Mujinam Hermitage – 무진암 (Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do)

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An early morning image of Mujinam Hermitage in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Directly to the south of its associated temple, Muryangsa Temple, lies Mujinam Hermitage in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do. As you first approach the hermitage, you’ll be welcomed to the grounds by a dozen outlying stupas. It’s just past this monastic cemetery, as well as past the monks’ dorms, that you’ll finally enter the compact Mujinam Hermitage courtyard.

Immediately, you’ll notice the temple’s main hall with a three-story stone pagoda out in front of it. The base is adorned with four directional lions, as well as ornamental images of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. As for the main hall itself, there are simple Palsang-do murals adorning the exterior walls to the hall. Inside the main hall is probably one of the larger canopies hanging over the main altar that you’ll find in Korea. As for the main altar, there are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) seated underneath the golden canopy. He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This is a rather typical triad at smaller temples and hermitages throughout Korea. What is less typical are the golden hued murals that hang throughout the main hall. The first painting directly to the right of the main altar is the golden Chilseong (Seven Stars) mural. It’s joined on the right wall by the equally golden guardian mural. Both are highly original in their composition.

To the right rear of the main hall is the Yaksayore-bul statue with an ornate, fiery nimbus surrounding the seated image of the Buddha of Medicine. To the left of the main hall is the still unpainted Sanshin/Dokseong-gak. Much like the Chilseong mural and the guardian mural housed inside the main hall, both Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) are beautifully highlighted in golden hues.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Mujinam Hermitage, you’ll first need to get to Muryangsa Temple. From the Nambu Terminal in Seoul, you should take an express bus to the Buyeo Intercity Bus Terminal. From this terminal, head left out the exit and continue to walk towards the big street. After crossing the road, take Bus #127 from the Buyeo Market Bus Stop. Then, at the Muryang Village Bus Stop, which is 37 stops away, get off and walk towards Muryangsa Temple. However, before arriving at the larger Muryangsa Temple, hang a left for about 200 metres before arriving at the temple to get to Mujinam Hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While small in size, there are a few highlights to Mujinam Hermitage near Muryangsa Temple. One of these highlights are all the golden clothing of the various shaman figures in the hermitage’s paintings. Also, the masterful stone statue of Yaksayore-bul, as well as the hermitage’s pagoda are something to have a closer look at while visiting this hermitage.

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The monastic cemetery at Mujinam Hermitage.

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The early morning light at Mujinam Hermitage in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do.

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The three-story stone pagoda at the hermitage.

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One of the Palsang-do murals adorning the main hall at Mujinam Hermitage.

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The main altar inside the main hall.

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The golden guardian mural inside the main hall.

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As well as the equally golden Chilseong mural.

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The elegant Yaksayore-bul statue at Mujinam Hermitage.

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The Sanshin/Dokseong-gak at the hermitage.

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A look at the golden Sanshin.

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As well as the golden robed Dokseong.

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One last look around Mujinam Hermitage.

Jukjangsa Temple – 죽장사 (Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The ten metre tall stone pagoda at Jukjangsa Temple, which also just so happens to be a National Treasure.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Depending on what map you’re using, Jukjangsa Temple can appear by two names. The original name seems to be Jukjangsa Temple, while the more recent one was Seohwangsa Temple. However, it seems as though the temple more recently has reverted back to Jukjangsa Temple. And Jukjangsa Temple is located in Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do on the very southern slopes of Hyeongjaebong.

You first approach the temple off the highway, which is quickly followed by subsequent farmers’ fields. It’s next to these farmers’ fields, and up a valley under Hyeongjaebong, that you’ll arrive at Jukjangsa Temple. And it’s the commanding ten metre tall stone pagoda at the temple that you’ll notice first. This pagoda, the Five-story Stone Pagoda in Jukjang-ri, Gumi, stands ten metres in height; it’s the tallest of its kind in Korea. It also just so happens to be National Treasure #130. This pagoda is believed to date back to the Unified Silla Dynasty. The pagoda is made from over 100 pieces of stone, and there is an opening for a golden Buddha to sit (the current one is new). An interesting legend surrounds the pagoda. It’s believed that a girl and her younger brother competed to complete a pagoda. The girl won the race, and it’s this pagoda that remains on the temple grounds to this day.

Just behind this ever-present pagoda at Jukjangsa Temple is the temple’s Daeung-jeon main hall. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with various Buddhist motif murals like the Bodhidharma and Wonhyo-daesa’s enlightenment. The pink flowered latticework that adorns the doors of the main hall is also something to keep an eye out for, as well. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, you’ll notice a triad of golden 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 left of the main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. There are some masterful shaman murals inside this hall. The ferocious tiger painted inside the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural, as well as the dour-looking expression on Yongwang’s (The Dragon King) face are something to enjoy for their originality.

HOW TO GET THERE: From in front of the Gumi Intercity Bus Terminal, there’s a bus stop. From this bus stop, you can board either Bus #20 or #20-1 that heads towards Seonsan (선산). Get off at the Seonsan terminal, which also just so happens to be the last stop. From the Seonsan terminal, walk about 200 metres to get to the Seonsan jongjeom stop and take Bus #38-6 or #338-6. After three stops, or five minutes, get off at the Jukjang-ri stop. From this stop, walk about 15 minutes to get to Jukjangsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. By far, the main highlight to Jukjangsa Temple is the ten metre tall National Treasure. Lesser sites to see at the temple are the triad of shaman murals, as well as the intricate artwork adorning the exterior walls to the temple’s main hall. In combination, the artwork at Jukjangsa Temple can make for a nice little trip to Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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The view that greets you as you approach Jukjangsa Temple.

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The amazing ten metre tall stone pagoda at Jukjangsa Temple.

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A look inside the towering pagoda.

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The temple’s main hall.

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Some of the cute artwork lying around.

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The latticework adorning the Daeung-jeon.

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The Wonhyo-daesa enlightenment painting.

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The Bodhidharma and Dazu Huike mural.

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 The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon.

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The view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The Sanshin mural housed inside the Samseong-gak.

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The intense look of Yongwang.

Daedunsa Temple – 대둔사 (Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The temple courtyard at Daedunsa Temple in Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Daedunsa Temple is located east of Mt. Bokwoosan in northern Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do. The temple is believed to have first been established in 446 A.D. by the famed monk, Ado. This very same monk built the first Silla Dynasty temple, Dorisa Temple. In 1231, Daedunsa Temple was completely destroyed by fire by the invading Mongols. The temple was rebuilt during the reign of King Chungryeol (r.1274-1308). Not long after the Imjin War (1592-98), in 1606, the warrior monk, Samyeong-daesa, enlarged Daedunsa Temple to house 10,000 warrior monks if a war should arise, once more, with the Japanese. Now, while not quite as large as it once was, Daedunsa Temple gives you an insight into its former glory.

You first approach the temple up a steep incline. It’s along this incline, in a rather remote part of Korea, that I saw my first wild deer. Nearing the temple’s parking lot, a young deer skittered across the long entry to the temple. To the right of the large stone retaining wall, and up a set of stairs, you’ll stand in the centre of the temple courtyard.

Straight ahead stands the temple’s main hall. This hall was constructed in the late 1600’s. The exterior walls to this hall are painted with guardian murals. Stepping inside the hall, you’ll notice a lone Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) statue sitting under a tall, red canopy. The statue dates back to Late Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The head and body of the statue are made of dry lacquer, while the hands are made from wood. This is one of the very few lacquer statues in Korea, and it also just so happens to be Treasure #1633. To the right of the main altar hangs a guardian painting. And between both the main altar and the guardian mural is an older-looking Amita-bul mural.

To the left of the main hall, and slightly up an embankment past an old, gnarled tree, is the temple’s Samseong-gak. It’s inside this hall that you get to look at an older set of shaman murals. The tiger with its intimidating eyes inside the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural, as well as the white spider crawling over Dokseong (The Lonely Saints) right ear, are something to look for while inside this hall.

Directly to the right of the main hall is Daedunsa Temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Uniquely, there are the twelve zodiac generals adorning the exterior walls to this hall. Housed inside this dimly lit hall, and resting on the main altar, is a golden statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Jijang-bosal is backed by a beautiful wooden relief of himself, as well as the Ten Kings of the Underworld. Other statues inside this hall are ten seated statues of the kings, as well as two fierce Vajra warriors at either entry. Adorning the interior walls are murals dedicated to the Ten Kings and the worlds they rule over in the Underworld, as well as a Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural.

Perched to the far right, and past a field of vegetables, is the Nahan-jeon Hall. While largely unadorned on the exterior walls, all but for the fading, and unrecognizable murals near the top of the eaves, it’s what’s inside that matters most about this temple hall. Resting on the main altar is a triad of unusual looking statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). They are surrounded on both sides by rather large wooden statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gumi Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to catch a bus bound for Angye Bus Terminal. The trip should last one hour and cost 6,300 won. From Angye Bus Terminal, you’ll next need to take a taxi to Daedunsa Temple. The ride should take about 40 minutes and cost about 18,000 won. Of course, the best option is a personal car, but this isn’t always an option for an expat.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. While lacking one keynote feature, Daedunsa Temple is an accumulation of features for temple adventurers to enjoy. They start with the main hall itself and leads in towards the 14th century Amita-bul statue. Other interesting features around the temple are the shaman murals, as well as the statues inside the Nahan-jeon. And who knows, if you‘re lucky like me, you might just see a wild deer running through the surrounding forests at Daedunsa Temple.

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The entry at Daedunsa Temple where I saw the wild deer.

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The tall, stone retaining wall at the temple.

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The main hall at Daedunsa Temple.

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The main altar inside the main hall with the 14th century Amita-bul statue front and centre.

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 The guardian mural inside the main hall.

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The older-looking Amita-bul painting inside the main hall.

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And an older image of Yongwang (The Dragon King) inside the above mural, as well.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Daedunsa Temple.

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The amazing Sanshin mural at Daedunsa Temple.

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The guardian paintings that adorn the late 17th century main hall.

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A picture of Jijang-bosal inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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An up-close with one of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

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One of the fierce-looking Vajra warriors.

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The Nahan-jeon at Daedunsa Temple.

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Inside the Nahan-jeon.

Janggoksa Temple – 장곡사 (Cheongyang, Chungcheongnam-do)

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The lower courtyard at Janggoksa Temple in Cheongyang, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in Cheongyang, Chungcheongnam-do on the slopes of Mt. Chilgapsan, Janggoksa Temple was first established in 850 A.D. by Master Bojo-guksa. Janggoksa Temple is beautifully situated in the western part of Chilgapsan Provincial Park. Additionally, the temple is home to two National Treasures and four Treasures.

The first structure to greet you at Janggoksa Temple is the temple’s stately Iljumun Gate. An additional four hundred metres up the road will bring you to the temple parking lot. Staring back at you is Janggoksa Temple’s front façade with both an overhanging bell pavilion and a compact Unhak-ru Pavilion to pass under. Passing through the pavilion, and only after climbing the uneven set of stone stairs to be situated in the lower temple courtyard, will you notice National Treasure #300 housed inside the Unhak-ru Pavilion. Before exploring anything else at the temple, have a look inside the Unhak-ru Pavilion at the large Gwaebul mural that dates back to 1673. Standing over 8.6 metres in height and nearly 6 metres in width, the massive mural was painted by five monks. It was painted in hopes that King Hyeonjong (r.1659 to 1675), and his Queen, would live a long life. In total, there are six Buddhas and six Bodhisattvas painted on the mural with a commanding Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) standing in the centre. His crown has four Buddhas on it, and the mural is similar to a Vulture Peak mural.

To the front of the Unhak-ru Pavilion is the lower Daeung-jeon at Janggoksa Temple, which dates back to the mid-Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Typically, it’s Seokgamoni-bul that’s housed inside the Daeung-jeon; but at Janggoksa Temple, the lower courtyard’s main hall houses Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). This gilt-bronze statue dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). This statue is flanked on both sides by to separate paintings dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), as well as a guardian mural on the far right wall.

To the right of the lower Daeung-jeon stands the temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall, which is dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Housed inside this hall is a golden-capped statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal. To the left of the lower courtyard’s main hall is the Seolseon-dang, where people can meditate.

Climbing the stairs to the upper courtyard, you’ll find three more halls at Janggoksa Temple. Shaped in an “L,” The first of the two buildings is the Upper Daeung-jeon. Uniquely, the hall has brick lotus-shaped flooring. There are three statues that sit inside this hall; of which, it’s the Yaksayoure-bul statue that sits on a stone pedestal that’s the most famous. Dating back to the late 9th century, this statue is designated National Treasure #58. Joining this statue of Yaksayore-bul are two additional statues dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). The Birojana-bul statue is believed to have been built during the Goryeo Dynasty. Strangely, all three statues are absent earlier in the morning; instead, just a cloth hat appears on the pedestal until the statues make an appearance later in the day.

The adjoining hall next to the Upper Daeung-jeon is the Eungjin-jeon. With a solitary statue of Seokgamoni-bul on the main altar, he’s surrounded by stone statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) in the hall. It’s also from this part of the upper courtyard that you get an amazing view of the valley where Janggoksa Temple takes up residence, as well as the lower courtyard, as well.

The final hall that people can visit at the temple is the crowning Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Up a side-winding pathway, you’ll be led up to a hall that houses three masterful shaman murals. While both the Dokseong (The Lonely Spirit) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) murals are amazing in their own rights, it’s the Santa-like mural of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that stands above the others in its artistic execution.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Cheongyang Intercity Bus Terminal, you can catch a taxi to Janggoksa Temple. It’ll cost around 17,000 won and take about 25 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. It’s rare for a Korean Buddhist temple to house a single National Treasure, but Janggoksa Temple houses two of them. Both the vibrantly painted Gwaebul and the stone seated iron incarnation of Yaksayore-bul add a lot to this valley hugging temple. In addition to its national identity, Janggoksa Temple also houses several other Treasures, as well as two distinctly situated courtyards.

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The bell pavilion that welcomes you to the temple grounds.

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 The view as you enter the temple’s lower courtyard.

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The Gwaebul painting at Janggoksa Temple, which also just so happens to be National Treasure #300.

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The lower Daeung-jeon at the temple.

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A look inside the lower Daeung-jeon with Birojana-bul front and centre.

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The neighbouring Myeongbu-jeon.

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A look inside reveals a golden capped Jijang-bosal.

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The long stairs that lead up towards the upper courtyard.

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The view from the upper courtyard.

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Both the upper Daeung-jeon and the Eungjin-jeon, together.

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A look inside the upper Daeung-jeon. Unfortunately, the three treasured statues were conspicuously absent.

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A look inside the Eungjin-jeon at both Seokgamoni-bul and the Nahan.

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The view across the front face of the upper Daeung-jeon.

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The trail that leads up towards the Samseong-gak.

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A better look at the Samseong-gak.

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Which houses this amazing Sanshin mural.

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 A look down towards the upper Daeung-jeon from the Samseong-gak.

Now and Then: Magoksa Temple

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Magoksa Temple in the early part of the last century.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Magoksa Temple, in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do, is thought to have first been established either in 640 or 642 by the famed monk, Jajang-yulsa. The name of the temple relates to Jajang-yulsa, as well. Legend has it that when Jajang first established the temple on the eastern slopes of Mt. Taehwasan he called it “magok,” which means “Flax Valley,” in English. Jajang believed that if several good monks came from the neighbouring area, they could “cause the rapid growth of Buddhism” just like the rapid growth of flax that grew in the area. Another story about the creation of the temple relates that the name of the temple was created when a believer looked at the temple and said that it looked like a flax stack in a flax field. This was said as the famous monk Bocheol, from the Silla Dynasty, was preaching. Either way, Magoksa Temple, in English, means “Flax Valley Temple.”

The temple was later reconstructed by the monk Bojo-guksa (or Jinul) in 1172. In fact, manuscripts found at Magoksa Temple were made with liquid gold and silver that date back to the late Goryeo period (918-1392).

Throughout the years, the temple was used as a place for refuge starting as far back as the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). And remarkably, the temple was spared any damage that other temples suffered at the hands of the Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). In fact, the temple didn’t suffer any damage in wartime from 1392 to 1910. Even in the 20th century, Magoksa Temple was used as a hiding place for the Korean independence leader, Kim Gu.

In more recent years, Magoksa Temple participates in the highly popular Temple Stay program that provides their program entirely in English. In addition to its natural beauty and the Taeguk-shaped Taegeuk-cheon stream that meanderings around and through the temple grounds, Magoksa Temple also houses five Treasures. Of these five treasures, one that you should definitely keep an eye out for is Treasure #799. The five-story Stone Pagoda is topped by a beautiful bronze finial, and it’s Tibetan inspired. The Goryeo Dynasty pagoda is only one of three in the entire world.

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The Goryeo Dynasty pagoda with both the Daegwangbo-jeon Hall in the foreground and the Daeungbo-jeon Hall in the background.

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A more recent picture of part of the Taeguk-shaped stream that flows through Magoksa Temple.

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As well as a more recent picture of the temple grounds.