Naksansa Temple – 낙산사 (Yangyang, Gangwon-do)

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The 18 Metre Tall Gwanseeum-bosal Statue at Naksansa Temple in Yangyang, Gangwon-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Naksansa Temple was first founded in 671 C.E. by the famed monk, Uisang-daesa. The name Naksansa Temple is an abbreviation of “Botarakgasan.” The name “Naksan” refers to Mt. Potalaka in India, where it’s believed that Gwanseeum-bosal (Avalokitesvara) lives. Gwanseeum-bosal is believed to live on an island surrounded by the sea along with guardian dragons. It’s along the coastal waters of Naksansa Temple in Yangyang, Gangwon-do that Uisang-daesa meditated. He had a visit from Gwanseeum-bosal who told Uisang to build a temple on Mt. Naksan, which is where the temple is located. Throughout the years, Naksansa Temple has been destroyed by fire more than most Korean temples. The temple was first destroyed by the invading Mongols during the 13th century. After that, it was repeatedly reconstructed and expanded by royal order in 1467, 1469, 1631, and 1643. After all this expansion, the temple was completely destroyed during the Korean War in 1953. It was from this period in time that most of the temple buildings dated back to, but it was the April, 2005 fire that was most damaging. It completely destroyed Naksansa Temple including a 15th century temple bell that just so happened to be a national treasure. Fortunately for us, the temple has been completely rebuilt for an all new generation of temple adventurers.

You make your way up to the temple from the temple parking lot. The well-manicured grounds are something to enjoy as you make your way to the temple grounds. The first thing to greet you at the temple is the fortress like entry gate.

Walking a little further, and finally cresting the hill that Naksansa Temple sits upon, you’ll notice the rebuilt bell pavilion to the far left side. Straight ahead is the Cheonwangmun Gate with the Four Heavenly Kings inside with bulging eyes. The next structure to greet you is the strangely shaped Binil-ru Pavilion that seems to be just as wide as it is long. Typically, these types of pavilions are rather long in length.

Having passed through the crescent-shaped gate, you’ll enter into the lower courtyard at Naksansa Temple. Other than collecting your breath or sitting to enjoy the view, there is nothing for a visitor to see. You’ll have to go a little further if you want to see anything.

Past a gate that is adorned with descriptive murals of both the guardians Heng and Ha is the upper courtyard. Resting in the middle of the upper courtyard is a seven-tier stone pagoda that was purportedly constructed, at least in part, by Uisang-daesa. Housed inside the ornately decorated Wontong-jeon main hall is a slender statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. With a large golden crown on her head, she sits all alone in the main hall.

However, the real highlight to this temple is the crowning Gwaseeum-bosal statue that’s called Haesugwaneumsang (해수관음입상). Standing 18 metres in height, the serene-looking Gwanseeum-bosal looks out towards the southeast. The peaceful, granite statue was first constructed in 1977 and it took 700 tons of granite to build. It’s perhaps the most beautiful of its kind in all of Korea.

After having seen the Haesugwaneumsang statue of Gwanseeum-bosal, you can take a path down towards the lower courtyard which houses the large sized Bota-jeon. The exterior walls to this hall are painted in some of the most original murals dedicated to Uisang-daesa in all of Korea. The murals cover the duration of the famed monk’s life like his voyage home with Lady Seonmyo at his back as he returns to Korea, as well as the floating rock mural from the establishment of Buseoksa Temple. Inside this hall are some of the 33 incarnations of Gwanseeum-bosal. They are both beautifully and masterfully executed. Out in front of the Bota-jeon is a seven-tier stone pagoda.

As you make your way out from the lower courtyard, you’ll notice a Myeongbu-jeon Hall to your left with the Boje-ru Pavilion straight ahead. It’s just past this two-story bell pavilion that you’ll come to a beautiful lotus pond. Sitting in the centre of this well stocked pond sits a stone statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Naksansa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Yangyang Intercity Bus Terminal. From there, you’ll need to take Bus #9 or #9-1 headed towards Naksansa Temple. The bus ride will take about 10 to 15 minutes. You can do that or simply take a taxi from the Yangyang Intercity Bus Terminal. The taxi should take about 10 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10. Of course the crowning Gwanseeum-bosal is the main highlight to Naksansa Temple. With its sheer size and serene beauty, it isn’t hard to tell. There are a few other highlights, as well, like the regal Gwanseeum-bosal inside the temple’s main hall and the beautifully manicured temple grounds. Also, the lower courtyard with the amazing Bota-jeon Hall and the lotus pond are pretty amazing in their own right. Add into the mix the scenic ocean views, and Naksansa Temple can make for a nice day trip in Gangwon-do.

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Th scenic walk up to Naksansa Temple.

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The entrance gate that greets you at the temple.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate at the temple.

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One of the eye-bulging Heavenly Kings.

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The temple’s bell pavilion.

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The crescent-shaped entryway to the Boje-ru.

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A look up at the upper courtyard.

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A look at the seven-tier stone pagoda in the upper courtyard.

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A look up at a beautiful sky and the Wontong-jeon.

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The main altar inside the Wontong-jeon.

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The beautiful earthen fence and blue sky at Naksansa Temple.

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The sites as you make your way towards Gwanseeum-bosal.

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Gwanseeum-bosal coming into view.

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The serene, and massive, granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A closer look upwards.

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And the amazing view that Gwanseeum-bosal enjoys.

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The path that leads down to the Bota-jeon.

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The Bota-jeon Hall.

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The Floating Rock scene from the establishment of Buseoksa Temple.

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Uisang returning to the Korean peninsula.

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A look inside the amazing Bota-jeon at Naksansa Temple.

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The view from the Bota-jeon out towards the Myeongbu-jeon and the temple’s Boje-ru.

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The amazing lotus pond at Naksansa Temple.

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A better look at one of the white lotus flowers.

3 thoughts on “Naksansa Temple – 낙산사 (Yangyang, Gangwon-do)

  1. Hey Dale,
    Great photos. How unusual to see a lotus pond at a Buddhist temple, especially white lotus. Is this pond new or did it survive the Korean war? Do you think there is any truth to the idea that it is the temples with particularly female associations which have them? I have read this somewhere but I think it was in relation to circular ponds whereas this one is obviously square.
    Received your book. You mention that you are writing another one. If you do I will volunteer to write an index for you which will make it a lot easier for tourists to actually locate the temples.
    Cheers, Jill

    • Hello Jill,

      Thank you about the pictures. I really enjoyed Naksansa Temple. It’s gorgeous. I would guess that the pond pre-dates the Korean war. I tend to agree that a temple run by nuns is more beautiful than one run by monks. There are exceptions, of course, but I tend to believe this is true as a general rule. There is a book that just came into my possession called, “The Secret Spirit of Korean Architecture.” There is a section solely on Korean Gardens: about 50 pages of it. If you can get your hands on it, I would highly recommend it, as it could help you with your book.

      And thank you for volunteering in writing the index. I hope you’re enjoying it.

  2. Pingback: Naksansa Temple | The Soul of Seoul

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