Sinheungsa Temple – 신흥사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)


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Just one of the mid 17th century painting from inside Daegwangjeon Hall at Sinheungsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

My wife and I have been to most of the major temples in and around Yangsan; however there was one temple we had yet to visit. So yesterday, we headed off to Sinheungsa Temple (not to be confused with the one near Sokcho in Gangwon-do).

Sinheungsa Temple (신흥사) means “New Enjoyment” Temple. And like all Korean temples, Sinheungsa Temple has a great story about why and how it was first built. According to legend, King Suro, the first king of the Gaya Confederation, was praying at the temple when he was advised that there was a poisonous dragon in a neighbouring jade pond.  He was instructed to drive out this poisonous dragon from the countryside. So praying in earnest, the temple building stones turned to fish and drove the dragon out of the countryside and into the East Sea. That’s why now, if you knock on a stone in Sinheungsa Temple, it sounds like metal.  I told you it was great!

Sinheungsa Temple can be approached up an unevenly paved country road. About a 500 metre walk off the main road will bring you to the first gate at the temple. The gate is elaborately painted and is a good indication of what awaits you just up the road. Continuing up the road, and beside the neighbouring stream, you’ll cross over a bridge decorated with a head and body of a dragon. Tying into the creation of the temple, the dragon motif is strong at this temple. Across this bridge, you’ll first notice the visitor’s centre and walled-off compound.  Behind these walls are the temple grounds. The entrance gate with the four heavenly kings is to your right. But don’t rush getting inside, because outside the walls there is plenty to see, like the beautiful stream and bridges. Interestingly, just outside the beautifully adorned second gate, is a pagoda with stones piled on top of it. Through the gateway, and past the four elaborately seated kings, is a beautiful view of the historic treasure: Daegwang-jeon Hall (“Great Light Hall”). Daegwang-jeon Hall is the main hall at the temple. The construction of the temple dates back to 1657. Outside, the temple building is a well-worn brown with the beautiful exterior paintings having been washed away. However, inside the hall, there are uniquely painted pictures of the Buddha, Guardian Spirits, and floral patterns. These paintings date back to the mid-17th century.

This is the centerpiece to the temple, but there are numerous other buildings that are equally beautiful in their design. When you initially walk into the temple grounds, you’ll notice the bell pavilion to your immediate left. This bell pavilion, like the bridge you first crossed over when entering the temple, is ornately decorated with dragons both inside and outside the building’s structure. Beside the bell pavilion is the temple’s Buddhist University. Plainly painted, there is an interesting painting of two scholars playing Baduk (Korean checkers). And up the hill, to the left of the main hall, is the shrine dedicated to the mountain god, San Shin. There are some beautiful views of the neighbouring valley, and a great view of the temple complex. Strangely, to the immediate right of the main hall, is a mini-compound. At first, it almost looked like another dorm for the monks, but looks can be deceiving. With a newly built, yet to be painted, temple building with its back to you, head through the corridor to the left. As you enter though this corridor, you’ll first encounter a hall dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).Like the entire temple, this hall has beautiful paintings decorating it both on the inside and outside of it. To the right of this hall, is the Judgment Hall. This building has four paintings that scarily depict what awaits the life of a sinner. Next to Songnimsa Temple in Daegu, Sinheungsa Temple has the scariest paintings detailing the afterlife for those that have sinned. Inside the Judgment Hall are some of the most unique paintings I have seen at any temple in Korea. These paintings are so unique that I’ve never seen ones coming close to them.

HOW TO GET THERE: Outside of owning a car, or paying a huge amount to a taxi driver, Sinheungsa Temple is nearly impossible to get to. But if there’s a will there’s a way.  To get to Sinheungsa Temple follow Local Road Number 1022 for 24 kilometres outside of Yangsan. And then from there, follow the Wondong/Yongpo-ri for another 5 kilometres. Good luck, and happy hunting! For more information check out Yangsan city website.

View 신흥사 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. I was expecting something small, like Garamsa Temple, but Sinheungsa Temple was a very pleasant surprise. Housing some 10 temple buildings that are all beautifully and elaborately decorated, Sinheungsa Temple rates as one of the best temples I have visited for their temple painting, such as the Judgment Hall, the San Shin shrine hall, the bell pavilion, and the second gate. Added to this is the historically and architecturally important Daegwang-jeon Hall, and you have a temple that is well worth the effort to find.

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The valley where Sinheungsa Temple is housed.
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The first gate that welcomes you to Sinheungsa Temple.
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Just a couple of the unique paintings from inside the first gate.
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The dragon bridge that spans the slowly moving stream. Knowing the myth behind the creation of the temple really helps you understand why there are just so many around the temple.
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Another beautiful stone bridge that spans the stream through the trees.
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A view of the visitors centre and the stone rail that leads up to it.  The stone rail is decorated with dragons, toads, and signs of enlightenment.
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The elaborately decorated second gate with a view of the 17th century Daegwangjeon Hall inside.
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An extremely unique door handle adorning the second gate.
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A painting of one of the guardians adorning the second gate. All of the temple buildings were adorned with beautiful and unique paintings.
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A view of the bell pavilion.
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A look up in the rafters in the bell pavilion reveals even more dragons.
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A view of the temple’s university, the dorms, and the shrine hall dedicated to San Shin (the Mountain God).
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Two scholars playing a game of Baduk (Korean checkers). It’s situated on the southern wall of the university.
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A better look at the shrine hall dedicated to Sanshin.
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On one of the exterior shrine hall walls is this realistic painting of a tiger.  It appears through the trees.
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And this rather odd painting also appears on the exterior walls of the shrine hall.
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This unique painting appears on the inside of the shrine hall.
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The amazing view of the temple compound from the shrine hall.  On the left is Daegwangjeon, and in the middle is the Judgment Hall, and to the right is the second gate.
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The altar pieces inside the historic Daegwangjeon Hall. The Hall dates back to 1657.
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Some more of the paintings that date back to the mid-17th century. They’ve seen better days, but they’re still quite amazing! This specific image is of a guardian.
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This painting depicts different incarnations of the Buddha. It is situated on the left side of the main hall wall.
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This painting of guardians is extremely unique. I’m not too sure if I’ve ever seen a guardian look anything close to this one.
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And blended with the old, is this dynamic painting in the main hall of the various guardians.
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Through this corridor is the hall for Gwanseheum Bosal (the Goddess of Mercy) to the left, the Judgment Hall in the middle, and a yet to be finished hall to the right.
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A statue of Gwanseheum Bosal is the main altar piece inside the hall that bears the gods name.
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Just one of the many unique paintings on the exterior of the Gwanseheum Bosal shrine hall.
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Just one of the scary pictures that adorns the exterior of the Judgment Hall at the temple. Next to Songnimsa Temple in Daegu, Sinheungsa Temple has the second scariest paintings depicting the afterlife of a sinner.
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Be careful of what you say, as the individual in this painting finds out.
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Inside the the Judgment Hall is an ornate altar and Jijang Bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) at its centre.
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One of the more unique paintings inside the Judgment Hall. I won’t even try to explain what it means.  Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated.
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Another of the paintings from inside the Judgment Hall.  It seems more appropriate for Harry Potter.  Again, not even going to hazard a guess.

One thought on “Sinheungsa Temple – 신흥사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

  1. Hello! I am a reporter from The Korea Times Chung Min-uck. We are looking for some foreign writers who can contribute to our Opinion section’s Thoughts of the Times.
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