Jinhongsa Temple – 진홍사 (Geumgok, Busan)

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Inside the main hall during Buddha’s birthday at Jinhongsa Temple in Geumgok, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone,

Jinhongsa Temple in Geumgok is a rather new temple in the northern part of Busan. While smaller in size, the temple is highly popular among the local population.

Located next to a university and a crowded amount of apartments, Jinhongsa Temple is the last structure before the forested hills of Mt. Geumjeongsan. The first structure to greet you at the temple is the simplistic Iljumun Gate. To the left of the Iljumun Gate lies a collection of stupas and a stele.

Past these introductory structures, and up a bit of an incline, are the three temple buildings at Jinhongsa Temple. To the far left is the monks’ dorms and visitors centre. Straight ahead, and above the temple’s kitchen on the first floor, is the temple’s main hall. The exterior walls to the main hall are beautifully decorated with Palsang-do murals. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s joined on either side Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Body Buddha). The triad sit under a stunning red canopy that are adorned with twisting blue dragons underneath the canopy. And on the far left wall is a wooden guardian relief.

To the right of the main hall stands another two storied temple hall. The second of which is a shrine hall for people to pray in at Jinhongsa Temple. The exterior walls to this hall are lined with dongja (assistants) either playing or helping. Once you enter this hall, which you enter from the east, you’ll be greeted by a large red canopy. Underneath this canopy sit three slender statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined by the familiar statues of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And on the far wall there hangs a red mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take exit #6 at Geumgok subway station (#238) on the second line. At the first major road, you’ll need to cross the street and head east towards Mt. Geumjeongsan. Follow this road to the right of the university for 1.6 km. The hike should only take you 5 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While not the most overwhelming of temples to visit in Korea, it’s a nice little oasis in northern Busan. While the temple buildings are made from concrete, all the statues on the main altars are masterfully sculpted, as are the paintings adorning the exterior walls to all the halls. There is also a restive Koi pond at the base of the main hall at Jinhongsa Temple. So while not the most expansive of temples in Korea, it makes for a nice little break from the urban clutter in northern Busan.

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The stupas and stele at the entry of Jinhongsa Temple.

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The Iljumun Gate at the temple.

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The temple’s main hall during Buddha’s birthday.

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The meditative Koi pond out in front of the main hall.

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One of the Korean style Palsang-do murals adorning the exterior walls of the main hall.

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The nearness of nature at Jinhongsa Temple.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar.

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The unpainted wooden guardian relief inside the main hall.

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The other shrine hall at Jinhongsa Temple.

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One of the dongja murals that adorns the exterior walls to this shrine hall.

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Some of the decorative Buddhist artwork underfoot.

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The main altar inside the adjoining shrine hall.

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The Jijang-bosal mural at Jinhongsa Temple.

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One last look at one of the shrine halls at Jinhongsa Temple.

Jukrimsa Temple – 죽림사 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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One of the beautiful stupas at the entry of Jukrimsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just below Mt. Yubongsan, and west of the Geumho River, is Jukrimsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. About a kilometre and a half up a mountainside road lies Jukrimsa Temple. The first thing to greet you at the temple is the Iljumun Gate, which has a pair of chubby pillars at its base.

A little further up the road, but before you arrive at the temple grounds, you’ll notice an ornate stupa to your right. This stupa is a near replica of the one at Seonamsa Temple on Mt. Baekyangsan in Busan. With ornate ornamental dragons, tigers, and Biseon, as well as a decorative Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) at the entrance of the stupa, this stupa is probably the most beautiful piece of funeral stone masonry in all of Korea. The pair of large sized stupas are joined by smaller sized stupas.

With the slight incline of the mountain elevation kicking in, you’ll finally near the outskirts of the temple courtyard. Passing under the Boje-ru Pavilion, which is beautifully adorned during Buddha’s birthday, the pavilion is surrounded on all sides by rose bushes, Japanese maples, and shrubs.

Stepping into the temple courtyard, a three-tier stone pagoda welcomes you to Jukrimsa Temple’s courtyard. The monks’ dorms lie to the left, while the main hall stands straight ahead of you. In front of the main hall are a collection of granite statues. To the far right is a triad statue centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To the far left are two more statues. The first is the “hear no evil, speak no evil, and see no evil,” motif statue; while the other statue is a graceful granite statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

Surrounding the main hall’s exterior walls are a collection of simple Palsang-do murals. Inside the hall, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal. There are a few accompanying murals housed inside the main hall like the guardian mural that hangs on the left wall, as well as a red mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal that hangs on the right wall. Interestingly, and just to the left of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife, there are a collection of pictures of former presidents like Park Chung Hee (and his wife), and Roh Moo Hyun.

To the left of the main hall are two shrine halls that visitors can enjoy while exploring Jukrimsa Temple. The first to the immediate left of the main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Of the three shaman murals that include Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), it’s the tiger-riding Sanshin mural that stands above the others for its originality.

The other hall at Jukrimsa Temple is the Nahan-jeon. The white-clothed stone statues of the Nahan are joined on the main altar by Seokgamoni-bul. Also, the stone statues are backed by beautiful murals of the Historical Disciples of the Buddha.

HOW TO GET THERE: There is no direct bus that will take you to Jukrimsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. So the most direct way to get to Jukrimsa Temple is to take a taxi from Yeongcheon Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should last about 25 minutes and cost about 7,200 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. The main highlight at Jukrimsa Temple are the two ornate stupas at the entry of the temple. The beautiful grounds are filled with masterful statues of Gwanseeum-bosal and Amita-bul. And to top it off, you can also enjoy all the murals housed inside both the Nahan-jeon and the Samseong-gak at Jukrimsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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The chubby pillared Iljumun Gate at Jukrimsa Temple.

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A look towards a pair of stupas.

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A closer look at one of the ornate stupas.

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Adorning the door on the stupa is this image of Jijang-bosal.

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Some of the tiger reliefs on the stupa.

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As well as a decorative dragon.

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A look up towards the Boje-ru Pavilion at Jukrimsa Temple.

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The temple courtyard in preparation for Buddha’s birthday.

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The main hall at Jukrimsa Temple.

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The statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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The chubby “hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil” statues.

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One of the Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.

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Inside the main hall at Jukrimsa Temple.

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The view of the grassy temple courtyard at Jukrimsa Temple.

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A look up towards the Samseong-gak.

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A look inside the Samseong-gak; yes, with a ladder in it.

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A better look at the tiger-riding Sanshin mural.

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The Nahan-jeon at Jukrimsa Temple.

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And a look inside the Nahan-jeon.

Gwangsansa Temple – 광산사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The beautifully framed temple courtyard at Gwangsansa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

You first approach Gwangsansa Temple up some country back-roads and then finally up a long winding road that runs part of the way up Mt. Gwangryeosan in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do. With all 752 metres of the towering mountain to frame the temple, it makes for quite the beautiful location.

As you first approach the temple grounds, the view is blocked by a stone front façade. Up a set of stairs, you’ll pass through the Haetalmun Gate to enter the temple courtyard. Straight ahead lays the temple’s main hall. Surprisingly, a stone pagoda is missing out in front of the main hall. Surrounding the exterior walls to the main hall are some masterful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Sitting on the main altar are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s flanked on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). Hanging to the right of the main altar is a painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and hanging to the left is the main hall’s guardian mural.

The other two halls that visitors can explore at Gwangsansa Temple are two shamanic halls. The first, which lies to the right of the main hall, is the Sanshin-gak. Before entering the hall, have a look on the right exterior wall to see a fiery coloured tiger with her two cubs. As for inside this hall, there hangs a modern painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) with a ginseng carrying donja (attendant) that has the ginseng, for some unexplained reason, wrapped in white cloth. To the left of the main hall stands the hall dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). While this hall was locked when I visited, you can peer through the front latticework to get a look at the equally modern incarnation of Dokseong.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to exit the terminal and make your way to the bus stop across from the Juchajang Pharmacy parking lot. From there, take Bus #710 for 12 stops, or about 20 minutes. Get off at the Lotte Mart stop and walk to get to the Samgye Hyundai apartments. It’s really close, about 150 metres, so you should be able to see the apartments. From the Samgye Hyundai apartments, take Bus #52 for 12 more stops, or 18 minutes, and get off at the Sinmok pongjeom stop, which is also the last stop on the route. From this stop, walk about 10 minutes, or 650 metres, to Gwangsansa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. There are just a couple highlights to Gwangsansa Temple like the beautiful location and the masterful modern painting of Sanshin. But be warned, there is an older Korean woman that volunteers at the temple that will not allow any photography of the temple, even though the temple is little known and less traveled by foreign visitors. So if you want to get a couple pictures of the place, be forewarned that it might be difficult with her around.

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The stairs that lead up to the temple courtyard.

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A look through the Haetalmun Gate.

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The view from the Dokseong-gak towards the main hall.

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One of the Shimu-do murals.

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The entry to the main hall.

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

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The Jijang-bosal mural to the right of the main altar.

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A look towards the Sanshin-gak.

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The sign for the Sanshin-gak.

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The decorative tigers adorning one of the exterior walls of the Sanshin-gak.

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And a look at the Mountain Spirit.

Sujeongam Hermitage – 수정암 (Boeun-Gun, Chungcheongbuk-do)

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A look inside the Geukrak-jeon main hall at Sujeongam Hermitage near Beopjusa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just to the south-west of the famed Beopjusa Temple is the affiliated Sujeongam Hermitage. And while the courtyard is under an extensive renovation, there are still a couple buildings for a visitor to explore in and around the grounds.

Walking down a beautiful pathway that skirts a neighbouring stream, and past a budo field, you’ll finally come to the compact hermitage grounds. Welcoming you at the gate are a pair of protective Vajra warriors.

Directly to your right, and a bit past the monks’ dorms, is the Geukrak-jeon main hall at Sujeongam Hermitage. Beautifully wrapped around the exterior walls to the main hall are a collection of rustic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the right of this triad is a golden stone statue dedicated to Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). While the date of this statue is unknown, it’s historic in nature. This statue is joined on the right wall by a red-motif guardian mural.

But the real highlight to this hermitage lies just to the left of the main altar. There are a collection of older looking shaman murals. Of the set of three, which also includes a mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars), it’s the mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that is the most original of the lot. With a folk-style tiger to his left, Sanshin can be seen holding tight to one of his dongja (an attendant). The painting almost appears as though Sanshin is proudly holding tight to a son of his. A definite first for me!

The other hall to the right of the Geukrak-jeon that visitors can explore is the tiny Josa-jeon Hall. Like sometimes happens at other hermitages, it appears as though the Josa-jeon Hall at Sujeongam Hermitage also acts as a storage hall, as well. However, there are three murals resting on the main altar inside this hall dedicated to prominent monks that once called Sujeongam Hermitage home.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Sujeongam Hermitage, you’ll first need to take a bus to Boeun city. From the Boeun Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll have to take a direct bus to Mt. Songnisan. This bus runs every 30 to 40 minutes throughout the day. When you arrive at Songnisan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll have to walk 20 minutes towards Beopjusa Temple/Mt. Songnisan Ticket Office. However, a couple minutes shy of Beopjusa Temple, you’ll need to hang a left where Sujeongam Hermitage resides.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Beautifully located in Songnisan National Park, and buttressed up against the amazing Beopjusa Temple, is Sujeongam Hermitage. With its collection of highly original shamanic paintings, as well as a historic Yaksayore-bul statue inside, there is more than enough reason to visit Sujeongam Hermitage while enjoying a day out at Beopjusa Temple.

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The path that leads to Sujeongam Hermitage.

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The Geukrak-jeon main hall at Sujeongam Hermitage.

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One of the Palsang-do murals around the exterior walls of the main hall.

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A look inside the Josa-jeon Hall.

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The red guardian mural as you first step inside the Geukrak-jeon.

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The historic Yaksayore-bul statue inside the main hall.

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A look at the main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon.

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The Dokseong mural to the left of the main altar.

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He’s joined by this elaborate mural dedicated to Chilseong.

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And the dongja holding Sanshin mural.

Seonsuam Hermitage – 선수암 (Yesan, Chungcheongnam-do)

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A look inside the well-populated interior of the Gwaneeum-jeon at Seonsuam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just to the south-west of the temple courtyard at Sudeoksa Temple is Seonsuam Hermitage. Directly associated with the famed Sudeoksa Temple, Seonsuam Hermitage is built for Korean Buddhist nuns.

When you first approach Seonsuam Hermitage, just before the Sacheonwangmun Gate at Sudeoksa Temple, you’ll notice a miniature Dabo-tap pagoda from Bulguksa Temple halfway up the path. Nestled under towering trees, the pagoda is an exact replica of the stone monument, but just a quarter of its size.

Finally entering the hermitage’s courtyard, you’ll notice the large main hall to your right with the nuns’ quarters off to the left. The main hall itself is adorned with a dual set of murals around its exterior walls. The ones on top are vibrant Palsang-do murals dedicated to the eight scenes from the Buddha’s life, while the second set are various murals from the various stages of life. The latticework on the front door to this hall are beautiful flower blossoms in full bloom. Strangely, but caringly, there is a large umbrella to shield people from the sunlight while worshiping at the main entry.

Inside the hall, and sitting all alone on the main altar, is a large seated statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The entire interior to this hall is decorated with various murals. To the right of the main altar are a set of four such murals. To the far right is the dynamic guardian mural joined to the left by an elaborate Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. This is then joined to the left by one of the larger Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) murals you’ll find in Korea. Rounding out the set is an equally large mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

To the left of the main altar is another collection of Buddhist murals. The first of the four to the left of Gwanseeum-bosal is a larger, multi-arm and headed mural of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The next mural to the left is the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) mural. Another in the set is an intricate mural dedicated to the Ten Kings of the underworld. The final mural in the set is a beautiful Gamno-do mural with various acts of misdeeds at the base of the Sweet Dew mural for the dead.

It should be said that one of the nicest Buddhist nuns (or monks for that matter), I met at Seonsuam Hermitage. Her name was Nama, for Namaste. She took the time to explain some of the details behind each painting. Also, she gave me a beautiful wooden dancheong piece of artwork. If your Korean is good enough, and she’s around, take the time to talk to this beautiful soul.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Seonsuam Hermitage, you’ll first need to get to Sudeoksa Temple. There are a variety of ways that you can get to Sudeoksa Temple. From Seoul, you’ll need to get to the Nambu Bus Terminal and board a direct bus to Sudeoksa Temple. The bus ride lasts about two and half hours and should cost about 8,000 won. From anywhere else in the country, you’ll first need to get to the Yesan Intercity Bus Terminal. From there, you can take a rural bus to Sudeoksa Temple. Here is a list of potential buses that you can take: Bus #553 (8:20), Bus #547 (9:40), Bus #558 (10:50, 17:35), Bus #551 (12:00, 15:00), Bus #557 (13:20), Bus #549 (14:00), Bus #555 (15:55), Bus #556 (19:15). These buses will take about an hour and forty minutes to get to the temple.

Once at Sudeoksa Temple, make your way towards the main temple courtyard. Just before the Sacheonwangmun Gate, hang a left and head towards Seonsuam Hermitage. It’s about 100 metres up the pathway.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. There is a beautiful collection of Buddhist and shaman artwork inside the Gwaneum-jeon main hall at Seonsuam Hermitage. Also, and if you’re lucky enough to meet her, Nama can help explain some of the finer points of the hermitage and Korean Buddhism as a whole. So if you’re visiting the neighbouring Sudeoksa Temple, drop by Seonsuam Hermitage along the way.

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The miniature Dabo-tap pagoda at Seonsuam Hermitage.

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The main hall at the hermitage.

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Some of the beautiful latticework adorning the main hall.

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One of the life cycle pieces of artwork on the exterior walls of the main hall.

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Which is joined above by some vibrant Palsang-do murals.

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The guardian mural inside the main hall.

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Joined by the Sanshin mural.

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The Jijang-bosal mural to the right of the main altar.

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Gwanseeum-bosal sitting in the middle of the main hall.

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A mural of the Bodhisattva of Compassion to the left of the main altar.

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Joined by Dokseong.

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As well as the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

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The final painting in the collection is this Gamno-do mural.