Jaeseoksa Temple – 제석사 (Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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Inside the Wonhyo shrine hall at Jaeseoksa Temple in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located just east of the Gyeongsan city centre, in Gyeongsangbuk-do, is Jaeseoksa Temple. This urban temple is also located in the famed Wonhyo-daesa’s hometown (more on that later).

You first approach the temple down a few narrow side-streets, until you stumble upon Jaeseoksa Temple almost by chance. The entrance gate that awaits you is beautifully painted with various images like Sanshin Dosa and a pair of intense Vajra Warriors adorning the temple doors.

Stepping inside the temple courtyard, you’ll first notice the temple buildings that line the exterior walls to the temple confines. These are the nuns’ living quarters, the visitors centre, as well as the temple kitchen. Straight ahead lies the temple’s main hall. This hall is beautifully decorated both inside and out. Around the exterior walls, there are the traditional Palsang-do set that depict the life of the Buddha. The front latticework consists of the Four Heavenly Kings. And there are some extremely descriptive Nathwi (Monster Mask) reliefs at the base of the latticework. As for inside the main hall, and resting on the main altar, there’s a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who is joined on either side by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). The rest of the hall is filled with beautiful murals like the Dragon Ship of Wisdom and the guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall, and slightly elevated, is the smaller sized Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The exterior walls are adorned with the three most popular shaman deities in the Korean pantheon as is the interior. Resting in the centre of the main altar inside the Samseong-gak is an older, elaborate mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This painting is joined to the left by an older, longer ear lobed mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), who is joined by a leopard-looking tiger at his side. Rounding out the three is a more modern painting of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

The final hall that visitors can explore is one of the most original halls I’ve seen at a Korean temple. This hall is dedicated to the hometown monk, Wonhyo-daesa. The exterior walls are adorned with various murals from his life like the fish pointing scene from Oeosa Temple in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do or his friendship with Uisang-daesa. As for the interior, there’s the highly original Palsang-do set of eight paintings. But instead of depicting the Buddha’s life from birth to death, they depict the life of Wonhyo-daesa. And resting on the main altar is a golden statue of Wonhyo-daesa.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to walk about 300 metres, or five minutes, to get to the Gyeongsan Shijang (market) bus stop. From there, you’ll need to take Bus #990. After twenty stops, or twenty-two minutes, you’ll need to get off at the Jainmyeon Sahmuso (office).From there, walk about 450 metres, or seven minutes, to get to Jaeseoksa Temple.

You can take a bus, or you can simply take a taxi from the Gyeongsan Intercity Bus Terminal. If you do decide to take a taxi from there, it’ll last about 17 minutes and cost 11,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. This is a difficult temple to rate. While smaller in size, Jaeseoksa Temple has quite a few highly original features like the stunning set of eight Palsang-do murals dedicated to Wonhyo-daesa. Also, the Four Heavenly Kings adorning the main hall’s front latticework, as well as the beautiful shaman murals, make this temple a must see if you’re in the Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do hometown of the famed Wonhyo-daesa.

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The entry gate at Jaeseoksa Temple.

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What appears to be a Sanshin Dosa painted on the entry gate.

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One of the fierce Vajra warriors adorning the entry door at the temple.

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A look towards the main hall and an arching tree that obscures the view.

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One of the faces of the Four Heavenly Kings that adorns the lattices of the main hall.

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One of the Nathwi adorning the main hall.

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A giant ornamental dragon on the exterior of the main hall.

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The main altar inside the main hall.

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The guardian mural inside the main hall.

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The Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural inside the main hall, as well.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Jaeseoksa Temple.

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The older looking, and elaborate, Chilseong mural inside the Samseong-gak.

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As well as this amazing older looking mural dedicated to Sanshin.

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The highly unique Wonhyo shrine hall at Jaeseoksa Temple.

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The exterior painting on the Wonhyo shrine hall that commemorates the friendship between Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa.

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An up close of Wonhyo-daesa’s birth from the Wonhyo-daesa Palsang-do set.

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And a mural from the Wonhyo Palsang-do set that illustrates Wonhyo’s enlightenment.

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