Woljeongsa Temple – 월정사 (Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do)

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The Nine-Tier Stone Pagoda at Woljeongsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Woljeongsa Temple, which is located in Odaesan National Park, means “Moon Vitality Temple,” in English. It was first founded in 643 C.E. by the famed master Jajang-yulsa. Like a lot of creation stories, Woljeongsa Temple has an interesting one of its own. Master Jajang was chanting in front of a stone statue of Munsu-bosal, hoping to see the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. On his seventh night of chanting, the Buddha gave Jajang a poem with four lines written in Sanskrit. The next day, a monk said to Jajang that he looked both pale and troubled. Jajang told this monk that he had received a poem that he couldn’t understand. The mysterious monk explained the poem to Jajang and told him to go to Mt. Odaesan, where he would find 10,000 Munsu-bosals. After seven more days, a dragon revealed itself to Jajang. The dragon told Jajang that the old monk he had formerly seen was in fact Munsu-bosal. The dragon went on to tell Jajang that Jajang now had to build a temple dedicated to this Bodhisattva. So in 643 C.E., Jajang reached Mt. Odaesan. However, when he arrived, Mt. Odaesan was covered in fog, so Jajang couldn’t see anything. During the three days that the mountain was covered, Jajang built a thatched hut that would eventually become the site for the future Woljeongsa Temple. More recently, Woljeongsa Temple was completely destroyed, all ten buildings in total, by the Korean Army during the Korean War (1950-53) because it had become a refuge for opposing forces.

Woljeongsa Temple is one of the most beautifully situated temples in Korea, and it becomes more and more obvious as soon as you approach the temple. You’ll first cross over a wide bridge whose rails are decorated with stone statues of the twelve zodiac generals. Finally on the other side, you’ll pass under the Boje-ru, which is adorned with various guardians like Heng and Ha, to gain access to the temple courtyard.

Straight ahead, you’ll immediately notice the nine-story, octagonal shaped, stone pagoda from the Goryeo Dynasty. The uniquely shaped pagoda is not only the main highlight to the temple, but it’s also National Treasure #48. Wind chimes hang on each corner of the pagoda, while a seated stone Bodhisattva is situated out in front making an offering. The original ancient stone Bodhisattva is now currently housed inside the temple museum, which is to the right when you immediately enter the temple courtyard. And to the left is the two-story bell pavilion.

Behind the nine-story stone pagoda is the temple’s main hall, which is framed on the other side by a grassy hill. The rather spacious interior is only occupied by a large sized solitary statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The pillars that neighbour the statue of the Buddha are painted with interweaving dragons. As for the exterior walls, they are adorned with Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals.

To the left and rear of the main hall are four more shrine halls at Woljeongsa Temple. To the far left is the Sugwang-jeon, which houses a highly elaborate relief and statue dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This seated statue is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul).

Just to the right of this hall is the Samseong-gak, which houses three murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars). All three murals are beautiful, but perhaps the Chilseong painting is the most elaborate of the set. Just outside the entrance on the left-hand side to this hall is a mural of a tiger having a smoke with a rabbit. Have a look at this rather playful mural. The other two halls at the temple aren’t open to visitors; they are the Gaesanjo-gak and the Jinyeong-gak

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Woljeongsa Temple, you first need to get to Jinbu Intercity Bus Terminal. From this bus terminal, take a city bus bound for Woljeongsa Temple. This bus leaves 12 times a day, and the ride lasts 30 minutes in total. The bus will let you off just in front of the temple. You can take a bus, or you can simply take a taxi from the Jinbu Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride will last about 30 minutes, and it’ll cost you about 20,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10. Woljeongsa Temple is beautifully located in the folds of Odaesan National Park. Next to the setting, the main highlight to this historic temple is the nine-story stone pagoda that is National Treasure #48. Other things of note at the temple are the shaman murals housed inside the Samseong-gak and the original Bodhisattva making offerings to the pagoda inside the temple’s museum.

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The road that leads up to Woljeongsa Temple.

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The beautiful bridge that spans the neighbouring stream.

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A better look across the zodiac laden bridge at the Boje-ru Pavilion.

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The Boje-ru Pavilion that imposingly obscures the temple courtyard.

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The temple’s bell pavilion.

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The main hall and the nine-tier pagoda out in front.

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A closer look at the hexagonal Goryeo Dynasty pagoda.

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And a look at the Bodhisattva out in front of the pagoda.

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A look inside the main hall at Woljeongsa Temple.

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The shrine halls to the rear of the main hall with the Samseong-gak to the far left.

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The Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural inside the Samseong-gak.

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A look up at the Sugwang-jeon.

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A look inside at Amita-bul on the main altar.

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