Naesosa Temple – 내소사 (Buan, Jeollabuk-do)


 The beautiful interior of the main hall at Naesosa Temple in Buan, Jeollabuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On the southern outskirts of Byeonsan Bando National Park lies Naesosa Temple. It was first built by the monk, Hye-gu, in 633, during the Baekje Dynasty. Originally, the temple was called Soraesa Temple. It was later rebuilt one thousand years later, in 1633, by the monk, Cheong-min. It was around the Imjin War that the temple changed its name to Naesosa Temple.

You first approach the temple past the ticket window and the Iljumun Gate. There is about a 600 metre long hike to the Cheonwangmun Gate that is beautifully lined with mature fir trees. Near the very end, and right before this gate, are cherry trees. The rather tall Cheonwangmun Gate houses four rather expressive Heavenly Kings. These kings’ expressions are then matched by the demonic faces of the demons they are trampling under foot.

Just as you emerge on the other side of the Cheonwangmun Gate, you’ll be met by an ugly and gnarled Dangsan tree that is over 1,000 years old. The base of this tree was once used as a site for prayer. Just up the stairs, and on opposite ends of the temple grounds, are two separate bell pavilions. The one to the right houses the contemporary bells used in morning and evening rituals. The compact bell pavilion to the left houses a bronze bell that dates back to 1222, and it has an image of a Buddha on a lotus flower with two Bodhisattvas standing at his side. Originally, this temple belonged to Cheongnimsa Temple, but was moved to its current location in 1850. And even though the bell is compact in appearance, it still weighs 420 kilograms.

You’ll next pass under a meditative pavilion that has little pieces of paper hanging from it with people’s thoughts and prayers on them. Finally, you’ll reappear out from under the pavilion and on the terrace where the main hall is located. Out in front of the main hall is a three-story stone pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty. As for the main hall itself, which was constructed in 1633, it’s said that not a single nail was used in its construction. If you look close enough, you’ll see that there are wooden slats that connect the frame. There is beautiful floral latticework adorning the front doors to the temple, as there are unpainted dragons up in the eaves. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, sits a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of the main altar hangs a colourful and well populated guardian mural. And to the left hangs a uniquely painted red mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). If you look up at the beams, you’ll see an intricate ceiling decorated with dragons and cranes.

There are a collection of monk facilities and dorms to the right of the main hall. But the remaining halls that people can visit at Naesosa Temple are to the left of the main hall. The first is the Josa-jeon Hall. Rather uniquely, there are a lot of these halls in the Jeolla-do area, which honour prominent monks at a temple. The building to the Josa-jeon’s immediate left is the Myeongbu-jeon. This newer looking hall is adorned with some of the most elaborate paintings of the Ten Kings of the Underworld along the exterior walls. Each is represented in their own painting judging over their own territory in the underworld. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a golden-capped, but green-haired, Jijang-bosal. He is joined by newer looking, and vibrantly painted, Ten Kings of the Underworld statues. To the far left is a shrine for the dead, so be respectful while looking in this hall.

Behind these three halls, and slightly up the embankment and a stone trail that winds its way up to it, is a plain looking Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Inside this hall are three folk-like paintings of the three most popular shaman deities to be found at a Korean Buddhist temples: Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), and Dokseong (The Recluse). It’s also from this hall that you get a great view of the temple grounds down below and the towering mountains all around.

Admission to the temple is 2,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: You’ll first need to get to Buan Bus Terminal in Jeollabuk-do. From this bus terminal, you can take a direct bus to Naesosa Temple. The bus will let you off 800 metres outside the temple grounds. You’ll need to make your way towards the entry gate and past all the stores and restaurants that line the way. You can take a bus or a taxi, which takes about 50 minutes from the Buan Bus Terminal, and it will cost you around 30,000 won. The official website says 30 minutes, but this just isn’t true, so be warned.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Like so many temples in Jeollabuk-do, Naesosa Temple is beautifully situated. It doesn’t get much better than Byeonsan Bando National Park, which quickly becomes apparent with the fir and cherry trees that lead the way up to the temple grounds. Once there, the statues inside the Cheonwangmun, both kings and demons, as well as the 13th century bell housed inside its own bell pavilion, are a nice introduction to Naesosa Temple. Then the nail-less main hall and the paintings inside it, as well as the murals adorning the exterior walls of the Myeongbu-jeon, and the folk-like shaman paintings inside the Samseong-gak, are really something to look forward to as a temple adventurer.


 The beautiful fir tree trail that leads up to the temple.


 The rather tall Cheonwangmun Gate at Naesosa Temple.


 The expressive Cheonwang inside the gate.


 The equally expressive demon being trampled under foot.


 The bell pavilion that houses the ancient bell from the 13th century.


 The diminutive bell from 1222.


 The much more modern bell pavilion that’s used by the monks everyday.


 The plain pavilion you pass under to see the main hall at Naesosa Temple.


 The papers with wishes on them from temple visitors.


 The 17th century main hall at Naesosa Temple.


 The amazing interior to the main hall with the intricate ceiling above and the triad of altar statues below.


 The rather different looking red painting of Jijang-bosal.


 The vibrantly coloured guardian mural inside the main hall.


 The monks’ dorms to the right of the main hall.


 The view from the side of the main hall.


 Both the Josa-jeon and the Myeongbu-jeon together.


 One of the horrifying depictions of the underworld that adorns the Myeongbu-jeon.


 And yet another amazing mural.


 A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon at Jijang-bosal.


 To the rear of the temple grounds, and up an embankment, is this plain looking Samseong-gak.


 Inside is this folk-looking Sanshin mural.

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