Gounsa Temple – 고운사 (Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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 A look at part of Gounsa Temple from the main hall.

Hello Again Everyone!!

With my continued exploration of Gyeongsangbuk-do, I thought I would take a look at Gounsa Temple in Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do. This rather remote, and little travelled temple, was a nice surprise.

Gounsa Temple, which means “Solitary Cloud Temple,” in English, was first founded in 681 A.D. by the famous monk, Uisang-daesa. And while the pronunciation of the name of the temple hasn’t changed, the meaning of it has. Formerly, the meaning of this temple’s name was “High Cloud Temple.” The temple was later rebuilt by Choi Chiwon (pen name Goun). It was at this time that the meaning of the temple’s name changed. And during the Imjin War, the warrior monk, Samyeong-daesa, used this temple as a military base for the warrior monks. Additionally, Gounsa is the regional headquarters for the Jogye-jong Buddhist Order, so it manages temples in the area.

Gounsa Temple is surrounded by Mt. Deungunsan (or, Riding in the Clouds Mountain), and up a rather remote valley. In fact, the road that leads into the temple runs over eight kilometers in length. When you do finally arrive at the temple, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful bow-pillared Iljumun Gate. Beyond this gate is the Cheongwangmun Gate with four fierce looking guardians inside.

Before you get to the rest of the temple complex, you’ll be greeted by the oldest building at the temple. Inside this hall, the Yaksa-jeon, sits a faceless statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). But watch your head when you enter this halls, because the ceiling is rather low.

Beyond the Yaksa-jeon, and to the left, sits the most unique building at Gounsa Temple: the Gaunru Pavilion. This pavilion, which was rebuilt in 1835 after a disastrous fire at the temple, stands precariously on thin poles. These poles elevate the pavilion over a stream as though they are defying gravity. As a result, when you translate the name of Gaunru into English it means “Floating Over the Clouds.”

To the left, and over a bridge, you’ll be greeted to the temple by a ferocious looking tiger. To the left are the monks’ living quarters, and to the right is a temple courtyard. This old temple courtyard houses an older looking hall. Inside this hall, and sitting on the main altar, sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And this building is decorated with bluish hued Palsang-do paintings.

Past the visitors’ centre, you’ll come out next to the temple’s bell pavilion, which has a beautiful fish and cloud gong. To the left of the bell pavilion is the Yeonsu-jeon Hall. Very uniquely, this hall enshrines the family records of the royal family. It was built in 1774, and it looks Confucian in style.

To the far right, and still in the same courtyard, you’ll see the brand new, and massive, main hall. The main hall is surrounded on all sides by Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). On the far right wall is the guardian mural, and the entire interior of the main hall is decorated with beautiful Palsang-do murals.

Up the embankment is the older, and much smaller, main hall. To the left, and in a new courtyard, stand a handful of buildings. Most of these buildings are the monks’ living quarters. However, there are three buildings that visitors can in fact visit. The first is a smaller structure that houses a stone statue of Seokjo Seokgayeorae Jwasang (a Buddhist statue designated as National Treasure No. 246).

The other two halls in this area are the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall and the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. The paintings inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall are rather plain in design, while the statues inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall are a bit frightening. The entire temple grounds are surrounded by beautiful red Japanese maples.

On a bit of a side note, I’ve never seen so many butterflies at a temple like I did at Gounsa Temple. It was like the temple grounds were infested with them.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Andong. From Andong, you can catch a local bus to Gounsa Temple. The buses that head towards Gounsa Temple leave at 9:10, 10:40, 1:15, 4:40, and it takes about 40 minutes to get to the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Gounsa Temple, while rather removed from a large neighbouring city, houses a couple of rarities like the beautiful Gaunru Pavilion, the Seokjo Seokgayeorae Jwasang statue, as well as the massive new main hall. To top it all off, the entire temple grounds are beautifully situated and capped off by gorgeous red Japanese maples.

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 The bow-legged pillars on the Iljumun Gate at Gounsa Temple.

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 Next is the Cheonwangmun Gate at the temple.

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 Just one of the ferocious Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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 The faceless statue of the Buddha of Medicine inside the Yaksa-jeon.

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 A colourful look at the Gaunru Pavilion.

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 A better look at the thin pillars that support the weight of the Floating Over the Clouds Pavilion.

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 A ferocious tiger that welcomes you to the first, of three, temple courtyards.

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 The path that leads you towards the monks’ quarters.

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 A pretty ragged door outside the monks’ quarters.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall in the first temple courtyard.

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Inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

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The beautiful view behind the Geukrak-jeon.

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The massive, and new, main hall at Gounsa Temple.

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Inside the spacious main hall with a look at the main altar.

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The bell inside the bell pavilion just out in front of the new main hall.

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The Confucian-looking Yeonsu-jeon that has the family records of the royal family inside.

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 This is the hall that houses the stone statue of Seokjo Seokgayeorae Jwasang (National Treasure # 246) inside.

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A better look at the amazingly preserved Seokjo Seokgayeorae Jwasang statue.

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The beautifully situated Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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A look inside at Dokseong, Chilseong, and Sanshin.

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To the right of the Samseong-gak is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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 And a look at the main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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