Munsusa Temple – 문수사 (Ulju-gun, Ulsan)


The heavenly view from Munsusa Temple in Ulsan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Munsusa Temple in Ulsan was recommended to me by a friend. Unfortunately, there were several other temples on my to-see list before it. But during my summer vacation, I was finally able to get out to Ulsan and see this mountain-side temple.

Munsusa Temple (문수사) is situated up in the clouds on Mt. Munsusan. You travel up a 6 kilometre long road until you arrive at the outskirts of the temple that is placed preciously on the face of the mountain. It’s as you approach that you’re able to see some spectacular views of the city of Ulsan down in the valley below as well as the cloud and fog covered peaks of Mt. Munsusan.

Before you pass under the bell pavilion, you’ll pass by the kitchen area to the temple. Just past the kitchen area is a trail that leads up to the peak of the mountain. Also, and between the kitchen and the banks of the mountain, is a path that leads up to the monk-only meditative hall. You’ll get a better look at this crowning hall from the vantage point of the main hall.

Finally having passed under the bell pavilion, you’ll be greeted by the large sized main hall and the adjoining visitors centre. Unfortunately, the front of the main hall is adorned with an ugly green Plexiglas enclosure for the numerous visitors that can’t quite squeeze into the main hall. Sitting and standing on the main altar are five statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In the very centre is a large sized seated statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The two accompanying Bodhisattvas to the immediate right and left of Seokgamoni-bul are Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) [Ed. Thank you Brian Barry for this information]. And the final two, in the set of five, are a standing Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the far left and a standing statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the far right. And on the far left wall is a large sized guardian painting.

Next to the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall dedicated to Jijang-bosal. But before you enter this hall, you’ll notice an aged pagoda between the two halls. Surrounding the exterior of the Myeongbu-jeon hall are some nicely rendered Ox-Herding murals. As soon as you step inside the Myeongbu-jeon hall you’ll be greeted by a colourful main hall with a green haired Jijang-bosal sitting with a golden staff in his left hand. But the true highlight to this hall are the extremely grotesque paintings for sinners that adorn the interior walls to this hall. Usually, they’re saved for the exterior walls, but a bit of creative license was taken with the artistry of this hall. Of note is the vulture eating the eye out of a sinners head.

Behind this hall, and up a set of stairs, is a stone courtyard with two of the more unique stone statues of Buddhas. On the left is a faceless statue of a Buddha that has been formally smashed into three separate pieces. Fortunately for us, this statue has been repaired. Next to this ancient statue is a newer statue dedicated to what looks to be Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). What’s interesting about this statue is the glass orb that he holds in his left hand. Never seen that before.

The final building at Munsusa Temple is the Samseong-gak. Inside, and to the far right, are row upon row of caged electrical candles, which really heats up the hall in the summer. To the left of these electrical candles are paintings dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Recluse) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Of note is the highly original colour scheme of the San shin mural

Admission to the temple is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: There’s really two ways you can get to Munsusa Temple. First, if you decided to travel directly from Ulsan, you can catch the Munsusa Temple shuttle bus from the Ulsan Gongeuptop Rotary. It leaves at 8 and 9 A.M., respectively during the weekdays. The shuttle bus will drop you off at the Munsusa Temple parking lot. From the parking lot, you’ll have to walk an additional 500 metres to get to the temple.

The other way you can get to Munsusa Temple is from Busan. First you’ll have to get to the Nopo-dong subway station. From the bus stop outside the station, you can catch either bus #2300, #1137, #1127, or #2100 and get off at the Shinjeong bus stop and walk to get to the Gongeuptop Rotary. The bus trip from Busan to Ulsan will take about 2 hours. From where the bus drops you off in Shinjeong, you’ll have to walk an additional 5 to 10 minutes to the rotary. And then, much like if you live in Ulsan, you’ll have to take the temple’s shuttle bus.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. By far, the highlight to this temple is the view. If you go on a clear day, you can either see Ulsan and/or the ocean below. And if you go early enough, you can see the fog slowly receding over Mt. Munsusan’s peaks. In addition to all of its natural beauty, the murals inside of the Myeongbu-jeon, the twin statues in the stone courtyard of the Buddha, the set of statues that sit on the altar inside the main hall, and the shaman deity murals inside of the Samseong-gak hall make Munsusa Temple a must see if you’re in the Ulsan area.

When I arrived, the fog was still lifting from the peaks at Mt. Munsusan. CSC_0963
The main hall as you approach the temple grounds.
If you turn left, instead of right, when the path forks, you’ll find this golden Buddha just before the stairs that ascend to the monks’ quarters.
The bell pavilion that you’ll pass under to gain admittance to the temple courtyard.
A different look at the main hall at Munsusa Temple.
A look inside the main hall at the five statues that reside on the altar.
The older looking three tier pagoda that stands between the main hall and the Myeongbu-jeon hall.
Sitting on the colourful altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon hall is this green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
One of the gruesome paintings that welcomes you to the Myeongbu-jeon.
And an even more graphic painting of a sinner having his eye plucked out by a ravenous vulture.
One, of the two, Buddha statues that resides in the upper courtyard at Munsusa Temple.
 The newer Buddha statue that has a crystal orb in front of it.
And in the neighbouring Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is this beautiful San shin (The Mountain Spirit) mural.
And one last look from the temple courtyard up at the monks’ quarters at Munsusa Temple.

2 thoughts on “Munsusa Temple – 문수사 (Ulju-gun, Ulsan)

  1. Dale great post as always. Did you remember to go left before the granite stairs? If you don’t remember on the small path there are a few grottos and shamans. There is also an older shaman helper who is there most days.

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