Bulyeongsa Temple – 불영사 (Uljin, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The Bulyeong-ji Pond at Bulyeongsa Temple in Uljin, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Bulyeongsa Temple is located in the very scenic Uljin, Gyeongsangbuk-do at the base of Mt. Cheonchuksan. The name of the temple, Bulyeongsa Temple, means “The Reflection of the Buddha’s Shadow on the Pond Temple,” in English. The temple was first constructed in 651 A.D. by the famed monk Uisang-daesa. The temple was built alongside Mt. Cheonchuksan because it purportedly resembled Mt. Cheonchuksan in India, where the image of the Buddha was reflected on the water there. In 1396, Bulyeongsa Temple was completely destroyed by fire. Not long after its destruction, it was rebuilt by the monk Soun. And in 1592, at the start of the Imjin War (1592-98), all the buildings at Bulyeongsa Temple were completely destroyed by fire except the Yeongsan-jeon Hall. In 1602, the Daeung-jeon Hall was rebuilt; and then, in 1608, the rest of Bulyeongsa Temple was completely restored. Once more, the main hall was destroyed by fire in 1720. It was restored, once more, in 1725 by the monk Cheonok. As you can tell, Bulyeongsa Temple has had its fair share of loss.

Bulyeongsa Temple is situated a fair distance from the Iljumun Gate. The walk is one of the more beautiful walks as the path intersects forests and farmlands used by the nuns that call the temple home. When you finally do near the temple grounds, the first thing to greet you is the Bulyeong-ji Pond that harkens back to the origin of the temple’s name. Circumnavigating the pond to the left, you’ll see the first collection of temple shrine halls.

The first shrine hall is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Inside the rather plainly painted Chilseong-gak is a beautiful mural dedicated to the shaman deity. Book-ending both sides of the painting are rows of Buddhist texts.

To the right of the Chilseong-gak is the older looking Eungjin-jeon Hall, which looks far older in design that the preceding hall. This largely unadorned exterior houses the sixteen disciples of the Buddha, the Nahan. The two rows of eight Nahan are centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) on the main altar of this hall.

The next hall to be enjoyed at Bulyeongsa Temple is dedicated to the founding monk of the temple: Uisang-daesa. Resting all alone on the main altar to this hall is a small stone statue of Uisang-daesa. He’s surrounded on both sides by other famous monks like Wonhyo-daesa and Samyeong-daesa, as well.

The final hall in this area, other than the pavilion that backs the beautiful pond at the entry, is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Unlike the other three halls, the Myeongbu-jeon Hall is beautifully illustrated both inside and out. The exterior and interior walls, rather strangely, are painted with murals from Uisang-daesa’s life instead of the more traditional afterlife murals. Seated on the main altar is a large, green-haired statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s surrounded on all sides by curiously faced statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the right of this courtyard is where the enclosure for the Daeung-jeon main hall is situated. As though it’s shielding the Daeung-jeon Hall, the Seolbeop-jeon blocks people from directly looking at the main hall. Out in front of the Daeung-jeon Hall is the three tier stone pagoda that dates back to the early Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The exterior walls of the main hall are occupied with the dancheong traditional colours. Entering the main hall, you’ll see a triad of statues resting on the main altar. In the centre sits Seokgamoni-bul, who is joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). In the left rear of the hall is a tiny statue and beautiful mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). To the right rear of the main hall are sari (crystallized remains). As for the rest of the main hall’s interior, it’s beautifully decorated with paintings from the early 18th century from when the main hall was rebuilt.

The final hall that visitors can explore at Bulyeongsa Temple is the Sanshin-gak to the left rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall. While small in size, and largely unadorned on its exterior, it houses a beautiful rendering of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Of note are the intense green eyes of the tiger beside the more traditional painting of Sanshin.

The admission fee is 2,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Uljin Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go out to Bulyeongsa Temple. But instead of having numbers, they simply have the name of places. Here are six of those bus names that go out to Bulyeongsa Temple: 1. Deokgu – Gwangbi, 2. Deokgu – Saejeom, 3. Bugu – Saejeom, 4. Uljin – Gwangbi, 5. Jukbyeon – Saejeom, 6. Jukbyeon – Sogwang. The bus ride from the bus terminal to Bulyeongsa Temple will take about 27 minutes over 13 stops. From where the bus drops you off, you’ll need to walk an additional 7 minutes, or 500 metres, to the temple grounds.

You can take public transportation or simply take a taxi. The taxi ride from the Uljin Intercity Bus Terminal takes 30 minutes and costs about 17,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Bulyeongsa Temple is beautifully located in a valley below the peaks of Mt. Cheonchuksan. There are numerous halls for visitors to explore like the amazing interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall, as well as the Myeongbu-jeon Hall and the shrine hall dedicated to Uisang-daesa. All of these halls are beautifully fronted by the Bulyeong-ji Pond.

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The sites that await you as you first approach Bulyeongsa Temple.

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Making your way towards the temple shrine halls, while enjoying Bulyeong-ji pond.

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The Chilseong-gak at Bulyeongsa Temple.

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A look at the traditional Chilseong painting.

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The Eungjin-jeon Hall, which is the oldest building at Bulyeongsa Temple.

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The main altar inside the Eungjin-jeon Hall.

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To the left is the shrine hall dedicated to Uisang-daesa, the founder of Bulyeongsa Temple.

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A look inside the Uisang-daesa shrine hall with a statue of the famed monk to the left.

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Inside the shrine hall dedicated to one famous monk is this mural dedicated to another famous Korean monk: Samyeong-daesa.

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Inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall that’s to the right of the Uisang-daesa shrine hall.

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The strange face of one of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

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The temple bell inside the Beopyeong-ru Pavilion.

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The protective Seolbeop-jeon Hall.

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It was a cool and icy -20 degrees when I visited Bulyeongsa Temple.

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The Daeung-jeon Hall that’s fronted by the early Goryeo-era three tier pagoda.

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Another look at the three tier pagoda from the main hall.

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The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Dokseong statue and mural to the left rear of the main hall.

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And in the right rear corner of the main hall are these sari.

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A historic dragon mural adorning the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A crane riding assistant.

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The Sanshin-gak to the left rear of the main hall.

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With the alien-like eyes of the tiger painted in the Sanshin mural.

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