Seongraksa Temple – 성락사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The replica Dabotap pagoda in the foreground with the large main hall in the background at Seongraksa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Originally, I had been attempting to visit a neighbouring temple, when I stumbled upon Seongraksa Temple. At first, I thought it would be a small and non-descript temple, but I was happily mistaken.

When you first approach Seongraksa Temple, which is located in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, it’s in one of the city’s better hidden back alleys. The first things to greet you at this temple are two large and colourful guardian statues. Up the winding entrance road, on either side of the curbs, are two rows of granite Buddha statues. These statues either hold really unique items in their hands, or their hands are striking a specific mudra (a symbolic ritual gesture). Some of the better ones are the ones where the Buddha holds a tablet or a tiny temple in his hands. Another really good one is the twisted hand that points to a tiny pinched speck of air. There are duplicates, and sometimes triplicates, of these statues as you make your way up to the temple courtyard, but they certainly don’t disappoint.

Finally, when you make it to the crest of the hill, and the corresponding courtyard, you’ll be greeted by a near exact replica of the Dabotap Pagoda from the famous Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju. Unlike the original version of the pagoda in Gyeongju, this pagoda has all four of the fierce guardian lions on each corner. Also, it has the amazingly intricate finial at the top of the pagoda. The only difference between the two is that instead of housing a stele inside the centre of the body, like at Gyeongju, the new version of this brilliant masonry houses a stone statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Light).

Behind the pagoda is a very large main hall. Finally, standing in front of the two story main hall, you’ll be greeted by a row of lotus holding seated stone statues of the Buddha. Behind these statues, and engraved along the stone base, are four uniquely sculpted Cheonwang (Heavenly Kings).

Housed inside the first floor of the main hall are the monks’ dorms, the kitchen, and a conference room. The meditation hall, and the true main hall of the temple, sits on the second floor of the building. The corners of each roof panel are adorned with large horned dragons. And the artwork that surrounds the second floor are rather simple Shim-u-do, Ox-Herding, murals.

As you step into the meditation hall, you’ll be greeted by a rather large interior. Sitting on the main altar, in the centre, is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s flanked by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) to the right and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Body Buddha) to the left. To the left of this main altar is a standing statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Interestingly, there didn’t seem to appear to be a guardian painting, but there are hundreds of tiny golden and jade statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In the right front corner is a unique triad of statues. In the centre of this triad is Jeseok-bul. To the right of Jeseok-bul is a statue of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) with a fierce looking tiger in front of him. And to the left is Okhwang-sangje (The Daoist Jade Emperor of Heaven). While this triad isn’t the most expensive looking set of statues, it’s pretty amazing that they’re even housed together as a triad. To the right of this triad, and along the right wall, is an unknown statue. The statue, with clenched fists, almost looks like a Yongwang that has lost his weapons. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s Yongwang (The Dragon King) and there was no one around to ask who he was. Perhaps next time…

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yangsan Subway Station, Line 2, stop # 243, you’ll need to catch a taxi. The taxi ride should take about 12 minutes and cost you about 5,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. There are really three main highlights to this temple. The first, and most obvious, is the replica of the Dabotop Pagoda from the famous Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju. The other two highlights are the originally designed Buddha’s that line the road that leads up to the temple, and the unique triad of Sanshin, Jeseok-bul, and Okhwang-sangje. While a bit out of the way, the temple has a few hidden gems, and not so hidden gems to make your trip worth it.

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The road that winds its way up to Seongraksa Temple.

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Just one of the Buddhas that lines the entrance at the temple.

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And another.

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And this one, through an anatomic miracle, points to a speck of dust.

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As you approach, a near replica of Dabo-tap Pagoda, from  Bulguksa Temple, awaits you.

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A better look at the pagoda that rests in the temple courtyard.

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The one telling difference between the two temples’ pagodas is this image of Birojana-bul at the heart of the pagoda at Seongraksa Temple.

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The massive main hall at Seongraksa Temple.

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The beautiful Buddhas that line the main hall.

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Adorning the main hall is this relief of one of the Heavenly Kings.

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A look across the front of the second story of the main hall.

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One of the realistic Shimu-do murals that adorns the exterior walls to the second floor of the main hall.

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A look inside the second floor hall. In the centre sits Birojana-bul. And he’s joined by Seokgamoni-bul and Nosana-bul.

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A shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal inside the main hall.

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The extremely unique triad of Jeseok-bul in the centre flanked by Sanshin to the right and Okhwang-sangje to the left.

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An unknown statue that has an altar all to himself. This statue is to the right of the extremely rare triad of Jeseok-bul, Sanshin, and Okwang-sangje.

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And the view from the main hall out onto the temple courtyard.

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