Bulgulsa Temple – 불굴사 (Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The historic Buddha statue at Bulgulsa Temple in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On Mt. Muhaksan, and just past the local mental institution, lays Bulgulsa Temple in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do. Bulgulsa Temple dates back to 690 A.D. During its peak, the temple housed over 50 buildings and had 12 associated hermitages.

When first approaching the elevated temple grounds, you’ll notice a collection of buildings that are under construction. It’s to the right of these buildings that you’ll first notice the simple bell pavilion. Up a set of uneven stairs, and past a garish, plastic Heavenly King, you’ll enter the temple’s courtyard.

Straight ahead lays the main hall. Out in front of the main hall stands a three-tier stone pagoda that dates back to the Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935 A.D.). The 7.43 metre tall pagoda is both well preserved and rather common for the pagodas of this era in Korean history.

Surrounding the exterior walls to the main hall are a nice collection of Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, and similar to the main hall at Tongdosa Temple, there is simply a window where statues should be seated on the main altar. This window looks out onto a stupa. Purportedly, this stupa enshrines some sari (crystallized remains) from the Historical Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul. Other than this, the only other things that the main hall houses is a guardian mural on the far right wall, as well as seated statues of the Buddha with white paper hats on their heads.

To the right of main hall, and excluding the monks’ dorms, there are a couple of halls that visitors can explore at Bulgulsa Temple. The first is a diminutive Dokseong/Sanshin-gak. Housed inside this shrine hall are two rather plain shaman deities. The other hall, the Myeongbu-jeon, is attached to part of the monks’ dorms. This rather long, narrow hall houses a solitary statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This statue is joined by an assortment of Bodhisattva paintings which include Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom), Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

To the left of the main hall, and the real highlight to the temple, is the ancient stone statue of the Buddha. The exact date and image of the Buddha are unknown; however, the statue has been well preserved. The 233 centimetre tall statue is placed on a natural ridge of rock. The chubby faced Buddha holds a jar in his left hand, while his right hand is pointed down towards the ground below. Uniquely, the shrine hall has been built around the statue.

Perched over top of the temple southwest of Bulgulsa Temple is Hongjuam Hermitage. In and among the natural contours of the mountain’s rocks is a beautiful relief of Seokgamoni-bul. And on another mountain ridge, to the southeast, stands a statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha).

HOW TO GET THERE: Because of its remoteness, the only way that you can get to Bulgulsa Temple from the neighbouring city of Gyeongsan is to take a taxi from the Gyeongsan Intercity Bus Terminal. The taxi ride should take about 55 minutes and it should cost about 25,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. Bulgulsa Temple has a few things for visitors to enjoy. One is the purported earthly remains of Seokgamoni-bul housed in a stupa behind the main hall. Another highlight is the ancient Buddha statue, as well as Hongjuam Hermitage that lays up in a neighbouring mountain ridge.

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The elevated bell pavilion at Bulgulsa Temple.

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The temple courtyard.

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A closer look at the three-tier stone pagoda and the main hall.

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A look through the window inside the main hall out towards the stupa that houses the Buddha’s sari.

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One of the white-hatted Buddhas inside the main hall.

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One of the Shimu-do paintings from the set of ten murals.

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A closer look at the stupa that houses the Buddha’s sari.

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A look towards the Dokseong/Sanshin-gak.

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The rather ordinary Sanshin mural.

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The entrance to the Myeongbu-jeon hall to the far left.

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A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon hall.

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The shrine hall that houses the historic Buddha statue.

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A look at the actual Buddha statue.

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A better look at both the Buddha and inside the shrine hall.

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One last look around the temple courtyard.

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