Yongjusa Temple – 용주사 (Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do)

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An overcast sky at Yongjusa Temple in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yongjusa Temple, which means “Dragon Jewel Temple,” in English, is located in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do. Yongjusa Temple was first founded in 854 A.D. It was first known as Galyangsa Temple. During the 10th century, the temple was further expanded. The temple was completely destroyed in 1636 during the Manchu War. But in 1790, under the orders of King Jeongjo, the temple was rebuilt in honour of his deceased father, Prince Sado (1735-62). This was one of the few times during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), under the heavy influence of Confucian ideology, that the Joseon royal house supported Buddhism directly. It was also at this time that the temple changed its name to its current one: Yongjusa Temple.

You first enter the temple grounds through the Cheonwangmun Gate. Housed inside this gate are some of the fiercest Heavenly Kings that you’ll find in Korea. With their eye-popping intensity, they exemplify the intimidating poses these figures should make when welcoming visitors to temples.

Past the admission booth, and up a meandering pathway, you’ll next come to the Hongsalmun Gate at Yongjusa Temple. With two red painted poles connected by a top beam, this gate speaks to the temple’s royal ancestry. Typically, this style of gate is found at a royal tomb.

Through the neighbouring Sammun Gate that is adorned with some ancient stone statues, you’ll enter the outer courtyard that houses a five-story stone pagoda. It’s only after you get your fill of the natural beauty that surrounds the temple in this part of the grounds that you’ll pass through the Boje-ru Pavilion. It is only then that you stand inside the temple courtyard.

Sitting in the centre of the temple grounds is the Daeungbo-jeon. The exterior walls of the hall are painted with Palsang-do murals; but uniquely, there’s no pagoda framing the main hall at Yongjusa Temple. Inside, the main hall is highly elaborate. Sitting on the main altar are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined on either side by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). The statues on the main altar are backed by a highly original platform painting. Measuring four metres in height and three metres in width, it was painted by Kim Hongdo, who was a famous Korean painter as well as the county magistrate. The life-like features of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are quite unique in their design. The older looking canopy, as well as the white-clad Gwanseeum-bosal and Gamno-do painting make the interior to this hall a must see at Yongjusa Temple.

To the left of the main hall is the Cheonbul-jeon Hall. Housed inside this hall are a thousand tiny white Buddha statues, as well as spherical golden lights that front the golden triad of statues that sit on the main altar. Behind this hall is the compact Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. All three of the shaman murals inside this hall are unique, but it’s the Sanshin mural that stands out the most with the big headed tiger protectively standing next to The Mountain Spirit.

To the right of the Samseong-gak, and across a bit of a field, is the elegantly designed pagoda. In front of this pagoda are two more shrine halls. One of the two is the Jijang-jeon Hall that houses a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the main altar. The exterior walls to this hall are painted with murals that illustrate the various stages in life. The other shrine hall, the Hoseong-jeon, houses the memorial tablets of Prince Sado. Out in front of this hall is a uniquely designed three-story pagoda with a black body that has Korean writing on it about filial piety.

In total, the temple houses National Treasure #120, as well as two additional Treasures.

Admission to the temple is 1,500 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Yongjusa Temple, you’ll first need to get to Byeongjeom Station on  Line 1 on the Seoul subway system. From there, you’ll need to take the bus from behind the station. You can take any number of green buses like Bus #34, 34-1, 44, 46, 47, or 50. The bus ride to the temple should take ten to fifteen minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. There are quite a few unique features to Yongjusa Temple which starts at the entry with the intense statues of the Heavenly Kings and continues towards the Hongsalmun Gate. Another amazing feature is the temple bell, which also just so happens to be National Treasure #120. In combination with these features, you can enjoy all the amazing murals around the temple grounds like the Sanshin mural and the murals inside the main hall. With the temple pagodas, you have more than enough reason to visit this royal temple from the 18th century.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate that welcomes you to Yongjusa Temple.

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One of the intimidating, and eye-bulging, Heavenly Kings.

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The path that leads up to the temple grounds.

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The Hongsalmun Gate at Yongjusa Temple.

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Some of the decorative artwork in front of the Sammun Gate.

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A look towards the Boje-ru Gate at Yongjusa Temple.

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The five-story stone pagoda out in front of the Boje-ru Pavilion.

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Passing under a ceiling of dragons and the Boje-ru Pavilion.

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The Daeungbo-jeon main hall at Yongjusa Temple.

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 One of the Palsang-do murals that adorns the main hall.

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

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A look towards the Cheonbul-jeon and Samseong-gak.

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National Treasure #120.

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A look inside the Cheonbul-jeon at Yongjusa Temple.

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The uniquely styled Sanshin mural.

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The view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The white two story pagoda at Yongjusa Temple.

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A closer look at the highly stylized pagoda.

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A look towards the Jijang-jeon.

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One of the life-cycle murals that adorns the Jijang-jeon.

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And a look inside the Jijang-jeon at Jijang-bosal.

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A look towards the neighbouring Hoseong-jeon and the three-story pagoda that stands out in front of it.

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A look inside the Hoseong-jeon at the memorial tablets housed inside it.

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One last look at the temple grounds at Yongjusa Temple.

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