Yonghwasa Temple – 용화사 (Tongyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The temple courtyard at Yonghwasa Temple in Tongyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone,

A city I had long wanted to visit was the picturesque city of Tongyeong along the coastal waters of Gyeongsangnam-do. And what better way to visit a city than to see a couple of the local temples. So with Yonghwasa Temple seemingly the pick of the litter, I decided to go.

Neighbouring a nearby park, and soaring above the city, is Yonghwasa Temple (용화사). Yonghwasa Temple dates back to 632, when it was first called Cheongsusa Temple. However, it’s name was changed to its present name in 1628 after a devastating fire destroyed the temple complex. Most of the present buildings date back to the 19th century.

When you first arrive at the temple, you’ll be greeted by a couple unique stone structures on the lower terrace. The first is a four-headed turtle stele. It’s joined to the left by a replica of the Asoka Pillar. It was built after a temple monk visited India in the 1960s. The pillar stretches high into the sky, and the Asoka Pillar is an exact replica of the original all except for the stone ball built on top of the pillar.

Further along, and to the left, you’ll enter into the main temple courtyard. To your immediate right in the compact temple courtyard is the administrative offices at Yonghwasa Temple. To the left, and rather uniquely, is a plain looking building that actually acts as the Myeongbu-jeon Judgment Hall at the temple. Usually a Myeongbu-jeon is ornately decorated with grotesque paintings of the dead being judged. However, this hall at Yonghwasa Temple is natural in appearance with a plain white coat of paint around its exterior. As for the low-ceilinged interior of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, it’s packed with the 10 Kings of the Underworld as well as Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Underworld) that sits on the main altar. The statues that depict the 10 Kings of the Underworld are rather old looking even if the hall may not be.

The final building of any significance at the temple is the main hall. While compact in size, much like the rest of the temple, the main hall is packed with a lot of stuff. First, sitting on the glass-encased main altar are a triad of statues. Sitting in the centre is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s flanked by Daesaeji-bosal (The Power and Wisdom of Amita-bul), as well as Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the left of the main altar are two shaman deity murals. The first, and perhaps more impressive, is the San shin (The Mountain Spirit) mural. He’s joined by a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And to the immediate right of the main altar is a mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Recluse). The final mural inside the main hall, and next to the Dokseong mural, is the guardian mural. This mural is both older and large in size.

As for the rest of the temple compound, there does seem to be a bit of newer construction going on at Yonghwasa Temple. There appears to be two new shrine halls being built to the left of the main hall. And a bit further to the left of these yet to be finished shrine halls is what looks to be a retirement home.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Tongyeong Intercity Bus Terminal (통영 종합 버스 터미널 – Tongyeong Jonghap Bus Terminal) to get to Yonghwasa Temple. From the Tongyeong Intercity Bus Terminal, you can catch city bus #231. In total, you’ll have to stay on the bus for 28 stops. Eventually, you’ll arrive at the Yonghwasa Temple stop. After you get off at this stop, you’ll have to walk 10 to 15 minutes, or 400 metres, to get to Yonghwasa Temple.

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OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. While not the largest, nor the most impressive temple you’ll see in South Korea, there are still quite a few things to see at Yonghwasa Temple. Good examples of the temples originality are the Asoka Pillar replica, the four-headed stele next to the pillar, the San shin mural, and the statues of the 10 Kings of the Underworld inside the newer looking Myeongbu-jeon Judgment Hall.

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The entrance to the temple grounds.
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The replica of the Asoka Pillar and the four-headed turtle stele to the right of it.
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The view as you enter into the temple courtyard. With the main hall in the centre and the Myeongbu-jeon Judgment Hall to the left.
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A look inside the atypical Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Sitting on the altar is a statue of Jijang-bosal and he’s surrounded by the 10 Kings of the Underworld as well as various guardians.
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A look at the various statues inside the hall.
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A better look at just one of the 10 Kings of the Underworld.
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The glass encased statue of the golden Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
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A look inside the main hall at the altar inside of it. Sitting in the centre is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And he’s joined by Daesaeji-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal.
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A look at the realistic painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) to the left of the main altar.
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To the right of the main altar is this statue and painting of Dokseong (The Recluse).
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And on the far right wall of the main hall is this older looking guardian mural.
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A look at the temple courtyard from the entrance of the main hall.
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A painting of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that adorns the exterior eaves of the main hall.
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A Fish-Shaped wind chime that adorns the main hall under a beautiful blue sky.
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And lastly, the two new shrine halls that are still under construction at Yonghwasa Temple.

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