Gukcheongsa Temple – 국청사 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)


The three tier pagoda at Gukcheongsa Temple in Geumjeong-gu, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gukcheongsa Temple is located on the southern portion of Mt. Geumjeongsan in Busan. Gukcheongsa Temple is also just south of the Geumjeongsan Fortress walls. Gukcheongsa Temple was first constructed by the famed monk Uisang-daesa (625-702) during the Silla Dynasty. The temple was also used as a strategic military command post for the Buddhist warrior monks against the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Later, in 1982, a three tier pagoda that sits out in front of the main temple grounds, and in a pond, was constructed to console the spirits of Buddhist monks that gave up their lives to defend Gukcheongsa Temple.

You approach Gukcheongsa Temple up one of the roads that connects it to the mountainside Sanseong community. The first thing to greet you is a stout two pillar Iljumun Gate that is colourfully painted. A little further up the temple road and to the right, you’ll notice the beautiful temple pond with the three tier pagoda in the centre of it. Surrounding the overgrown pond are various stone statues that include Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

A little further along, and past the temple parking lot, are the main temple buildings at Gukcheongsa Temple. But before you enter the main temple courtyard, you’ll notice an old monks’ residence that is no longer used. Have a look at its unique stone exterior.

Finally facing the Daeung-jeon main hall at Gukcheongsa Temple, you’ll notice two buildings book-ending the main hall. These are the new monks’ dorms and the visitors’ centre. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with masterful Ox-Herding murals, as well as the Bodhidharma and the myth behind the wooden moktak. As for inside the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful triad of statues that rest on the main altar. Sitting in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the left of the main altar triad is an older Shinjung Taenghwa guardian mural. And to the right is a newer mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

The only other shrine hall to visit at Gukcheongsa Temple is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are adorned with a majestic tiger mural, as well as a mural dedicated to the myth of the golden well on top of Mt. Geumjeongsan. As for inside this shaman shrine hall, there are three rather plain murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Gukcheongsa Temple, you’ll first have to travel to Hwamyeong subway station on the second line (#235). From here, you’ll have to catch a Busan city bus from the Deokcheon Rotary. Take the Busan city bus identified as “Sanseong – 산성”. Ride this bus until you get to the centre of the mountain community of Sanseong, which will probably take 15 to 20 minutes. Nearing the outskirts of this community, get off near a large bathroom complex (yes, you heard me correctly). Facing this community bathroom, head in the direction that your back faces. You’ll see a small brown marker sign that directs you towards the northern gate (북문) of the Busan Mountain Fortress (Geumjeongsanseong). Follow this road for one kilometres. Along the way, you’ll come across Gukcheongsa Temple to your right. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the sort of out of place Iljumun Gate for the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Gukcheongsa Temple is beautifully located on the southern slopes of the towering Mt. Geumjeongsan. Adding to its natural beauty is the three tier pagoda that sits in the temple’s pond, as well as the triad of statues that sits on the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.


The entry stone at Gukcheongsa Temple.


The stout Iljumun Gate at the temple entrance.


The temple pond and the three tier pagoda that sits in its centre.


A better look at the overgrown pond and pagoda.


The stone statue that stands near the temple pagoda and pond.


The temple grounds at Gukcheongsa Temple as you first approach it.


The old monks’ dorms at the temple.


The Daeung-jeon main hall at Gukcheongsa Temple.


One of the ten Ox-Herding murals that adorns the main hall.


As well as this moktak mural.


And this Bodhidharma mural.


The elaborate main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.


The older guardian mural that takes up residence to the left of the main altar.


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


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


The relaxing tiger that adorns one of the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak.


As well as this winged golden fish that helps depict the golden well associated with Mt. Geumjeongsan.


The paintings inside the Samseong-gak.


And the view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

Daeheungsa Temple – 대흥사 (Gyeongju)


The main temple courtyard at Daeheungsa Temple in northern Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Daeheungsa Temple is located in the northern part of Gyeongju and just south east of the towering Mt. Jioksan (569m). You first approach Daeheungsa Temple past several farmers’ fields. The temple in fact seems out of place surrounded by agriculture on all sides.

Standing in the centre of the temple parking lot, you face a large retaining wall, past which lays the temple grounds. Climbing the large set of stairs, you’ll finally pass through the Cheonwangmun Gate at Daeheungsa Temple to enter the lower temple courtyard. Housed inside the Cheonwangmun Gate are four rather underwhelming statues of the Four Heavenly Kings.

Finally standing inside the lower courtyard, you’ll first notice the ornateness of the temple. To your immediate left is a statue of Podae-hwasang. And a little further left is the temple’s bell pavilion which houses a beautiful bronze bell. Straight ahead, on the other hand, is a large granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), who stands in a shallow flowing pond. To the left rear of this pond is an elevated altar that houses a statue of the Eight Spoke Buddhist Wheel, and it’s backed by a seated stone image of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). While to the right rear of the pond is another elevated altar. This time, the altar is fronted by a large metal Geumgang-jeo (Diamond Pounder) and backed by another stone image of Seokgamoni-bul.

Climbing a flight of stairs directly to the rear of the pond and Gwanseeum-bosal, you’ll come to the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas. Just outside this hall are large paintings of the sixteen Nahan, as well as smaller stone statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. As for inside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas, and resting on the main altar, is triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And this triad is surrounded on all sides, as you might have guessed it, by one thousand smaller images of Amita-bul.

Up another flight of stairs, and passing through the beautiful dragon adorned entry gate, you’ll be welcomed by a large concrete main hall. While the exterior of the hall is all but unadorned except for the traditional dancheong colours, you’ll notice a large triad resting on the main altar. Again, Amita-bul is front and centre in this triad. And he’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul).

To the left of the main hall, besides the monks’ dorms and a training centre for the monks, is a large statue to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). But it’s to the right of the main hall which probably draws most of your attention. The all white shrine hall, which looks to be Indian-inspired, houses sari (crystallized remains) inside. But before stepping inside this elevated hall, you’ll first have to pass by two intimidating stone Vajra warrior statues. Once you step inside the circular hall, you’ll notice that the wall’s to the hall are painted with the Palsang-do murals that recreate Seokgamoni-bul’s life. And resting on the main altar is a sari.

Just behind the white circular shrine hall, and to the right of the main hall, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hidden hall are three rather common paintings of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Yongwang (The Dragon King), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, take Bus #203 for 45 stops., which will last one hour and twenty minutes. Get off at Oksan 2-ri and walk 850 metres towards Daeheungsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. While a bit out of the way from the usual tourist trappings of Gyeongju, Daeheungsa Temple is well worth the visit to the northern part of the ancient city. With all its stone statues and altars, the trip is worth it alone. But when you add into the mix the white circular sari hall, as well as the massive main hall that’s ornately adorned inside, and you’ll have to find a way to get to the newer Daeheungsa Temple.


The entrance to Daeheungsa Temple.


Rather uniquely designed stupas at the base of the temple entrance.


A walk towards the beautiful Daeheungsa Temple.


One of the Four Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.


The lower courtyard at Daeheungsa Temple.


The Podae-hwasang statue at the entry of the temple.


The bell pavilion to the left of the Cheonwangmun Gate.


The Eight Spoke Buddhist Wheel platform at Daeheungsa Temple.


And to the right is another platform backed by Seokgamoni-bul and fronted by a large metal Geumgang-jeo (Diamond Pounder).


The stairs leading up to the main hall at Daeheungsa Temple.


Inside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas.


One of the Nahan paintings outside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas.


The entry gate to the upper courtyard.


One of the ornamental dragons that hangs from the upper courtyard gate.


The unique hall that houses sari inside.


One of the stone guardians that protects the entry to the sari hall.


The main altar inside the sari hall.


A closer look at the main altar with the sari in the centre.


A look back at the entry.


The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Daeheungsa Temple.


The Sanshin mural inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.


The large concrete main hall at Daeheungsa Temple.


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


The Mireuk-bul statue to the left of the main hall.


The view from the upper courtyard down towards the lower courtyard.