Gyeseungsa Temple – 계승사 (Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The stunning view of the main hall and valley at Gyeseungsa Temple in Goseong.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gyeseungsa Temple in Goseong was a temple I didn’t really know that much about. I had read a couple of reviews on it, and I thought I would chance it and see what the temple had to offer. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at the temple.

You arrive at Gyeseungsa Temple up probably one of the longest and most treacherous roads I’ve been on in a car. You finally arrive at the temple, which has an amazingly beautiful view of the valley down below. Facing the temple, you’ll be greeted by a bell pavilion which also acts as the entrance to the temple.

Immediately, you’ll be greeted by the large sized main hall which entirely conceals a multi-tiered surprise behind it. But more on that later. To the immediate left of the main hall are the monks’ living quarters, visitors centre, and the kitchen. As for the exterior of the main hall, it’s adorned with simplistic paintings of both the Palsang-do murals and the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals. The latter is on top, while the former is on the bottom. As for the interior of the main hall, there’s a massive guardian painting as you enter the hall. As for the main altar, Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) sits in the centre with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) to his right. The only other thing inside the main hall, besides floral paintings and a couple paintings of a white-clad Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), is a shrine of pictures dedicated to the dead. So be respectful while inside this main hall.

Stepping outside the main hall, and making your way to the rear of this structure, you’ll be greeted by an amazing sight. Up the sheer rock face of the mountain, and up a set of stairs both made out of the mountain as well as roof tiles, are a set of shrine halls. The first, up the long set of stairs, is the Gwaneeum-jeon. The exterior of this hall is adorned with another set of Shimu-do murals, which are even more finely crafted than the ones on the main hall. As for the interior, the hall is all but adorned, all but for the dancheong traditional paint scheme. However, the plainness of this interior is more than made up for by the altar. Sitting on the altar is a multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal. It’s one of the more impressive statues of this Bodhisattva that I’ve seen in quite some time.

Up another set of stairs, you’ll come to the final terrace, which houses the Geungnak-jeon. Mythical creatures, pastoral scenes of nature, deer, and crane adorn the exterior of this hall. It’s also from this vantage point that you get the most spectacular view of the temple and valley below. As for the interior of the hall, once more, it’s largely void of murals. However, sitting on the main altar are a triad of large golden statues that are quite stunning. Sitting in the centre is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He is joined by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Amita-bul’s Power and Wisdom).

The final hall, which is more like a shrine, is barely noticeable to the left of the Geungnak-jeon. All but for a final flight of stairs that leads up to this shrine, you might miss it all together. This shrine is dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit). The design is rather unique, even if the glass encasement of this shaman deity is a bit underwhelming.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to the Goseong Bus Terminal, which is called the Goseong Yeogaek. From here, you’ll have to find a town bus, which is typically smaller than local buses, that goes to Daebeob-ri (대법리). The buses leave four times a day from Goseong, and it takes about 30 minutes to get to Daebeob-ri from Goseong. You’ll have to get off at the Daebeob-ri stop and walk the remaining 30 minutes to Gyeseungsa Temple. It’s a bit of a hike, and you might be able to catch a taxi from here, but don’t count on it.

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OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. The highlight to this temple are the views of the valley below both from the entrance gate, and especially from the Geungnak-jeon. But a close second is the sheer size of the main hall and the guardian mural that rests inside of this hall. In addition, the uniqueness of the terraced halls behind the main hall, as well as the amazingly graceful statue of Gwanseeum-bosal, make Gyeseungsa Temple a must see if you’re in the Goseong area.

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The beautiful view of the valley below from in front of the main entrance gate at Gyeseungsa Temple.
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Looking up at the main hall through the entrance gate.
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The bell pavilion/entrance gate that welcomes you to the temple.
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A look inside the beautiful bell pavilion.
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The large main hall at Gyeseungsa Temple.
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The murals that adorn the exterior walls of the main hall. On top is just one mural from the Palsang-do set. And on the bottom is a mural from the Shimu-do set.
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The large guardian painting that welcomes you as you step into the main hall.
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The triad of statues that sit on the main altar inside the main hall. In the centre is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy).
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The stone and tile stairway that leads up to the terraced shrine halls.
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The first of the terraced shrine halls is the Gwaneeum-jeon Hall.
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One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the exterior walls of the Gwaneeum-jeon.
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The multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that sits on the main altar inside the Gwaneeum-jeon.
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A look up at the Geungnak-jeon Hall.
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A look inside the Geungnak-jeon Hall with Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre. He’s flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal.
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The view between the Geungnak-jeon Hall and the shrine dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit).
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And a look at San shin. I always hate when they put a glass frame over the painting because I always get a reflection.
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And one last look up at the colourful main hall before I was onto another temple.

Okcheonsa Temple – 옥천사 (Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A stunning look at the famous Jabangnu Hall at Okcheonsa Temple in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had long wanted to visit Okcheonsa Temple in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do. Knowing that Goseong has quite a few famous temples, and that the most famous and popular of those temples is Okcheonsa Temple, it made perfect since that I would want to visit this temple.

Okcheonsa Temple (옥천사), which means Jade Springs Temple, in Goseong dates back to 670 A.D., and it was established by Uisang-daesa. The name for the temple comes from the famous spring to the right of the main hall. And during the Imjin War from 1592 to 1598, the temple acted as a defence temple for managing the armed monk soldiers. After being burnt down during the Japanese Invasion, it was later rebuilt and used once more as a defence temple against the potential invasion of the Japanese, once more. Between 1733 to 1842, some 340 soldiers called the temple home. And during the 20th century, it was the first religious home to the famous monk, Cheongdam, who was a reformer of Korean Buddhism.

You first arrive at the temple parking lot up a very long and winding road. As you enter the temple grounds, you’ll be greeted by a stele to your immediate left, and the hidden bell pavilion a bit further to the west. However, the most imposing building to greet you at the temple, which harkens back to its military origins, is the Jabangnu Hall. It’s situated in front of the temple courtyard like a fortress. It’s extremely long in length and it’s decorated with numerous pastoral scenes. The hall was used for military meetings and training.

Ascending the stairs to the left of the Jabangnu Hall, you’ll enter into the compact courtyard. Buildings almost seem to be touching each other because they’re so close in proximity. To your immediate left and right are the administrative buildings at Okcheonsa Temple. And straight ahead is the main hall. The original main hall was burnt down during the Imjin War, however, it was later rebuilt in 1657 by Monk Yongseong. The exterior of the hall is largely unadorned all but for a handful of fading murals. As for the interior of the main hall, and sitting on the main altar, is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre. To his right and left are Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Amita-bul’s Power and Wisdom). A couple interesting notes about the interior of the hall is that both the murals of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Recluse) are housed inside the main hall for reasons that will become obvious later. Another mural that’s inside the main hall is the guardian mural to the left of the altar, as well as a set of murals dedicated to various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to the right of the main altar. Additionally, the entire interior of the main hall is beautiful decorated with various floral and scenic murals.

To the immediate right of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon. The beautiful hall is dedicated to the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). Sitting on the main altar is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) that is surrounded by the 16 Nahan. Above the main altar is a gorgeous dragon mural. As for the rest of the interior of this hall, there are numerous dragon heads up in the ceiling which are some of the finest I’ve yet to see. And next to the Nahan-jeon is the spring for which the temple gets its name. Be careful if you decided to enter into the hall that houses the jade spring because of the low entry. Also, there’s a mural above the spring with a triad of figures like Yongwang (The Dragon King).

To the left of the main hall is one of the more beautiful, and seemingly cavernous, Myeongbu-jeon Halls in all of Korea. The present Myeongbu-jeon Hall dates back to 1895. Much like the main hall, the exterior is largely unadorned. It isn’t until you step inside of this hall that you get the full effect of its beauty. Like stepping into a wooden cave, you’re first greeted by a pair of guardians. As you step further inside, you’ll notice the 10 Kings of the Underworld surrounding Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), who sits on the main altar. All the statues look older in age; however, the murals that back the 10 Kings are nothing more than copies of the originals, which I assume reside in the temple museum. Fortunately, there’s some elaborate dancheong mural designs throughout the interior of this hall.

Behind the Myeongbu-jeon are a row of three buildings on the upper terrace. The first of the three, and to the far left, is a beautiful hall dedicated to prominent monks at the temple. Sitting at the centre of the various monks is Uisang-daesa. Next to this hall are two shrine halls that are under renovation/reconstruction depending on which way you want to look at it. These are the former residences for San shin and Dokseong, and that’s why the paintings of these two shaman deities are housed inside the main hall.

The final hall at Okcheonsa Temple is the Palsang-jeon dedicated to the eight murals of the Buddha’s life. Unfortunately, the murals inside of this hall are just replicas of the originals. However, there is a beautiful statue of Jijang-bosal inside this hall, as well as a finely executed Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural at the foot of the Palsang-do replica murals.

HOW TO GET THERE: While Okcheonsa Temple is a bit complicated to get to, it’s well worth the effort. First, you’ll have to catch a bus to the city of Jinju. If you live in Busan, you can catch a bus from the Seobu Bus Terminal to Jinju Bus Terminal. Starting from 5:40 a.m., the buses leave every 15 minutes. In total, the bus trip will take you about an hour and twenty minutes, and it’ll cost you 6,700 won. At night, which starts at 10 p.m., a bus ride will cost you 8,500 won. From the Jinju Bus Terminal, take the bus that reads “Goseong haeng” (고성행), which means “towards Goseong.” You’ll then have to get off at Geumgok. From this stop, you’ll then have to take a taxi the remainder of the way. You can either ride the taxi all the way, or you can get off at the Okcheonsa Temple entrance and walk the remaining 30 minutes to the temple courtyard.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. There’s a lot to see at this historical and militaristic temple, which all starts at the Jabangnu Hall. The highlights continue with the interior of the main hall, the Myeongbu-jeon Hall and the Nahan-jeon. And it’s all capped off with the unique jade spring that gives the temple it’s name, Okcheonsa Temple.

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A look across the front facade at Jabangnu Hall.
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The pagoda to your immediate left as you enter the temple grounds.
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And the bell pavilion that runs parallel to the pagoda.
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The compact temple courtyard with the main hall to the left.
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Inside the main hall and a look at the altar with Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the cetnre. And both Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal are flanking the celestial Buddha.
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A look up at the wonderfully decorated canopy inside the main hall.
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A beautiful floral pattern inside the main hall and to the right of the main altar.
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The set of murals that flanks the main altar to the right.
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And as you enter the main hall, and to your immediate left, is this San shin (The Mountain Spirit) mural. Surprising, I know!
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The view from the main hall out onto the temple courtyard with the Jabangnu Hall in the middle.
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A look inside the militaristic Jabangnu Hall.
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Just three, of the sixteen, Nahan statues that sit inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.
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Just one of the decorative dragons that adorns the ceiling inside the Nahan-jeon.
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The famous spring that the temple gets its name from.
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A closer look at the jade spring.
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Behind the main hall is the Palsang-jeon Hall dedicated to the murals that depict the eight stages of the Historical Buddha’s life.
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A look inside the Palsang-jeon Hall.
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A look over at the Myeongbu-jeon Judgement Hall to the left of the main hall.
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This simplistic painting adorns the exterior wall of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
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A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall at the main altar and Jijang-bosal.
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The renovated/reconstructed, depending on how you view it, halls dedicated to both San shin and Dokseong. Perhaps that’s why they temporarily reside inside the main hall.
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A mural of Uisang-daesa, just one of the famous monks that resided at Okcheonsa Temple at one time or another. It’s housed inside the hall dedicated to prominent historical monks at the temple.

Video: Eungseoksa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

Virtually unknown, Eungseoksa Temple is situated on the outskirts of Jinju in Gyeongnam Province. And while it is virtually unknown, it has a lot to see and experience from the stately Iljumun Gate, to its beautiful main hall, and onto its unique shaman shrine hall, all the way up to the large sized painting of Dokseong (The Recluse) that’s situated inside the Dokseong-gak Hall. There is a lot to see and experience, so follow me, as I explore Eungseoksa Temple.

Eungseoksa Temple – 응석사 (Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The unique pagoda and ancient main hall at Eungseoksa Temple in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Another temple I wanted to explore in the Jinju area, and not directly in the city, was Eungseoksa Temple. So making my way out to the country area, and down a long, and sometimes gravel road, I found myself at the temple run by Buddhist nuns.

Eungseoksa Temple (응석사) was first established in 554 A.D. by High Priest Yeongi. And its lecture hall was first created by the famous monk, Monk Uisang, in 662. And at one point, and through its popularity and growth, the temple grew to be some 163 buildings in size. But during the Imjin War of 1592 to 1598, after discovering a cache of weapons under the Buddha statues, they burnt the entire temple down to the ground. Finally, the temple was rebuilt in 1736, and it was later expanded on some more in 1899. A final renovation of the temple occurred in 1983.

When you first arrive at the temple, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful Iljumun Gate. It is adorned with various paintings like triads of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, as well dragon and Biseon murals. Passing through this gate, you’ll next come to the much larger Cheonwangmun (Heavenly Kings Gate). To the right of this gate are a couple of handmade pagodas and a wooden guardian spirit pole. To the left of the gate are a couple budos. Just out in front of the Cheonwangmun are two fierce tiger statues, as well as two more paintings of tigers on the face of the gate. As for inside the first floor, of the two storied Cheonwangmun (which also houses the bell pavilion on the second floor), you’ll encounter four simplistic paintings of the Four Heavenly Kings.

Having passed under the bell pavilion, and if you look back as you enter into the temple courtyard, you’ll notice the Eungseoksa Temple’s beautiful bronze bell with elaborate Biseon adorning it. Also, there’s a large sized Poroe dragon crowning the top of the bell, which also helps fasten the bell to the bell pavilion.

Looking around the temple grounds, you’ll notice that most of the administrative and day-to-day nun’s buildings are to your left like the kitchen, dorms, and main office. Directly ahead of you is the large sized main hall. Sitting out in front of the main hall is a highly unique, yet beautiful, seven tier pagoda. As for the paintings that adorn the exterior walls of the main hall, they are the Shimu-do (Ox-herding) murals. They are some of the finest that you’ll find in Korea in both their expression and execution. As for the interior of the main hall, there is a triad of statues that date back to 1643. Sitting in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He is flanked by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) to the left and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) to the right. This triad was highly popular at the time that they were created because they symbolize the doctrine of samsara, which expresses the idea of birth, death, and re-birth. And these statues are quite large in size, with the tallest, Seokgamoni-bul, standing 144.5 cm tall.

To the immediate left of the main hall is the uniquely oriented hall dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit) and Chilseong (Seven Stars). The reason that I say it’s uniquely oriented is that the hall faces towards the main hall with both its entrance door and paintings facing towards the Daeung-jeon, instead of facing outwards towards the temple courtyard. The first painting of the two to greet you to this shaman shrine hall is a wonderfully elaborate Chilseong painting with numerous celestial beings populating the painting. To the right of the Chilseong painting is the San shin painting. Have a look at the fierce golden eyes of the accompanying tiger to San shin’s side.

And even further west of the main hall is the extremely simplistic Nahan-jeon, which is dedicated to the 16 Disciples of the Historical Buddha. The exterior of this hall is largely unadorned all but for the basic colour-scheme. And the interior of the hall only houses a long main altar with all sixteen of the Nahan in a white line of stone statues. In the centre is an equally white statue of Seokgamoni-bul.

Perhaps the most unique hall at the temple is up another set of stairs on the second terrace at Eungseoksa Temple. Usually, Dokseong (The Recluse) is housed with the other shaman deities like San shin or Chilseong in the Samseong-gak. Either that, or San shin can be housed alone in a San shin-gak. However, it is very rare, even at larger temples, that Dokseong is housed all by himself. And yet, Dokseong is housed inside of his own hall. Sitting on the main altar is a large sized mural of this shaman deity, which dwarfs the statue of Dokseong that sits out in front of this huge mural.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to the Jinju Intercity Bus terminal in Jinju. From there, you’ll have to walk towards the big intersection in the area. From there, head north to get to a bus stop that will take you to the temple. This bus stop is beside the NH bank, and the walk, in total, will take you about 15 minutes from the bus terminal to the bus stop. From the bus stop, you’ll have to board bus #378 and get off at the Eungseoksa Temple bus stop. In total, the bus ride should take you about an hour.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. I have to admit, this temple came as a bit of a surprise; and yes, in a good way. So often I go to these temples, and they can disappoint; however, Eungseoksa Temple definitely exceeded my expectations from the large sized triad of historical statues that sit in the main hall, to the unique orientation and paintings inside of the shaman shrine hall that houses Chilseong and San shin murals. All the way up to the Dokseong-gak shrine hall with its large sized mural. And finally, the uniquely rendered pagoda and Iljumun Gate at the temple. If you’re only to see one temple in Jinju, have a look at Eungseoksa Temple first.

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The colourfully painted, yet ever stately, Iljumun Gate at Eungseoksa Temple.
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A better look at the intricate illustrations that adorn the stately Iljumun Gate.
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The walk up to the Cheonwangmun Gate, as well as the temple bell pavilion that rests on top of the second floor of the entrance gate.
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The stoutly shaped bell on the second floor of the entrance gate.
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A look back at the Iljumun Gate.
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The temple courtyard with the main hall set in the centre with the unique temple pagoda to the right.
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A closer look at the finial on top of the temple pagoda.
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One of the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.
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The historic triad of statues that date back to 1643. In the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), and he’s flanked on either side by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) to the left and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) to the right.
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With a stunning blue sky up ahead, the dancheong colours seemed that much more beautiful.
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A look at the shaman shrine hall to the left of the main hall.
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Inside, and to the right once you step into the shaman shrine hall, is this beautiful mural of San shin (The Mountain Spirit).
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And straight ahead inside the shaman shrine hall is this amazing Chilseong (The Seven Stars) murals. It’s definitely one of the more impressive that I’ve seen in my travels.
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Next to the shaman shrine hall on the right is the Nahan-jeon to the left.
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Inside the Nahan-jeon are these white statues of the Nahan with Seokgamoni-bul sitting in the centre of the altar.
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The plainly painted Dokseong-gak that crowns the temple heights.
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And inside the darkly lit hall is this large sized mural of Dokseong (The Recluse).

Video: Dasolsa Temple

Hello Again Everyone,

I had long wanted to visit Dasolsa Temple in Sacheon, Gyeongsangnam-do, but I never really had the time. But I’m glad I was finally able to make my way over to the western side of Gyeongsangnam-do because this temple is beautiful. Also, it purportedly houses the earthly remains of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) behind the main hall. Looking out from the window that acts as the main altar, you can see the budo that houses these remains. Added to it are some beautiful paintings and some striking buildings, so follow me as I explore the historic Dasolsa Temple.

Dasolsa Temple – 다솔사 (Sacheon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The fence that protects the earthly remains of Seokgamoni-bul housed at Dasolsa Temple in Sacheon, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had long wanted to visit the western part of Gyeongnam province. And fortunately for me, my vacation allowed me some time to explore this little visited part of Korea.

Dasolsa Temple (다솔사), in Sacheon, Gyeongsangnam-do, is situated on the banks of Mt. Imyeongsan. It’s an older temple that dates back to 503 A.D., when it was established by the famous monk Yeongi. Originally, the temple was called Yeongaksa Temple. Afterwards, famous monks like Jajang-yulsa and Uisang resided at this temple. Not long after, the temple continued to expand. The name of the temple then changed to Yeongbongsa Temple. Finally, the temple’s name was changed to its present name by the very famous Doseon, who was famous for his geomancy theories. Unfortunately, the temple has burnt down to the ground three times in its history. The first, like a lot of important temples in Korea, dates back to the Imjin War (1592-1598). The most recent temple fire took place in December, 1914, and it consumed all of the temple buildings except for the Daeyangru Hall.

When you first arrive at the temple, and step into the temple parking lot, it’s a bit confusing where you should go to see the temple. It isn’t well marked. However, the easiest way to get to the temple grounds is to head left towards the temple washrooms. You can also head right, but this is the roundabout way of getting to Dasolsa Temple.

Climbing the first set of stairs that leads up to the temple courtyard, you’ll be greeted by the Daeyangru Hall. It was first built in 1748 for religious events. This pavilion is unique because it lacks inner pillars; instead, it’s supported by a girder system that is nothing more than 10 metres long. There are some beautiful scenic paintings that adorn the exterior of this hall.

To the left of this historic hall, you’ll finally enter into the main courtyard at the temple. As you enter the courtyard, you’ll be greeted by the beautiful main hall. To the right of the main hall are the monks’ dorms and the visitors centre/temple office. Stepping up to the main hall, you’ll see that the exterior walls of the hall are adorned with simple, yet beautiful, Palsang-do murals, which depict the life of the Historical Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul. As for the interior of the main hall, you’ll instantly be struck by the window that rests above the main altar. Much like Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, Dasolsa Temple purportedly houses the partial remains of Seokgamoni-bul. Looking out from the dark main hall, and out into the light where Seokgamoni-bul’s remains rest inside of a budo, you can’t help but be touched. The window is framed by a flying Biseon and a golden Seokgamoni-bul statue that is lying down and preparing to enter Nirvana. As for the rest of the main hall, there is a stunning guardian painting to the left of the main altar.

To the immediate right of the main hall is the Geungnak-jeon hall dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Afterlife). It was re-built in 1910. Sitting on the main altar, and backed by a beautiful mural, is Amita-bul. In this hall, Amita-bul is surrounded by shaman deities. To his immediate left is San shin (The Mountain Spirit). And next to San shin are the murals dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and Dokseong (The Recluse). And to the right of the main altar, is a unique mural dedicated to one of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. And next to this highly unique mural is a mural dedicated, once more, to Amita-bul. This hall has a long history and is packed with various Buddhist and shaman murals.

To the left of the Geungnak-jeon is the Eungjin-jeon, which is dedicated to the Nahan, which were the 16 Disciples of the Historical Buddha. The hall was rebuilt in 1690, and it was further repaired, like most of the temple buildings at Dasolsa Temple, in 1930. As you step into this hall, you’ll be welcomed by the 16 Nahan, as well as a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) sitting on the main altar.

Squeezed between the main hall and the Eungjin-jeon, is a platform area that houses the budo that houses the purported earthly remains of Seokgamoni-bul. And unlike Tongdosa Temple, you can get fairly close to the budo. Finally, and to the far left of the main hall, is a short budo and a shrine that once housed a statue. Now, this area is empty all but for a stone sign.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, from wherever you are in Korea, you’ll have to get to the Sacheon Intercity Bus Terminal. From the Sacheon Intercity Bus Terminal, it seems like the only way to get to Dasolsa Temple is to take a taxi because there’s no bus to get there. The trip from the bus terminal takes about 25 minutes, or 24.3 kilometres, and it’ll set you back about 18,000 won.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Dasolsa Temple has a long history. And it’s from this long history that the likes of the Daeyangru Hall exists. Additionally, there are the purported remains of Seokgamoni-bul houses behind the main hall. And finally, the artwork housed inside the Geungnak-jeon are some of the more original paintings of various deities that I’ve seen in awhile. While it’s a bit of a trek out to Dasolsa Temple in Sacheon, Gyeongsangnam-do, it’s worth the effort.

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The Daeyangru Hall that first welcomes you to Dasolsa Temple.
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The main hall at Dasolsa Temple with a window that looks out on a budo that houses the Historical Buddha’s partial remains.
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A better look inside and outside the main hall.
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One of the more impressive guardian murals at any Korean Buddhist temple.
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A pair of paintings from the Palsang-do set that adorn the exterior walls of the main hall.
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The beautiful Geungnak-jeon Hall.
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With Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) sitting in the centre of the main altar inside the Geungnak-jeon Hall.
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The mural of Dokseong (The Recluse) that also hangs inside the Geungnak-jeon Hall.
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As well as this beautiful mural of San shin (The Mountain Spirit).
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The view of the main hall from the Geungnak-jeon Hall.
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A look over at the Eungjin-jeon with a look to the left at the budo that houses Seokgamoni-bul’s partial remains.
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Eight, of the sixteen, Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha) that sit inside the Nahan-jeon.
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A better look at the budo with the partial remains of Seokgamoni-bul inside of it.

The Manja (or the Swastika) – 만자

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The Manja, or swastika, that adorns a hall at Beopcheonsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I’m sure you’ve seen it everywhere at a Buddhist temple, whether it’s your first time at a Korean Buddhist temple, or it’s your 200th time, the swastika sign –   is quite prominent. For those of us from the west, the swastika sign, as we know it, has a more ominous feel to it, as it’s associated with people and ideas like Hitler, the Third Reich, and Nazism.

However, a closer look at the Nazi swastika, and the Korean Buddhist swastika, will reveal that they point in opposite directions. With all things, there are exceptions, but this tends to be the rule. First the Korean Buddhist sign looks like this:

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While the Nazi swastika looks like this:

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However, while the Nazi swastika symbolized the ideas of racism and the Aryan race, the Korean Buddhist swastika refers to good fortune and auspiciousness. I know, quite the contrast.

So let’s delve a bit deeper into what the Korean Buddhist swastika means. First of all, I call it a swastika because that’s what we know it as coming from the west; however, in Korea, it’s actually called a “Manja.” The word “Man”, or 만 in Korean, represents the sign, while “Manja” literally means “The letter Man.”

The first use of the Manja dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization that existed over 5,000 years ago. In Sanskirt, the Manja is called Srivatsalksana. And while there are four ways to express this Sanskrit word, the most common is “Srivatsa”, which literally means the shape of sea clouds where hair is curled, overlapped and intermingled. I know, it sounds a bit strange, but in context, it makes a lot more sense. Srivatsa, or Gilsanghwiseon (길상희선) or Gilsanghaewun (길상해운) in Korean, refers to one of the “Samsipisang” (삼십이상), which is just one of the thirty-two marks of excellence that existed on Seokgamoni-bul’s (The Historical Buddha) body. From his head to his toes, the Buddha was covered in these marks.

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The feet adorned with the Manja symbol on the toes of the Seokgamoni-bul statue at Manbulsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

So where exactly can you find the Manja at a temple. Well, you can pretty much find it anywhere. In fact, even when you’re looking for a temple or hermitage either on a map or sign, the sign that they use is the Manja (swastika). As for the temple itself, well, you can pretty much find it on anything and everything. Some of the more common places are on top of the main hall’s roof. Another place is in the adornment of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas either as they are depicted in paintings or in stone statues.

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The white Manja that adorns the chest of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) at Naewonsa Temple in Sancheong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

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The Manja symbol that adorns the main hall at Daewonsa Temple in Sancheong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

So the next time you see a Manja (swastika) on a map denoting a temple, or you see it adorning the main hall or a stone sculpture at a temple, you’ll know that it’s a symbol of good fortune. And to a western mind, while this symbol has a long way to go to disassociate itself with Nazi German, it is slowly being reclaimed by Buddhism in East Asia; and Korean Buddhism, more specifically.

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And finally, the large Manja symbol that adorns the main hall at Samgwangsa Temple in Busan.

Uigoksa Temple – 의곡사 (Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A look inside the opulent Hall of 1,000 Buddhas at Uigoksa Temple in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Continuing my exploration of western Gyeongnam province, I decided to stop by Jinju. While Jinju doesn’t have a big name temple like Tongdosa Temple or Haeinsa Temple, there were a couple that I wanted to at least explore, and Uigoksa Temple was one of those temples.

At the end of a road, and through the temple’s parking lot, you’ll be greeted by the stately Cheonwangmun (Heavenly Kings Gate)/bell pavilion. As you pass through the Cheonwangmun, you’ll notice four beautiful renderings of the Heavenly Kings in the midst of the gate.

After passing through the gate, and under the bell pavilion, you’ll enter into the compact temple courtyard. And if you look upwards from where you first came, you’ll be able to see the stout temple bell that’s adorned with various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Biseon. On the immediate right side of the temple courtyard is the monks’ dorms. Interestingly, to your immediate left, and next to the temple’s main office, is a hall for visitors to sit and meditate. When I visited, there were at least ten people sitting and meditating in this hall.

Directly across from the meditation hall, and across the width of the temple courtyard, is the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas. Sitting on the main altar, and in the centre of a triad of statues, is a diminutive statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). This triad is surrounded by a thousand white Buddha statues that gives the hall its name. On the right wall is an older looking guardian mural. Strangely, there’s a mural of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) on the floor and at the foot of the guardian mural.

One of the final buildings at Uigoksa Temple is the main hall. The exterior is surrounded by the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals, as well as other murals like the Bodhidharma and Wonhyo’s enlightenment mural. And to the right rear there is a sheer rock face that houses an assortment of Buddhist statues. As for the interior of the hall, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul. To his left is a statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and to the right is a regal statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Framing this triad are two paintings on either side of the main altar. To the right is a colourful painting of Jijang-bosal surrounded by the Ten Kings of the Underworld. And to the left is an equally colourful guardian painting with Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings) at its centre.

The last building at the temple, and up an embankment to the right rear of the main hall, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. As you enter the hall, you’ll be greeted by a golden wall of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) statues on the left wall. As for the altar, a beautiful rendering of the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural sits in the centre. If you look close enough at the mural, you’ll notice the large headed Bukseong (Northern Star) figure in the top left. His head seems a bit larger than usual. And to the right and left of the Chilseong mural are the San shin and Dokseong (The Recluse) murals, which are good in their own right.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Uigoksa Temple, you’ll first have to get to Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal. From the bus terminal, you’ll easily be able to get a taxi to drive you the 1.8 kilometres it takes to get to Uigoksa Temple. In total, it should only take you ten minutes from the bus terminal to the temple, and it should cost you under 3,000 Won. It’s definitely one of the easier temples to find.

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OVERALL RATING: 6/10. While this temple won’t blow you away with what it has to offer, there are a couple unique things to grab your attention like the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas. Also, the murals inside of the Samseong-gak are both unique and expertly executed. And finally, the murals inside of the main hall, as well as the meditation hall for visitors are but a few highlights to Uigoksa Temple in Jinju.

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The Cheonwangmun and bell pavilion, which act as the entrance to Uigoksa Temple.
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One of the Cheonwang murals that hangs inside of the entrance gate.
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The main hall at the temple.
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One of the Shimu-do murals that adorns the outside wall of the main hall.
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And the collection of statues and figurines that visitors have left at the temple behind the main hall.
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The altar inside the main hall with Seokgamoni-bul in the centre, flanked by Jijang-bosal to the left and Gwanseeum-bosal to the right.
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The guardian mural to the left of the altar inside the main hall.
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And the Jijang-bosal mural to the right of the altar, also, inside the main hall.
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Another great look inside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas at Uigoksa Temple.
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The long set of stairs that leads up to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
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The view from the Samseong-gak hall down at the temple grounds.
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The Chilseong (Seven Stars) mural that sits inside, and in the centre, of the Samseong-gak. Look closely, and you’ll see Bukseong’s big (bigger than normal) head in the top left.
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As I was leaving, the morning incantation was just beginning.
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I also noticed a few flower pots near the entrance of the temple that had an array of lotus flowers in bloom. However, it must be admitted that this is one of the stranger looking lotus flowers that I’ve seen.
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A more traditional looking pink lotus flower fully in bloom.