Yeonmisa Temple – 연미사 (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The Jebiwon Seokbul stone statue at Yeonmisa Temple in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

North-east of the Andong city centre, in Gyeongsangbuk-do, and in Jebiwon, Icheon-dong, is Yeonmisa Temple. Yeonmisa Temple, which means “Swallow Tail Temple,” in English, was first founded in 634 A.D. by the monk Myeongdeok. There used to be a roof over top of the Jebiwon Seokbul statue, which made it look like a swallow’s beak. And because the monks’ dorms, the Yosahche, was located to the rear of the statue and looked like a swallow’s tail, the temple was called Yeonmisa Temple.

During the pro-Confucian period in Korean history during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the temple fell into ruin. It was only during Japanese Colonial rule (1910-45) that Yeonmisa Temple was finally reconstructed in 1934. The temple halls were rebuilt on the original grounds of Yeonmisa Temple. In 1978, the main hall was extended and the temple paintings were added in 1986 completing the main halls current form.

There are several buildings at Yeonmisa Temple, but it’s only the Daeung-jeon Hall at the temple that has things to see for visitors. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with various Buddhist inspired motifs, but the most noteworthy are the masterful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Additionally, the front latticework, which is adorned with radiant wooden flowers, are something to keep an eye out for when exploring the Daeung-jeon Hall’s exterior walls.

As for the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This statue is joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of this triad is the orangish hued Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural. And to the left of the main altar are two additional murals. The first is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and the other is the temple’s guardian mural.

Down a short path to the left of the Daeung-jeon Hall is the main highlight to the temple: the Jebiwon Seokbul statue of Amita-bul. Along the way, there are several statuettes of various Buddhas, as well as a coin collecting statue of a jovial Podae-hwasang. Finally arriving at the twelve metre tall statue of Amita-bul, you’ll first be greeted by a intimidating statue of a Vajra warrior and a stone lantern.

The Jebiwon Seokbul image of Amita-bul is housed in a stone cul de sac. There is a prayer area in this part of the temple grounds that people can pray to the Buddha of the Western Paradise. Your neck will be strained as you look up at the image. The image was created in two stages. This was a common method during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The head of the Buddha was first sculpted and then attached to the image carved on the rock wall. The image of Amita-bul stands on a lotus pedestal. There is still a little bit of orange paint left on the head, which indicates that the statue used to be painted. It’s believed that the image was carved sometime in the 11th century. You can get a better idea of the full size and scope of the statue if you stand in the nearby park from some distance. It’s also at the base of the rock that somewhat obscures the full image of the statue that you can read the inscription 아미타불 (Amita-bul), which identifies the specific image of the Buddha. The Jebiwon Seokbul statue is Treasure #115.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Andong Intercity Bus Terminal, and to get to Yeonmisa Temple by bus, you’ll need to take Bus #56. After 13 stops, which will take 22 minutes, get off at the Icheon-dong Seokbulsang stop. Walk 167 metres, or three minutes, to get to the temple.

You can take a bus or you can simply take a taxi from the Andong Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should last 12 minutes and cost 7,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. By far, the main highlight to this temple is the 12 metre tall image of Amita-bul at Yeonmisa Temple. The Jebiwon Seokbul statue is easy to access, which only adds to its overall appeal. Other highlights at Yeonmisa Temple is the artwork in and around the Daeung-jeon Hall like the Sanshin mural and the flowery latticework.

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The Daeung-jeon Hall at Yeonmisa Temple.

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A look up at the intricate artwork adorning the main hall.

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A beautiful flower that makes up part of the latticework on the Daeung-jeon Hall doors.

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One of the paintings from the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, mural set.

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The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall with Seokgamoni-bul front and centre.

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The Sanshin mural to the right of the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The small trail that leads to the main highlight at the temple.

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A diminutive coin collecting statue of Podae-hwasang along the trail.

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A fiercely protective Vajra warrior in front of the Jebiwon Seokbul.

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An up close of the 12 metre tall statue of Amita-bul.

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A better look at the statue of Amita-bul at Yeonmisa Temple from a bit of distance.

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