Updated: Pyochungsa Temple – 표충사 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The main hall and Gwaneum-jeon at Pyochungsa Temple.

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Pyochungsa Temple was first founded in 654 A.D. by the great monk, Wonhyo-daesa. After meditating at a neighbouring temple, he saw a group of auspicious clouds glowing iridescently above a bamboo forest. He immediately ordered a temple to be built, which turned out to be Jungnimsa Temple (“Bamboo Forest Temple”). He built this new temple on the very spot that he had witnessed the strange phenomenon. Then in 829 A.D., the temple was renamed; it came to be known as Yeongjeongsa Temple (“Temple of the Eternal Well”), after the third son of King Heungdeok was cured of his fatal illness after drinking local water. And the final name change came, when the temple became known as Pyochungsa Temple. During the Imjin War from 1592-98, 700 Buddhist warrior monks fought famously under the monks Samyeong, Seosan, and Giheo. For these acts of courage and bravery, the temple was renamed Pyochunsa Temple, which means “Award for Loyalty Temple,” in English.

From where the bus first lets you off, you’ll make your way towards the temple next to the neighbouring Sijeon Stream. Past Daewonam Hermitage to your far right, the temple will finally come into view through the trees. Pass under the Suchung-ru Pavilion, where you’ll finally enter the temple grounds. Look around, you’ll notice the Garam-gak shrine hall, which houses a tablet to ward off any evil spirits. A little straighter, but still to the left, you’ll notice the temple’s museum. This museum is worth a visit because it houses National Treasure #75, which is a Bronze Incense Burner. It’s believed to date back to 1177.

A little further along, and up a flight of stairs, you’ll pass through the Sacheonwangmun Gate. Housed inside this gate are four of the most expressive Heavenly Kings that you’ll find in Korea. But having finally passed through this gate, you’ll be standing in the lower courtyard at Pyochungsa Temple. In this area, and of note, is the newly built Manil-ru Pavilion. Behind this pavilion is the Chilseong-gak. It houses an older image of the Seven Stars, as well as seven separate incarnations of Chilseong. It’s also in this courtyard that a three-story Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.) pagoda stands 7.7 metres in height.

Up yet another set of stairs, you’ll finally be in the upper courtyard, which also houses the most amount of buildings that visitors can see at the temple. The first building to your left is the Palsang-jeon, which houses a white Buddha and eight paintings from Seokgamoni-bul’s life. Unfortunately, these paintings are just replicas, but they are pretty amazing all the same in their intricacies. To the left of this hall is the Eungjin-jeon. Inside this hall are 16 white statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). Behind these buildings is the Sanshin/Dokseong-gak.

To the right of these two buildings is the beautiful main hall at Pyochungsa Temple. The hall is painted beautifully both inside and out with fierce looking Nathwi protecting the front doors. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of large statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined on either side by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). The base to this altar is one of the most beautiful in all of Korea with water-born animals decorating its entire base. On the far left wall is a guardian mural, while on the far right wall is an older looking mural with Amita-bul in the centre.

The two remaining halls at the temple are the Gwaneum-jeon and the Myeongbu-jeon. The Gwaneeum-jeon is situated to the left framed by the towering mountains to the rear of it. The Gwaneeum-jeon is decorated with some masterful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for inside this hall, there’s a multi-armed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) inside. She is backed by an even more elaborate painting of herself that is joined by Yongwang (The Dragon King) to the side. The other building in the same general vicinity is the Myeongbu-jeon. Housed inside this hall is a green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Uniquely, Jijang-bosal is larger than the ten accompanying seated statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

There’s an interesting little tale attached to Pyochungsa Temple, as well. There’s a rabbit that takes up residence on the temple grounds. Supposedly, the rabbit is viewed as a monk because it has been there for so long. They call it To-bosal (The Rabbit Monk). And because it wants to be there they believe it’s a monk from a former life, now, living at the temple. While rare to see, you’ll sometimes even see monks bowing to the rabbit. So keep your eyes peeled when visiting Pyochungsa Temple.

Admission to the temple is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Miryang Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take a bus that directly goes to Pyochungsa Temple. The bus first leaves at 7:35 a.m. and the last bus departs at 20:20. Throughout the day, the bus runs 12 times a day.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. Pyochungsa Temple is beautifully situated along the Yeongnam Alps. There are numerous halls to visit, as well as the highly artistic Saheongwangmun Gate to see. In combination with National Treasure #75, the Bronze Incense Burner, Pyochungsa Temple is a nice little escape away from bigger city trappings.

Under the Suchung-ru Pavilion and entry to the temple grounds.
The temple museum to the right.
A look towards the upper courtyard.
The Sacheonwangmun Gate.
A look inside at just one of the Four Heavenly Kings.
And one of the demons he is trampling under foot.
The three-tier Unified Silla pagoda.
A look inside the Eungjin-jeon.
The Sanshin/Dokseong-gak.
The rather plain Sanshin mural inside the shaman shrine hall.
The Daeung-jeon and the Palsang-jeon together.
A look inside the Palsang-jeon at the main altar.
The Chilseong-gak to the rear of the main hall.
A look inside the elaborate Chilseong-gak.
Inside the main hall.
One of the main altar paintings.
Just one of the Shimu-do murals adorning the Gwaneum-jeon at Pyochungsa Temple.
A look at Gwanseeum-bosal inside the Gwaneum-jeon.
A peek inside the Myeongbu-jeon.
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Finally, a look at To-Bosal (The Rabbit Monk) sitting beside the bell tower just after the monk had bowed to it.

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