Ingaksa Temple – 인각사 (Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The snowy Sallyeong-gak at Ingaksa Temple in Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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Ingaksa Temple in south-eastern Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do is said to have purportedly been first constructed by the famed Wonhyo-daesa during the reign of Queen Seondeok (r. 632-647 A.D.). The name of the temple relates to the neigbouring landscape that surrounds Ingaksa Temple. Ingaksa Temple, in English, means “Giraffe Horn Temple.” With the Wicheon Stream flowing to the north of the temple, Ingaksa Temple is surrounded by Mt. Hwasan. Historically, people thought that Mt. Hwasan looked like a giraffe. And where Ingaksa Temple is located is where, according to these people, a corresponding giraffe’s horn should be located.

Ingaksa Temple was further expanded during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), and with its growth, it also became one of the most prominent temples throughout the Korean peninsula. Ingaksa Temple is closely associated with the famed Ilyeon (1206-89) because it’s believed that he wrote the Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) at Ingaksa Temple over a five year period starting in 1281.

You first approach Ingaksa Temple in a bend in the Wicheon Stream. Entering the temple parking lot and past the field of stone artifacts which date back to the Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935 A.D.), you’ll finally enter the large temple courtyard. Straight ahead lies the Geukrak-jeon main hall. Out in front of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is a three tier pagoda. Housed inside the recently renovated main hall is a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Amita-bul is 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 left of this triad are a pair of paintings. The first is an elaborate Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural that’s joined to the rear by a rather unique Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. Rounding out the set, and to the right of the main altar, is the temple’s guardian mural.

To the right of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is the Guksa-jeon Hall (The Hall for the State Preceptor). In this case, this Guksa-jeon is dedicated to Ilyeon-guksa. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Housed inside this large shrine hall are a pair of murals dedicated to Ilyeon. To the rear of this hall, and to the right, are a pair of stone artifacts. The first is a seated stone image of the Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul, that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty. This stone sculpture is joined to the right by the octagonal stone stupa for Ilyeon. It’s believed that the stupa dates back to between 1289 (the time of Ilyeon’s death) and 1295. Either way, the stupa has been amazingly preserved for its age. A little less well preserved is the stele to the left rear of the Guksa-jeon Hall. Like the stupa, it dates back to between 1289 and 1295, but only the stone body of the stele still exists. And even this is in rough shape. Both the stupa and stele for Ilyeon-guksa are Korean Treasure #428.

Between both the Geukrak-jeon Hall and the Guksa-jeon Hall is the temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Inside the dancheong exterior of the Judgment Hall is a smaller, green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This statue is joined by ten smaller sized statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld, as well.

To the rear of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, and up an elevated path, is the Sallyeong-gak, which houses a fading mural of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Unlike the other shrine halls, the Sallyeong-gak shaman shrine hall cannot be entered. Instead, at this diminutive shrine, a person must pray outside towards the painting inside.

The final shrine hall a person can enter is the Mireuk-dang Hall, which is housed in a modern building. The damaged image of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) rests all alone on the main altar and dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty.

And no trip to Ingaksa Temple would be complete without visiting the museum dedicated to the monk Ilyeon-guksa at the front of the temple grounds.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gunwi Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to board a bus that reads “Gunwi – Nakjeon, 군위 – 낙전” or “Gunwi – Hakam, 군위 – 학암.” With either of these buses, you’ll need to take the bus for 21 stops, or 57 minutes. You’ll then need to get off at the Hwabuk 1 ri (화북 1리) stop. From where the bus lets you of, you’ll need to walk an additional 900 metres, or 13 minutes, to get to Ingaksa Temple.

You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Gunwi Intercity Bus Terminal. The taxi ride should last 33 minutes and set you back 23,200 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Like so many other temples on the peninsula, Ingaksa Temple has quite the past. But what sets this temple apart is its connection with Ilyeon-guksa with the Guksa-jeon Hall, as well as the stele and stupa dedicated to the writer of the Samguk Yusa. Other points of interest at Ingaksa Temple is the painting of Sanshin housed inside the Sallyeong-gak and the stone artifacts at the front of the temple.

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The temple courtyard at Ingaksa Temple.

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A look at the stone artifacts of the temple from the Unified Silla Dynasty.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall and three tier stone pagoda out in front of it.

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A look inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall at the main altar and the Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural.

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The Chilseong mural to the left rear of the main hall.

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The Ilyeon Museum at Ingaksa Temple.

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The Goryeo Dynasty Buddha statue at the temple.

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The octagonal stupa for Ilyeon-guksa at Ingaksa Temple.

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The Guksa-jeon Hall to the right of the main hall.

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A look inside the Guksa-jeon Hall.

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One painting dedicated to the author of the Samguk Yusa.

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And the other painting dedicated to Ilyeon-guksa on the main altar.

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The enclosure for the battered stele dedicated to Ilyeon-guksa.

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The late 13th century stele has seen better days.

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One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the Guksa-jeon Hall.

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The view from the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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

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The Sallyeong-gak shrine hall dedicated to Sanshin.

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And the beautiful, fading mural dedicated to the Mountain Spirit inside.

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The snowy trail leading up to the Sallyeong-gak with a devotee praying at it.

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The statue of Mireuk-bul from the Goryeo Dynasty that’s seen better days.

Colonial Korea: Bunhwangsa Temple – 분황사 (Gyeongju)

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The Three Tier Stone Pagoda at Bunhwangsa Temple, in Gyeongju, in 1916.

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Just east of the Gyeongju city centre, which was the capital of the ancient Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. to 935 A.D.) lays the beautiful Bunhwangsa Temple. Bunhwangsa Temple means “Fragrant Emperor Temple,” in English, and it was first constructed in 634 A.D. under the patronage of the famed Queen Seondeok (r. 632-647 A.D.).

During the height of the Silla Dynasty, and alongside the expansive Hwangnyongsa-ji Temple Site, Bunhwangsa Temple covered a large swath of land. In fact, Bunhwangsa Temple was one of the four major temples of the Silla Dynasty. During this time, Bunhwangsa Temple was only used by the state to ask the Buddha’s blessing on the nation. So unlike today, the average citizen wasn’t welcomed at the temple.

Such famed monks as Wonhyo-daesa (617-686) and Jajang-yulsa (590-658) called Bunhwangsa Temple home at one time or another. Then, during the 1200s, the invading Mongols completely destroyed Bunhwangsa Temple. It nearly took until the 1700s, a full five hundred years after its destruction, to be rebuilt.

In 1915, during Japanese Colonial rule, the Japanese decided to repair and rebuild the famed pagoda at Bunhwangsa Temple. At this time, numerous relics were found housed inside the pagoda like a box that contained sari (crystallized remains). The remains appeared to once belong to a monk. In addition to the sari box, relics like gold, scissors, coins and a needle case was found inside the pagoda. Who these relics specifically belong to are unknown; however, because they are a woman’s items, some people speculate that they once belonged to a royal woman.

By far, the main highlight at Bunhwangsa Temple is the three-story brick pagoda. The Stone Brick Pagoda at Bunhwangsa Temple, as it’s known in English, also just so happens to be National Treasure #30. Like the temple, the pagoda dates back to 634 A.D. The age of the pagoda makes it the oldest datable Silla stone pagoda still in existence. The black bricks are made from andesite stone. Missionaries returning from Tang China described the beauty of their pagodas, so the queen decided to replicate the popular pagodas of that time. In its current form, the Bunhwangsa Temple pagoda stands three stories in height. However, it’s believed that the pagoda once stood nine stories in height and was hallow inside. Just like its height, the centre of the pagoda is now solid. Before, the interior of the pagoda was so large that Buddhist scriptures were housed inside. At each of the four corners of the pagoda there were four lion statues. Of the four, only one still remained in the 1970s. So at that time, the three were replaced with all new ones.

While considerably smaller in size, Bunhwangsa Temple reveals small glimpses back into its past. In total, Bunhwangsa Temple houses one National Treasure and three additional provincial Tangible Cultural Properties, as well.

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The flag supports at Bunhwangsa Temple in 1916. In the background, you can see the three tier brick pagoda.

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Some of the stone work around the temple in 1917.

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What the Three Tier Stone pagoda looked like before being renovated by the Japanese in 1916

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The blueprints behind the architectural rebuild in 1916.

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A closer look at how dilapidated and in disrepair the pagoda had fallen into.

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A closer look at the pagoda after being repaired.

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The only original tiger that remained to adorn the ancient pagoda.

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How the pagoda looked after being repaired by the Japanese in 1916.

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And how National Treasure #30 looked in 2011.

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A closer look from 2011, as well.

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One of the remade lions that adorns one of the pagoda’s four corners in 2011.

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A closer look at one of the four openings around the base of the brick pagoda in 2006.

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And another look at the ancient pagoda in 2006.

Daejeonsa Temple – 대전사 (Cheongsong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The beautiful and scenic Daejeonsa Temple in Cheongsong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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On the southwest side of Juwangsan National Park outside of Cheongsong, Gyeongsangbuk-do is the extremely scenic Daejeonsa Temple. Daejeonsa Temple was first established in 672 A.D. by the famed monk Uisang-daesa. The name of the temple cryptically refers to the son of King Ju: Daejeondogun. According to legend, King Ju was a Chinese rebel that retreated to Mt. Juwangsan where he hid and died.

After paying your entry fee at the Juwangsan National Park, you’ll make your way towards Daejeonsa Temple next to the wandering Jubang-cheon stream. Along the way you’ll pass by a collection of restaurants and souvenir stores. Finally, you’ll arrive at the temple entry gate where you’ll have to pay an additional 2,800 won to enter Daejeonsa Temple.

Straight ahead, and framed by the rounded peaks of Mt. Juwangsan, is the Bogwang-jeon main hall. This hall dates back to 1672 after the original was destroyed during the Imjin War (1592-98). Inside this unadorned exterior is a triad of statues centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He is joined by what looks to be Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). And out in front of the Bogwang-jeon Hall is a reconstructed three tier pagoda with ancient guardians edged into its base.

To the left of the main hall stands the Gwaneum-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to this hall are painted with various incarnations of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). They are all masterful in their execution. Stepping inside this hall, you’ll be greeted by the multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal on the main altar. She’s joined by Yongwang (The Dragon King) to the left. Interestingly, there are two circles of orange lotuses shaped by crystal to either side of the main altar with a golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal in the centre.

And to the right of the Bogwang-jeon main hall are two additional shrine halls. The first, and smaller of the two, is the uniquely shaped Sanshin-gak. Instead of having the Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural facing directly towards you as you enter, the painting is to the far left in an otherwise unoccupied shaman shrine hall. As for the painting itself, it’s newer in composition and there’s a snickering tiger to the left of Sanshin.

The final shrine hall that visitors can explore is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall to the right of the Sanshin-gak. Inside this shrine hall, and resting on the main altar, is a golden capped Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This statue is then backed by an older mural of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife. Additionally, Jijang-bosal is surrounded on both sides by ten smaller sized statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

After visiting all the shrine halls at Daejeonsa Temple, take the time to enjoy the beauty at Juwangsan National Park. There are two additional hermitages, Juwangam Hermitage and Baekryeonam Hermitage, that can be enjoyed in close proximity to Daejeonsa Temple, as well.

Admission to the temple is 2,800 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Juwangsan Bus Terminal, you can simply walk to Daejeonsa Temple. It’s about an 800 metre walk to get to the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Depending on just how much of Juwangsan National Park you want to explore, this overall rating can go a lot higher; however, with just Daejeonsa Temple in mind, it gets the rating it does. Daejeonsa Temple takes up residence in one of the most beautiful National Parks in Korea. With this as a backdrop, the refined paintings housed throughout the Gwanseum-jeon Hall as well as the snickering tiger in the Sanshin mural make Daejeonsa Temple a must see especially for a nice little retreat away from a hectic life.

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A frozen Jubang-cheon stream out in front of Daejeonsa Temple.

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The towering peaks of Mt. Juwangsan off in the distance.

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A part of the Taebaeksan mountain range.

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The beautifully framed Daejeonsa Temple.

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The ancient base to the three tier pagoda out in front of the Bogwang-jeon main hall.

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A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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As well as a look at the uniquely designed Sanshin-gak.

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Sanshin with a snickering tiger at his side.

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Both Mt. Juwangsan and the Gwaneum-jeon Hall together.

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A closer look at the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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One of the amazing paintings that adorns the exterior walls to the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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A look inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall at Gwanseeum-bosal.

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With Yongwang to her side.

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One of the beautiful paintings that’s painted on one of the interior walls of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

Colonial Korea: Geojoam Hermitage – 거조암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The hermitage grounds at Geojoam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do in 1933.

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Geojoam Hermitage, which is located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Palgongsan in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do, is directly associated with the much larger Eunhaesa Temple. While the exact date of Geojoam Hermitage isn’t exactly known, it’s believed that Geojoam Hermitage predates Eunhaesa Temple, which was first founded in 809 A.D. by the monk Hycheol. Some think that Geojoam Hermitage was first founded in 738 A.D. by the monk Woncham. Others believe that the temple might have first been constructed during the reign of the Silla king, King Gyeongdeok (r. 742-765). Originally, the hermitage was known as Haeansa Temple.

Throughout the years, Geojoam Hermitage has been destroyed numerous times by fire. And in recent years, the hermitage has fallen under the administrative lead of the neighbouring Eunhaesa Temple.

Geojoam Hermitage’s greatest claim to fame, and in fact one of only two temple shrine halls at the hermitage, is the Yeongsan-jeon Hall, or the “Vulture Peak Hall,” in English. According to records found during one of the shrine halls reconstructions, the Yeongsan-jeon Hall dates back to 1375. This makes it one of the oldest wooden structures behind Sudeoksa Temple’s Daeung-jeon Hall, which dates back to 1308; but older than the Muryangsu-jeon main hall at Buseoksa Temple, which dates back to 1376. Inside the Yeongsan-jeon Hall are 526 stone statues of the Nahan.

The Yeongsan-jeon Hall at Geojoam Hermitage is Korea’s National Treasure #14. With only a handful of mid-Goryeo Dynasty buildings still in existence in Korea, it’s no wonder that the main hall at Geojoam Hermitage is a national treasure.

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The 14th century Yeongsan-jeon main hall at Geojoam Hermitage. The picture dates back to 1933.

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The front facade to one of the oldest wooden structures in Korea: The Yeongsan-jeon Hall.

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A closer look at the 1375 structure.

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As well as the simplistic Goryeo architecture on display at Geojoam Hermitage.

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Inside the amazing main hall at Geojoam Hermitage.

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The main altar and some of the Nahan statues on display inside the Yeongsan-jeon Hall. This picture, also, dates back to 1933.

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A more modern look at the Yeongsan-jeon main hall. This picture dates back to 2011.

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The front view towards the 1375 building.

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The Goryeo architecture, which is rarely on display in Korea, is in sharp contrast to the Joseon Dynasty designs.

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A look up at the wooden eaves of the main hall.

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Inside the Yeongsan-jeon Hall with a look around its interior at some of the stone Nahan statues.

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One more expansive look from 2011 inside Korean National Treasure #14.

Jangyuksa Temple – 장육사 (Yeongdeok, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal at Jangyuksa Temple in Yeongdeok, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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Just south of Mt. Unseosan in the remote city of Yeongdeok, Gyeongsangbuk-do is Jangyuksa Temple. The temple was first constructed by the monk Naong (1320-1376) during the reign of King Gongmin of Goryeo (r. 1351-74). Subsequently, it was completely destroyed by a brush fire during the reign of King Sejong (r. 1418-50). It was later to be rebuilt only to be destroyed, once more, this time by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Not long after, the temple grounds were rebuilt with the last major restoration taking place in 1900. Now, over one hundred years later, it seems as though Jangyuksa Temple is undergoing yet another major renovation.

You first approach the temple grounds from a twisting country road. From the temple parking lot, you’ll get a great view to your right of the sprawling temple grounds with a meandering stream to your left.

Mounting the stone set of stairs, you’ll find the temple bell pavilion halfway up the stairs. Housed inside this pavilion is a beautiful oxidized temple bell. Finally, after viewing the bell pavilion, you’ll pass under the temple’s Boje-ru Pavilion. Just watch your head while passing under this pavilion because the ceiling is quite low. Appearing on the other side, you’ll finally have all the major shrine halls in front of you. The first of the set, the Daeung-jeon Hall, lies directly in front of you. While the exterior walls are largely unadorned all but for the dancheong traditional colour scheme, there is a beautiful three tier pagoda to the right of the main hall. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, 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 your left of the main altar is an elaborate guardian mural. And if you look up at the ceiling inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll notice a collection of older murals like the book-ending pair of Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal. Have a look around the main hall, because it’s definitely worth it.

To the left of the main hall is the Gwaneum-jeon. Like the Daeung-jeon Hall, the Gwaneum-jeon Hall is bare all but for the Korean traditional dancheong colours. As for the interior, and resting all alone on the main altar, is a beautiful Gwanseeum-bosal statue with long black hair. This statue is backed by an elaborate one thousand armed mural of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Rounding out the interior of the hall are row up row of diminutive golden statues of Gwanseeum-bosal.

And to the far left, and the furthest up the mountain, is the Sanshin-gak. Like the previous two halls, this one, too, is all but unadorned on the outside. Stepping inside the shrine hall, you’ll notice an intense image of a tiger joining Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) in the Sanshin mural.

HOW TO GET THERE: Without the use of your own vehicle, or that of a friend or family member, Jangyuksa Temple is virtually impossible to get to. With nearly a two and a half hour ride on public transportation and multiple bus changes, this mode of transportation bears this out. So be forewarned when visiting this extremely remote part of Korea.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. The main highlight at Jangyuksa Temple is the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall with its historic murals and colourful interior. Other things to keep an eye out for are the murals contained within the Sanshin-gak and the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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The entry to Jangyuksa Temple.

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The temple’s bell pavilion.

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The bronze bell at the temple that has started the oxidization process.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall at Jangyuksa Temple.

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The three tier-stone pagoda to the right of the main hall.

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A closer look at the relief of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) on the pagoda.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at the main altar.

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The temple’s guardian mural.

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The child-like image of Munsu-bosal inside the main hall.

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As well as the child-like image of the elephant riding Bohyun-bosal.

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The view from the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Gwaneum-jeon Hall to the left of the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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A look inside the elaborate Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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And to the left of the Gwaneum-jeon is the Sanshin-gak.

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The beautiful Sanshin mural inside the Sanshin-gak.

Colonial Korea: Ssangbongsa Temple – 쌍봉사 (Hwasun, Jeollanam-do)

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The amazing Daeung-jeon Hall from 1933 at Ssangbongsa Temple in Hwasun, Jeollanam-do before it was tragically destroyed by fire in 1983.

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Ssangbongsa Temple is located in southern Hwasun, Jeollanam-do. The name of the temple means “Twin Peaks Temple,” in English, and it gets this name from the twin peaks that frame Ssangbongsa Temple.

Ssangbongsa Temple was first established some time before 839 A.D. There isn’t a specific date attached to this temple, but the stupa for the monk Hyecheol-guksa at Taeansa Temple states that he spent a summer at Ssangbongsa Temple after returning from Tang China in the first year of King Shinmu (r. 839). So it appears as though Ssangbongsa Temple was already built some time before 839.

Throughout the years, Ssangbongsa Temple has be expanded and reconstructed; and then, in 1597, the temple was partially destroyed by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Of all the buildings, both the Geukrak-jeon Hall and the Daeung-jeon three story wooden pagoda survived. Throughout its long history, both of war and peace, the Daeung-jeon Hall remained unharmed. However, in 1983, the wooden pagoda was completely destroyed by fire when a devotee tripped and knocked over a candle during Buddha’s birthday. This national treasure was restored, as a  replica, in 1986.

In total, Ssangbongsa Temple houses one National Treasure and three additional Treasures. Of the group, it’s National Treasure #57, the stone stupa of Master Cheolgam during the Unified Silla Dynasty that stands out from the group with its sheer beauty.

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The Ssangbongsa Temple grounds in 1933.

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A closer look at Ssangbongsa Temple in 1933.

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The amazing Daeung-jeon main hall in 1933.

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The uniquely designed Hoseong-jeon Hall.

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Now the oldest shrine hall at Ssangbongsa Temple: the Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1933.

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The Ssangbongsa Temple grounds in 2014.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall replica from 1986.

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Another look at the Daeung-jeon three story wooden pagoda.

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A look at the Hoseong-jeon Hall in 2014.

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As well as the temple’s Geukrak-jeon Hall.

Haegwangsa Temple – 해광사 (Gijang, Busan)

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The East Sea Yongwang-dang at Haegwangsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

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This is only the second time in over five years that I’ve done this, with the first being Hongjeam Hermitage in Jirisan National Park; but like the first, I don’t think I fully explored this temple. So without further ado, here’s a follow up to Haegwangsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Like its close coastal cousin, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Haegwangsa Temple is one of the rare temples in Korea that’s situated next to the East Sea.

You first approach the temple up a bit of a side street, where an upright brown stone marker reads “해광사.” With the East Sea to your left, you’ll first approach Haegwangsa Temple through a pair of buildings that slightly obscure the temple grounds. It’s through this opening that you’ll notice the Daeung-jeon main hall straight ahead of you. Wrapped around the exterior walls to the temple’s main hall are an eclectic set of murals which include the Ox-Herding mural set, the Palsang-do mural set, a mural dedicated to Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa, as well as the Bodhidharma and several other Buddhist inspired motifs. As for the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall, the first things you’ll notice are the row upon row of tiny jade statuettes of the Buddha. As for the main altar itself, a triad of statues sit upon it. Sitting in the centre is a statue of 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 and past a ten metre tall white statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) is the temple’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. On the right exterior wall is one of the most beautiful floral paintings you’ll see on any temple shrine hall in Korea. The purple lotus flowers are simply amazing. As for inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, you’ll find a set of shaman murals that includes Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). But it’s the mural to the far left of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) with his eyes wide apart that’s the most intriguing of the set.

To the right of the main hall and past the replica of the Dabo-tap pagoda from Bulguksa Temple is Haegwangsa Temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to this hall are painted with various hellish and redemptive murals. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, is a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Jijang-bosal is joined on both sides by two rows, five statues each, of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

Making your way back towards the temple parking lot and hanging a right, you’ll need to make your way towards the East Sea to enjoy the main highlight at Haegwangsa Temple. A simple one hundred metre stroll will bring you to the crashing blue waves of the sea. And perched on a jagged, black rock outcropping is the temple’s Yongwang-dang. This shaman shrine hall is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Carefully following the somewhat slippery rocky path, you’ll climb a set of stairs and enter the diminutive shrine hall. An orange robed statue of the Dragon King sits squarely on a dragon themed throne. There are numerous pigeons enjoying the seaside air. Also, you can get some great angles of the Yongwang-dang and the East Sea together if you take your time in search of the perfect coastal snapshot.

HOW TO GET THERE:  To get to Haegwangsa Temple, you can simply walk the kilometre from Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Turn right, and then walk straight down the highway you first approached the temple from. You’ll notice a large brown rock with the Korean words for Haegwangsa Temple carved into it. Also, you could simply get a taxi from Haedong Yonggungsa Temple to drive you to the temple. It shouldn’t cost you any more than 3,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. While smaller in size, and not quite as impressive as the neighbouring Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Haegwangsa Temple has a unique charm all of its own. The paintings around all three of the temple shrine halls are beautiful; but without doubt, the most impressive feature to the temple is the seaside Yongwang-dang with waves crashing up against it. The location of the Yongwang-dang is a one-off in all of the temple’s I’ve visited throughout the Korean peninsula.

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The front entrance as you first approach the temple grounds at Haegwangsa Temple.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall with the towering statue of Mireuk-bul next to it.

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A better look at the all-white Mireuk-bul.

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The purplish-blue lotus flowers painted on the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak Hall.

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Inside the Samseong-gak with Chilseong to the left and Sanshin to the right.

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The sad eyes of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

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The Myeongbu-jeon Hall at Haegwangsa Temple with the Dabo-tap replica out in front of it.

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Inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall with Jijang-bosal front and centre.

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One of the underworld paintings that adorns the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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An early morning sunrise at Haegwangsa Temple.

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A better look at the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Wonhyo and Uisang mural on the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A temple stupa on the way towards the Yongwang-dang.

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The first amazing glimpse of the seaside Yongwang-dang.

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The coastal waters that flow in and around the shaman shrine hall.

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A better look at the crowning Yongwang-dang.

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An even closer look at the one-off shaman shrine hall.

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The main altar inside the Yongwang-dang with the Dragon King front and centre.

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One final look at this truly amazing place.

Colonial Korea: Donghwasa Temple – 동화사 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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An overview of Donghwasa Temple in Daegu in 1932.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Donghwasa Temple, which means Paulownia Blossom Temple,” in English, was first established in northern Daegu on the southern slopes of Mt. Palgongsan in 493 A.D. The temple was first constructed through the efforts of monk Geukdal-jonja. The name of the temple is linked to the temple’s creation story. According to legend, the name of the temple comes from Donghwasa Temple’s reconstruction in 832 A.D. At that time, and during the middle of winter, the wild paulownia trees bloomed all around the temple grounds. So it was at this time that the temple changed its name from Yugasa Temple to Donghwasa Temple. The reconstruction of the temple occurred because of the efforts of the monk Simji-wangsa. And all of this happened during the reign of King Heungdeok (r. 826-836).

The last of Donghwasa Temple’s major rebuilds took place in 1732. And the last major addition to Donghwasa Temple took place in the fall of 1992 with the addition of the thirty metre tall statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) to the south of the main temple courtyard. This statue of Yaksayore-bul was constructed in hopes of having the Korean peninsula one day reunified.

From the day of its reconstruction in 832 A.D., and throughout its long storied history, Donghwasa Temple remains one of the most important temples throughout the Korean peninsula. In fact, Donghwasa Temple was one of only four temples during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) to administer the civil service exam for monks. And even during the highly restrictive, Confucian led, Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Donghwasa Temple not only continued to flourish but it also continued to grow in size, as well. In total, Donghwasa Temple and its associated hermitages house nine Korean Treasures.

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The flagpole supports at Donghwasa Temple in 1916, which are Treasure #254.

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The Iljumun Gate at the temple.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall in 1932, which is Treasure #1563.

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A look around its exterior walls.

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And a look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1932.

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And a look around its exterior walls.

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The Donghwasa Temple grounds from 2005.

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A look up at the main hall during Buddha’s birthday in 2013.

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Buddha’s birthday in 2013.

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The 1992 extension as seen in 2013.

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A closer look at Yaksayore-bul during Buddha’s birthday.