Geumdangsa Temple – 금당사 (Jinan, Jeollabuk-do)


 The Goryeo-era pagoda and golden roofed main hall at Geumdangsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Geumdangsa Temple, which means “Golden Hall Temple,” in English, was first built in 814 A.D. It’s well known as a place where the Goryeon monk, Naong-hwasang, practiced his form of Buddhism. In fact, if you look closely up in the mountains, you can find Naongam Hermitage, which is a secluded grotto where Naong once meditated. More recently, in 1894, General Jeon Bongjun’s daughter sought refuge at the temple. Gen. Jeon Bongjun led the anti-foreigner campaign, mainly against the Japanese, for the brutal punishment meted out to Korean farmers during the Donghak Peasant Revolution. Geumdangsa Temple also acted as a base for Korean guerrilla troops in the Jinan area during Japanese Colonial rule from 1910-1945.

When you first arrive at the temple, which is about a kilometer west of Tapsa Temple, you’ll first be greeted by the gift shop/visitors’ centre to the right. Just a little further along and there are a pair of mythical Haetae that bookend a set of stairs that leads into the main temple courtyard.

To the far left is a golden statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) behind a beautiful artificial pond. Just before you reach this pond, you’ll notice a large collection of stacked stones that travelers have left behind for good luck and a safe journey.

Just to the right of this golden statue and pond is an all-new, yet to be painted, hall dedicated to the historic Gwaebultang painting. In the centre of this large sized painting, which dates back to 1682, is a solemnly faced Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This dominant figure in the painting is surrounded by twenty images of the Buddha in a multi-coloured fiery nimbus. In the past, the painting would be carted out and the monks would offer up prayers for rain during droughts. It is said to be one of the three most important historic murals in Korea alongside the ones at Tongdosa Temple and Muryangsa Temple. This painting is masterful in its execution.

Next to this hall, and to the right, is what looks to be the Yeongsan-jeon. The exterior walls to this hall are painted with the Palsang-do murals. As for the interior, and uniquely hanging on the main altar, are a triad of paintings. It’s unique because there are usually three statues and not just paintings. In the centre is a painting dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by two elaborate paintings of Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).

Just up the embankment, and to the right, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Inside this hall are two newer paintings of Yongwang (The Dragon King) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). These vibrant paintings flank the older looking mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Strangely, between the main hall and this hall is a stone with an inscription on it with a large golden tiger crawling at the top of it.

The most unique hall at the temple is the golden roofed main hall. This newly built shrine hall has some rather crude Palsang-do murals surrounding the exterior walls. Inside the barren interior of the main hall sits a triad of statues on the main altar. The reason I say barren is that there is no large mural backing the triad of main altar statues. Sitting in the centre of the main altar is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined on either side by familiar company: Bohyun-bosal and Munsu-bosal. On the far right wall are a collection of wooden Nahan statues, as well as a guardian mural.

The final hall at the temple is the Myeongbu-jeon. Inside this all-natural exterior is a stately looking statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s joined on either side by some extremely unique yellow based murals. The one to the left is a mural dedicated to the Dragon Ship of Wisdom, while the one to the right is dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

The final thing you can see out in front of the main hall is the smaller sized five-tier pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty.

Admission to the temple, by way of Tapsa Temple, is 2,000 won. However, if you pay 3,000 won, you can see three temples: Tapsa Temple, Geumdangsa Temple, and Eunsusa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll need to get to Jinan Bus Terminal from wherever it is you live in Korea. From the bus terminal, you’ll need to take a bus bound for Maisan Provincial Park. These buses leave every 40 minutes and start at 7:30 in morning and run until 18:00. Once you’re dropped off at the entry to Maisan Provincial Park, you’ll need to walk up the path that leads to Tapsa Temple. A couple hundred metres up the path, and just beyond the restaurants and stores, you’ll see Geumdangsa Temple to your left. It only takes about 5 minutes from where the bus lets you off to get to this temple.

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OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. Surprisingly, for a smaller sized temple, there’s a fair bit to see at Geumdangsa Temple. The two main attractions are the large sized mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal, as well as the five-tier historic pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty. Other highlights are the extremely unique murals inside the Myeongbu-jeon, the vibrant shaman murals inside the Samseong-gak, the tiger crawling stone monument, and the golden roofed main hall. It’s a nice little stop along the way, as you head up towards the much more famous Tapsa Temple.


The beautiful sites that greet you at Geumdangsa Temple.


The collection of stacked rocks left by travelers to the temple.


The large golden statue of Mireuk-bul, which backs a beautiful artificial pond.


The hall that houses the historic Gwaebultang painting.


A look at the beauty of the amazing painting.


An even better look at the face of Gwanseeum-bosal.


To the right of the former hall is the Yeongsan-jeon hall.


Just one of the Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls to the Yeongsan-jeon hall.


A unique look between the two halls to the left of the main hall.


The murals, and not statues, that hang on the main altar inside the Yeongsan-jeon.


The rather plain, and stout, Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.


A close look at Sanshin inside the Samseong-gak.


And a look at the equally vibrant mural dedicated to Yongwang.


The golden tiger topped stone monument with the Samseong-gak in the background.


The golden roofed, and newly built, main hall at Geumdangsa Temple.


One of the amateurish looking Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall.


A look inside at the main altar. Uniquely, there’s yet to hang a mural behind this triad.


A collection of wooden Nahan to the right of the main altar.


To the right of the main altar, and in between the monks’ dorms, is the Myeongbu-jeon.


The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon with Jijang-bosal front and centre.


The beautiful and unique yellow mural dedicated to the Dragon Ship of Wisdom.


Off in the distance is the grotto where the monk Naong used to meditate.

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