Beopheungsa Temple – 법흥사 (Yeongwol, Gangwon-do)

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The Jeokmyeol Bogung at Beopheungsa Temple in Yeongwol, Gangwon-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Beopheungsa Temple, which was first known as Heungmyeongsa Temple, was first established in 647 C.E. by Master Jajang-yulsa. It was also one of the Seonjong Gusan (the Nine Holy Zen-sect Buddhist temples). It was also one of the five temples that Jajang-yulsa established Jeokmyeol Bogung Halls to place the Buddha’s sari (crystallized remains) inside for people to worship. Unfortunately, and throughout the years, the temple has been destroyed and rebuilt after numerous devastating fires.

You first approach the temple grounds up a road that is lined with beautiful mature trees. Halfway up the road, you’ll see the wide Iljumun Gate with an elephant and dragon as foundation stones for the pair of pillars.

Having made your way up the road that leads to Beopheungsa Temple, you’ll be greeted by the Woneum-ru Pavilion that houses the temple’s bell pavilion on the second floor of the structure. Having passed under this pavilion, you’ll notice a collection of buildings meant for the monks as well as the gift shop and visitors’ centre. To the left, there’s an expansive temple courtyard that is largely unoccupied, which hearkens back to the temple’s fiery past.

The main hall in the lower courtyard is the Geukrak-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are only adorned with the dancheong colour scheme, but there is a beautiful, but diminutive, stone lantern reminiscent of the one found at Beopjusa Temple. As for sitting inside the Geukrak-jeon, you’ll find a beautiful statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), who is colourfully clothed in painted silks. He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Both are equally regal in appearance.

To the left of the main hall is the Josa-jeon with a mural of Jajang-yulsa front and centre. It’s between this hall and a second bell pavilion that you’ll find the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this newly constructed hall is a triad of murals centred by Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This painting is joined to the right by a standard mural of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and to the left by Yongwang (The Dragon King). This painting, of the set, is the most masterful with a seated image of Yongwang staring off into the distance with an angry expression on his face.

The far hall in the lower courtyard is the Mandala-jeon, which has a painting of the Buddha hanging in this diminutive hall, as well as a sand mandala. This type of hall is a first for me at a Korean Buddhist temple. The other items in the lower courtyard are a budo and stele dedicated to both Jinghyo-guksa (826-900), as well as an unknown monk, which dates to around the time of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

The true highlight to this temple lies up a path lined with red pines. The first building to greet you, and slightly up an embankment, is the Yaksa-jeon dedicated to the Buddha of Medicine. Just behind this hall is one of the most unique Sanshin-gaks that I’ve seen in all of Korea. Immediately when you step inside this shaman shrine hall, you’ll be greeted by three separate paintings and statues of three different Sanshins (Mountain Spirits). In the centre sits an elderly image of Sanshin, while to the left is another image of a male Sanshin, but this time, with a headdress. To the right of the central figure is a female Sanshin. All three are amazing in appearance and composition.

The final structure at the temple is the most famous. The Jeokmyeol Bogung hall, just like the main hall at Tongdosa Temple, is without an image or statue of the Buddha housed inside the hall. Instead, a window looks out onto Mt. Sajasan, which is purportedly where Jajang-yulsa buried the sari (the Buddha’s crystallized remains). In addition to the buried sari, there is also a cave, the Jajang-yulsa Togul, at the base of the embankment where Jajang formerly prayed. The views of the surrounding mountains are spectacular and give the best reason as to why Jajang decided to created one of the five Jeokmyeol Bogung at the future site of Beopheungsa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: The closest major city to Beopheungsa Temple is Wonju. From the Wonju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a bus to Jucheon. The bus ride takes about 50 minutes. Then from Jucheon, you can take a local bus to Beopheungsa Temple, which leaves five times daily and takes about 30 minutes in duration.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. While there are only really a handful of halls that a visitor can see, they’re pretty special. Starting at the extremely rare Jeokmyeol Bogung that crowns the temple and leading all the way down to the centrally located Geukrak-jeon Hall on the lower courtyard, there is a lot to occupy the temple adventurer. And when you add into the mix the triad of Sanshin images and the fiery image of Yongwang inside the Samseong-gak, and you’ll know why I rate Beopheungsa Temple as highly as I do.

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The Iljumun Gate at Beopheungsa Temple.

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The Woneum-ru Pavilion that welcomes you to the temple grounds.

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The temple courtyard with the Geukrak-jeon to the right.

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A look inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall at the main altar.

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The newly constructed Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The Yongwang mural with Munsu-bosal up in the clouds.

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The view from the Samseong-gak down at the second bell pavilion.

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The Mandala-jeon.

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The path that leads up to the Buddha’s remains.

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The Yaksa-jeon.

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A look up at the Sanshin-gak, which is situated behind the Yaksa-jeon.

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The triad of Sanshin incarnations.

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The way to the Jeokmyeol Bogung.

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A look towards the hall that looks out onto the Buddha’s remains.

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The mound and the cave where Jajang meditated.

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