Colonial Korea: Gwanryongsa Temple – 관룡사 (Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The early Joseon Dynasty era Yaksa-jeon Hall at Gwanryongsa Temple in 1933.

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Just south of the 753 metre peak of Mt. Gwanryongsan in the scenic city of Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do lies the historic Gwanryongsa Temple. The name of the temple harkens back to the famed monk, Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.). One day while Wonhyo-daesa was praying with one of his disciples, Songpa, during a one hundred day prayer session, they saw nine dragons appear from a neighbouring pond and soar up to the sky around the peaks of Mt. Hwawangsan. With this in mind, “Gwan” means “see” in Chinese characters, while “ryong” means “dragon.” So the name of the temple, Gwanryongsa Temple, literally means “See Dragon Temple,” in English.

While Gwanryongsa Temple was considered one of the eight most important temples of the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C.E to 935 A.D), the exact date of the temples creation is unknown; however, this hasn’t prevented scholars from speculating. One foundation myth states that Gwanryongsa Temple was first established in 349 A.D., while another states that the temple was first built in 583 A.D. by Jeungbeop-guksa.

In total, Gwanryongsa Temple houses six Korean Treasures. Of special note is the Yaksa-jeon Hall, which dates back to the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the Stone Seated Buddha at Yongseondae Cliff that dates back to the Unified Silla Dynasty (668 A.D. to 935 A.D.), as well as the large mural of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the back side of the Daeung-jeon Hall’s main altar.

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The Woneum-ru Pavilion from 1933.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall in 1933.

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Inside the Daeung-jeon main hall at Gwanryongsa Temple.

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Another look around the interior of the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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A look towards the large canopy that hangs over the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A look at the historic Yaksa-jeon Hall, which also just so happens to be Gwanryongsa Temple’s oldest building.

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Another look at the Yaksa-jeon Hall in 1933.

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The Woneum-ru Pavilion in 2012.

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A scenic mountainside look at the Daeung-jeon Hall in 2012.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at the main altar’s colourful canopy.

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The backside of the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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Approaching the Yaksa-jeon Hall.

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A better look at the Yaksa-jeon Hall in 2012.

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