Wibongsa Temple – 위봉사 (Wanju, Jeollabuk-do)

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The stately Ijumun Gate at Wibongsa Temple in Wanju, Jeollabuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on the south-western slopes of Mt. Wibongsan is Wibongsa Temple. There’s some disagreement as to when Wibongsa Temple was first established. Some believe that Wibongsa was first constructed in 604 A.D. by the monk Seoam-daesa. Others, on the other hand, believe that it was created by Choe Yonggak at the end of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). According to this story, and the legend that surrounds it, the temple was named Wibongsa Temple because while riding a horse one day, he looked around at the features of the land and it looked like three phoenixes were wrapped around it. Later, in 1358, the famed monk Naong rebuilt and enlarged the temple in 1358. Then, in 1466, the temple was repaired by Seokjam-daesa.

You first approach the temple grounds through the top-heavy, yet stoic, Iljumun Gate. It’s a fine example of Korean Buddhist architecture. The next structure to line up with the Iljumun Gate is the Cheonwangmun Gate, which houses four contemplative Heavenly Kings. It’s through the third, and final entry-like gate, the Boje-ru Pavilion, that you’ll gain admittance to the Wibongsa Temple courtyard.

To your right, as you enter the courtyard, is a larger sized Beopjong-gak bell pavilion, as well as the nuns’ dorms and a centrally located mature twisted red pine. But beyond all these is the temple’s main hall, the Bogwangmyeon-jeon (The Limitless Light Hall). This hall is designated Treasure #608. The shrine hall houses a triad of statues on the main altar. In the centre sits a seated statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by two standing statues dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul). It’s believed that this hall was first constructed during the mid-Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Behind the main altar is a large all-white image of Gwanseeum-bosal. There are several older paintings spread throughout the interior of various Biseon playing musical instruments. The main altar’s canopy is decorated with dragons and yeouiju (a magic stone).

To the right of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon. The exterior walls to this hall are decorated with some fine depictions of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). Housed inside this hall on the main altar is Seokgamoni-bul, who is then joined by colourful statues of the Nahan.

To the left of the main hall is the Yosa-jeon and Gwaneum-jeon Halls. Kinda a two for one deal. This historic building is shaped like an “I” with the two dorms acting as bookends with the central room housing the Gwaneum-jeon shrine hall.

And to the left rear of the grounds is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Either this building has been newly built or refurbished. Either way, the colourful interior is complimentary to the three shaman murals that hang inside this shaman shrine hall. Still in the upper courtyard, but off-limits, is the Wibong Seonwon for nuns to meditate in at the temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Wibongsa Temple in Wanju, Jeollabuk-do, you’ll first need to get to neighbouring Jeonju. From the city of Jeonju, take local Bus #806 and get off at Wibong Village. From there, you can either walk or take a taxi (if you can locate one).

Or you can go to Wibong Village or take a bus from Jeonju, Buses #814 or #838 and get off near neighbouring Songgwangsa Temple. From the temple, you can either walk the  distance (about six kilometres) or take a taxi (again, if you can locate one).

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. While beautifully situated under the mountainous peaks of Mt. Wibongsan, Wibongsa Temple’s main highlight is the Bogwangmyeon-jeon. This hall, which is dedicated to Amita-bul, houses several features like the ornately decorated canopy and the large mural on the backside of the main altar.

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The welcoming gates at Wibongsa Temple.

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A look through the Iljumun Gate at the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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One of the Four Heavenly Kings.

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A look at the Boje-ru Pavilion at Wibongsa Temple.

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 The central highlight at Wibongsa Temple: the Bogwangmyeon-jeon.

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The main altar inside the Bogwangmyeon-jeon.

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The painting of Gwanseeum-bosal on the backside of the main altar.

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Just one of the Biseon paintings floating around the main hall.

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The view from the Nahan-jeon towards the main hall.

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One of the masterful Nahan paintings adorning the exterior walls of the Nahan-jeon.

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

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The Yosa-jeon/Gwaneum-jeon at Wibongsa Temple.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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A look inside the colourful shrine hall.

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The temple’s main courtyard.

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A look through the Cheonwangmun Gate towards the Iljumun Gate, as it was time to go.

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