Temple Stay: Golgulsa Temple (Gyeongju)

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The main hall and the 9th century carving of Seokgamoni-bul at Golgulsa Temple in Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Introduction to the Temple:

Golgulsa Temple (Bone Cave Temple) was first established in the 6th century by the saint, Gwangyu. Golgulsa Temple is situated in the ancient, and beautiful, former capital of Gyeongju. The temple has a beautiful 9th century carving of Seokgamoni-bul on the face of Mt. Hamwol. And this carving is joined by 12 neighbouring grottos, which were former halls and residences at the temple. The most beautiful of these caves is the hall dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

But Golgulsa Temple is most famous for the practice of Seonmudo, which is a Buddhist martial art. The practice of Seonmudo dates back to the Silla Dynasty, when the priests Wongwang and Wonhyo taught the martial art of mind and body to an elite corp of military personnel. Seonmudo was passed on from generation to generation until it was finally suppressed by Japanese colonizers during their occupation from 1910-1945. Finally, in the 1970’s, Seonmudo was revived under the watchful eye of the head monk Yangik. Training people started in the 1980’s.  And in 1990, a practice studio was built for monks and people to learn the ancient martial art. Now, the health and practice of Seonmudo is stronger than ever.

The Temple Stay program at Golgulsa Temple is the most diverse program in all of Korea. It offers NINE different programs, and the program runs 365 days a year. For the more casual guest, you can enjoy the regular schedule, the day schedule, or a private relaxation schedule. For the more intense and specialized visitor, you can enjoy the instructor program, group martial arts learning, or training with Grandmaster Jeogun. It truly has something for everyone!

For more information on Golgulsa Temple.

(Courtesy of the Golgulsa Temple Stay website).


First, you’ll have to get to Gyeongju. From Gyeongju, you can take either bus 100 or 150 that goes towards Gampo. You can catch this bus across from the intercity bus terminal. Get off at the Andong-ri intersection and walk the 20 minutes to the temple entrance. Keep your eyes open as there are only a couple signs that mark the way to Golgulsa Temple.

View 골굴사 in a larger map

General Schedule:

In total, Golgulsa Temple runs NINE different programs at the temple. Here are a few sample schedules for the three most popular Temple Stay programs at Golgulsa Temple.

A: The Golgulsa Temple Regular Schedule: This program runs from Monday until Saturday, and you can join it at any time.

Monday to Saturday Schedule:

4:00 – Wake Up
4:30 – Morning Chanting Service
5:00 – Sitting and Walking Meditation
6:30 – Breakfast
8:30 – Seonmudo Training
10:10 – 108 bows, meditation, and tea time
12:00 – Lunch
14:00 – Meditation (Mon/Wed/Fri) Archery (Tue/Thu/Sat)
15:00 – Community Work (every day except Sun.)
17:50 – Dinner
18:40 – Orientation
19:00 – Evening Chanting Service
19:30 – Seonmudo Training
22:00 – Bed Time (Lights off after 10pm)

Sunday Schedule :
4:00 – Wake Up
4:30 – Morning Chanting Service
5:00 – Sitting and Walking Meditation
5:50 – Barugongyang (Buddhist Ceremonial Meal)
8:30 – Tea and conversation
9:30 – Optional Excursion to local sites (extra charge-10,000 won per person)
12:00 – Lunch
15:00 – Seonmudo Demonstration
19:00 – Evening Chanting Service
19:30 – Seonmudo Training (only for those who stay 1 night)
22:00 – Bed time (Lights out at 10 pm)

(Courtesy of the Golgulsa Temple Stay website).

B: The Golgulsa Temple Daytime Schedule: In this program, there are three different kinds of schedules.

Program 1:

20,000 won, per person / in groups larger than 10 people / 2 hours in duration. Pilgrimage to the temple, watch Seonmudo performance and try Seonmudo training.

Program 2:
25,000 won per person / groups larger than 10 people / 2 and a half hours.
Pilgrimage to the temple, watch Seonmudo performance, try Seonmudo training and enjoy a temple meal.

Program 3:
30,000 won per person / group larger than 10 people / exceeding 3 hours.
Pilgrimage to the temple, watch Seonmudo performance, try Seonmudo training and enjoy a formal monastic temple meal (Baru-gong-yang).

(Courtesy of the Golgulsa Temple Stay website).

C: The Golgulsa Temple Relaxation Schedule: In this program, there is no set schedule; instead, people can stay at the temple just to relax or meditate.

Cost 70,000 won per night (private room)

1,500,000 won per month (private room)

30,000 won per night/per person (Normal room)

*(Temple Stay activities are not included. If you will want to join them you can always talk to us and choose some activities to attend after additional fees). Bedding is provided (bring your own towels and toiletries)
* Enquiries: 054-775-1689 d-kumkang@daum.net

Golgulsa Temple Information:

Address : San 304 Andong-ri, YangbukMyeon Gyeongju-si Gyeongsangbuk-do
Tel : +82-54-744-1689 / Fax : +82-54-745-0172
homepage : http://www.sunmudo.net
E-mail : d-kumkang@hotmail.com


Adults: 50,000 won; Teens: 50,000 won; Under 13: 40,000 won (Regular Schedule)

Adults: 20,000 won; Teens: 20,000 won; Under 13: 0 won (Daytime Schedule)


Reservations for the Regular Schedule Program at Golgulsa Temple.

Reservations for the Daytime Schedule Program at Golgulsa Temple.

Reservations for the Relaxation Schedule Program at Golgulsa Temple.

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The 9th century carving of Seokgamoni-bul at Golgulsa Temple in Gyeongju.

Mt. Seondosan – 선도산 (Gyeongju)


 The royal tomb of King Beopheung on Mt. Seondosan in Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Other than the three temples on Mt. Seondosan in Gyeongju, there were five other sites we saw. It really goes to show that Gyeongju has an endless amount of things to see, and most of those are non-touristy location, as well.

The first of these five sites was the Silla Muyeorwangneung. It’s quite a mouthful, I know. What it is is a stele for King Taejong (or Kim Chun Chu), who reigned from 654 A.D. to 661. While King Taejong didn’t unify the Three Kingdoms, he’s believed to have laid the groundwork for the unification of the peninsula through an alliance with Tang China and by defeating the Baekje Kingdom. This stele rests inside a pavilion that shelters the turtle based stele from Mother Nature. The inscribed portion of the stele is missing, but the dragon roof of the structure still remains. Six dragons are inscribed on either side of this top, and they are holding a pearl in their hands. As for the base, the turtle is expertly executed. The front legs have five toes, while there are just four at the rear. This artistically represents the turtle exerting itself and pushing itself forward. Also, the bottom of the jaw is coloured red by the stone’s natural colour to show just how much force the turtle is exerting. All this symbolism is meant to show the social power at this time during the Golden Age of the Silla Kingdom. Behind this stele is the actual tomb of King Taejong. This burial mound is joined by four additional burial mounds that are believed to be King Taejong’s ancestors.

The next place we visited, and after taking a wrong turn on our way to King Beopheung’s royal tomb, was a three tiered stone pagoda from the Unified Silla period. We knew we had taken a wrong turn when we ended up next to a cattle farm. But fortunately for us, we found this emblematic and simplistic pagoda from the Unified Silla period. The pagoda has a double base and it stands 4.6 metres in height. It’s believed that the pagoda was built during the 9th century and belonged to a temple called Aegongsa Temple. Unfortunately, the temple no longer remains; instead, the stoic pagoda is surrounded by beautiful twisting red pines.

Back on the country road, we finally took the right turn and made our way to the royal tomb of King Beopheung. King Beopheung (or Kim Wonjong) reigned from 514 A.D. to 540 A.D., and he’s one of the most important kings in Korean history in the growth and development of Buddhism on the Korean peninsula. It’s during the 15th year of his reign, and after resisting the advances of Buddhism by neighbouring kingdoms for nearly 150 years, that Buddhism was finally named the state religion of the Silla Kingdom as a result of King Beopheung approving it. Additionally, it was during his reign that the first temple, Heungnyunsa Temple (also found in Gyeongju), was founded. The tomb itself can be found past a rice paddy and up a beautiful path lined with twisting red pines and the greenest of grass. The mound itself stands three metres in height and thirteen metres in diametre. The royal tomb is beautifully framed by additional red pines and the tomb’s location is amazingly serene.

The final two places we saw, in a failed attempt to see Seondosa Temple, were the Three Storied Stone Pagoda in Seoak-ri and the Royal Tomb of King Munseong of Silla. The pagoda stands just a little over four metres in height, but the base and the body appear to have been constructed at separate times. It almost appears as though the base were lost or destroyed and an ad hoc one was constructed instead. This base is rather plain in design and not nearly as impressive as the one at the Aegongsa Temple Site. Next to this pagoda are the royal tombs of King Munseong and his royal ancestors. King Munseong reigned from 839 to 859 during the declining years of the Silla Kingdom. His rule was marked by early and active trade and followed by uprisings and rebellions. The tomb itself is beautifully situated on the side of Mt. Seondosan, and it stands 5.5 metres in height and 20.6 metres in diameter. Interestingly and a bit to the left of this royal tombs, there appears to be a commoners tomb with beautiful stone guardians out in front of the burial mound, so have a look.

HOW TO GET THERE: Without a car or a bike, this could be a really long day for you. But to get to the general area of Mt. Seondosan, and from the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take bus #30 to get to the Mt. Seondosan area. After two stops, you can get off at the Seorabeol University dormitory stop. (서라벌 대학 기숙사). From there, you can let the exploring begin. What you’re looking for, if you’re in fact looking for King Beopheung’s grave and the turtle-based stele dedicated to King Taejong, you’ll need to head south and to the west to locate these hidden gems.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. For the sheer amount of things you can see on Mt. Seondosan, it’s worth the rating it has. However, when you add into the mix the royal tomb of King Beopheung, perhaps the most important royal figure in the development in the spread of Korean Buddhism, as well as the turtle based stele of King Taejong, and you have more than enough reason to venture off the well-worn tourist trail in Gyeongju.


 The burial mound of King Taejong.


 The turtle-based stele dedicated to King Taejong.


 The reverse angle to this amazing stele.


 The pagoda from the Aegongsa Temple site.


 A different angle with the neighbouring red pines.


 The rice paddy out in front of King Beopheung’s tomb.


 The green grass path that leads up to the royal tomb.


 The first look at the royal burial mound that houses the remains of the Buddhist king, King Beopheung.


 A different look at the serene site.


 The Three Storied Stone Pagoda in Seoak-ri.


 The Royal Tomb of King Munseong


  A look at the older looking guardian statues in front of a person’s burial mound.