Sambulsa Temple – 삼불사 (Gyeongju)

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 The shelter that houses the three Buddhas at Sambulsa Temple in Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Ever since visiting the neighbouring Samneung-gol valley on Mt. Namsan in Gyeongju, I wanted to visit Sambulsa Temple. The only reason that I didn’t the day that I had visited Samneung-gol valley is that I was exhausted after reaching the summit this past winter vacation. So with all that being said, I finally made amends and visited Sambulsa Temple this past weekend.

When you first get to the temple, you’ll arrive at the parking lot for the trail head for a part of Mt. Namsan. A mere 200 metres up the trail, and you’ll come to the entrance of Sambulsa Temple, which means Three Buddhas Temple in English, to your left.

Arriving at the temple courtyard, you’ll first be greeted by a strangely constructed four tier pagoda. It appears as though the final tier on top, as well as the finial are older in construction compared to the body and base of the pagoda. Straight ahead is a diminutive main hall. Surrounding the exterior walls are beautifully painted flowers as well as paintings of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). As for the interior of the main hall, and sitting all alone on the altar, is a large statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the right of the main altar is a guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall are the monks’ quarters. And to the immediate right of the main hall is the Sanshin-gak. Inside this hall hangs a beautiful, and white-clad, Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural. And to the left of this mural is a very unique painting of a tiger smoking, what looks to be, a pipe that is being held up by two rabbits.

But the real highlight to this temple, and the reason that the temple has the name that it does, are the three statues that stand a little further to the right of the Sanshin-gak. These three Buddhist statues, which stand inside a wooden pavilion, were first moved to Sambulsa Temple in 1923 from the Seonbong temple site. The statue in the middle is believed to be Seokgamoni-bul, and it stands 2.6 metres in height. The statue that stands to the left is believed to be Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This statue stands out for the intricacy of the nimbus that surrounds the statues head. And the statue that stands to the right is believed to be Bohyun-bosal. Both of the accompanying statues stand 2.3 metres in height. All three are believed to date back to the 7th century during the Silla Kingdom.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Sambulsa, on Mt. Namsan, you’ll first have to get to Gyeongju. Once in Gyeongju, and at the Intercity Bus Terminal, you can catch either bus #502 or #504 across from the terminal. Just make sure with the driver that they’re heading in that direction. So simply ask, “Namsan Sambulsa,” in Korean. You can either take the bus or you can get a taxi to take you. Again, simply say, “Namsan Sambulsa,” and the driver will do the rest. In total, the trip should cost you about 8,000 won. From where both the bus or the taxi drops you off at the parking lot, the large trail head to Mt. Namsan is straight ahead. Just to the left, and only 200 metres in, you’ll see Sambulsa Temple.


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OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. Without a doubt, the three statues of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas are the highlight to the temple. How often can you simply go for a hike and come across statues that date back to the 7th century. Not too often, at least not where I’m from. And to top it off, they are beautiful and expertly executed. Add to this the unique Sanshin-gak paintings, and you’ll have a great reason to stop by Sambulsa Temple during your travels around Gyeongju, and Mt. Namsan in particular. Also, the close proximity to Samneung-gol valley makes for quite a nice day trip.

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The entrance at Sambulsa Temple.

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The four tiered pagoda and main hall that lies beyond the trees.

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A clearer look at the older looking main hall at Sambulsa Temple.

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And a better look at the four tiered stone pagoda.

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Inside the main hall, and all alone on the main altar, sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).

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To the right of Seokgamoni-bul is this guardian mural.

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To the right of the main hall is this compact Samseong-gak.

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Inside this hall hangs a very unique, and white-clad, Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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To the left of the main altar, and painted on the wall, is this tiger picture. Note the tiger smoking a pipe, while two rabbits assist him.

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Now, the real highlight to this temple are the three large stone statues that date back to the 7th century.

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The three stone statues. In the centre is Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined to the right by  Bohyun-bosal and to the left by Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A closer look at Seokgamoni-bul.

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A closer look at Bohyun-bosal.

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And a closer look at Gwanseeum-bosal and the beautiful nimbus that surrounds her head.

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 One last look at the temple grounds before it was time to visit yet another temple on Mt. Namsan.

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