Muryangsa Temple – 무량사 (Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do)

DSC_2182-1024x678 A look through the Cheonwangmun Gate at Muryangsa Temple in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do.

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Located at the foot of Mt. Mansusan, Muryangsa Temple was first built during the reign of King Munseong (r. 839-857). It was built by National Preceptor Beomil, and it was later repaired during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). Like so many temples throughout the Korean peninsula, Muryangsa Temple was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War in 1592. Later, it was rebuilt by the monk Jinmuk during the reign of King Injo (r. 1623-1649). In total, the temple houses five Korean designated Treasures. It was also the last home to Joseon Korean scholar and author Kim Siseup.

You first approach the temple past the aged Iljumun Gate at the entry and across the Mansu-cheon Stream. It’s looking through the boxy Cheonwangmun Gate with its mutant looking Four Heavenly Kings that you get a great view of the historic Geukrak-jeon and the treasured five-tier pagoda at Muryangsa Temple.

Beautifully framed by a low-lying tree and the surrounding mountains, the five-tier pagoda is believed to have been built sometime between the Baekje Dynasty (18 B.C to 660 A.D.) and the Unified Silla Dynasty (668 A.D to 935 A.D). But it’s the two story Geukrak-jeon main hall at Muryangsa Temple that truly stands out. Treasure #356 dates back to the mid-Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and houses the three largest seated statues in all of Asia. The triad is centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), and he’s 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 right of these structures lies the temple’s bell pavilion and Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Inside the bell pavilion is stored the Muryangsa Temple bell that dates back to 1636. As for the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, there’s a slender statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) that’s surrounded by ten equally slender seated statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the left of the Geukrak-jeon main hall are a collection of shrine halls. The first of these halls underneath another mature tree at the temple is the Cheonbul-jeon Hall with a thousand tiny white Buddha statues inside. These statues are joined by a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) on the main altar. To the front right of this hall is the Yeongjeong-gak with a mural of the famed patriot, Kim Siseup, inside. And the final hall in the collection is the Wontong-jeon with a multi-armed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside. He’s joined by hundreds of wooden statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Just a little further up the path, and just before taking a trail that leads you to the top of the neighbouring Mt. Mansusan, is the temple’s Samseong-gak. To the left of the head monks living quarters is the unassuming shaman shrine hall. The frowning/contemplative look of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), as well as the tiger-riding Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) are something to keep an eye out for when visiting the Samseong-gak.

Admission to the temple is 2,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Nambu Terminal in Seoul, you should take an express bus to the Buyeo Intercity Bus Terminal. From this terminal, head left out the exit and continue to walk towards the big street. After crossing the road, take Bus #127 from the Buyeo Market Bus Stop. Then, at the Muryang Village Bus Stop, which is 37 stops away, get off and walk about 400 metres towards Muryangsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. With a number of Korean Treasures, it’s the much vaunted Geukrak-jeon Hall that stands out the most at this serenely located Muryangsa Temple in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do. Other highlights to your visit will include the shrine hall dedicated to Kim Siseup, as well as the massive statues housed inside the Geukrak-jeon.

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The Iljumun Gate at Muryangsa Temple.

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The Mansucheon Stream at the temple.

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The path that makes its way up to Muryangsa Temple.

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The mutant-looking Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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A look towards the treasured five-tier pagoda and Geukrak-jeon.

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A different angle with the 19th century Myeongbu-jeon in view to the right.

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The 1636 bell at Muryangsa Temple.

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The slender Jijang-bosal statue inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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A look at the two-story Geukrak-jeon at Muryangsa Temple.

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The largest seated statues in Asia inside the Geukrak-jeon.

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A look towards the Cheonbul-jeon.

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A look towards the Yeongjeong-gak.

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With a framed picture of Kim Siseup inside the Yeongjeong-gak.

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 The Wontong-jeon with Gwanseeum-bosal front and centre.

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Some of the surrounding wooden statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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Awaiting you is the tiger-riding Sanshin painting.

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 One last look at two Korean Treasures.

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