Seonggulsa Temple – 성굴사 (Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The Yaksayore-bul statue inside the Yaksa-jeon cave shrine at Seonggulsa Temple in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seonggulsa Temple, in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do, is located on the northeastern side of Mt. Sangwonsan. Seonggulsa Temple is located south of the better known Gyeongheungsa Temple and was formerly known as Mansusa Temple.

You first approach the temple up a long valley. On the eastern banks of a narrow stream is the eccentric Seonggulsa Temple. The first thing to greet you at the temple is a beautiful three metre tall statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). To the left lies the temple parking lot with numerous stone pagodas reminiscent of Tapsa Temple. On the side of the largest pagoda is an Indian inspired multi-arm and headed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). It’s just beyond this, and dug out of the rock face, a wooden entry to an artificial cave is situated. Inside this bomb shelter-like cave sits a solitary statue of Yaksayore-bul at the end of the cave. The walls are lined with a solitary string of pink paper lotus lanterns, and water drips from the roof of the cave down onto the wooden platform for devotees to pray.

To the right of the Yaksa-jeon cave shrine hall is the two storied main hall. This modern looking 1970s influenced Geukrak-jeon Hall’s exterior paint job is fading. Inside the second floor main hall rest multiple statues and paintings. On the main altar, there sits a triad of statues. In the centre is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power of Amita-bul). To the left of the triad rests a painting and statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the right of the main altar triad are a pair of paintings. The first is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Star) and the second is the temple’s guardian mural. Both are modern and masterful in their design.

To the right rear of the main hall is another artificial cave at Seonggulsa Temple. This cave is all but abandoned and I had to stumble around in the dark because there were ultimately no lights to guide my way. Formerly, the statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) that now takes up residence in the main hall once called this cave home. If you do venture inside this abandoned cave, be careful because the wooden floor boards are now brittle caused by the dripping ceiling water.

To the right of the abandoned cave is an altar with what looks to be a moon rock on it. In front of the moon rock stands an upright stone with red painting on it. The red painting reads Buddha’s Mind. It’s past the monks residence that you’ll also find the Sanshin-gak at Seonggulsa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to walk about 5 minutes (300 metres) to get to the Gyeongsan Shijang (market) bus stop. From this stop, you’ll need to board the Namcheon bus. After 15 stops, or 18 minutes, you’ll need to get off at the Sinseok (Cheongdo) stop. From where the bus lets you off, you’ll need to walk 3.5 kilometres, or 52 minutes, to the temple. You can take public transportation or a taxi directly to Seonggulsa Temple. The taxi ride should take about 30 minutes and cost 12,500 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. This temple has to be one of the most bizarre temples I’ve visited in Korea with its dual caves (one of which is abandoned), as well as the numerous stone pagodas and the retro main hall. This is a good temple to visit if you want something a bit different from the every day.

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The front entry statue of Yaksayore-bul.

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Some of the stone pagodas at Seonggulsa Temple.

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The wooden entry to the first cave shrine at the temple.

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The multi-armed and headed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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Inside the first cave shrine hall.

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A look around the cave.

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The main altar statue of Yaksayore-bul.

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The modern inspired main hall at Seonggulsa Temple.

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A look around the main hall.

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A statue of the Buddha that someone has left behind.

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The moon rock altar with the writing in red ink that reads Buddha’s Mind.

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The second cave at Seonggulsa Temple.

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A look around the abandoned cave.

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And the main altar inside the second cave.

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One more look around the temple grounds.

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As well as another look at some of the stone pagodas.

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