Colonial Korea: Beomeosa Temple – 범어사 (Busan)


Beomeosa Temple in northern Busan as it appeared in 1933.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Beomeosa Temple, in northern Busan, is beautifully located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Geumjeongsan. First established in 678 A.D. by the famed Uisang-daesa (625-702 A.D.), Beomeosa Temple means “Fish from Heaven Temple,” in English. The name of the temple refers to the creation myth that surrounds the temple. And like so many temple myths in Korea, this one is an interesting one. According to legend, there is a water well with golden water inside it at the top of Mt. Geumjeongsan. Purportedly, golden fish rode a rainbow down from the heavens to inhabit this well. So it’s from its scenic location that Beomeosa Temple gets its name.

Beomeosa Temple became known as one of the ten great temples of the Hwaeom sect in Korea in history. Now, Beomeosa Temple belongs to the largest Buddhist order in Korea, the Jogye-jong Order.

At one point in its history, during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Beomeosa Temple had a thousand monks that called the temple home. Later, during the Imjin War that lasted from 1592 to 1598, Beomeosa Temple was one of the first prominent temples to be destroyed by the invading Japanese. A decade later, in 1602, Beomeosa Temple was reconstructed. Shortly after its reconstruction, fire would destroy Beomeosa Temple, once more. So in 1613, Beomeosa Temple was rebuilt. And it’s from this date that the now historic temple buildings date back to like the Daeung-jeon main hall and the Jogyemun Gate.

In more recent years, and after Japanese Colonization, Beomeosa Temple would grow to be one of the sixth largest temples in Korea. It’s also undergone numerous renovations throughout the years like the reconstruction of the Cheonwangmun Gate in 2012 after an arsonist destroyed it in 2010. Also, the Boje-ru pavilion was rebuilt at the end of 2014, replacing a conference hall that blocked the once historic view towards the Daeung-jeon main hall.

In total, Beomeosa Temple houses four Treasures.

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The entry Jogyemun Gate in 1933.

Beomeosa3 - bojeru 1933

The outside view of the Boje-ru pavilion in 1933.

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A look at its architecture.

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The Jong-ru bell pavilion in 1933.

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The historic Daeung-jeon main hall in 1933.

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The three tier pagoda in the main temple courtyard in 1916.

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It’s joined by the Seokdeung lantern in 1916, as well.

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The craftsmanship of the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon.

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A look around the interior of the Daeung-jeon.

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The Biro-jeon Hall in 1933. This hall houses Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy).

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A look up at some of the architecture on the Biro-jeon Hall.

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The Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Housed inside is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

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The latticework and eaves on the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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The Myeongbu-jeon Hall in 1933.

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An up-close of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

Picture 225 - 2011

Beomeosa Temple in 2011.

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The Jogyemun Gate during the spring of 2015.

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The view from the Boje-ru pavilion down on the Bulimun Gate and the Cheonwangmun Gate in 2015.

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The historic three tier pagoda and Gwaneum-jeon Hall in 2015.

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The Daeung-jeon Hall in 2005.

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And a look around the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall in 2005.

Myogwaneumsa Temple – 묘관음사 (Gijang-gun, Busan)


The view from the upper courtyard at Myogwaneumsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located just east of Mt. Daleumsan and hugging the coastline is the well-kept grounds associated with Myogwaneumsa Temple in Gijang, Busan. Off of a bit of a hidden entrance, and along a dirt road, you’ll finally come to the temple parking lot at Myogwaneumsa Temple.

You’ll first be welcomed to the temple by the visitors’ centre. It’s up the set of stone stairs that you’ll pass through the entry gate at Myogwaneumsa Temple. Beautifully adorning the gate are a pair of intimidating guardians. Up on the adjoining walls to the gate are a pair of paintings dedicated to Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), who rides a white elephant; he’s joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom), who rides a blue tiger.

Perfectly framed by the entry gate, and as you step inside the main temple courtyard, you’ll see the nine story stone pagoda at Myogwaneumsa Temple. Slender in size, painted images of various guardians adorn the base of the pagoda instead of being carved into the stone as reliefs, which is far more customary.

Past the pagoda and the book-ending dorms, you’ll find the temple’s main hall. Out in front of the main hall are a line of palm trees. Adorning the exterior walls to the main hall are masterful paintings of the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon main hall, you’ll notice a triad of statues and a pair of paintings on the main altar. Sitting in the centre of the triad of statues is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal. The red painting to the right of the triad of statues is dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And the other red painting to the left is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). The final mural hanging in the main hall is the descriptive guardian mural. The ceiling to the main hall, especially near the front altar, is adorned with various Buddhist-motif paintings.

To the right rear of the main hall stands the Josa-jeon Hall. This hall, with a floral exterior, is dedicated to prominent monks that once called Myogwaneumsa Temple home. In total, there are five murals hanging on the main altar inside this hall. The central painting with three monks are of Majo Doil, Namcheon Bowon, and Baekjang Huihae.

To the far rear of the temple grounds, and situated on the upper courtyard, are a pair of shrine halls. The first, which has a beautiful view of the neighbouring sea, is the Gwaneeum-jeon Hall. Fronted by a slim five tier stone pagoda is the newly built shrine hall, which houses two incarnations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The first is a diminutive golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. This seated image is joined by an elaborate wooden carving of the female Bodhisattva.

The final shrine hall at Myogwaneumsa Temple is situated to the left of the Gwaneum-jeon. The Samseong-gak at the temple is larger is size and houses three beautiful murals of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong, and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: From Jangsan subway station, stop #201,  you’ll need to walk about 4 minutes, or 230 metres, to get to the Jangsan post office bus stop. From there, take Bus #180. After 42 stops, or 55 minutes, get off at the Myogwaneumsa Temple entrance stop. From there, walk for 4 minutes, or 233 metres, to get to the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. The grounds at Myogwaneumsa Temple are immaculately kept. It’s also beautifully situated by the sea. As for the temple itself, it has an amazing wooden image of Gwanseeum-bosal, as well as newer paintings of the three shaman deities that are masterful in their execution.


A look through the front entry gate at Myogwaneumsa Temple.


The painting of Munsu-bosal that adorns the front entry gate.


As well as one of the guardians painted on the front entry gate.


The main temple courtyard at the temple.


Some of the paintings, uniquely, that adorns the base of the nine story pagoda.


The tropical main hall at Myogwaneumsa Temple.


One of the paintings from the Ox-Herding mural set.


Inside the Daeung-jeon main hall.


The main hall guardian mural.


The Josa-jeon Hall to the right of the main hall at Myogwaneumsa Temple.


A look inside the Josa-jeon Hall.


To the rear of the temple, and located on the upper courtyard, is this newly built Gwaneum-jeon Hall.


The main altar inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.


A closer look at the amazing wooden carving of Gwanseeum-bosal.


The view down on the temple’s grounds from the upper courtyard.


The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.


The painting of Sanshin housed inside the Samseong-gak.


As well as Dokseong.


A look at the temple courtyard from the Daeung-jeon main hall.

Colonial Korea: Geumsansa Temple – 금산사 (Gimje, Jeollabuk-do)

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The Bangdeung-gyedan shrine in 1916 at Geumsansa Temple in Gimje, Jeollabuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

The famed Geumsansa Temple is located on the western slopes of Moaksan Provincial Park in Gimje, Jeollabuk-do. Geumsansa Temple, which means Golden Mountain Temple, in English, was first established in either 599 or 600 A.D. Unlike its prominence today, Geumsansa Temple was not an important temple at the time of its construction. But then, from 722 to 766 A.D., Geumsansa Temple was rebuilt and expanded by master monk, Jinpyo.

Geumsansa Temple has a long history associated with Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). And this association comes from a vision Jinpyo had of Mireuk-bul. In a dream, Jinpyo received a book on divination, as well as 189 divination sticks directly from Mireuk-bul. From this dream, a statue was made of Mireuk-bul and placed inside the main hall. As a result of these actions, Geumsansa Temple becamse known as a headquarters for practicing the worship of Mireuk-bul during the Unified Silla Period (668-935 A.D.).

During the destructive Imjin War in 1592, Geumsansa Temple acted as a training centre for Buddhist monks in the defence of the Korean peninsula. As a result of these efforts, Geumsansa Temple, and its neighbouring hermitages, was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese. Then, in 1635, over forty years later, Geumsansa Temple was rebuilt. And from its rebuild in the 17th century, Geumsansa Temple has grown in both size and importance within the Korean Buddhist community.

In total, Geumsansa Temple houses one national treasure, the Mireuk-jeon Hall, which is National Treasure #62. It also houses nine additional Treasures.

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The Geumgangmun Gate in 1933

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A closer look at the Geumgangmun Gate.

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The Daejeokgwang-jeon main hall in 1933 at Geumsansa Temple.

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A closer look at the main hall.

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 The hexagonal black stoned pagoda that just so happens to be Treasure #27. This picture was taken in 1916.

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The Daejang-jeon Hall that houses an amazing Mireuk-bul statue in 1933.

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A closer look at the Daejang-jeon.

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The intricate main altar inside the Daejang-jeon Hall.

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The towering Mireuk-jeon Hall in 1933. It also just so happens to be National Treasure #62.

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A better look at the Mireuk-jeon Hall.

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The Bangdeung-gyedan shrine in 1916.

Geumsansa - 1916a - 5 story pagoda

The five tier pagoda in front of the shrine from 1916.

Geumsansa - 1916 - 5 story pagoda

And another angle for the five tier pagoda.

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The stone sculpture in the centre of the Bangdeung-gyedan shrine. Inside are housed the Buddha’s partial remains.

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One of the stone guardians around the gyedan in 1916.

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And one of the biseok at Geumsansa Temple in 1916.


The main temple courtyard at Geumsansa Temple in 2014. The main hall is to the right with the Myeongbu-jeon Hall and the Daejang-jeon Hall to the left.


A closer look at the Daejang-jeon Hall with the Myeongbu-jeon Hall in the background from 2014.


The Bangdeung-gyedan shrine and Mireuk-jeon Hall in 2014.


 The hexagonal black stoned pagoda and Bangdeung-gyedan shrine in 2014.


A closer look at the pagoda in front of the Bangdeung-gyedan shrine in 2014.

Wonhyodae Temple – 원효대 (Gijang-gun, Busan)


The emperor-looking Sanshin statue inside the packed Samseong-gak at Wonhyodae Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Named for the famed monk Wonhyo-daesa (617 A.D. to 686 A.D), Wonhyodae Temple is located in Gijang, Busan. In a valley just south-west of the towering peak of Mt. Daleumsan, the temple is scenically situated alongside other smaller temples like Daedosa Temple.

You first approach the temple alongside an offshoot of the Ilgwang-cheon River. At the end of this offshoot, and down a country road, lies Wonhyodae Temple. Hanging a left towards the temple sign that reads 원효대, you’ll arrive in the temple parking lot. The first sites to greet you are a collection of three Podae-hwasang statues. The bronze coloured statues are joined to the right by a smaller sized collection of statues of the Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul, teaching his disciples, the Nahan.

Straight ahead, and up a flight of stairs, is the Cheonwangmun Gate at Wonhyodae Temple. Inside the gate stand four crudely sculpted statues of the Four Heavenly Kings. But these statues are no way indicative of the rest of the temple. Passing through the slender Iljumun Gate, you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard.

Straight ahead stands the rather boxy main hall. While understated on the exterior, as soon as you enter the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a row of nine large statues on the main altar. The three statues in the centre are of Seokgamoni-bul, Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom), and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). This triad is joined to the right by another triad. This triad is centred by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). And he’s joined by Ilgwang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Sun) and Wolgwang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Moon). It’s also over in this part of the main hall that hangs the large guardian mural. And the triad of statues to the far left are centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). This triad is joined in the corner by a mural and statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

Situated to the left of the main hall are two additional shrine halls at Wonhyodae Temple. The first, which can only be entered through a side entrance on the right, is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Resting on the main altar is one of the most elaborate multi-armed and headed statues of Gwanseeum-bosal that I’ve seen in all of Korea. To the right hangs a collection of prominent monk portraits including Wonhyo-daesa. And to the left sits a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul. This triad is joined by a black guardian mural.

The other shrine hall in this area of the temple is the Myeongbu-jeon. As soon as you step inside, you’ll notice the unique statues including several guardians, the Ten Kings of the Underworld, as well as Jijang-bosal on the main altar. Of note, there is a stunning, modern Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural hanging elevated on the left side of the shrine hall.

Between the Gwaneeum-jeon and the main hall is a glass enclosure that also acts as another shrine hall on your way towards the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall that lies to the rear of the temple grounds. This glass enclosure acts as both a Yongwang-dang, which is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King), as well as a shrine for an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal statue. The Yongwang shrine has a seated statue of the Dragon King, as well as one of the largest murals of the shaman deity that I have yet to see in Korea. To the right stands the large image of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Both are joined by mountain water that flows in and out of the glass shrine hall.

The final shrine hall you can explore at Wonhyodae Temple is the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Between the Gwaneum-jeon and Yongwang-dang, and up a bit of a wooded trail, is the Samseong-gak. The golden lettering at the front of the Samseong-gak is a sign of things to come. Stepping inside the Samseong-gak, you’ll be greeted by wall-to-wall multiples of the three most popular shaman deities in the Korean pantheon. Hanging on the right wall is a modern interpretation of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left, on the main altar, hangs an older looking image of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), who is fronted by a statue of himself. Next, hangs a similarly styled painting of Chilseong as the Dokseong mural. In the centre of the main altar hangs a newer painting of Chilseong. To the left of the third Chilseong painting is a large statue of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), who is holding a large golden ginseng root. Sanshin is also wearing a large emperor’s crown. Rounding out the set is an older painting of Sanshin from the older set of three. And there is a peculiar guardian mural hanging on the left wall.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Jwacheon train station in Gijang, you’ll need to take a taxi to Wonhyodae Temple. The ride should last about 15 minutes and cost around 9,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Wonhyodae Temple is a hard temple to rate. There are several unique features like the loaded Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall with the ginseng bearing Sanshin inside, as well as the glass enclosure for the Yongwang-dang. Also adding to the temple’s overall rating is the expansive main hall and the amazing Gwanseeum-bosal statue. However, it’s harder to get to and it has a modern concrete feel to it in places.


The Cheonwangmun Gate at Wonhyodae Temple.


One of three Podae-hwasang statues at the temple.


Out in front of the Cheonwangmun Gate is this collection of statues of the Buddha and his disciples.


One of the rudimentary statues of the Four Heavenly Kings.


The main hall at Wonhyodae Temple.


A look across the well-populated main altar inside the main hall.


The statue of Jijang-bosal to the left of the nine main altar statues.


A closer look at Amita-bul.


The glass enclosure that both acts as a Yongwang-dang and Gwanseeum-bosal shrine.


The large painting and statue of Yongwang.


And the all-white statue of Gwanseeum-bosal that keeps Yongwang company.


The Gwaneum-jeon Hall to the right with the Myeongbu-jeon Hall to the left.


The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.


The elaborate Dragon Ship of Wisdom painting inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.


A look inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.


The mural of Wonhyo-daesa to the right of the main altar.


A better look at the amazing multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal.


The beautifully situated Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.


A look around inside the Samseong-gak as you first enter the hall.


The left corner that houses the unique statue and painting of Sanshin. Of note, there are three statues dedicated to the Mountain Spirit.


And the view from the Samseong-gak.

Colonial Korea: Seokguram Hermitage – 석굴암 (Gyeongju)


The Seokgamoni-bul statue inside the Seokguram Grotto in 1917.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seokguram Hermitage first began construction in 742 A.D. alongside neighbouring Bulguksa Temple. The construction of both religious sites started under the guidance of Prime Minister Kim Daeseong. Seokguram Hermitage would be completed in 774 A.D. just shortly after the death of Kim Daeseong. Initially, Seokguram Hermitage was called Seokbulsa Temple (Stone Buddha Temple, in English). The hermitage was constructed, according to legend, to appease Kim’s parents from his previous life.

Seokguram Hermitage is best known for the artificial grotto housed at the hermitage. Inside the grotto is a 3.5 metre tall stone statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The statue, which is the most beautiful Buddhist statue in all of Korea, sits underneath the seven metre tall grotto dome. The statue, with a serene smile, looks out towards the East Sea. The large Buddha statue is backed by an equally beautiful statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The statue is fronted at the entrance of the cave by stone reliefs of Vajra warriors and the Four Heavenly Kings. And the central statue of Seokgamoni-bul is also surrounded on all sides by the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha), Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas.

For the first thousand years of its existence, Seokguram Hermitage largely remained unchanged. It wasn’t until the 18th century, and under Korean Confucian religious rule from 1703 to 1758, that this started to change. This was then followed up by the serious damage that the Japanese inflicted on Seokguram Grotto from 1910-45. First discovered by the Japanese by a Japanese postman, the hermitage underwent three large scale restorations. From 1913 to 1915, the grotto was completely disassembled and reassembled. In addition, a one metre thick outer wall was added to surround the artificial grotto for protection.

Then, in 1917, another renovation took place. Because of the damage originally incurred after the earlier renovations, moss started to form in the grotto from moisture that couldn’t escape the artificial cave. So the Japanese decided to install a drainage pipe system inside the Seokguram Grotto. Additionally, the concrete shell that was added from 1913-15 was covered in lime mortar and clay.

Finally from 1920-23, a third round of renovations took place. This time, in order to correct their former mistakes, waterproof asphalt was added to the top of the concrete dome. But this seemed to only compound the problem of moisture inside the grotto.

After their liberation from Japan, Korea and Korean engineers attempted to fix the moisture problem inside the grotto that had been created over three decades. It was in 1966 that an air handling unit was installed inside the Seokguram Grotto, which seemed to stem the problem. And in 1971 a glass partition was installed inside the grotto to protect the sculptures and statues from any potential future damage.

Seokguram Hermitage is registered as National Treasure #24; and with Bulguksa Temple, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The path that leads up to the grotto in 1917.

Seokguram - pagoda 1916

A pagoda at Seokguram Hermitage in 1916.


The entrance of the grotto in 1917.


The blueprints of the grotto from 1917.


Another angle for the inner chamber of the grotto.


One of the outer guardians at the entrance of the Seokguram Grotto from 1917.


One of the Vajra warriors at the entry of the inner chamber from 1917.


Two of the Four Heavenly Kings at Seokguram Hermitage.


The walls of the inner chamber with the Nahan and Buddhas on the wall.


A look at the serenely smiling Seokgamoni-bul from 1917.


A look above the central statue at the cracked dome.


The relief of Gwanseeum-bosal that backs Seokgamoni-bul inside the inner chamber from 1917.


A renovated Seokguram Hermitage from Colonial Rule.


How the grotto looked in 2012.


A closer look at the outer shrine hall to the grotto from 2006.


A closer look at the image of Seokgamoni-bul from inside the grotto from 2012.


And a black and white image of the Historical Buddha from 2012, as well.

Dubangsa Temple – 두방사 (Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The main hall and multi-tiered pagoda at Dubangsa Temple in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Dubangsa Temple is located east of Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do, and it lies just south of the Janggun-daesan peak on Mt. Wolasan. In fact, it lies just over the ridge line where the more famous Cheonggoksa Temple is located. Just under 250 metres in elevation, Dubangsa Temple has a beautiful view of the valley down below, and it seems to operate as a bit of a stop along the trail for mountain hikers.

You first approach Dubangsa Temple up a steep mountain road that eventually lands you just right of the main temple courtyard and next to the monks’ dorms. There are only a handful of shrine halls at Dubangsa Temple to enjoy, but it’s the imposing main hall that you’ll notice first.

The exterior walls to the main hall are adorned with a pair of mural sets. The first is the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals; while the other is the Palsang-do murals. Both sets are fading a bit in the sunlight. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, is a triad of ornate statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined by two regally crowned statues of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power for Amita-bul). To the right of the main altar hangs an elaborate guardian mural.

Out in front of the main hall are two completely opposite pagodas. The one to the right is the traditional Silla-designed three tier stone pagoda. But it’s the one to the left, the multi-story stone pagoda of Dubangsa Temple, that’s the more special of the two. The bluish hued multi-tiered pagoda dates back to the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. to 935 A.D.). Originally housed at the neighbouring Beopnyunsa Temple, it was moved in 1940 to Dubangsa Temple. It was only moved after there was nothing left of Beopnyunsa Temple after the Imjin War (1592-98) and the pagoda stood alone for hundreds of years.

The main hall and pagodas are joined in the main courtyard by the Myeongbu-jeon shrine hall. Inside is a golden capped Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), who is surrounded by hundreds of miniature incarnations of himself. Interestingly, on the northern portion of the shrine hall is a beautiful mural of Dubangsa Temple. Also appearing in the main courtyard is the temple’s bell pavilion and beautiful bronze bell.

Up the embankment, and to the left rear of the main hall, is the Samseong-gak at Dubangsa Temple. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with shamanic figures, and the interior houses four additional shamanic murals. The first mural to your immediate left when you enter the Samseong-gak is a Yongwang (The Dragon King) mural. It’s joined to the right by a unique mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). This mural is then joined by a rather typical Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. Rounding out the collection of four is a mural, in a similar style to the Sanshin painting, of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: Since there is no bus that directly goes to Dubangsa Temple, the only way to get to the temple is by taxi. From the Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal, you can catch a taxi to Dubangsa Temple. The ride should last about 30 minutes and costs about 13,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. While a lot smaller in size than the much more famous Cheonggoksa Temple, Dubangsa Temple has some things to offer the temple adventurer. The obvious highlight to the temple is the multi-tiered blue pagoda; but of note, and some things to keep an eye out for, are the temple bell and the shamanic murals hanging inside the Samseong-gak.


The view as you first enter the temple courtyard.


The view from the bell pavilion at Dubangsa Temple.


A closer look of the bell at Dubangsa Temple.


The main hall at Dubangsa Temple.


The main altar inside the main hall.


The elaborate guardian mural inside the main hall.


Both the blue pagoda and main hall at Dubangsa Temple.


The Myeongbu-jeon hall.


The golden capped Jijang-bosal inside the Myeongbu-jeon.


The temple mural that adorns the Myeongbu-jeon hall.


The radiant view from the Myeongbu-jeon.


The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Dubangsa Temple.


One of the murals that adorns the Samseong-gak.


And yet another more peculiar one.


The uniquely painted Sanshin mural inside the Samseong-gak. Have a look at that tiger’s eyes!


And the Dokseong mural.


The view from the Samseong-gak.

Colonial Korea: Hwaeomsa Temple – 화엄사 (Gurye, Jeollanam-do)

Hwaeomsa - 1933

Hwaeomsa Temple as it appeared in 1933.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Hwaeomsa Temple was first established as a temple in 544 A.D. by the monk Yeongi (who may or may not have been an Indian missionary monk). The name of the temple means, in English, “Flower Garland Sutra Temple.” And it’s located just outside Gurye, Jeollanam-do in the picturesque Jirisan National Park.

After its foundation, and during the mid-600s, the famed monk Uisang-daesa (625-702) returned from Tang China after studying there for ten years. With him, he returned to the Korean peninsula with the Hwaeom sect of Buddhist teachings. It was through his efforts, as well as the state support of Queen Seondeok (r. 632-647), that Hwaeomsa Temple was not only rebuilt, but it was expanded, as well.

Then, in the late 800s, Hwaeomsa Temple was further expanded, once more, under the guidance of Master Doseon-guksa (826-898). It was at this point in the temple’s history that most of the stone monuments that still stand to this day, like the stone lantern and stone pagodas in the main temple courtyard, were built.

Not surprisingly, and like so much of the rest of the Korean peninsula, Hwaeomsa Temple was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Just thirty years later, Hwaeomsa Temple was rebuilt.

Today, Hwaeomsa Temple is one of the largest temples throughout Korea. Not only that, but it’s also one of the most venerated, as well. In total, Hwaeomsa Temple houses four National Treasures like the Three-story Stone Pagoda, which is National Treasure #35, as well as the Gakhwang-jeon Hall, which is National Treasure #67. In addition to these National Treasures, Hwaeomsa Temple also houses an additional eight Treasures.

Hwaeomsa1 - 1933 Iljumun

The Iljumun Gate from 1933 at Hwaeomsa Temple.

Hwaeomsa2 - 1933 Iljumun

Some of the intricate artistry adorning the Iljumun Gate.

Hwaeomsa7 - 1933 Daeungjeon

The smaller sized Daeung-jeon main hall in 1933.

Hwaeomsa8 - 1916 east pagoda

The East Pagoda out in front of the Daeung-jeon Hall in 1916.

Hwaeomsa7 - 1916 West pagoda

As well as the West Pagoda in 1916 in the main temple courtyard.

Hwaeomsa8 - 1933 Daeungjeon

Some of the beautiful woodwork adorning the Daeung-jeon main hall.

Hwaeomsa9 - 1933 Daeungjeon

A look inside the main hall in 1933.

Hwaeomsa10 - 1933 Daeungjeon

A look up at the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon in 1933.

Hwaeomsa11 - 1933 Daeunjeon

A look around the main hall.

Hwaeomsa13 -1933 Wontongjeon

To the left of the main hall are the Wontong-jeon Hall and Nahan-jeon in 1933.

Hwaeomsa3 - 1933 Gakhwangjeon

The Gakhwang-jeon in 1933 with the massive, and historic, stone lantern out in front of it. The stone lantern also just so happens to be National Treasure #12.

Hwaeomsa4 - 1933 Gakhwangjeon

Outside the Gakhwang-jeon.

Hwaeomsa5 - 1933 Gakhwangjeon

A look inside the spacious Gakhwang-jeon.

Hwaeomsa6 - 1933 Gakhwangjeon

A look across the main altar inside the Gakhwang-jeon.

Hwaeomsa - 1916 lion pagoda

The Four Lion Three-story Stone Pagoda in 1916.

Hwaeomsa1 - 1916 lion pagoda

A closer look at the lion base of the pagoda.

Hwaeomsa2 - 1916 lion pagoda

An up close and personal with just one of the ferocious lions.

Hwaeomsa4 - 1916 lion pagoda

The stone statue at the centre of the lion pagoda is believed to be Yeongi’s mother.

Hwaeomsa3 - 1916 lion pagoda

Doors carved into the body of the pagoda.

Hwaeomsa14 - 1933 Byeokamdae

A stupa found at Hwaeomsa Temple in 1933.

Hwaeomsa15 - 1933 Byeokamdae

A large biseok found at Hwaeomsa Temple in 1933.


The same exact biseok from 2005.


The Iljumun Gate in 2013.


Daeung-jeon main hall in 2013.


The massive Gakhwang-jeon in 2013 with the West Pagoda out in front of it.


A look inside the Gakhwang-jeon hall in 2005.


The Four Lion Three-story Stone Pagoda in 2013.


And a closer look at the pagoda in 2013.

Cheonggoksa Temple – 청곡사 (Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The Sanshin-gak that houses three different images of the Mountain Spirit at Cheonggoksa Temple in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located just east of Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do, and on the southern slopes of Mt. Wolasan, is the historic Cheonggoksa Temple. Cheonggoksa Temple was first established in 879 A.D. by the famed monk Doseon-guksa (826-898). Doseon picked the location for Cheonggoksa Temple because of its divine energy. After watching a blue crane, from the banks of Namgang River in Jinju, land on the present temple location, Doseon knew it was the proper place to construct a temple. The temple was later reconstructed in 1380 by the monk Silsang. Like so many other temples in Korea, Cheonggoksa Temple was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Rebuilt in 1612, Cheonggoksa Temple was renovated at the end of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

You first approach Cheonggoksa Temple past the temple parking lot and to the right. It’s up this wooded trail that you’ll find a serene pond to your left. From the pond side benches, you can get a great view of the temple beautifully framed by the surrounding mountains. A little further up the trail and you’ll pass under the stately Iljumun Gate.

Out in front of the stream where the blue crane once landed, and across from the front façade of the temple grounds, is the temple’s cemetery. In total, there are eight different stupas for those monks that once called Cheonggoksa Temple home. They are joined by a darkened three tier pagoda and a stone lantern at the entrance of the cemetery.

Climbing the side-winding stairs and passing through the uninhabited Cheonwangmun Gate, you’ll finally pass under the Hwanhak-ru pavilion and enter the main temple courtyard. Straight ahead stands the Daeung-jeon main hall at Cheonggoksa Temple. The outside walls are largely unadorned, but the interior more than makes up for this shortcoming. Resting on the main altar are three large statues. In the centre rests 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 rear of the main altar is a smaller sized mural dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul. But it’s to the left of the main altar that’s the greatest surprise inside the Daeung-jeon. To the left sits Jaeseok-cheonwang (Heavenly King Deity, Indra) and Daebeom-cheonwang (The Great Dharma Heavenly King).

To the immediate right of the main hall stands the Eopgyeong-jeon shrine hall, which is also known as the Myeongbu-jeon hall at other temples. Housed inside this shrine hall, and resting on the main altar, is a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This Bodhisattva is then surrounded on all sides by some fantastic wooden statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the right rear of the main hall sits both the Nahan-jeon and the Chilseong-gak. They are joined by the historic three tier pagoda to the right. Inside the Nahan-jeon, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of white statues centred Seokgamoni-bul. This triad is joined by sixteen highly masterful wooden sculptures of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). To the left is the Chilseong-gak which houses older, elaborate murals to each of the Seven Stars (Chilseong), which is quite unique to have them each divided into their own murals.

Finally, to the left rear of the main hall is a shrine hall that is separated into three sections, even though they share the same space (much like at a Beomeosa Temple shrine hall). The first of the divided shrine halls is dedicated to Dokseong. The picture that rests inside this shrine hall is a copy of a much older painting that hangs inside the temple museum. The shrine section to the left is dedicated to prominent monks that once called Cheonggoksa Temple home. In fact, a mural of Doseon-guksa hangs in the centre of the half-a-dozen pictures inside this section. As for the central section is one of the main highlights at the temple. Inside this hall hangs two murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). The image to the left is a female Sanshin with more masculine features. To the right hangs a jocular male image of Sanshin, while in the centre sits a wooden statue of the female Sanshin.

The other things to be enjoyed at the temple is the bell pavilion with beautiful percussion instruments housed inside it. Also, the temple museum is something that shouldn’t be missed, as it houses a large Gwaebul mural from 1722.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to board Bus #261 to get to Cheonggoksa Temple. After 27 stops, or 34 minutes, get off at the “Shingi maeul” stop. From there, walk 1.5 km to get to the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Cheonggoksa Temple has so many rarities associated with it that it should keep a temple adventurer busy for quite some time. From its female Sanshin to the pair of seated Jaeseok-cheonwang and Daebeom-cheonwang, as well as the 18th century Gwaebul and the individual murals dedicated to Chilseong inside the Chilseong-gak, this temple has a laundry list of rarities which also includes the historic Dokseong mural. Take your time and enjoy this hidden gem east of Jinju!


The path that leads up to the Iljumun Gate at Cheonggoksa Temple.


The reflective pond out in front of the temple.


The temple cemetery at Cheonggoksa Temple.


The front facade at Cheonggoksa Temple.


The uninhabited Cheonwangmun Gate.


The Daeung-jeon main hall at the temple.


The triad of statues on the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon.


The mural on the backside of the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon.


The extremely rare Jaeseok-cheonwang and Daebeom-cheonwang inside the main hall.


The mural of the two that backs the seated statues.


The Eopgyeong-jeon hall to the right of the main hall.


This fierce guardian awaits your entry at the Eopgyeong-jeon hall.


The main altar inside the Eopgyeong-jeon with Jijang-bosal front and centre.


Just one of the eerie Ten Kings of the Underworld.


The sectioned shrine hall to the left rear of the Daeung-jeon.


A copy of the historic Dokseong mural.


The amazing female Sanshin mural in the centre section of the shrine hall.


The Josa-jeon section of the three part shrine hall.


The temple museum at Cheonggoksa Temple.


A look inside the bell pavilion at the temple.

Colonial Korea: Songgwangsa Temple – 송광사 (Suncheon, Jeollanam-do)


Songgwangsa Temple in Suncheon, Jeollanam-do in 1933

Hello Again Everyone!!

Songgwangsa Temple is one of the three Korean jewel temples alongside Tongdosa Temple and Haeinsa Temple. Unlike the other two temples, Songgwangsa Temple represents the “seung,” or monk aspect of the three jewels.

Songgwangsa Temple is located in scenic Suncheon, Jeollanam-do. The name of the temple means “Spreading Pine Temple,” in English, and Songgwangsa Temple was established in the 1190s. Much like Bulguksa Temple a few hundred years earlier, Songgwangsa Temple was created on the former grounds of a temple; in this case, it was Gilsangsa Temple. Gilsangsa Temple was first built in 867 A.D. Gilsangsa Temple was built by the Seon master, Hyerin. In total, some thirty to forty monks lived at the temple at this time.

From the mid to late 12th century, Gilsangsa Temple remained abandoned as a functioning temple. It wasn’t until 1190, and over the course of a nine year period, that the famed monk Jinul, or Bojo-guksa (1158-1210), rebuilt the temple. Not only did he rebuild Gilsangsa Temple, but he also renamed it Songgwangsa Temple. It was not long after his renaming of the temple that Songgwangsa Temple became important as a centre for Korean Buddhism.

Like so many other temples throughout Korea’s turbulent past, Songgwangsa Temple also suffered. During the Imjin War (1592-98), as well as the more recent Korean War (1950-53), Songgwangsa Temple suffered varying degrees of damage.

But with this devastation and destruction goes periods of growth and expansion like during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The temple was then largely rebuilt in the 17th century after the Imjin War. And even more recently, Songgwangsa Temple was renovated in 1988. It was during this time that fourteen of the temple buildings were refurbished. And even as recently as 2013, Songgwangsa Temple’s Cheonwangmun Gate received a complete renovation.

Throughout its storied past, Songgwangsa Temple has produced some sixteen national preceptors. Also, in 1969, the temple was reorganized as a monastic centre for all sects of Mahayana Buddhism, which Korean Buddhism is a part of. In total, Songgwangsa Temple houses four National Treasures and twenty-one additional Treasures.

Songgwangsa - Iljumun

The Iljumun Gate at Songgwangsa Temple in 1933.

Songgwangsa5 - Jogyemun

The Jogyemun Gate in 1933.


The stupa field at Songgwangsa Temple.


The front entrance of the temple in 1933.


People swimming in the stream that flows down from Mt. Jogyesan.

Songgwangsa6 - Cheonwangmun

The Cheonwangmun Gate.

Songgwangsa7 - Cheonwangmun

A closer look at the intricate artwork that adorns the Cheonwangmun Gate.

Songgwangsa1 - bell pavilion

The temple’s bell pavilion in 1933.

Songgwangsa2 - main hall

The Daeungbo-jeon main hall at Songgwangsa Temple.

Songgwangsa8 - main hall

Another look at the main hall from 1933.

Songgwangsa9 - main hall

A closer look at the amazing artistry on the main hall.

Songgwangsa10 - main hall

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

Songgwangsa11 - main hall

A look around the main hall.

Songgwangsa18 - josajeon

The Guksa-jeon from 1933, which also just so happens to be National Treasure #56.

Songgwangsa19 - josajeon

A closer look at the shrine hall’s artistry.

Songgwangsa20 - guksadang

The shrine hall dates back to 1369 and houses 16 paintings of the 16 national preceptors.

Songgwangsa40 - eungjin

The Eungjin-jeon Hall at Songgwangsa Temple as it appeared in 1933.

Songgwangsa41- eungjin

And a look inside the Eungjin-jeon Hall.


The Jogyemun Gate in 2007.


A look at the front entry at Songgwangsa Temple in 2007.


The stream that flows down to Songgwangsa Temple from Mt. Jogyesan in 2007.


The Daeungbo-jeon main hall in 2013.


And a look inside the main hall in 2013.