Bongseosa Temple – 봉서사 (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The quaint Sanshin-gak at Bongseosa Temple in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Southwest of Mt. Bongsusan in northern Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do is the remote Bongseosa Temple. Bongseosa Temple lies up a long valley and at the base of one of the peaks for Mt. Bongsusan.

Up a long stone stairway, you’ll arrive at the edge of the temple courtyard. The first thing to greet you is the compact Manse-ru Pavilion that also acts as the temple entry gate. To the left and right, as you enter the main temple courtyard, are a pair of nuns’ dorms.

Straight ahead, and just beyond the diminutive three tier stone pagoda, is the temple’s equally smaller sized main hall. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned simply with the traditional dancheong colour scheme. Watch your head as you step inside the main hall. Sitting all alone on the main altar sits a solitary statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Joining Seokgamoni-bul inside the main hall are a pair of paintings. The first is the temple’s guardian mural, while the other is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

To the right of both the nuns’ dorms and the main hall, and up an embankment, is the Sanshin-gak. Framed by a ridge of twisted red pines, the yellow and red exterior houses an older mural of the shaman deity, Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to Bongseosa Temple from Andong is to take a taxi from the Andong Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should take about 30 minutes and cost 27,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. This quaint temple located in one of the lesser travelled parts of Korea makes for a nice little retreat from the everyday with its beautiful views and smaller sized shrine halls. Additionally, the nuns at Bongseosa Temple are quite gracious and might even invite you in for coffee.

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The view from Bongseosa Temple.

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The Manse-ru Pavilion that welcomes you to the temple.

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One of the older looking nuns’ dorms.

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The diminutive main hall and pagoda at Bongseosa Temple.

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A look inside the main hall.

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Which also houses this guardian mural.

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As well as this Chilseong mural.

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The beautiful view from the main hall.

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A look towards the Sanshin-gak between the main hall and the nuns’ dorms.

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A better look at the temple grounds.

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And the older looking Sanshin mural at Bongseosa Temple.

Colonial Korea: Gwanryongsa Temple – 관룡사 (Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The early Joseon Dynasty era Yaksa-jeon Hall at Gwanryongsa Temple in 1933.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just south of the 753 metre peak of Mt. Gwanryongsan in the scenic city of Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do lies the historic Gwanryongsa Temple. The name of the temple harkens back to the famed monk, Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.). One day while Wonhyo-daesa was praying with one of his disciples, Songpa, during a one hundred day prayer session, they saw nine dragons appear from a neighbouring pond and soar up to the sky around the peaks of Mt. Hwawangsan. With this in mind, “Gwan” means “see” in Chinese characters, while “ryong” means “dragon.” So the name of the temple, Gwanryongsa Temple, literally means “See Dragon Temple,” in English.

While Gwanryongsa Temple was considered one of the eight most important temples of the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C.E to 935 A.D), the exact date of the temples creation is unknown; however, this hasn’t prevented scholars from speculating. One foundation myth states that Gwanryongsa Temple was first established in 349 A.D., while another states that the temple was first built in 583 A.D. by Jeungbeop-guksa.

In total, Gwanryongsa Temple houses six Korean Treasures. Of special note is the Yaksa-jeon Hall, which dates back to the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the Stone Seated Buddha at Yongseondae Cliff that dates back to the Unified Silla Dynasty (668 A.D. to 935 A.D.), as well as the large mural of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the back side of the Daeung-jeon Hall’s main altar.

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The Woneum-ru Pavilion from 1933.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall in 1933.

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Inside the Daeung-jeon main hall at Gwanryongsa Temple.

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Another look around the interior of the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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A look towards the large canopy that hangs over the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A look at the historic Yaksa-jeon Hall, which also just so happens to be Gwanryongsa Temple’s oldest building.

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Another look at the Yaksa-jeon Hall in 1933.

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The Woneum-ru Pavilion in 2012.

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A scenic mountainside look at the Daeung-jeon Hall in 2012.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at the main altar’s colourful canopy.

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The backside of the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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Approaching the Yaksa-jeon Hall.

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A better look at the Yaksa-jeon Hall in 2012.

Bogwangsa Temple – 보광사 (Cheongsong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The historic Manse-ru Pavilion at Bogwangsa Temple in Cheongsong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located just north of the Cheongsong, Gyeongsangbuk-do city centre is Bogwangsa Temple. Bogwangsa Temple was first constructed by Uisang-daesa in the 7th century. Later, in the 14th century, the temple was designated the protector of the Cheongsong Shim family (a little more on that later).

You first approach Bogwangsa Temple up a long country road. If you’re driving, be careful because the road has undergone a fair bit of reconstruction and there are sharp rocks along the way. Don’t be like me and slice a tire open along the way.

The first signs that you’re nearing the temple are the turtle-based stele out in front of the temple grounds. A little further along, and past the temple parking lot, is the Manse-ru Pavilion that separates the outer world with the inner temple courtyard. The Manse-ru Pavilion was first constructed in 1429 as a place for the Cheongsong Shim family to meet. In fact, King Sejong ordered this pavilion to be built for his wife, Queen Soheon (1395-1446), to whom her family belonged to the Cheongsong Shim clan.

Passing to the right of the Manse-ru Pavilion, and before you enter the main temple courtyard, you’ll probably be welcomed to the temple by a friendly female Jindo dog. For the rest of your trip around the temple grounds, she’ll probably keep you company.

Having finally stepped into the main temple courtyard, you’ll first see the diminutive Geukrak-jeon main hall in front of you. Out in front of this hall is an equally smaller sized three tier stone pagoda. As for the Geukrak-jeon Hall, it was first constructed in 1429, alongside the Manse-ru Pavilion. Sometime during the early to mid-Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the Geukrak-jeon Hall was destroyed. It wasn’t until the latter part of the Joseon Dynasty, and during its renovation, that it was discovered that the newly built Geukrak-jeon Hall had been formerly constructed in 1615.

While the exterior walls to this hall are largely unadorned, it’s while stepping inside the main hall that you’ll be welcomed by beautiful murals and statues. Resting on the main altar are a triad of uniquely made sculptures. In the centre rests 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 Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul). This triad is then backed by a new altar mural. Filling out the rest of the main hall is a guardian mural in the same style as the large main altar painting.

To the left rear of the main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Slightly elevated over top of the Geukrak-jeon Hall, and all but unadorned, once more, you’ll be welcomed inside the shaman shrine hall by a triad of shaman paintings. The first of the three, and in the far left corner, is an elaborate Sanshin mural dedicated to the Mountain Spirit. This mural is joined to the right by an older mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) as well as Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

The other buildings at Bogwangsa Temple are buildings for the nuns like the nuns’ dorms and the temple kitchen.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest and fastest way to get to Bogwangsa Temple is to take a taxi from the Cheongsong Intercity Bus Terminal. By taxi it should take 10 minutes and cost 3,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Bogwangsa Temple has a royal past that’s linked closely to the famed King Sejong. The historic Manse-ru Pavilion and the Geukrak-jeon main hall are a close link to this past. And when you add into the mix the beautiful temple artwork like the main altar statues and paintings, as well as the elaborate Sanshin mural inside the Samseong-gak, and Bogwangsa Temple makes for a nice little trip outside Cheongsong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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The turtle-based stele at the entry of Bogwangsa Temple.

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The temple grounds as you first approach Bogwangsa Temple.

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The friendly Jindo dog with the diminutive three tier pagoda next to her.

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A look inside the historic Manse-ru Pavilion at Bogwangsa Temple.

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The 17th century Geukrak-jeon Hall.

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The doily that welcomes you inside the main hall.

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The main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

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A closer look at Amita-bul that centres the main altar.

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The guardian mural inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

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What a view!!

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left rear of the main hall.

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The elaborate Sanshin mural at Bogwangsa Temple.

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As well as the Chilseong mural.

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And the Jindo exhausted after our little walk around the temple grounds.

Colonial Korea: Baekyangsa Temple – 백양사 (Jangseong, Jeollanam-do)

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A mountainside view of Baekyangsa Temple in Jangseong, Jeollanam-do in 1933.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Baekyangsa Temple, which is located in Naejangsan National Park, lies to the far north of the Jangseong, Jeollanam-do city limits. In fact, the temple grounds border the neighbouring province of Jeollabuk-do. Baekyangsa Temple is scenically situated on the southern slopes of Mt. Baekamsan.

Baekyangsa Temple, which means “White Sheep Temple,” in English (more on that later), was first founded in 632 A.D. during the Baekje Dynasty (18 B.C.E. – 660 A.D.) by Zen Master Yeohwan. At first, the temple was called Jeongtosa Temple. It was only later that it changed its name to Baekmasa Temple. Finally, the temple was named Baekyangsa Temple during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The name of the temple, Baekyangsa Temple, refers to a legend that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty. In this legend, sheep came down from the neighbouring mountains to listen to sermons preached at the temple. After listening to the temple sermons, the sheep would gain enlightenment and ascend to heaven.

During the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula, which lasted from 1910 to 1945, Baekyangsa Temple was recognized as a key temple in Korea. Currently, Baekyangsa Temple is the 18th headquarters for the Jogye-jong Order. Additionally, it plays an important role in educating monks in the Jeollanam-do and Jeollabuk-do provinces in Korea.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall at Baekyangsa Temple in 1933.

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The scenic pavilion at Baekyangsa Temple in 2014.

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The beautifully framed Daeung-jeon main hall in 2014.

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The main hall and Baekhak-bong Peak off in the distance.

Yongsusa Temple – 용수사 (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The Sanshin-gak at Yongsusa Temple in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

North of Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do, and just south of Bonghwa, is Yongsusa Temple. The towering Mt. Yongdusan looms in the background as you make the long trek up to the scenic Yongsusa Temple.

You’ll pass through the slender two pillar Iljumun Gate on your way up to the ridge that holds Yongsusa Temple. When you do finally stand on the ridge that holds this temple, you’ll notice the compact bell pavilion to your left. Inside the compact bell pavilion is a beautiful bronze bell with various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and floral patterns adorning it.

Slightly to the right, and book ended by a pair of long visitors’ dorms, is the temple’s main hall. The Daeung-jeon Hall is surrounded in the front and to the side by three marble replicas of famous pagodas that include Seokga-tap Pagoda and Dabo-tap Pagoda. The originals, of course, can be found at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju. The exterior walls to this hall are surrounded by Buddhist motif murals like the Sacheonwang (The Four Heavenly Kings). Also, the lotus latticework at the front of the main hall is some of the best that you’ll find in Korea. Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful array of statues and paintings. Resting on the main altar is a seated statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who is surrounded by a fiery wooden nimbus. Joining the Buddha on the main altar are two standing statues of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). Rounding out the interior to the main hall is a wooden guardian relief. And the entire interior of the main hall falls under a beautiful canopy of colourful paper lanterns.

To the left of the main hall is a small enclosure with a weather-worn image of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). And to the far right of the Daeung-jeon Hall is the Sanshin-gak, which lies up a long set of uneven wooden stairs. Inside this shaman shrine hall is one of the best examples of a Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural you’ll find in Korea with its uniquely painted tiger.

HOW TO GET THERE: Either from the Andong train station or the Andong Intercity Bus Terminal, because they are next to each other, you’ll need to exit either one and make your way to the Kyobolife bus stop, which is a three minute walk. From the Kyobolife bus stop, board Bus #67. After 42 stops, or an hour and forty minutes, get off at the Yongsusa Temple stop. From the bus stop, walk 425 metres, or 5 minutes, to Yongsusa Temple.

Additionally, you can take a taxi from the Andong train station or Andong Intercity Bus Terminal. The taxi ride should take 50 minutes and cost 27,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. The main highlights to this hard to get to temple are the Daeung-jeon main altar and the Sanshin mural housed inside the Sanshin-gak. Other points of interest are the temple’s bronze bell and the triad of marble pagoda replicas out in front of the main hall.

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The view of the temple from the temple’s bell pavilion.

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The bronze bell at Yongsusa Temple.

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The Daeung-jeon Hall at Yongsusa Temple.

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The shrine for the ancient Mireuk-bul statue.

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A closer look at what apparently is Mireuk-bul.

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An even closer look at the Future Buddha.

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The amazing latticework at the front of the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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One of the Four Heavenly Kings.

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As well as one of the Buddhist motif murals adorning the main hall.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall during morning prayer.

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A look around the main temple courtyard.

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The marble replica of the Dabo-tap Pagoda with an eye towards the Sanshin-gak.

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A view from the base of the Sanshin-gak.

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The long set of stairs towards the Sanshin-gak.

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The tiger mural painted on one of the exterior walls of the Sanshin-gak.

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The amazing Sanshin mural inside the Sanshin-gak at Yongsusa Temple.

Colonial Korea: Gulbulsa-ji Temple Site – 굴불사지 (Gyeongju)

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The west side of the four sided sculpture at Gulbulsa-ji Temple Site in Gyeongju from 1917.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on the western slopes of Mt. Sogeumgangsan in the ancient capital of the Silla Dynasty, Gyeongju, Gulbulsa-ji Temple Site is home to one of the most uniquely crafted four-sided sculptures in all of Korea.

According to the Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms), the 35th king of the Silla Dynasty, King Gyeongdeok (r. 742 A.D. – 765 A.D.) was making a short trek up to the neighbouring Baeknyulsa Temple, which lays a little further up Mt. Sogeumgangsan. During his walk, he heard a noise coming from beneath the ground. For some reason, King Gyeongdeok believed the noise to be the sound of a Buddhist monk reading Buddhist sutras. Immediately, the king ordered his servants to dig up the spot where he had heard these sounds. As they dug, the stone image of the four-sided sculpture appeared. So moved by this incident, the king decided to call the future temple grounds Gulbulsa Temple. Regrettably, the temple no longer stands; instead, all that remains is the four-sided sculpture that King Gyeongdeok discovered. As for the name of the temple, Gulbulsa Temple, it literally means “To Dig Up an Image of the Buddha Temple,” in English.

Each side of the four-sided statue has a different Buddha or triad. On the west side, you’ll see a triad centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul) to the left. On the east side of the sculpture is Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha), who has his legs crossed. An image of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) is found on the north side, while on the south is an image of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).

Surprisingly, this four-sided stone sculpture isn’t a national treasure; instead, it’s Korea’s Treasure #121.

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The stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal from 1917.

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The severely damaged image of Daesaeji-bosal from 1917, as well.

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The folded legs of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha).

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The north side relief of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

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The Gulbulsa-ji in 2013.

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A modern look at Gwanseeum-bosal.

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And a better look at the severely damaged Daesaeji-bosal.

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A fuller look at Yaksayore-bul in 2013.

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As well as Mireuk-bul in 2013.

Juwolsa Temple – 주월사 (Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The view from the Daeung-jeon Hall at Juwolsa Temple in Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on the south-western slopes of Mt. Hwanghaksan in eastern Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do is the mountainside Juwolsa Temple. At an elevation of nearly 300 metres, you get a great view of the valley below.

Climbing the stairs towards the compact temple grounds, you’ll pass by a pair of intertwining dragon based stone lanterns. These highly unique lanterns are only rivaled by the five tier pagoda with squat dragons around its base in the main temple courtyard.

Behind the five tier stone pagoda is the Daeung-jeon main hall at Juwolsa Temple. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with various Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha) murals. A variety of Nahan murals can also be found inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, as well. Resting on the main altar is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by a crowned pair of Bodhisattvas: Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of the main altar is the temple’s guardian mural. And to the left of the main altar, and rather uniquely, are two white papered walls with a statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) taking up residence in an opening on the left of the two white walls.

To the left and immediate right of the main hall are a pair of buildings for the monks that take up residence at Juwolsa Temple; namely the monks’ dorms and the temple kitchen. It’s up the embankment that you’ll find the next shrine hall, the Yonghwa-jeon Hall. Housed inside this hall is a metre tall statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

But it’s to the right of both the Yonghwa-jeon Hall and the monks’ dorms that you’ll find the true stand-out at Juwolsa Temple. In this part of the temple, you’ll find the pond fronted Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Crossing the wooden bridge that spans the neighbouring pond, you’ll enter the older looking Samseong-gak. Immediately upon entering the shaman shrine hall, you’ll be welcomed by a unique Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural with the hypnotizing eyes of the tiger that stands next to him. Rounding out the set of paintings inside the Samseong-gak is the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural that hangs in the centre. This mural appears to have been painted by the same artist as the Sanshin Taenghwa, as is the lazing Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) mural inside the shaman shrine hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Uiseong Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take the bus that reads: “Uiseong – Hwamok.” With this bus, you’ll need to take it for 13 stops, or 26 minutes. Finally, you’ll need to get off at the Yangji 3-ri (양지3리) bus stop. From this stop, you’ll need to walk 1.4 km, or 21 minutes, to get to Juwolsa Temple.

You can take public transportation, or you can simply take a taxi from the Uiseong Intercity Bus Terminal. From the bus terminal to Juwolsa Temple, it’ll take 22 minutes and set you back 12,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. This temple is situated in a rather remote part of the country in Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do. With that in mind, the pond out in front of the Samseong-gak, the masonry behind the temple pagoda and stone lanterns, as well as the beautiful view of the valley down below, make Juwolsa Temple a pretty tempting place to visit in a little traveled part of Korea.

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The temple courtyard at Juwolsa Temple.

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The dragon base of one of the stone lanterns at the temple.

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Inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The guardian mural inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The white walls of the Jijang-bosal shrine inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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One of the Nahan murals that adorns the interior and exterior walls of the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Yonghwa-jeon Hall to the rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Mireuk-bul statue that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty housed inside the Yonghwa-jeon Hall.

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The wintry sky from the Yonghwa-jeon Hall.

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A look down on a snowy Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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A look across the frozen pond out in front of the Samseong-gak.

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The Chilseong mural in the centre of the set of murals inside the shaman shrine hall.

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To the right hangs this mural dedicated to Sanshin.

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And to the left hangs this mural of Dokseong.

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The snow covered view at Juwolsa Temple.

Colonial Korea: Muryangsa Temple – 무량사 (Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do)

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Flag pole supports in 1916 at Muryangsa Temple in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On the far western side of the Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do city limits is Muryangsa Temple. Scenically situated in a long valley at the base of Mt. Mansusan, Muryangsa Temple has a long history that stretches back to the 9th century.

Muryangsa Temple was first built during the reign of King Munseong (r. 839-856) by the National Preceptor, Beomil. Later, and during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), the temple was later repaired. And in 1592, during the Imjin War (1592-98), Muryangsa Temple was destroyed by the invading Japanese. A half century later, and during the reign of King Injo (r. 1623-49), the temple was rebuilt by the monk Jinmuk.

In total, the temple houses five Korean Treasures, which notably includes Treasure #356, the Geukrak-jeon Hall at Muryangsa Temple, as well as Treasure #185, the Five Story Stone Pagoda of Muryangsa Temple. The temple was also the last home to the Joseon Korean scholar and author, Kim Siseup.

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The five tier pagoda in 1916 that also just so happens to be Treasure #185.

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The stone lantern at Muryangsa Temple from 1916. It’s also Treasure #233.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1933. The main hall is also Treasure #356.

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The exterior to the main hall  from 1933.

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A look inside the main hall from 1933. The triad inside this hall is Treasure #1565.

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The Geukrak-jeon main hall with the five tier pagoda and stone lantern from 2015.

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A closer look at the main all, which also just so happens to be Treasure #356.

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The large triad on the main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall. This triad is Treasure #1565.

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One more look at Korean Treasure #356.