The view of the main hall and temple courtyard at Jeokcheonsa Temple in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do.
Hello Again Everyone!!
You first approach the very rural Jeokcheonsa Temple up a long winding road. In fact, you go for so long, you might think that there’s no end to the road. When you do finally emerge on the other end, a yapping dog from one of the neighbouring houses will greet you at Jeokcheonsa Temple. It’s only then that you’ll know that you’ve finally arrive at the temple.
As for temple structures, the first thing to greet you is a weather-worn Cheonwangmun Gate. Because the temple is rather smallish in size, it’s surprising that they have such a beautiful gate dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings. As you step inside the Cheonwangmun Gate, you’ll be greeted by four smiling kings. And underneath their feet, if you look down, you’ll notice that they’re trampling demonic demons.
Having passed through this gate, and greeting you on the other side, is a beautifully large Boje-ru pavilion. You’ll need to slouch down a bit so that you don’t bump your head when passing through this pavilion. Climbing the set of stairs that leads up to Jeokcheonsa Temple’s main courtyard, you’ll be greeted by a collection of halls and buildings.
To your immediate left is the temple’s understated bell pavilion. It has a beautifully polished bronze bell that’s joined by an equally attractive fish gong and cloud gong. And to your immediate right are a row of monks’ quarters, the temple’s kitchen, and the visitors’ centre. Neighbouring the temple’s bell pavilion is the rather long Myeongbu-jeon. All but unadorned, the exterior walls only have the standard dancheong colours painted on their walls. Inside the Myeongbu-jeon are the typical statues of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and the Ten Kings of the Underworld.
Slightly to the right, and straight ahead, is the main hall at Jeokcheonsa Temple. The exterior walls are painted with some of the more original paintings you’ll see at a Korean temple. There are the atypically painted Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals on the right to rear side of the hall.
As for the left, you can find the Bodhidharma and an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal painting. Unfortunately, the doors to this hall were locked when I visited, and I think it’s pretty standard judging from the signs on the wall. However, if you’re lucky enough to get in, a triad of statues on the main altar will greet you. The golden statues are centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s joined on either side by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).
To the left and right of the main hall are two smaller sized shrine halls. The one to the left is dedicated to the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). Inside this hall are all-white stone statues dedicated to the Nahan. And they are joined in the centre by Seokgamoni-bul. The exterior walls to this hall are painted with some beautiful pastoral paintings. As to the right, and joined by some more monks’ dorms, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. As you first enter this hall, you’ll be greeted by a strange, but older-looking, mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). This strange painting is fronted by a statue of the shaman deity. Just to the right of Sanshin hangs an equally old painting of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). And rather atypically, the oldest-looking painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) hangs on the far right wall. Usually, Chilseong hangs in the centre, and he’s joined on either side by Sanshin to the left and Dokseong to the right, but I guess the head-monk at Jeokcheonsa Temple had something else in mind.
HOW TO GET THERE: Unfortunately, there’s no public transportation that goes directly to Jeokcheonsa Temple; instead, you’ll need to take a taxi from the Cheongdo Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should take you about 20 minutes, and it’ll set you back about 8,000 won.
OVERALL RATING: 6/10. If all the halls to this temple were open, perhaps it would slightly be rated a bit higher. But because the main hall and Myeongbu-jeon were off-limits when I visited, the rating goes down a bit. However, even with all that in mind, the beautiful Cheonwangmun Gate, the large Boje-ru pavilion, and the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall that houses the older-looking murals kind of counter-balances this deficiency.
A look up at the Cheonwangmun Gate at Jeokcheonsa Temple.
Just one of the smiling Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.
And one of the demons being trampled under foot.
A look towards the Boje-ru pavilion from the Cheonwangmun Gate.
A better look at the rather overstated Boje-ru pavilion.
The spacious bell pavilion at Jeokcheonsa Temple.
The polished bell at the temple.
The rather long Myeongbu-jeon at Jeokcheonsa Temple.
A look at the triad of shrine halls at the temple with the main hall front and centre.
An all-white Gwanseeum-bosal that’s painted on the main hall.
She’s joined by the Bodhidharma.
And the collection of atypical-looking Shimu-do murals.
The Nahan-jeon to the left of the main hall.
With some pretty amazing murals adorning its exterior walls.
A look inside the Nahan-jeon at the all-white stone sculptures of the Nahan.
And to the right of the main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
A look inside at the older-looking mural of Dokseong.
Who is joined to the right by this equally older-looking Chilseong mural.