Hyuhyuam Hermitage – 휴휴암 (Yangyang, Gangwon-do)

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The Stone Shrine Dedicated to Yongwang and Gwanseeum-bosal at Hyuhyuam Hermitage in Yangyang, Gangwon-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

While in Yangyang, Gangwon-do, my mother-in-law suggested we visit Hyuhyuam Hermitage. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go after already visiting 5 temples that very same day; however, I was really happy that I ended up visiting this coastal hermitage.

You first approach the hermitage from a compact temple parking lot that always seems to be busy. A short distance away is the Iljumun Gate with stone boars at its base. Passing through this entry gate, you’ll be standing in the compact hermitage courtyard. If you go at the right time, you’ll be greeted by a friendly nun with a bird that talks (definitely a first for me!).

Straight ahead lays the Wontong-jeon main hall. The exterior walls are decorated with playful murals of youthful monks. As for the interior, and standing all alone on the main altar, is the most beautiful artistic manifestation of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that I’ve personally seen at a Korean temple. The multi-armed and headed Bodhisattva is backed by a fiery nimbus and a masterful relief and canopy. To the right and left of the main altar are paintings of an angelic Gwanseeum-bosal and people finding solace at the hermitage’s waters.

To the right of the main hall is a cave like grotto that houses a collection of sari (crystallized remains), purportedly, from the Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul. There is both an inner and outer chamber to this grotto. The outside canvased surface to the grotto is covered in masterful paintings of guardians and Bodhisattvas. As for the inner, and resting on the main altar, is a glass vessel that contains a dozen sari under a colourful canopy.

As you make your way down from the upper courtyard to the lower, you’ll pass by the monks’ dorms, a visitors’ centre, and administration offices. A little further along, and you’ll next come to another hall dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal. This Gwaneeum-jeon houses yet another masterful rendering of a standing Gwanseeum-bosal. With willow spray in hand and a blue dragon at her feet, this Gwanseeum-bosal is yet another amazing feat in Buddhist artistry. To the right of the main altar is an amazing relief and statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King); while to the left rests a guardian relief.

Having made your way past this shrine hall, the ocean will finally come into view. Straight ahead is the temple’s bell pavilion with a rather uniquely painted golden bell inside. It’s to the right of the bell pavilion that you’ll see a large stone shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal. While not as refined as the statue at the neighbouring Naksansa Temple, this one is both beautiful and large in its own right. Standing at either side of the Bodhisattva of Compassion is an attendant and the largest statue of Yongwang I have seen. Intricately carved around the base of all the statues are amazing, and I mean amazing, aquatic engravings of marine life. Also, there’s a mermaid wishing well.

There’s a way down to the ocean from this area. You can enjoy both the beautiful ocean side views and a shrine dedicated to Yongwang.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yangyang Intercity Bus Terminal, you need to board the Jigyeong-ri bus. You’ll need to take it for 26 stops and then get off at the Gwangjin-ri bus stop. From there, you’ll then have to walk 4 more minutes to Hyuhyuam Hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. What isn’t to love about this little known, but uniquely populated, hermitage by the sea? From the nun with a bird that speaks, to the stone grotto with the Buddha’s remains, the hermitage uniquely has it all. And when you couple it with the most beautiful statues of Gwanseeum-bosal in all of Korea, as well as the maritime statues of Yongwang and Gwanseeum-bosal, and you’ll need to add this little known hermitage to your list of things to see the next time you’re in the Gangwon-do area.

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The Iljumun Gate that greets you at the hermitage entry.

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A look inside the main hall at the splendour of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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Some of the accompanying main hall artwork of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A look inside the cave grotto.

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The Agwi artwork that adorns the grotto’s outer chamber.

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As well as an image of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A look towards the inner chamber’s main altar.

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A look at the glass vessel that houses a dozen of the Buddha’s sari.

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The ocean side view and the Gwaneeum-jeon beside it.

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The amazing main altar inside the Gwaneeum-jeon.

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With Yongwang to the side.

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A look back towards the temple grounds.

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And a look towards the bell pavilion and Gwanseeum-bosal shrine.

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The golden temple bell and fish gong.

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A stone frog that looks like it might have jumped straight out of an animation.

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The beautiful ocean view.

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The Gwanseeum-bosal shrine.

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The mermaid wishing well that joins them.

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A Yongwang relief.

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A whale relief that is etched at the base of the shrine.

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Yet another amazing maritime relief.

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And finally, at the base of the much larger statue, is an ornately etched Gwanseeum-bosal relief.

Naksansa Temple – 낙산사 (Yangyang, Gangwon-do)

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The 18 Metre Tall Gwanseeum-bosal Statue at Naksansa Temple in Yangyang, Gangwon-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Naksansa Temple was first founded in 671 C.E. by the famed monk, Uisang-daesa. The name Naksansa Temple is an abbreviation of “Botarakgasan.” The name “Naksan” refers to Mt. Potalaka in India, where it’s believed that Gwanseeum-bosal (Avalokitesvara) lives. Gwanseeum-bosal is believed to live on an island surrounded by the sea along with guardian dragons. It’s along the coastal waters of Naksansa Temple in Yangyang, Gangwon-do that Uisang-daesa meditated. He had a visit from Gwanseeum-bosal who told Uisang to build a temple on Mt. Naksan, which is where the temple is located. Throughout the years, Naksansa Temple has been destroyed by fire more than most Korean temples. The temple was first destroyed by the invading Mongols during the 13th century. After that, it was repeatedly reconstructed and expanded by royal order in 1467, 1469, 1631, and 1643. After all this expansion, the temple was completely destroyed during the Korean War in 1953. It was from this period in time that most of the temple buildings dated back to, but it was the April, 2005 fire that was most damaging. It completely destroyed Naksansa Temple including a 15th century temple bell that just so happened to be a national treasure. Fortunately for us, the temple has been completely rebuilt for an all new generation of temple adventurers.

You make your way up to the temple from the temple parking lot. The well-manicured grounds are something to enjoy as you make your way to the temple grounds. The first thing to greet you at the temple is the fortress like entry gate.

Walking a little further, and finally cresting the hill that Naksansa Temple sits upon, you’ll notice the rebuilt bell pavilion to the far left side. Straight ahead is the Cheonwangmun Gate with the Four Heavenly Kings inside with bulging eyes. The next structure to greet you is the strangely shaped Binil-ru Pavilion that seems to be just as wide as it is long. Typically, these types of pavilions are rather long in length.

Having passed through the crescent-shaped gate, you’ll enter into the lower courtyard at Naksansa Temple. Other than collecting your breath or sitting to enjoy the view, there is nothing for a visitor to see. You’ll have to go a little further if you want to see anything.

Past a gate that is adorned with descriptive murals of both the guardians Heng and Ha is the upper courtyard. Resting in the middle of the upper courtyard is a seven-tier stone pagoda that was purportedly constructed, at least in part, by Uisang-daesa. Housed inside the ornately decorated Wontong-jeon main hall is a slender statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. With a large golden crown on her head, she sits all alone in the main hall.

However, the real highlight to this temple is the crowning Gwaseeum-bosal statue that’s called Haesugwaneumsang (해수관음입상). Standing 18 metres in height, the serene-looking Gwanseeum-bosal looks out towards the southeast. The peaceful, granite statue was first constructed in 1977 and it took 700 tons of granite to build. It’s perhaps the most beautiful of its kind in all of Korea.

After having seen the Haesugwaneumsang statue of Gwanseeum-bosal, you can take a path down towards the lower courtyard which houses the large sized Bota-jeon. The exterior walls to this hall are painted in some of the most original murals dedicated to Uisang-daesa in all of Korea. The murals cover the duration of the famed monk’s life like his voyage home with Lady Seonmyo at his back as he returns to Korea, as well as the floating rock mural from the establishment of Buseoksa Temple. Inside this hall are some of the 33 incarnations of Gwanseeum-bosal. They are both beautifully and masterfully executed. Out in front of the Bota-jeon is a seven-tier stone pagoda.

As you make your way out from the lower courtyard, you’ll notice a Myeongbu-jeon Hall to your left with the Boje-ru Pavilion straight ahead. It’s just past this two-story bell pavilion that you’ll come to a beautiful lotus pond. Sitting in the centre of this well stocked pond sits a stone statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Naksansa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Yangyang Intercity Bus Terminal. From there, you’ll need to take Bus #9 or #9-1 headed towards Naksansa Temple. The bus ride will take about 10 to 15 minutes. You can do that or simply take a taxi from the Yangyang Intercity Bus Terminal. The taxi should take about 10 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10. Of course the crowning Gwanseeum-bosal is the main highlight to Naksansa Temple. With its sheer size and serene beauty, it isn’t hard to tell. There are a few other highlights, as well, like the regal Gwanseeum-bosal inside the temple’s main hall and the beautifully manicured temple grounds. Also, the lower courtyard with the amazing Bota-jeon Hall and the lotus pond are pretty amazing in their own right. Add into the mix the scenic ocean views, and Naksansa Temple can make for a nice day trip in Gangwon-do.

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Th scenic walk up to Naksansa Temple.

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The entrance gate that greets you at the temple.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate at the temple.

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One of the eye-bulging Heavenly Kings.

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The temple’s bell pavilion.

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The crescent-shaped entryway to the Boje-ru.

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A look up at the upper courtyard.

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A look at the seven-tier stone pagoda in the upper courtyard.

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A look up at a beautiful sky and the Wontong-jeon.

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The main altar inside the Wontong-jeon.

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The beautiful earthen fence and blue sky at Naksansa Temple.

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The sites as you make your way towards Gwanseeum-bosal.

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Gwanseeum-bosal coming into view.

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The serene, and massive, granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A closer look upwards.

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And the amazing view that Gwanseeum-bosal enjoys.

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The path that leads down to the Bota-jeon.

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The Bota-jeon Hall.

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The Floating Rock scene from the establishment of Buseoksa Temple.

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Uisang returning to the Korean peninsula.

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A look inside the amazing Bota-jeon at Naksansa Temple.

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The view from the Bota-jeon out towards the Myeongbu-jeon and the temple’s Boje-ru.

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The amazing lotus pond at Naksansa Temple.

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A better look at one of the white lotus flowers.

Guryongsa Temple – 구룡사 (Wonju, Gangwon-do)

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The view from the Cheonwangmun Gate at Guryongsa Temple in Chiaksan National Park.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in the heart of Chiaksan National Park is Guryongsa Temple, which means “Nine Dragons Temple,” in English. It’s believed that the temple was first constructed by the famed Uisang-daesa in 668 C.E.

Like all great temples, Guryongsa Temple has an imaginative creation story all to its own. Uisang, after walking several miles, found the location for a temple in the rolling folds of Chiaksan; however, a pond stood in the way of his plans. Living inside this pond were nine dragons who heard the monks plans to build a temple on their pond. The tricky dragons proposed a bet to Uisang: if the monk won the bet, they would leave; however, if the dragons won, Uisang would have to abandon his hopes of building a temple on their pond. With both parties agreeing to this little wager, the dragons proceeded to drown the monk to death. Torrential rain fell from the sky and flooded the mountain ranges. Sure that they had killed the monk, they went in search of him. What they found surprised the nine dragons. Instead of being dead, Uisang was peacefully sleeping on a boat. Awoken by the dragons, Uisang said, “Is that all the tricks you have? Now watch my trick with your eyes wide open.” Drawing a talisman from his person, Uisang flung it into the pond, where it proceeded to bubble and boil. The dragons fled to the East Sea, leaving a blinded dragon behind. Quick in their escape, the eight dragons left eight valleys behind as proof of their hasty escape through the mountains.

The temple is situated up a beautiful winding road that’s lined with mature pine trees and a flowing stream. The hike up to the temple grounds is about 900 metres in distance and is filled with things to see like the dragon based pillared Iljumun Gate. A little further up the road, and you’ll next come to an ancient stupa field. Nearing the temple grounds, you’ll finally see the first shrine hall at the temple: the Josa-jeon. Inside this hall hangs a painting of the Bodhidharma.

Just another hundred metres up the road and you’ll finally come to the elevated temple grounds. The impressive two-story Cheonwangmun Gate, which if you come at the right time of the day will have brilliant sunlight shooting through the slats in the roof, is flanked by a three-story stone pagoda. While rather non-descript, the stout-looking Four Heavenly Kings are rather intimidating in size and scowls. To the left of the Cheonwangmun Gate appears to be an aged statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

Up a steep set of stairs, and under the low-lying Bogwang-ru Pavilion, you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard. Looking behind you, you’ll notice the rather long and spacious interior to the Bogwang-ru Pavilion that is used for meetings. To the right of this hall is the temple’s bell pavilion: the Jong-gak. And to left of the pavilion, and still under construction, is what looks to be a meditative pavilion.

Straight ahead is the Daeung-jeon, which acts as the temple’s main hall. Surrounding the exterior walls to this hall are some masterful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked on either side by what looks to be Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). The low-hanging orange paper lotus lanterns inside this hall are quite nice, as well.

To the left of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon. The exterior walls are painted with Judgment murals, as well as a mural of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom. Sitting inside this hall sits a golden haired Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s backed by a well-populated mural of himself. Just behind the Myeongbu-jeon is the Samseong-gak. The most unique painting of the three, which includes a painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), is the painting of Sanshin. Inside this mural, you can rather uniquely see a larger image of a male Sanshin joined by a smaller image of a female Sanshin slightly to the left.

The other two remaining halls at Guryongsa Temple are to the right of the main hall. The first, and newly constructed (and there’s a lot of newer construction at Guryongsa Temple), is the Gwaneeum-jeon. The golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that sits all alone inside this hall is backed by a scenic landscape that also includes Yongwang. Just to the rear of the Gwaneeum-jeon is the Nahan-jeon. This is one of the more unique Nahan-jeon halls that you’ll find in Korea. Because besides the statue of Seokgamoni-bul that sits on the main altar, all 500 of the Buddha’s disciples take up residence inside their own glass box on the neighbouring walls, as well as the 16 main Nahan that join Seokgamoni-bul on the main altar.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll need to get to the city of Wonju from wherever it is that you live in Korea. From the Wonju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to either take Bus #3 or #3-1 to Wonju Station. It should take about 15 minutes, or 6 bus stops. Now, from Wonju Station, you’ll need to get on Bus #41 to Guryongsa Temple. In total, the ride should last about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. I was definitely impressed by the beauty at Guryongsa Temple: both Buddhist and natural. The Cheonwangmun Gate is one of the larger ones that you’ll find at a Korean temple. On top of this large sized entry gate, you can also enjoy the male/female Sanshin mural, the boxed Nahan statues, and the rolling hills that lie all around Guryongsa Temple.

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The Iljumun Gate at Guryongsa Temple.

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The stupa field at the temple.

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The two-story Cheonwangmun Gate and front facade at the temple.

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A standing stone statue of Mireuk-bul.

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One of the fierce-looking Cheonwang.

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Light shafts shoot through the top of the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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A look up towards the Bogwang-ru Pavilion.

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A look inside the spacious interior to the Bogwang-ru.

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The bell pavilion at Guryongsa Temple.

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A look across at the main hall and the Myeongbu-jeon at Guryongsa Temple.

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A Shimu-do mural that adorns the main hall.

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 A look inside the main hall at Seokgamoni-bul.

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A golden capped Jijang-bosal.

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A look towards the Samseong-gak.

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The male/female mural of Sanshin.

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A look towards the Gwaneeum-jeon.

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Inside is a golden, regal statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A look up at the Nahan-jeon.

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 A look inside the Nahan-jeon. Each little box is filled with a Nahan figure.

Guinsa Temple – 구인사 (Danyang, Chungcheongbuk-do)

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 The Beautiful View from between the Iljumun Gate at Guinsa Temple in Danyang, Chungcheongbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Guinsa Temple, which means “Salvation and Kindness Temple,” in English, is situated up the centre of a valley fold just below Yeonhwabong Peak on the Sobaeksan mountain range. It was first completed in 1945, when the contemporary founder of the Cheontae Order, Sangwol-wongak, built a small hut made from arrowroot vines. During his time here, he received a revelation about the truth of the universe. The temple was renovated and expanded in 1966. Guinsa Temple is the headquarters of the Cheontae Order, and it governs over 140 other temples spread throughout the Korean peninsula. In total, the temple houses a couple dozen shrine halls, meeting centres, dorms, and administrative offices.

You first approach the temple up a gradual incline that becomes a bit steeper as you approach the temple grounds. The first structure to greet you is a commanding and stately Iljumun Gate. Passing through this gate, you’ll notice a building that stacks up neatly against the slopes of the neighbouring mountain. This is just a precursor for all the temple structures at Guinsa Temple. Next, you’ll approach a fortress-like gate that acts as the Cheonwangmun Gate with some fierce looking Four Heavenly Kings on the second floor of this structure.

Past a couple dorms and administrative buildings that are both stacked high on either side of you, you’ll finally come to some buildings at Guinsa Temple that you can actually visit; however, this temple is always busy, even on weekdays. The first structure is a three tier stone pagoda with three elephants at its base. Purportedly, the Buddha’s sari (crystallized remains) are housed inside this pagoda, as they were brought back from the Jetavana monastery in India.

To the right of this hall, and up a flight of stairs, is the Geukrak-jeon. A beautiful collection of Shimu-do, Ox-Herding murals, adorns the exterior walls to this hall. As for inside this rather busy hall, are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And he’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Power and Wisdom of Amita-bul). Just to the right of this hall is the elevated temple bell pavilion.

Just to the north of the Geukrak-jeon is the Gwaneeum-jeon, which is beautifully painted on its exterior walls with the different incarnations of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). As for inside this hall, and seated on the main altar, is a jade statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. She is surrounded on all sides by the Ten Kings of the Underworld and backed by a beautiful multi-armed mural of herself. From both the Geukrak-jeon and the Gwaneeum-jeon, you can get some great pictures of the temple buildings that occupy the valley floor.

Just a little further up the mountain and you’ll come to the massive five story modern main hall. Inside, you’ll find an equally massive statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) sitting on the main altar and being backed by a stunning Vulture Peak relief.

And just to the left of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon, which is golden in colour and somewhat Chinese in design. Inside this hall are some masterful statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). And to the right of the main hall, and up yet another flight of stairs, is the crowning Daejosa-jeon, or the Great Founders Hall. This golden three story hall is fronted by a pair of protective Vajra warriors. As for inside this hall, and sitting on the main altar, there is a golden statue of Sangwon-wongsa.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Guinsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Danyang Intercity Bus Terminal, which is the closest city to the temple. From the bus terminal, you’ll need to board a bus to Guinsa Temple. The bus first leaves at 9:20 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 8:20 p.m. This bus leaves every hour. The very last bus leaves for Guinsa Temple at 8:50 p.m.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with this temple. From what I had read and from what I had seen, I had expected a lot more. First, and a bit of hang-up for me, is that all the buildings are made of concrete, which lends a sense of coldness to a temple. Also, the buildings can be somewhat hard to locate in and among the numerous administrative and dorm halls that toweringly line the narrow valley. However, when you are able to find the halls, they are quite beautiful, but the unexpected climb up to the top of the long valley can take a bit out of even the most curious and inquisitive of temple adventurers.

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The walk up towards the temple grounds.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate at Guinsa Temple.

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The narrow valley that houses towering temple buildings.

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The stone walls that line a portion of the grounds.

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The three tier pagoda that houses some of the Buddha’s remains.

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The view from one of the temple buildings.

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The Geukrak-jeon at Guinsa Temple.

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A look inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

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The neighbouring bell pavilion.

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The view from the Gwaneeum-jeon.

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A look inside the Gwaneeum-jeon at the jade Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A look up at some of the cramped temple halls.

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The modern main hall at Guinsa Temple.

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 One last look across the tops of temple buildings at Guinsa Temple.