The temple courtyard at Bulgoksa Temple in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do.
Hello Again Everyone!!
Located in the heart of Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do, Bulgoksa Temple is a compact temple that is undergoing a bit of a renovation.
When you first approach the temple up a steep road that is located next to terrace upon terrace of parked cars, you’ll first encounter one of the most unique Iljumun Gates in all of Korea (and that’s not hyperbole, either). Looking up at the roof, you’ll notice the bodies of wooden snakes as they lay intertwined with the gate. On one end of the gate is a large turtle, and at the other is a grinning tiger that looks down on you.
Just a little further up the path, and you’ll see one of the smaller sized Boje-ru pavilions straight ahead. To get to the compact temple courtyard, you’ll have to pass under this pavilion; but before you do, have a look to your right at the ancient, and uniquely designed, pagoda.
Having passed through the pavilion, you’ll emerge on the other side to see a handful of halls. The one that lies straight ahead is the smaller sized main hall. The exterior walls are adorned with a beautiful set of Palsang-do murals. As for inside this hall, the statue inside is truly the highlight of the entire temple. Housed inside this hall is a statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) that dates back to the Unified Silla Dynasty, around 850 to 900 A.D. Birojana-bul is seated and he holds his hand in the Diamond Fist mudra. He has a serene looking smile, and he’s seated on a lotus pedestal. This statue is Treasure #436. The rest of the main hall is filled with a guardian murals and an all white-clad mural of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall. The exterior walls are painted with Judgment murals and an intricate Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural. As for the contents of this hall, a golden statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) is backed by a fiery nimbus. On both sides, Jijang-bosal is joined on the altar by a painting of all ten Kings of the Underworld. And between the Myeongbu-jeon and the main hall is a bell pavilion with herbs and flowers growing in a make-shift garden.
The final two halls at Bulgoksa Temple lie to the left of the main hall. The longer of the two is the Gwaneeum-jeon with an extremely elaborate 1,000 armed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside. Joining this statue inside the hall are a pair of guardian murals; also, they were sprucing up the hall by painting the exterior walls. Tucked in between the main hall and the Gwaneeum-jeon is the Samseong-gak. One of the exterior walls is adorned with a realistic orange mural of a tiger just as you’re about to enter this shaman hall. Inside this hall are three rather traditional paintings of the three most popular deities in Korean shamanism: Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), and Dokseong (The Recluse).
HOW TO GET THERE: From the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take bus #801. After five stops, you’ll need to get off at the 사파 동성 아파트 (가음정공원) Stop. Walk along the road towards the south and the Bulgoksa Temple intersection for about 5 minutes. At the intersection, turn right and walk for another 5 minutes. Eventually, you’ll see the temple’s parking lot to your right.
OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. The two highlights of this temple that really stand out are the Iljumun Gate that’s adorned with elaborate wooden carvings and the historic stone statue of Birojana-bul. Besides these two highlights, the elaborate golden statues of Jijang-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal stand out. And with its central location in Changwon, it can make for a pretty relaxing, and beautiful break from the daily grind.
The colourful, yet highly original, Iljumun Gate at Bulgoksa Temple.
The grinning tiger to the left on the Iljumun Gate.
And the blue dragon just to the tiger’s right.
A good look at the compact Boje-ru Pavilion.
To its right is this uniquely designed pagoda that looks like it might have once been a stupa.
The Myeongbu-jeon hall to the right of the main hall.
The Dragon Ship of Wisdom that’s painted on its exterior wall.
Inside is this fiery statue of Jijang-bosal.
Joining Jijang-bosal are wall-to-wall paintings of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.
Between the main hall and the Myeongbu-jeon is the diminutive bell pavilion.
The golden latticework of the main hall.
Just one of the Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.
The ancient statue of Birojana-bul that sits inside the main hall.
To the left of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon and the smaller sized Samseong-gak.
The painting of the life-like tiger on the exterior walls of the Samseong-gak just as you are about to enter it.
The extremely elaborate and ornate statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside the Gwaneeum-jeon.