Guinsa Temple – 구인사 (Danyang, Chungcheongbuk-do)

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 The Beautiful View from between the Iljumun Gate at Guinsa Temple in Danyang, Chungcheongbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Guinsa Temple, which means “Salvation and Kindness Temple,” in English, is situated up the centre of a valley fold just below Yeonhwabong Peak on the Sobaeksan mountain range. It was first completed in 1945, when the contemporary founder of the Cheontae Order, Sangwol-wongak, built a small hut made from arrowroot vines. During his time here, he received a revelation about the truth of the universe. The temple was renovated and expanded in 1966. Guinsa Temple is the headquarters of the Cheontae Order, and it governs over 140 other temples spread throughout the Korean peninsula. In total, the temple houses a couple dozen shrine halls, meeting centres, dorms, and administrative offices.

You first approach the temple up a gradual incline that becomes a bit steeper as you approach the temple grounds. The first structure to greet you is a commanding and stately Iljumun Gate. Passing through this gate, you’ll notice a building that stacks up neatly against the slopes of the neighbouring mountain. This is just a precursor for all the temple structures at Guinsa Temple. Next, you’ll approach a fortress-like gate that acts as the Cheonwangmun Gate with some fierce looking Four Heavenly Kings on the second floor of this structure.

Past a couple dorms and administrative buildings that are both stacked high on either side of you, you’ll finally come to some buildings at Guinsa Temple that you can actually visit; however, this temple is always busy, even on weekdays. The first structure is a three tier stone pagoda with three elephants at its base. Purportedly, the Buddha’s sari (crystallized remains) are housed inside this pagoda, as they were brought back from the Jetavana monastery in India.

To the right of this hall, and up a flight of stairs, is the Geukrak-jeon. A beautiful collection of Shimu-do, Ox-Herding murals, adorns the exterior walls to this hall. As for inside this rather busy hall, are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And he’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Power and Wisdom of Amita-bul). Just to the right of this hall is the elevated temple bell pavilion.

Just to the north of the Geukrak-jeon is the Gwaneeum-jeon, which is beautifully painted on its exterior walls with the different incarnations of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). As for inside this hall, and seated on the main altar, is a jade statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. She is surrounded on all sides by the Ten Kings of the Underworld and backed by a beautiful multi-armed mural of herself. From both the Geukrak-jeon and the Gwaneeum-jeon, you can get some great pictures of the temple buildings that occupy the valley floor.

Just a little further up the mountain and you’ll come to the massive five story modern main hall. Inside, you’ll find an equally massive statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) sitting on the main altar and being backed by a stunning Vulture Peak relief.

And just to the left of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon, which is golden in colour and somewhat Chinese in design. Inside this hall are some masterful statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). And to the right of the main hall, and up yet another flight of stairs, is the crowning Daejosa-jeon, or the Great Founders Hall. This golden three story hall is fronted by a pair of protective Vajra warriors. As for inside this hall, and sitting on the main altar, there is a golden statue of Sangwon-wongsa.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Guinsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Danyang Intercity Bus Terminal, which is the closest city to the temple. From the bus terminal, you’ll need to board a bus to Guinsa Temple. The bus first leaves at 9:20 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 8:20 p.m. This bus leaves every hour. The very last bus leaves for Guinsa Temple at 8:50 p.m.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with this temple. From what I had read and from what I had seen, I had expected a lot more. First, and a bit of hang-up for me, is that all the buildings are made of concrete, which lends a sense of coldness to a temple. Also, the buildings can be somewhat hard to locate in and among the numerous administrative and dorm halls that toweringly line the narrow valley. However, when you are able to find the halls, they are quite beautiful, but the unexpected climb up to the top of the long valley can take a bit out of even the most curious and inquisitive of temple adventurers.

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The walk up towards the temple grounds.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate at Guinsa Temple.

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The narrow valley that houses towering temple buildings.

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The stone walls that line a portion of the grounds.

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The three tier pagoda that houses some of the Buddha’s remains.

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The view from one of the temple buildings.

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The Geukrak-jeon at Guinsa Temple.

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A look inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

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The neighbouring bell pavilion.

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The view from the Gwaneeum-jeon.

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A look inside the Gwaneeum-jeon at the jade Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A look up at some of the cramped temple halls.

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The modern main hall at Guinsa Temple.

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 One last look across the tops of temple buildings at Guinsa Temple.

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