To the left of the main hall is Jijang-jeon. A senior monk was praying to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) early in the morning.
The house size boulder at Beomeosa Temple, in the upper courtyard, with the three sectioned building to its left.
A view out on the mountains surrounding the temple from the three sectioned hall.
Picture 052
The uniquely designed three sectioned hall.
Picture 049
A look inside the Nahan-jeon hall which is dedicated to 16 of Seokgamoni-bul’s disciples.
Picture 044
A look inside the ornately decorated Palsang Hall, which depicts the eight historic scenes from the Buddha’s life.
And finally, it was time to go.

Updated: Pyochungsa Temple – 표충사 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The main hall and Gwaneum-jeon at Pyochungsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Pyochungsa Temple was first founded in 654 A.D. by the great monk, Wonhyo-daesa. After meditating at a neighbouring temple, he saw a group of auspicious clouds glowing iridescently above a bamboo forest. He immediately ordered a temple to be built, which turned out to be Jungnimsa Temple (“Bamboo Forest Temple”). He built this new temple on the very spot that he had witnessed the strange phenomenon. Then in 829 A.D., the temple was renamed; it came to be known as Yeongjeongsa Temple (“Temple of the Eternal Well”), after the third son of King Heungdeok was cured of his fatal illness after drinking local water. And the final name change came, when the temple became known as Pyochungsa Temple. During the Imjin War from 1592-98, 700 Buddhist warrior monks fought famously under the monks Samyeong, Seosan, and Giheo. For these acts of courage and bravery, the temple was renamed Pyochunsa Temple, which means “Award for Loyalty Temple,” in English.

From where the bus first lets you off, you’ll make your way towards the temple next to the neighbouring Sijeon Stream. Past Daewonam Hermitage to your far right, the temple will finally come into view through the trees. Pass under the Suchung-ru Pavilion, where you’ll finally enter the temple grounds. Look around, you’ll notice the Garam-gak shrine hall, which houses a tablet to ward off any evil spirits. A little straighter, but still to the left, you’ll notice the temple’s museum. This museum is worth a visit because it houses National Treasure #75, which is a Bronze Incense Burner. It’s believed to date back to 1177.

A little further along, and up a flight of stairs, you’ll pass through the Sacheonwangmun Gate. Housed inside this gate are four of the most expressive Heavenly Kings that you’ll find in Korea. But having finally passed through this gate, you’ll be standing in the lower courtyard at Pyochungsa Temple. In this area, and of note, is the newly built Manil-ru Pavilion. Behind this pavilion is the Chilseong-gak. It houses an older image of the Seven Stars, as well as seven separate incarnations of Chilseong. It’s also in this courtyard that a three-story Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.) pagoda stands 7.7 metres in height.

Up yet another set of stairs, you’ll finally be in the upper courtyard, which also houses the most amount of buildings that visitors can see at the temple. The first building to your left is the Palsang-jeon, which houses a white Buddha and eight paintings from Seokgamoni-bul’s life. Unfortunately, these paintings are just replicas, but they are pretty amazing all the same in their intricacies. To the left of this hall is the Eungjin-jeon. Inside this hall are 16 white statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). Behind these buildings is the Sanshin/Dokseong-gak.

To the right of these two buildings is the beautiful main hall at Pyochungsa Temple. The hall is painted beautifully both inside and out with fierce looking Nathwi protecting the front doors. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of large 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 base to this altar is one of the most beautiful in all of Korea with water-born animals decorating its entire base. On the far left wall is a guardian mural, while on the far right wall is an older looking mural with Amita-bul in the centre.

The two remaining halls at the temple are the Gwaneum-jeon and the Myeongbu-jeon. The Gwaneeum-jeon is situated to the left framed by the towering mountains to the rear of it. The Gwaneeum-jeon is decorated with some masterful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for inside this hall, there’s a multi-armed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) inside. She is backed by an even more elaborate painting of herself that is joined by Yongwang (The Dragon King) to the side. The other building in the same general vicinity is the Myeongbu-jeon. Housed inside this hall is a green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Uniquely, Jijang-bosal is larger than the ten accompanying seated statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

There’s an interesting little tale attached to Pyochungsa Temple, as well. There’s a rabbit that takes up residence on the temple grounds. Supposedly, the rabbit is viewed as a monk because it has been there for so long. They call it To-bosal (The Rabbit Monk). And because it wants to be there they believe it’s a monk from a former life, now, living at the temple. While rare to see, you’ll sometimes even see monks bowing to the rabbit. So keep your eyes peeled when visiting Pyochungsa Temple.

Admission to the temple is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Miryang Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take a bus that directly goes to Pyochungsa Temple. The bus first leaves at 7:35 a.m. and the last bus departs at 20:20. Throughout the day, the bus runs 12 times a day.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. Pyochungsa Temple is beautifully situated along the Yeongnam Alps. There are numerous halls to visit, as well as the highly artistic Saheongwangmun Gate to see. In combination with National Treasure #75, the Bronze Incense Burner, Pyochungsa Temple is a nice little escape away from bigger city trappings.

Under the Suchung-ru Pavilion and entry to the temple grounds.
The temple museum to the right.
A look towards the upper courtyard.
The Sacheonwangmun Gate.
A look inside at just one of the Four Heavenly Kings.
And one of the demons he is trampling under foot.
The three-tier Unified Silla pagoda.
A look inside the Eungjin-jeon.
The Sanshin/Dokseong-gak.
The rather plain Sanshin mural inside the shaman shrine hall.
The Daeung-jeon and the Palsang-jeon together.
A look inside the Palsang-jeon at the main altar.
The Chilseong-gak to the rear of the main hall.
A look inside the elaborate Chilseong-gak.
Inside the main hall.
One of the main altar paintings.
Just one of the Shimu-do murals adorning the Gwaneum-jeon at Pyochungsa Temple.
A look at Gwanseeum-bosal inside the Gwaneum-jeon.
A peek inside the Myeongbu-jeon.
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Finally, a look at To-Bosal (The Rabbit Monk) sitting beside the bell tower just after the monk had bowed to it.