Jungsaengsa Temple/Neungji-tap – 중생사/능지탑 (Gyeongju)

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The beautiful Neungji-tap Site in Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on the west side of Mt. Nangsan, which is more of a hill than a mountain at an elevation of a couple hundred metres, is the famed Neungji-tap Site. Located just outside Jungsaengsa Temple is the four and a half metre tall two-story stone pagoda. The pagoda was first built during the Unified Silla Period (668-935 A.D). It’s believed that the pagoda was built as a tomb. Also, it’s believed that the famed King Munmu’s cremation might have taken place at this site. The foundation to the Neungji-tap Pagoda was reconstructed in 1979, and the two story pagoda was once believed to tower five stories in height. And around its granite base are all 12 of the zodiac generals. The open field is lined by mature red pines, and the left over stonework from its reconstruction in 1979 are left lying to the north of the site.

Just a little further along the narrow dirt road, and you’ll come to the beautiful Jungsaengsa Temple. Straight ahead is the compact, but older looking, main hall. The exterior walls to the main hall are lined with two sets of paintings. The first, which is on top, are quickly fading Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. These bluish tinged murals are joined by pastoral paintings in a yellow hue. As for inside this hall, and sitting all alone on the main altar, sits Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s backed by two beautiful dragon murals. The entire interior to the main hall is lined with older Buddhist themed murals like Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) together in the same mural. There is also a curmudgeonly looking dharma, an agwi, as well as a whole host of murals inside. An older looking guardian mural hangs to the left of the main altar.

To the right of the main hall are a set of temple buildings, including the temple’s kitchen. It’s just past this building, and up a long set of stairs, that you’ll come to the newly built Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. There is a pair of fierce-looking tigers just outside the hall’s doors. These paintings prepare you for some of the most beautiful shaman paintings dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) in all of Korea. Have an especially close look at the colourful peacock fan that Sanshin is holding. Simply stunning!

And just to the left of the main hall, and past the monks’ dorms, is the Rock Carved Seated Buddha Triad of Mt. Nangsan. Up a little pathway, and under a newly built wooden pavilion, rest the badly faded triad. In the centre sits the best kept of the three: an image of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). You’ll have to look closely to see the almost unrecognizable stone reliefs dedicated to the other two images of the Bodhisattvas. If you look close enough, you’ll notice that these Bodhisattvas are holding weapons. It’s believed that this relief dates back to the Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935 A.D).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to board Bus #604 towards the Gyeongju National Museum. The bus ride lasts 9 stops, and you’ll need to get off at the Cheotbaeban Stop (첫배반). From the stop, walk nice minutes uphill towards both Jungsaengsa Temple and Neungji-tap.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Combining the two together, both Neungji-tap and Jungsaengsa Temple, makes for a pleasant trip to one of the lesser known sites in Gyeongju. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but they are well worth a visit. Neungji-tap pagoda is beautiful in its quiet simplicity, while Jungsaegsa Temple has a little bit of everything for everyone from its masterful shaman paintings to its ancient rock relief. So if you want something a bit different, and outside the norm in Gyeongju, then look no further than these two sites.

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The two-story Neungji-tap Site in central Gyeongju.

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A look as you first approach the pagoda up the pathway.

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A closer look at the second-tier of the pagoda.

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Just one of the zodiac generals that guards the base of the structure.

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One last look before heading towards Jungsaengsa Temple.

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The view as you first enter the temple grounds.

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The pavilion that houses the fading images of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas.

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A closer look at the fading triad. Look closely!

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Perhaps a better angle to see Seokgamoni-bul joined to the left by a fading Bodhisattva.

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The main hall at Jungsaengsa Temple.

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One of the yellow pastoral paintings that adorns its exterior walls.

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The main altar with Birojana-bul front and centre.

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To the left hangs this guardian mural.

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If you look up towards the rafters, you’ll see a pair of beautifully crafted dragons’ heads.

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A curious looking agwi.

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The newly built Samseong-gak.

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A smiling Dokseong.

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Joined by an equally stunning Sanshin mural.

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