The beautiful scenery at Gimryongsa Temple in Mungyeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.
Hello Again Everyone!!
Gimryongsa Temple was first founded in 588 A.D. by the monk, Undal-josa. The temple was completely destroyed, like much of Korea, during the Imjin War of 1592 to 1598. It was later rebuilt in 1624 by the monk, Hyechong-seonsa. And it was further renovated in 1649 by three masters: Eoryun, Mujin, and Taehyu. The entire temple complex, all except for the main hall, were burnt down, once more, in 1998.
Gimryongsa Temple has to be one of the more mysterious temples I’ve been to. It’s secluded, all but for one sign that guides you a kilometres out, to the little traveled Gimryongsa Temple.
You first get to the temple up a dusty road that’s joined by towering trees. Suddenly, you’ll come to the end of the road, which is Gimryongsa Temple. The first thing to greet you at the temple is the Iljumun Gate with a pair of ferocious paintings of Heng and Ha. Past this first gate, and another low-ceilinged bathroom, you’ll next be greeted by the Cheonwangmun Gate. Uniquely, and a first for me, the gate houses Four Heavenly Kings that are made from stone. The eyes are literally popping out of their eyes with intensity.
Just past the Cheonwangmun Gate is a small pond that has a small stone dragon the size of a snake to greet you. To the immediate left of this pond is a crude carving of the Buddha on a small stone. And to the far left is the temple’s bell pavilion. All of this is backed by a large natural wood building called the Eunghyang-gak.
It’s past these halls to the left and a large pavilion, called the Bojae-ru, to the right that you enter the temple courtyard. Straight ahead is the main hall at Gimryongsa Temple. The main hall, the Daeung-jeon, dates back to 1649. There are very few paintings that surround the exterior walls of the main hall; however, there are a pair of masterfully painted murals of dragons on either side of the flanking walls. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This statue is flanked by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). Backing this set of statues is a mural called the Yeongsanhoi Gwaebul-do. The painting dates back to 1703, when it was originally painted at Unbongsa Temple on Mt. Undalsan. Have a close look at this expertly rendered masterpiece. To the left of the main altar is a well populated guardian mural. The ceiling to the main hall is intricately painted both with floral designs and floating Biseon.
Just to rear of the main hall, and to the right, are three more halls that visitors can see. The first of these halls is the Geumryun-jeon shaman shrine hall. Inside this hall are housed three beautiful old paintings. The most amazing of the three is the painting of Sanshin, who sits on a throne and is joined by a cartoonish-looking purple tiger.
To the right of this hall is the Geukrak-jeon. Sitting on the main altar is a squat looking statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And this statue is backed by a beautiful red painting of Amita-bul.
The next hall is the Eungjin-jeon, which is dedicated to the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). Sitting on the main altar inside this hall are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. This triad is backed by a vibrant mural that is well populated with Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and guardians. To the right and left of the main altar are both beautiful statues and murals of the Nahan. The murals especially stand out for their artistry. On the far right wall is yet another painting of Dokseong (The Recluse). And to the far left is another guardian mural. The ceiling to this hall is littered with wooden sculptures of fish and a vibrant dragon mural just above the main altar. So look skywards when you’re in this hall. And between both the Eungjin-jeon and the Geukrak-jeon is the monks’ quarters.
The final things that you can see at Gimryongsa Temple, and just to the right of the Eungjin-jeon, are a pagoda and a statue. The first of the two is a stone pagoda that lies just a little up the mountain and overlooks the entire temple grounds. Just a little further along, and up a well kept path, is an ancient stone statue of Yaksayore-bul. There is no sign indicating just how old the statue is, but it’s obvious from looking at the statue, that it’s quite ancient. With one hand above the other, and with what looks to be a bottle in hand, Yaksayore-bul smiles out over Gimryongsa Temple.
HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Gimryongsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Jeomchon Train Station. From Busan, you can get to this small station from the Busan Train Station. Once you arrive at the Jeomchon Train Station, you’ll need to walk 1.1 kilometres to the Mungyeong Town Bus Terminal. The bus that goes to Gimryongsa Temple has no name; instead, look for the bus that says “점촌 – 김용사.” The bus ride will last about one hour, or 24 stops, and it’ll drop you off at the entrance to Mt. Undal. From the bus stop, you’ll need to walk for an additional 1.5 kilometres, or 20 minutes, to the temple.
OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. I really enjoyed visiting Gimryongsa Temple. I wasn’t sure what to expect, since there is very little out there on this temple. However, the temple delivered in spades from the main hall (and all it houses), to the three other halls and the ancient statue of Yaksayore-bul. While Gimryongsa Temple is hard to get to, I would highly recommend it to anyone that can find it.
The Iljumun Gate at Gimryongsa Temple.
The guardian Heng protecting one of the entrance gate doors.
The rather strangely constructed, and rather old, bathroom at Gimryongsa Temple.
A look up at the Cheonwangmun Gate at the temple.
A look inside reveals one of the stone sculpted Heavenly Kings.
The diminutive bell pavilion at the temple to the left of the Cheonwangmun Gate.
The front facade of the Eunghyang-gak that welcomes you to the temple courtyard.
And a look up at the Bojae-ru pavilion to the right just outside the temple courtyard.
Just below the Bojae-ru is this small pond with a stone dragon that almost looks like a snake in the midst of the water.
The set of stairs that lead you towards the temple courtyard.
The main hall, the Daeung-jeon, at Gimryongsa Temple that dates back to 1649.
The dragon that adorns the outer wall of the main hall.
The main altar inside the main hall with the Yeongsanhoi Gwaebul-do painting that dates back to 1703.
A look up at the Geumryun-jeon.
Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) sitting on a throne and joined by a purple tiger.
The Geukrak-jeon hall at Gimryongsa Temple.
The main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon.
The beautifully situated Eungjin-jeon at the temple.
The altar inside the Eungjin-jeon with a dragon mural overhead and a triad of bronze statues down below.
One of the beautiful murals that illustrate some of the Nahan, as well as individual statues of the Historical Disciples of the Buddha.
The solitary pagoda that rests halfway up the mountain.
The path that brings you to the ancient stone statue of Yaksayore-bul.
A good look at the outdoor pavilion that houses The Medicine Buddha.
A beautiful sky, a lush forest, and the face of serenity, make for quite the nice picture.