Gwaneumsa Temple – 관음사 (Jeju City, Jeju-do)

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 The Buddha on the Hillside at Gwaneumsa Temple in Jeju-do Island.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gwaneumsa Temple is named after Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This fairly common temple name in Korea is located on the northeast side of Mt. Hallsan. It’s believed that the temple dates back to sometime during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). However, there is very little proof that indicates the exact year of Gwaneumsa Temple’s construction. During the early 1700’s, when the Joseon royal court proclaimed Confucianism as the state religion, Buddhism suffered horribly from this policy decision. In fact, Gwaneumsa Temple was completely destroyed during this time in Korea’s history. However, in 1912, the temple was rebuilt by the Buddhist nun, Anbongryeokwan. It was later renovated and expanded in 1964.

You’re first greeted to the temple by a wide Iljumun Gate with a copper-coloured roof. Just beyond this is the pathway that leads up to the temple. The pathway is lined by numerous stone statues dedicated to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha), as well as towering cedar trees. It’s perhaps one of the most picturesque entryways to a temple in Korea. Slightly to the right, and just past the cedar trees, is a large statue dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This large statue is surrounded by descriptive statues of various life-sized statues of guardians.

A little further up the trail, and you’ll see the Cheonwangmun Gate that houses murals dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings. There are some more Mireuk-bul statues, this time housed atop stone spires, as well as a cave where monks once meditated inside it. Now, it’s a shrine for prayer.Before you enter the temple’s courtyard, you’ll see a beautiful koi pond with a brick pagoda in the centre of it. The Temple Stay building is slightly to the right as is the gift shop.

Finally, you’ll enter into the temple courtyard with the main hall, the Daeung-jeon, straight ahead. With its beautiful copper-colour roof, and paper lanterns out in front, it makes for quite the view. Housed inside the main hall is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).

To the right of the main hall is the Jijang-jeon. Housed inside this double altar hall is a large green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left and an intricately painted Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural to the right. To the far left of the main hall sits the bell pavilion, as well as a stout three-tier stone pagoda.

Housed slightly to the left of the main hall, and up a set of stairs, is the rather large Samseong-gak shaman shrine. The exterior walls to this hall are decorated with various murals including a painting dedicated to the Bodhidharma. As for inside this hall, and sitting in the centre of the main altar, is a rather long, but slender, mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This painting is joined on either side by a mural dedicated to both Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Doseong (The Lonely Saint), respectively. Perhaps the most interesting painting of the group is the mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) with its vibrant colours and stoically seated king.

The final part of Gwaneumsa Temple that visitors can see is a large golden statue of Mireuk-bul sitting on top of a neighbouring hillside. He’s surrounded by a pantheon of smaller sized statues dedicated to various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Slightly down the hill, and to the left, are a triad of larger stone statues dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal, Munsu-bosal, and Bohyun-bosal, respectively.

Admission to the temple is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: You’ll need to take a bus towards Sancheondan from Jeju City. The bus departs every twenty minutes and the ride should last about 30 minutes. When the bus drops you off at Sancheondan, you’ll need to walk an additional thirty minutes to the temple. The signs should help guide your way.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. Perhaps the most famous temple on Jeju-do Island, Gwaneumsa Temple has a lot for the temple adventurer to see. From its beautiful entryway to the koi pond, the temple has a lot of aesthetic beauty. And when you couple it with the large-sized golden statue of Mireuk-bul on the hillside, as well as the Dragon Ship of Wisdom and Yongwang murals, you’ll definitely need to make Gwaneumsa Temple a stop in Jeju-do!

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The Iljumun Gate at Gwaneumsa Temple.

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The beautiful entry path that leads up to the temple grounds.

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Just one of the statues helps guide the way.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate at the temple.

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The meditative shrine cave at Gwaneumsa Temple.

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The beautiful koi pond at the temple.

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The view as you first approach the temple courtyard.

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To the far left stand this three-tier pagoda and two story bell pavilion.

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Straight ahead is the copper-coloured main hall.

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 The main altar inside the main hall with Seokgamoni-bul sitting front and centre.

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To the right of the main hall is the Jijang-jeon.

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The altar inside the Jijang-jeon with a large statue of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife sitting all alone.

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To the right hangs this highly elaborate Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural.

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Up the embankment stands the larger sized Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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Housed inside is this colourful mural dedicated to Yongwang.

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A bit up the hillside, and you’ll be welcomed by a golden Mireuk-bul.

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Back at the entrance rests this beautiful shrine dedicated to Amita-bul.

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He’s joined by this fierce guardian statue.

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 And this one, as well.

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