Daewonsa Temple – 대원사 (Sancheong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The famous female Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) that resides at Daewonsa Temple in Sancheong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Having seen the other major temples in the Jirisan National Park area; namely, Hwaeomsa Temple and Ssangyesa Temple, the last remaining major temple I had yet to see was Daewonsa Temple along the eastern borders of Jirisan National Park. And fortunately for me, I was able to remedy this over my summer vacation.

Daewonsa Temple (대원사) dates back to 548 A.D., when it was first constructed by Monk Yeongi. During the years, it’s been burnt to the ground a couple times. The first time, like a lot of temples in Korea, was during the Imjin War from 1592-98. The second fire occurred in 1948 during the Yeosu and Suncheon Revolt. Eventually, it was rebuilt in 1955 by Monk Beobil. Now, next to Unmunsa Temple, Sudeoksa Temple, and Seoknamsa Temple, it’s one of the major convents for nuns in Korea.

The road that leads up to Daewonsa Temple is one of the most picturesque that you’ll find at any Buddhist temple in Korea with the wandering and cascading stream that flows all the way up to the temple. Interestingly, it’s said that sometime in the past that a dragon resided in this stream for one hundred years. You’ll finally arrive at the temple and be greeted by a large front facade.

Walking up a wide set of stairs, you’ll be greeted by a twin pair of lions just before you enter the entrance gate at Daewonsa Temple. This appears to have once been where the Cheonwang (The Heavenly Kings) resided, but now it’s the temple’s gift shop. As for the second floor of this two storied structure, it’s the temple’s conference area. To the right of this entrance gate is a compact, yet colourfully painted, bell pavilion. As you pass through this gate, but before you enter the temple courtyard, look at the gate’s door handles. These bronze door handles are extremely refined and masterfully executed.

Finally standing in the temple courtyard, you’ll see a multitude of temple buildings. To your immediate right are the nuns’ dorms. And to your immediate left is the temple kitchen, halls, and whatever else a nun in Korea might need. Straight ahead is the large sized main hall that rests on an elevated terrace above you. Sitting on the main altar is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). On the left wall, inside this colourfully painted main hall, are two murals. The first, on the far left, is the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural and on the right is the Dokseong (The Recluse) mural. And on the right side of the main hall is an extremely simplistic guardian mural, which seems to be in stark contrast to the rest of the splendour inside of this hall. And on the back side of the main hall is a stunning red mural with Seokgamoni-bul sitting in the centre of this well populated mural. Surrounding the exterior walls of the main hall are quickly fading Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals.

To the right of this hall is a vacant lot where the former Samseong-gak stood. Up the embankment, and unfortunately off-limits to the general public, is a nine-tier pagoda that dates back to the origins of the temple.

To the left of the main hall is the Gwaneum-jeon. This hall is beautifully adorned with various murals, including a white-clad Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) wrapped around its exterior walls. As for the main altar inside this hall, is a serenely seated statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. She sits inside a semi-enclosed altar with a white shrouded mural of herself at her back. To the left is a much more beautiful guardian mural than the one that sits inside the main hall. And behind the altar, and accessible through a backdoor entrance, is a multi-armed and eyed mural of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Next to the Gwaneum-jeon are two more buildings off-limits to the general public. The first is a teaching hall for the novice nuns at the temple and the other is the temple stay building at Daewonsa Temple. The final shrine hall on the lower courtyard is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Sitting on the main altar is a green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) with a golden staff in his hands. And he’s joined in this colourful, yet compact hall, by the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

One of the true highlights to this temple sits on the upper terrace of the temple. As though it’s crowning the temple heights, and just before the temple fades away into the neighbouring forest, is the San shin-gak. What’s truly unique about this shaman shrine hall, and like a couple other temples in the Mt. Jirisan area, is that Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) is female. Sitting in front of the San shin mural is a female Sanshin statue with a white tiger at her side. As for the mural itself, the female San shin looks graceful in her appearance.

Admission to the temple is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: From Busan, you can get a bus from the Seoubu Bus Terminal in Sasang, subway stop #227, directly to Daewonsa Temple. This bus only leaves once a day at 2:10 p.m., and the ride lasts three and a half hours. This bus costs 12,300 won. This will get you to the temple rather late, so you’d probably have to stay the night and explore it the following day. Another way you can get to Daewonsa Temple, which won’t take you two days to travel and explore, is by travelling to Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal from the Seobu Bus Terminal in Busan. The first bus from Busan departs at 5:40 a.m., and they leave every 15 to 20 minutes afterwards until 8:30 p.m. The bus ride takes you about 90 minutes, and it costs 7,300 won one way. From the Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll then have to catch a connecting bus to Daewonsa Temple. The bus to Daewonsa Temple leaves every hour, and it runs from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. In total, the bus ride from Jinju to Daewonsa Temple lasts about 70 to 80 minutes (depending on traffic). The trip, one way, should cost you about 5,000 won.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Daewonsa Temple is an active nunnery with a large population of nuns, so be on your best behaviour. In saying that, the definitive highlight to this temple is the female San shin that sits inside the San shin-gak. The other highlights are the nine-tier pagoda and the murals that reside inside both the main hall and the Gwaneum-jeon. Make sure you take your time and have a look around the main altars to see a pair of beautiful, and large sized, murals in both the main hall and the Gwaneum-jeon Hall, respectively.

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The entrance gate/giftshop/conference hall at Daewonsa Temple.
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The beautiful main hall at the temple.
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Just one from the collection of paintings from the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals.
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A rather unique dragon’s head adorning the main hall walls.
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The altar inside the main hall. Sitting in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who is flanked by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).
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The Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural inside the main hall.
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The painting on the backside of the main altar. Have a look because it’s rather impressive.
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A look across the front of the main hall at all the neighbouring shrine halls.
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The beautiful pink tree that was in bloom in front of the neighbouring nuns’ quarters.
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 A look inside the Gwaneeum-jeon Hall at the main altar. Inside is this rather impressive main altar with a stunning painting of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
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To the left of the main altar is this equally stunning guardian mural.
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Once more, there’s this amazing mural behind the main altar inside the Gwaneeum-jeon of the multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal.
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Adorning the exterior walls of the Gwaneeum-jeon is this white-clad painting of Gwanseeum-bosal.
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A look at the Myeonbu-jeon Judgment Hall at the temple.
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The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Judgment Hall.
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Some of the off-limit buildings at the temple strictly for the nuns practicing at the temple.
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The view from the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
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A look up at the very unique San shin-gak.
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A look inside the San shin-gak at the female statue and painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit).
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A closer look at the female San shin’s face.
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The beautiful view of the temple grounds from the San shin-gak with the ancient nine-tier pagoda in the centre of it all.
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A rose was in bloom, so I thought I would play a bit with the camera.

Naewonsa Temple – 내원사 (Sancheong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The temple grounds and surrounding mountains at Naewonsa Temple in Jirisan National Park.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I’ve long wanted to visit a host of temples in and around the Jirisan National Park area. And it just so happens that Naewonsa Temple, on the east side of Mt. Jirisan, is one of these temples.

Naewonsa Temple, which means “Inner House Temple” in English, was established in 657 A.D. It was reconstructed by National Master Muyeom-guksa (801-888). Originally, the name of the temple was Deoksansa Temple, but later changed its name to Naewonsa Temple during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). However, like a lot of others Buddhist temples during the Confucian practiced Joseon Dynasty, Naewonsa Temple fell into disrepair. And it was later laid to ruin by the Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Naewonsa Temple was further damaged during the Korean War. It wasn’t until 1959, under the guidance of monk Hong Won Jong, that the temple was reestablished in its present incarnation as a small temple.

Presently, the temple is under even more renovation, with a bridge being installed on the south side of the temple, so it’s probably best to enter from the east. A creek flows to the left of the temple grounds, and it acts as a guide leading you towards the temple grounds. As you step into the temple courtyard, and to your immediate left, are a set of buildings such as the visitors’ centre. And to your immediate right are the monks’ dorms.

Straight ahead, and under a rounded mountain top, are a set of three buildings. In front of these three buildings, and one of the highlights to the temple, is a pagoda that dates back to 657 A.D. to the left of the main hall. The three storied pagoda is typical in its Silla design. During the 1950’s, the pagoda was damaged by treasure robbers. More recently, and fortunately for us, it was restored to its past glory by head-monk Hong Jin-Sik. The finial no longer exists, and the top of the body of the pagoda is damaged, but its splendour still stands.

Behind this pagoda is the main hall at Naewonsa Temple. The exterior of the hall is surrounded by a handful of fading Shimu-do murals and an assortment of other paintings that are fading just as fast as the Ox-Herding murals. As for the interior of this extremely compact main hall, and sitting on the main hall, is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by both Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). All three sit on a narrow, yet extremely vibrant, main altar. To the left of this triad is an equally colourful Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) mural. What’s interesting about this mural, and extremely unique, are the scenes of judgment at the base of the mural. And the final mural inside of the main hall is the guardian mural that is no less vibrant than the other murals inside the main hall. The guardian mural is well populated and energetically executed.

To the left of the main hall is the newest of the three shrine halls. The exterior is unadorned all but for the dancheong patterns that enliven its walls. As for interior of this hall, and the second major highlight to this temple, is the Seated Stone Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) Statue of Seoknamam Hermitage. While the features have faded through weathering, it appears as though the statue dates back to 756 A.D. during the Silla Dynasty. It stands just over a metre in height and was built from granite. Additionally, it’s the oldest example of the Wisdom Fist mudra in Korea with the left hand fingers being surrounded by the right hand. It’s a fine example of Korean ancient artwork at its finest.

The final building in the set of three is the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Like the other buildings at Naewonsa Temple, this shaman shrine hall is quite original. At one point, according to the ever knowledgeable David Mason, the Samseong-gak use to be divided into three separate rooms with each shaman deity occupying a room with its own signboard over its respective entrance. However, in 2007, these walls were taken down for a more open feel in the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Now, the configuration has changed a bit with a few more occupants inside the Samseong-gak shrine hall. When you first enter the hall, you’re greeted by an older looking, yet no less amazing, mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Sitting in the centre of the main altar is a stone statue of Cheonwang-bosalnim, who is better known as Cheonwang-bong Seongmo-halmae. To the right of Cheonwang-bosalnim is a bronze statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Next to Gwanseeum-bosal is a vibrant painting of Dokseong (The Recluse). This painting is unique for the mudra that the attendant is making to the right of Dokseong. The next painting in the row is the abstract painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit). The final painting along the main altar is a common enough looking Yongwang (The Dragon King) mural. This Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is packed and perhaps one of the most original in Korea.

HOW TO GET THERE: The best, and easiest way, to get to Naewonsa Temple is from the Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal. So first, from wherever you are in Korea, you’ll have to get to Jinju. From the bus terminal, you’ll have to catch the bus that reads, “Daewonsa Hang,” which means “Towards Daewonsa.” This bus comes every 40 minutes. And from this bus, you’ll have to get off at “Daepo.” From the Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal to Daepo, it’ll take you about an hour. From Daepo to Naewonsa Temple, you’ll have to walk about 2.6 kilometres to the temple, but the signs leading you to Naewonsa Temple are well placed and acted as a good guide.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. There are numerous highlights at this smaller sized temple. Two definite highlights are the Silla-aged pagoda and Birojana-bul granite statue. But a surprising highlight, which I was completely unprepared for, was the Samseong-gak with its folk-like San shin mural, its original Dokseong and Chilseong mural, and the extremely rare Cheonwang-bosalnim statue. While not as obvious as a temple like Ssangyesa Temple, Naewonsa Temple has a lot of treasures to offer the temple adventurer!

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The crane that welcomes you to the side entrance of the temple. Yes, the temple is under construction.
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The triad of shrine halls at Naewonsa Temple.
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To the left of the main hall is this ancient three-tier pagoda that dates back to 657 A.D.
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A look inside the main hall at the main altar and Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who sits in the centre of the triad of statues. To his left and right are Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).
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To the left of the main altar is this unique painting of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
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And to the right is this rather interesting guardian mural.
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Surrounding the exterior walls of the main hall are these fast fading Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals.
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Another look at the Silla pagoda with a newer looking shrine hall dedicated to the stone statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) in the background.
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The statue of Birojana-bul inside of the hall that dates back to 756 A.D.
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The view from the Birojana-bul Hall over at the main hall and the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
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A closer look at the Samseong-gak.
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The extremely unique pagoda that sits out in front of the Samseong-gak.
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And a mural of one of the Shinseon (Daoist Immortals) that adorns the exterior walls of the Samseong-gak.
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The older looking Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural that first welcomes you into the Samseong-gak.
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The extremely rare statue of Cheonwang-bosalnim that sits in the centre of shaman statues and murals.
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The strange statue and simple mural of Dokseong (The Recluse).
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The folkish looking San shin (The Mountain Spirit) mural.
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And the rather customary looking Yongwang (The Dragon King) mural at the end of the row of murals and statues.
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And one last look at the main hall before it was time to head home.

Chilbulsa Temple – 칠불사 (Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The courtyard at Chilbulsa Temple in Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do in Jirisan National Park.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had long wanted to visit Chilbulsa Temple, near Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do, for quite some time now. But for one reason or another, I was unable to visit the temple. However, I was finally able to visit this beautiful temple during this year’s summer vacation.

Chilbulsa Temple (칠불사), better known as The Temple of Seven Buddhas in English, was the place that the seven sons of King Suro, the founding king of the Gaya Kingdom, reached enlightenment and became Buddhas. According to this legend, the seven sons meditated under the guidance of their uncle, Zen Master Changyubook-seonsa, for two years until they each reached enlightenment. The temple is situated 800 metres in elevation, and according to geomancy, it has one of the most auspicious locations in all of Korea. Unfortunately, most of the temple was burned to the ground during the Korean War. More recently, in 1984, Chilbulsa Temple was both renovated and restored to its present-day appearance.

When you first approach the temple grounds, you’ll first pass by a large budo to your right as well as a stately Iljumun Gate. A little further along, you’ll come to the temple’s parking lot, and the base of a long set of stairs. The front facade of Chilbulsa Temple is rather stately with the conference hall and the bell pavilion looking out on the world.

Passing under the conference hall, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the golden altar inside the main hall, as you enter the temple courtyard. To your far right are the monks’ living quarters, kitchen, and office. And to your left is the historic Ajabang Hall. This hall dates back to King Hyogong (887-912). It was named this because of the shape of its floor plan. A cross-shaped central walking floor is raised above U-shaped platforms at each end of the hall for meditation. Each of the platforms are half a metre above the floor and heated by the Korean ondol system. And behind you, from where you came, you can see the compact bell pavilion and the conference hall that is illustrated with some stunning murals.

Straight ahead is the main hall at Chilbulsa Temple. Surrounding the exterior of this main hall are both the Palsang-do murals which depict the eight stages in the Historical Buddha’s life, as well as the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals. Both sets are beautifully executed, while uniquely, the Palsang-do murals possesses two additional murals to make it a set of ten instead of the standard eight. Additionally, there are two beautiful murals of both Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) near the side entrances to the main hall. As for the interior of the main hall, and sitting on the main altar, is an amazingly ornate golden altar piece fronted by a triad of statues. In the centre sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s flanked by Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal on either side of him. This main altar sits under a large red canopy and intricate illustrations throughout the depths of the main hall. Another amazing feature to the main hall is the golden altar to the right of the main one. Posed all in gold are the seven Buddhas that the temple is named after: the seven sons of King Suro. Finally, and to the left of the main altar, is another golden mural; this time, a guardian sculpture.

The final hall of any interest at Chilbulsa Temple is the Gwaneeum-jeon Hall to the right of the main hall. Sitting on the main altar inside of this hall is a beautiful statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). She’s backed by an equally beautiful red mural with various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Nahan, and guardians populating the mural. And to the left of the main altar is another red mural, this time, a guardian mural.

HOW TO GET THERE: Like a lot of remote temples, Chilbulsa Temple is a bit tricky to get to. From Busan, you’ll have to get to the Seobu Intercity Bus Terminal at the Sasang #227 subway stop. From Seobu, there are two ways to get closer to the temple. First, you can catch the bus to Hwagye at 11:20A.M. The trip will take you three hours and cost 11,200 won. This bus only leaves once a day from Busan. From Hwagye Bus Terminal, you’ll then have to take a bus to Beomwang. There are only two buses during the day that go in this direction at 10:20 and 19:15. After the bus drops you off, you’ll have to walk thirty minutes to get to Chilbulsa Temple.

The second way you can get to the temple from Busan is to get to the Seobu Intercity Bus Terminal, again. From the terminal, you can catch a bus to Hadong. Unlike the Hwagye bus, the bus heading to Hadong leaves four times a day starting at 7:00 A.M. From the Hadong Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll have to catch either bus #35-1 or 35-2 to get to the Hwagye Bus Terminal. Once you get to the Hwagye Bus Terminal, you’ll have to do all the things you would have to do in the first option to get to Chilbulsa Temple.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. One of the highlights at this temple is the Ajabang Hall. Unfortunately, it’s off-limits to the public, or at least it was when I arrived, but you get a pretty good idea of what this hall offers if you look through the windows. The other highlight to this temple is the main hall and all the intricate artwork and golden statues that sit or hang on the altars inside of this hall. With its long history and aesthetic beauty, Chilbulsa Temple is well worth the effort to see, especially if you’re in the Mt.Jirisan area of Gyeongsangnam-do.

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The foggy set of mountains that greeted me at Chilbulsa Temple.
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The stately Iljumun Gate that welcomes you to the temple grounds.
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The front edifice to Chilbulsa Temple.
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The bell pavilion to the right of the conference hall.
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And the conference hall you pass under to gain admittance to the temple grounds with a view of the golden main hall off in the distance.
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The beautiful main hall at the temple.
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The amazingly golden main altar inside of the main hall with Seokgamoni-bul (the Historical Buddha) in the centre.
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A look up at the extremely ornate red canopy that stands above the golden altar.
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To the left of the main altar is an equally golden guardian sculpture.
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And the amazingly golden sculpture of the seven sons of King Suro that gained enlightenment at Chilbulsa Temple.
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One of the Shimu-do murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.
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As well as one of the atypical Palsang-do murals.
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To the left of the main hall is the slightly smaller Gwaneeum-jeon Hall.
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The statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that sits on the altar inside the Gwaneeum-jeon Hall.
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To the left of the altar is this red guardian mural.
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A look around the temple grounds from the Gwaneeum-jeon Hall.
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A closer look at the extremely unique meditative Ajabang Hall.
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One of the murals that adorns the conference hall.
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And yet another of a tiger aiding what looks to be a monk.

Video: Okcheonsa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

Okcheonsa Temple, in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do, is known for a long and militaristic history in defending the nation against foreign invaders. In addition to this past, it has beautiful halls and artwork all throughout the compact temple grounds. So follow me as I explore another amazing Korean Buddhist temple.

Seoamjeongsa Temple – 서암정사 (Hamyang, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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Just one of the numerous stunning stone sculptures at Seoamjeongsa Temple in Hamyang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

One look at Seoamjeongsa Temple online on a Korean blog, and I knew that I had to go. Just from the pictures alone, I could tell that this was a temple that had to be seen. And the online pictures didn’t lie!

You initially walk up a rather steep five hundred metre road that winds to the right. Eventually, you’ll come to a fork in the road, where you can either turn left or right. I highly recommend turning right and heading down the traditional entry to Seoamjeongsa Temple. If you don’t, you’ll be skipping over one of the highlights to this temple. On the right side of the right handed turn is a wall of guardian sculptures sculpted into the face of the mountain. And like Seokbulsa Temple in Busan, they are rather impressive. At the final, of the four, Heavenly Kings that protect the temple from evil spirits is a crowning pagoda above its head. And to the left of this is a tiny attendant statue holding a candle.

Past the row of Heavenly Kings, and under a rock enclosure that acts as the entry to the temple, you’ll finally come to a temple heavily under construction. It’s so heavily under construction because they’re building a brand new main hall. You’ll have to navigate your way to the front of the main hall to get past all the construction; however, before you do that, have a look left at a stunning stone sculpture with a triad of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas etched on it. In the centre of this triad is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the left is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and to the right is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

Now standing out in front of the main hall, you’ll notice the artists intricately painting the dancheong colour patterns on the main hall. And to the left, if you look over the barrier fence, you’ll notice the sprawling valley down below.

To the immediate left of the main hall is a gorgeous pond that has colourful coy fish swimming all around it. And standing in the centre of this pond, with a fountain next to it, is another statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. However, the real highlight to this temple, in a long list of highlights, is the cave hall that rests on the terrace above the pond. Before we entered, we saw a woman sitting at the entry telling all those that entered not to take pictures. She’s quite adamant about it, so be careful if you do decide to snap a couple subtle pictures. Without a doubt, this cave is one of the most impressive collections of stone sculptures in all of Korea. To your immediate left, when you enter, is a large triad of statues centred by Amita-bul. He’s flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Amita-bul’s Power and Wisdom). To this triad’s left is another amazing sculpture, this time, of Jijang-bosal. He’s joined by a couple of attendants. Finally, and down a set of stairs, is an impressive collection of guardians centred by Dongjin-bosal (The Protector of the Buddha’s Teachings). Surrounding the rest of the interior of this cave, and I mean literally every square inch, are an assortment of stone statues like the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha), Dokseong (The Recluse), attendants, Biseon, and you name it. Again, it’s extremely impressive!

Up a final set of stairs that lead to the upper courtyard are a multitude of new stone sculptures. To your immediate left, even before you enter the upper courtyard, is a shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Finally, and to your right, you’ll enter the upper courtyard and be greeted by two more shaman deities. Slightly to the left, and up a small set of stairs, you’ll be greeted by Dokseong, and to the right is San shin (The Mountain Spirit), who is joined by a inquisitively eyed tiger. To the right of these amazing statues is an altar dedicated to Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He sits on top of three other stone sculptures down below. In the centre of these three other sculptures is an attendant that’s flanked by two more Buddha stone sculptures. The stone masonry and artistry are really second-to-none.

HOW TO GET THERE: According to the temple website, the only way to get to Seoamjeongsa Temple is by car. However, you can get to the temple by taking a bus to the Hamyang Intercity Bus Terminal and take a taxi to Seoamjeongsa Temple. The trip takes about 40 minutes, over a 20 kilometre distance, and it’ll cost you about 15,000 won.

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OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. Where do I even start? Well, I guess the best start is all the stone masonry at the temple from the Heavenly Kings at the entrance, to the shrine hall cave that houses a multitude of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and deities, to the upper courtyard that houses the shaman deities and Birojana-bul, this temple has it all when it comes to stone artistry. They are all masterfully executed and perhaps only second to the stonework completed at Seokbulsa Temple; and even that is arguable. In addition, the temple is beautifully situated and it has a stunning pond. And in the not too distant future, Seoamjeongsa Temple looks to have an equally stunning main hall. If you’re in Hamyang, or even if you’re not, check out Seoamjeongsa Temple!

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The amazing entrance that leads the way into the temple grounds.
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One of the Four Heavenly Kings that protects the temple from evil and unwanted spirits.
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A look across at some of the artistry.
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And a closer look at just one of the Four Heavenly Kings (Cheonwang).
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One last look at the amazing stone sculptures.
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The cave-like entrance to the temple.
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As you enter the temple grounds, but before you see the main hall that’s under construction, you’ll see this gorgeous triad of figures. In the centre is Seokgamoni-bul. He’s flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal to the left and Jijang-bosal to the right.
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The main hall that’s under construction.
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Ever wonder how Buddhist temple halls get so beautifully painted?
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The beautiful temple pond with a white-clad Gwanseeum-bosal in the centre.
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A look to the left at the monks’ quarters and a stately stone pagoda.
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The cave that houses one of the most amazing sights at any temple in all of Korea.
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And the main entrance to the spectacular cave.
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A contemplative monk that sits above the cave entrance.
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A look inside the stone cave at the statue of Amita-bul. But be warned, you’ll be closely watched to make sure you’re not taking pictures. Oops!
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Up on the second terrace, and slightly to the left, is this shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).
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The rather unique pagoda that guides the way to the main grounds of the upper courtyard.
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The somewhat Chinese-looking entrance gate to the upper courtyard.
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The statue of Dokseong (The Recluse) that rests to the left when you first enter.
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And next to Dokseong is this beautiful sculpture of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) with a wide-eyed tiger beneath him.
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And yet another stunning set of stone sculptures at the temple.
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With Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) crowning the set of stone statues.