Yonghwasa Temple – 용화사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The seated stone yeorae statue, from the mid to late Silla Dynasty, at Yonghwasa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

With my wife spending the night at the in-laws, I decided to wake up early and visit a couple of temples in the area that I had wanted to see for a while.  With the GPS as my guide, I turned up the music in the car and headed over to Yonghwasa Temple (용화사) here in Yangsan. And from what my GPS was telling me, the car ride was a short 7 kilometre drive. So up the winding hillside road that skirts the Nakdong River, I made my way towards the temple. And down the steep face of the mountain, down a little gravel road, I finally arrived at Yonghwasa Temple.

The temple itself is extremely modest with only three temple structures on the compound.  Straight ahead is the main temple building.  To the left is the monk dormitory.  And to the right is the shrine hall for San Shin. The monk dorm is a hodge-podge of material that almost resembles a modern day shack. The shrine hall, on the other hand, stands beside the main hall instead of behind it.  It’s perched on a man-made outcropping adjacent to the mountain. Outside, there is a fiercely realistic painting of two tigers.  Inside, there are three murals.  One is a beautiful painting of Sanshin (The Mountain god), while the other two are traditional Buddhist paintings found typically in shrine halls.

But what makes Yonghwasa Temple stand out is its seated stone yeorae statue from the mid to late Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935 A.D.) in the main hall. The statue was originally housed in the temple site Gamro-ri Sangdong-myeon, in Gimhae; however, the statue was transferred to the Nakdong riverside at the end of the Joseon Period (the 1800’s). And it was finally moved to Yonghwasa Temple, where it’s presently housed, in February of 1947. The statue’s features: narrow eyes, small mouth and nose, are typical of sculptures from the late Unified Silla Period.  On the nimbus (the statue’s base), there are engraved flames, lotus flowers, and clouds. The characteristics of the statues are mid-Silla, but the detailed facial features are late-Silla Period in their design.  And the painted white eyes are a recent addition to the sculpture.

Additionally, in the main hall, there are a couple unique paintings contained within the building. There is an all-black guardian painting with the individuals in the painting only their faces painted white.  I’ve never seen a similar painting at any other temple in Korea.  There are also a couple other older paintings, portraying different gods, inside the main hall. Another unique aspect to this main hall is that there are no paintings on the outside of the main hall.  There are a couple decorative flower paintings on the exterior of the main hall, but there are no ox-herding murals, or the more common paintings detailing the life of the Buddha, on the outside of the main hall.  This absence is unique to Korean temples.

HOW TO GET THERE:  There are two ways to get to Yonghwasa Temple.  Either you can walk the 8 to 10 kilometre distance, with a good map, from the PNU Yangsan Campus subway station, or you can hire a taxi to drive you the distance.  The total cost of the ride would probably be just under 10,000 won. Admission to the temple is free.

View 용화사 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 3.5/10. All but for the seated stone yeorae statue, Yonghwasa Temple has very little else to offer the Korean temple adventurer. The monk dorm quarters are non-descript, and the outside of the temple buildings are rather plain and boring.  However, the interior paintings of the shrine hall and the main hall somewhat redeem the aesthetic of this temple.  Also, the uniqueness of the beautifully intact stone statue from the mid to late Silla Dynasty, make this temple somewhat worth seeing for the more die hard temple adventurer.  See this temple at your own discretion.

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The road that leads down to Yonghwasa Temple with the Nakdong River in the centre.
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That way to Yonghwasa Temple (용화사).
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The shrine hall at Yonghwasa Temple.
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One of two tigers adorning the exterior of the shrine hall.
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The painting dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), inside the shrine hall.
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A painting of Yongwang inside the shrine hall at Yonghwasa Temple.
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A view of the main hall from the shrine hall.
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The front doors and the inscription above the main hall.
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An ancient memorial tablet to the left of the main hall.
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A couple small statues in the cracks of the neighbouring mountainside at the temple.
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Umm….the patented spoon lock at the main hall?
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The uniquely all-black guardian painting inside the main hall at Yonghwasa Temple.
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 One of the older paintings I’ve seen inside of a main hall at any temple in Korea.
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Another of the beautiful paintings inside the main hall at Yonghwasa Temple.
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Another picture of the ancient seated stone yeorae statue at Yonghwasa Temple.  It dates back to around 700 to 900 A.D.
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 An upclose picture of the finely sculpted features of the Buddha from the mid to late Silla Dynasty.
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There were about 50 of these tiny gold Buddha statues and about 50 tiny white Buddha statues.
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An upclose of Jijang Bosal.  This tiny Buddha was dedicated to someone named Yeo Min Gyeong.
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One last look at the shrine hall at Yonghwasa Temple from the main hall.
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One last look across the main hall with the paper lanterns on display for the Buddha’s birthday on May 10th.

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