Sanbanggulsa Temple – 산방굴사 (Seogwipo, Jeju-do)


 Inside the cave shrine at Sanbanggulsa Temple in Seogwipo, Jeju-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just behind Bomunsa Temple on Mt. Sanbangsan in Jeju-do sits a cave temple called Sanbanggulsa Temple. Just to the right, and up some stairs, you’ll make your way towards the largest cave temple I have yet to see in Korea. Along the way, you get some spectacular and gorgeous views of the South Sea off in the distance.

One hundred and fifty metres in distance, the climb is moderate with several plateaus along the way so that you can catch your breath. Interestingly, each plateau, according to legend, is symbolic for vastly different reasons. While one plateau, and its rocks, is for childbirth, another might be for eternal love. There are Korean and English signs along the way to help you discover what each plateau is meant to represent.

Finally cresting that ridge that houses Sanbanggulsa Temple, you’ll be greeted by the yawning cave entrance that is at least ten metres in height. Along the face of the cave are ancient Chinese characters. Some, you might wonder, how they even got there because of their height. Up a set of stairs, and past the people praying, is the main altar that houses the solitary statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Several metres in height, this black statue appears to be made from volcanic rock which is in abundance in Jeju-do. In addition, there is water dripping from the roof of the cave that visitors can drink from the pooling water below the Buddha.

There are spectacular views that can be enjoyed from these heights. Also, you get some great views up at the volcanic Sanbangsan mountain with its many crevices and cracks. Unfortunately, this is farthest you can go up this mountain that has a peak like a dome.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Seogwipo Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take bus #702 for 22 stops. The ride should last about an hour and eleven minutes, and you’ll need to get off at the Sanbangsan bus stop. From this stop, you’ll need to make your way to the right of Bomunsa Temple. Behind the large golden statue dedicated to Yaksayore-bul is a set of stairs that leads all the way up to Sanbanggulsa Temple. It’s a 150 metre climb up these stairs to the cave temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. Without a doubt, Sanbanggulsa Temple is the largest cave temple I’ve visited in Korea. Also, there are spectacular views of both the South Sea and Mt. Sanbangsan as you make your way towards the temple. As for the temple itself, there isn’t all that much to see, but the scenery makes up for any shortcomings.


The view just as you pass by the neighbouring Bomunsa Temple.


A look out towards the South Sea.


Yet another spectacular view, as you make your way towards Sanbanggulsa Temple.


A look up at the only shrine at Sanbanggulsa Temple.


The view from the heights.


Some of the Chinese characters etched on the face of the mountain.


A look up towards the peak of the mountain.


A closer look at Seokgamoni-bul.


The amazing view that Seokgamoni-bul gets to enjoy!


One last look before heading back.

Bomunsa Temple – 보문사 (Seogwipo, Jeju-do)


 The view from the main hall out onto the South Sea at Bomunsa Temple in Jeju-do Island.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On the south-west side of Jeju-do Island rests a smaller-sized temple. Sheltered by the bubbling Mt. Sanbangsan, Bomunsa Temple has a commanding view of the South Sea and the tiny islands that dot the horizon.

You first approach the temple past a crowded parking lot and up a set of wide stairs. The temple, much like the famed mountain, is frequented by numerous tourists throughout the day. The first thing to greet you when you enter the temple courtyard is the rather large main hall. Out in front of the main hall is a beautifully sculpted statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), as well as a five-tier stone pagoda and a misspelt dharma wheel with the Eightfold Path written on it. As for the main hall itself, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal. Just behind this statue, and still resting on the main altar, are hundreds of smaller-sized white Buddha statues. On the far left wall hangs a black Gamno-do mural for the dead.

To the right of the main hall, and past the temple’s bell pavilion and visitors’ centre, sit a line of stone Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) statues. From where they sit, you can get an amazing view of the South Sea from this vantage point. A little further along, and you’ll see the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall that rests inside a cave. The paintings are rather plain in design, but the building is anything but ordinary.

One of the final things a visitor can see at Bomunsa Temple in Jeju-do is the massive, golden, statue dedicated to Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). Yaksayore-bul serenely looks towards the main hall and welcomes any and all visitors to the temple. Just a little up the mountainside, and as you head towards the peak of Mt. Sanbangsan, you’ll see a triad of life-sized stone statues dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul, Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Seogwipo Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take bus #702 for 22 stops. The ride should last about an hour and eleven minutes, and you’ll need to get off at the Sanbangsan bus stop. From this stop, you’ll be able to see the temple on the mountain with the golden Buddha statue to the right.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Bomunsa Temple is a bit of a difficult temple to rate because it’s housed next to two other temples in the immediate vicinity. But if you’re just to look at Bomunsa Temple, it’s a pretty nice place to visit; however, when you include the others, Sanbangsa Temple and Sanbanggulsa Temple, it can make for quite the nice little part of a day trip in Jeju-do.


The rounded Mt. Sanbangsan.


The main hall and Buddhist artistry at Bomunsa Temple.


A look inside the main hall.


The beautiful view of the South Sea at Bomunsa Temple.


The Nahan statues with perhaps one of the best views in Korea.


The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Bomunsa Temple.


A look inside the shaman cave.


The serene Yaksayore-bul at the temple.


 The triad of statues as you make your way up Mt. Sanbangsan.

Gwaneumsa Temple – 관음사 (Jeju City, Jeju-do)


 The Buddha on the Hillside at Gwaneumsa Temple in Jeju-do Island.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gwaneumsa Temple is named after Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This fairly common temple name in Korea is located on the northeast side of Mt. Hallsan. It’s believed that the temple dates back to sometime during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). However, there is very little proof that indicates the exact year of Gwaneumsa Temple’s construction. During the early 1700’s, when the Joseon royal court proclaimed Confucianism as the state religion, Buddhism suffered horribly from this policy decision. In fact, Gwaneumsa Temple was completely destroyed during this time in Korea’s history. However, in 1912, the temple was rebuilt by the Buddhist nun, Anbongryeokwan. It was later renovated and expanded in 1964.

You’re first greeted to the temple by a wide Iljumun Gate with a copper-coloured roof. Just beyond this is the pathway that leads up to the temple. The pathway is lined by numerous stone statues dedicated to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha), as well as towering cedar trees. It’s perhaps one of the most picturesque entryways to a temple in Korea. Slightly to the right, and just past the cedar trees, is a large statue dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This large statue is surrounded by descriptive statues of various life-sized statues of guardians.

A little further up the trail, and you’ll see the Cheonwangmun Gate that houses murals dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings. There are some more Mireuk-bul statues, this time housed atop stone spires, as well as a cave where monks once meditated inside it. Now, it’s a shrine for prayer.Before you enter the temple’s courtyard, you’ll see a beautiful koi pond with a brick pagoda in the centre of it. The Temple Stay building is slightly to the right as is the gift shop.

Finally, you’ll enter into the temple courtyard with the main hall, the Daeung-jeon, straight ahead. With its beautiful copper-colour roof, and paper lanterns out in front, it makes for quite the view. Housed inside the main hall is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).

To the right of the main hall is the Jijang-jeon. Housed inside this double altar hall is a large green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left and an intricately painted Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural to the right. To the far left of the main hall sits the bell pavilion, as well as a stout three-tier stone pagoda.

Housed slightly to the left of the main hall, and up a set of stairs, is the rather large Samseong-gak shaman shrine. The exterior walls to this hall are decorated with various murals including a painting dedicated to the Bodhidharma. As for inside this hall, and sitting in the centre of the main altar, is a rather long, but slender, mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This painting is joined on either side by a mural dedicated to both Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Doseong (The Lonely Saint), respectively. Perhaps the most interesting painting of the group is the mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) with its vibrant colours and stoically seated king.

The final part of Gwaneumsa Temple that visitors can see is a large golden statue of Mireuk-bul sitting on top of a neighbouring hillside. He’s surrounded by a pantheon of smaller sized statues dedicated to various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Slightly down the hill, and to the left, are a triad of larger stone statues dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal, Munsu-bosal, and Bohyun-bosal, respectively.

Admission to the temple is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: You’ll need to take a bus towards Sancheondan from Jeju City. The bus departs every twenty minutes and the ride should last about 30 minutes. When the bus drops you off at Sancheondan, you’ll need to walk an additional thirty minutes to the temple. The signs should help guide your way.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. Perhaps the most famous temple on Jeju-do Island, Gwaneumsa Temple has a lot for the temple adventurer to see. From its beautiful entryway to the koi pond, the temple has a lot of aesthetic beauty. And when you couple it with the large-sized golden statue of Mireuk-bul on the hillside, as well as the Dragon Ship of Wisdom and Yongwang murals, you’ll definitely need to make Gwaneumsa Temple a stop in Jeju-do!


The Iljumun Gate at Gwaneumsa Temple.


The beautiful entry path that leads up to the temple grounds.


Just one of the statues helps guide the way.


The Cheonwangmun Gate at the temple.


The meditative shrine cave at Gwaneumsa Temple.


The beautiful koi pond at the temple.


The view as you first approach the temple courtyard.


To the far left stand this three-tier pagoda and two story bell pavilion.


Straight ahead is the copper-coloured main hall.


 The main altar inside the main hall with Seokgamoni-bul sitting front and centre.


To the right of the main hall is the Jijang-jeon.


The altar inside the Jijang-jeon with a large statue of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife sitting all alone.


To the right hangs this highly elaborate Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural.


Up the embankment stands the larger sized Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.


Housed inside is this colourful mural dedicated to Yongwang.


A bit up the hillside, and you’ll be welcomed by a golden Mireuk-bul.


Back at the entrance rests this beautiful shrine dedicated to Amita-bul.


He’s joined by this fierce guardian statue.


 And this one, as well.

Jeongamsa Temple – 정암사 (Gohan, Gangwon-do)


The Seven-Tier Stone Pagoda at Jeongamsa Temple in Gangwon-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Jeongamsa Temple, which was first built in 638, was established by Jajang-yulsa to house the Buddha’s remains. The Jeokmyeol Bogung is one of five alongside the famed Tongdosa Temple and Beopheungsa Temple. Nestled amongst the folds of Mt. Hambaeksan, and alongside Jajang Stream, lies the temple.

The first temple buildings at Jeongamsa Temple to greet you are the monks’ dorms and a jovial stone statue of the dharma. Up above, and off in the distance, you can see one of the highlights, the seven-tier stone pagoda hovering over top the temple off on the neighbouring hillside.

The closer you get to the temple courtyard and you’ll see the temple’s bell pavilion, which is uniquely perched alongside the neighbouring stream. Across the bridge to the right and you’ll see the Jeokmyeol Bogung main hall. The brown weather-worn exterior of the hall is plain in appearance. The interior to this hall is void of altar statues much like Tongdosa Temple; instead, a window, which seems to be covered by gold, looks out onto an embankment where the Buddha’s remains are purportedly buried. While not as elaborate as the Geumgang Gyedan Altar at Tongdosa Temple, this shrine is just as venerated as any of the other historic sites that house the Buddha’s remains. Interestingly, and just out in front of the main hall, is a tree that is supposedly from Jajang-yulsa’s walking stick. If true, this would make the tree almost 1400 years old.

Back across the bridge, and you’ll come to a small collection of shrine halls. The first, which almost looks like the monks’ dorms, is the Gwaneeum-jeon. Inside sits a solitary statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Up a set of stairs, and past the temple’s kitchen, are two additional halls. The first of the smaller sized shrine halls is dedicated to the founding monk of Jeongamsa Temple: Jajang-yulsa. The second hall is the Samseong-gak, which houses an emaciated mural of Dokseong (The Recluse), a rather plain looking Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural, and a mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) who wears a rather unique hat/turban.

The final structure to have a look at is the seven-tier brick pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The pagoda, which lies ten minutes up a hillside trail, was built from quartz bricks. Throughout the years, it’s been repaired numerous times with the most recent being 1972, when the Buddha’s sari (crystallized remains) and some scrolls were retrieved from the brick pagoda. There is a door at the base of the pagoda with wind chimes adorning each angle of the pagoda. Out in front is a place for devotees to pray, and you get a great view of the neighbouring countryside and Jeongamsa Temple down below.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gohan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take the “Manhang” bus. This bus leaves four times a day at 6:40 a.m., 9:50 a.m., 2:10 p.m., and 7:00 p.m. The bus ride only takes ten minutes, and you’ll need to get off at the Jeongamsa stop.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. While smaller in size compared to the more prominent Jeokmyeol Bogung temples, Jeongamsa Temple has a charm all to its own. Because it’s one of the historic repositories of the Buddha’s remains, it rates as highly as it does. But when you add into the mix the seven-tier stone pagoda overlooking the temple, as well as the historic main hall, Jeongamsa Temple can make for a pleasant visit to this remote part of Gangwon-do.


The beautiful forest and mountains that surround Jeongamsa Temple.


The jovial dharma with the temple in the background.


The temple’s bell pavilion.


The tree that grew from Jajang-yulsa’s staff.


The Jeokmyeol Bogung at Jeongamsa Temple.


The hillside shrine halls.


A look at Dokseong inside the Samseong-gak.


The uniquely attired Sanshin.


The view from the shrine hall that houses a painting of Jajang-yulsa.


The seven-tier brick pagoda that overlooks Jeongamsa Temple.


A better look at its beauty.


Jeongamsa Temple down below.


One last look at the ancient pagoda.