Guryongsa Temple – 구룡사 (Wonju, Gangwon-do)


The view from the Cheonwangmun Gate at Guryongsa Temple in Chiaksan National Park.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in the heart of Chiaksan National Park is Guryongsa Temple, which means “Nine Dragons Temple,” in English. It’s believed that the temple was first constructed by the famed Uisang-daesa in 668 C.E.

Like all great temples, Guryongsa Temple has an imaginative creation story all to its own. Uisang, after walking several miles, found the location for a temple in the rolling folds of Chiaksan; however, a pond stood in the way of his plans. Living inside this pond were nine dragons who heard the monks plans to build a temple on their pond. The tricky dragons proposed a bet to Uisang: if the monk won the bet, they would leave; however, if the dragons won, Uisang would have to abandon his hopes of building a temple on their pond. With both parties agreeing to this little wager, the dragons proceeded to drown the monk to death. Torrential rain fell from the sky and flooded the mountain ranges. Sure that they had killed the monk, they went in search of him. What they found surprised the nine dragons. Instead of being dead, Uisang was peacefully sleeping on a boat. Awoken by the dragons, Uisang said, “Is that all the tricks you have? Now watch my trick with your eyes wide open.” Drawing a talisman from his person, Uisang flung it into the pond, where it proceeded to bubble and boil. The dragons fled to the East Sea, leaving a blinded dragon behind. Quick in their escape, the eight dragons left eight valleys behind as proof of their hasty escape through the mountains.

The temple is situated up a beautiful winding road that’s lined with mature pine trees and a flowing stream. The hike up to the temple grounds is about 900 metres in distance and is filled with things to see like the dragon based pillared Iljumun Gate. A little further up the road, and you’ll next come to an ancient stupa field. Nearing the temple grounds, you’ll finally see the first shrine hall at the temple: the Josa-jeon. Inside this hall hangs a painting of the Bodhidharma.

Just another hundred metres up the road and you’ll finally come to the elevated temple grounds. The impressive two-story Cheonwangmun Gate, which if you come at the right time of the day will have brilliant sunlight shooting through the slats in the roof, is flanked by a three-story stone pagoda. While rather non-descript, the stout-looking Four Heavenly Kings are rather intimidating in size and scowls. To the left of the Cheonwangmun Gate appears to be an aged statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

Up a steep set of stairs, and under the low-lying Bogwang-ru Pavilion, you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard. Looking behind you, you’ll notice the rather long and spacious interior to the Bogwang-ru Pavilion that is used for meetings. To the right of this hall is the temple’s bell pavilion: the Jong-gak. And to left of the pavilion, and still under construction, is what looks to be a meditative pavilion.

Straight ahead is the Daeung-jeon, which acts as the temple’s main hall. Surrounding the exterior walls to this hall are some masterful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked on either side by what looks to be Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). The low-hanging orange paper lotus lanterns inside this hall are quite nice, as well.

To the left of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon. The exterior walls are painted with Judgment murals, as well as a mural of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom. Sitting inside this hall sits a golden haired Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s backed by a well-populated mural of himself. Just behind the Myeongbu-jeon is the Samseong-gak. The most unique painting of the three, which includes a painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), is the painting of Sanshin. Inside this mural, you can rather uniquely see a larger image of a male Sanshin joined by a smaller image of a female Sanshin slightly to the left.

The other two remaining halls at Guryongsa Temple are to the right of the main hall. The first, and newly constructed (and there’s a lot of newer construction at Guryongsa Temple), is the Gwaneeum-jeon. The golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that sits all alone inside this hall is backed by a scenic landscape that also includes Yongwang. Just to the rear of the Gwaneeum-jeon is the Nahan-jeon. This is one of the more unique Nahan-jeon halls that you’ll find in Korea. Because besides the statue of Seokgamoni-bul that sits on the main altar, all 500 of the Buddha’s disciples take up residence inside their own glass box on the neighbouring walls, as well as the 16 main Nahan that join Seokgamoni-bul on the main altar.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll need to get to the city of Wonju from wherever it is that you live in Korea. From the Wonju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to either take Bus #3 or #3-1 to Wonju Station. It should take about 15 minutes, or 6 bus stops. Now, from Wonju Station, you’ll need to get on Bus #41 to Guryongsa Temple. In total, the ride should last about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. I was definitely impressed by the beauty at Guryongsa Temple: both Buddhist and natural. The Cheonwangmun Gate is one of the larger ones that you’ll find at a Korean temple. On top of this large sized entry gate, you can also enjoy the male/female Sanshin mural, the boxed Nahan statues, and the rolling hills that lie all around Guryongsa Temple.


The Iljumun Gate at Guryongsa Temple.


The stupa field at the temple.


The two-story Cheonwangmun Gate and front facade at the temple.


A standing stone statue of Mireuk-bul.


One of the fierce-looking Cheonwang.


Light shafts shoot through the top of the Cheonwangmun Gate.


A look up towards the Bogwang-ru Pavilion.


A look inside the spacious interior to the Bogwang-ru.


The bell pavilion at Guryongsa Temple.


A look across at the main hall and the Myeongbu-jeon at Guryongsa Temple.


A Shimu-do mural that adorns the main hall.


 A look inside the main hall at Seokgamoni-bul.


A golden capped Jijang-bosal.


A look towards the Samseong-gak.


The male/female mural of Sanshin.


A look towards the Gwaneeum-jeon.


Inside is a golden, regal statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.


A look up at the Nahan-jeon.


 A look inside the Nahan-jeon. Each little box is filled with a Nahan figure.

Guryongsa Temple – 구룡사 (Buk-gu, Busan)

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The massive and slender Buddha statue at Guryongsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Well, as promised, here is part two to my chilly adventure yesterday.  Today, as I hinted at yesterday, will be about Guryongsa Temple (구룡사) in the Buk-gu area of Busan.  It’s the twin temple to Suwolseonwon and just over the hill from it.  So sit back and enjoy Guryongsa Temple!

You can get to Guryongsa Templein two ways, all depending on whether you want to just visit Guryongsa, or if you want to see it as well as Suwolseonwon.  I would recommend seeing both, because both are literally minutes apart, but that choice is up to you.

If you decide to just go to Guryongsa Temple, instead of turning left at the Suwolseonwon  Temple sign across from the SK gas station, just keep going straight for about 5 minutes until you see the S-Oil gas station on your left.  If you pass the bridge overhead, you’ve gone too far. A one way trip from Sujeong subway station to Guryongsa Temple should take 15 minutes.

However, if you’re like me, you’ll want to see both.  So once you’ve visited Suwolseonwon Temple, turn left once you’ve hit the main road after walking down the entrance/exit to Suwolseon.  Walk for about 100 metres, pass a tire shop/garage on your right.  Straight ahead, you’ll see the main road that you exited from to originally see Suwolseonwon Temple.  Turn left on the main road and walk for about 5 minutes.  Much like if you’re going directly to Guryongsa Temple from the Sujeong subway stop (#234), you’ll see a S-Oil gas station on your left.  There is a sign just on the south side of the S-Oil on the wall leading you to Guryongsa Temple.

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The sign on the other sign of S-Oil, on a wall, leading you towards Guryongsa Temple.

As soon as you pass by this gas station and the Guryongsa Temple sign, there is a road that heads to the left: follow this (if you keep walking straight and pass under the overhead bridge in front of you, you’ve gone too far, so turn back.)  You’ll have to head straight up the road for about 50 metres.  There will be a new sign pointing you towards the grounds of Guryongsa Temple at the end of this road.

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The road that leads up to Guryongsa Temple.  To the right is the parking lot to the temple.

Follow it until you get to the temple.  As you approach the temple the path will fork in two opposite directions.  First, take the one that leads to the left, as it will bring you to the courtyard of the temple.  To the right, which I’ll talk about shortly, is a huge statue of a Buddha looking out over Busan.  In total, there are 5 major buildings at the temple.  As you approach Guryongsa Temple, the first temple building you’ll see, which is three stories, is the study hall for monks.  To the left is the parking lot.  In the parking lot is a visitor’s centre with a tree growing out of it (literally!).  Up the embankment, following the path, you’ll finally arrive at the main hall.  This main hall is stretched over the cliff that overlooks the rest of the temple courtyard.  To the right of the main hall, and still attached through a walk-way, is a prayer building.  And to the left are the monk headstones and the not so attractive bell tower.   The most impressive feature of this temple, besides the massive Buddha up the right path, are the psychedelic paintings about the Buddha’s life on the exterior of the main hall.  To put it mildly, I’ve never seen any paintings coming close to the uniqueness that are these paintings.

Once you’ve had your fill of the main courtyard, make your way back to the fork in the pathway leading up to the temple from the parking lot.  To the right is the impressively massive Buddha overlooking the Buk-gu area of Busan.  To get to the Buddha from this fork in the road it takes about 3 minutes uphill.

The slender Buddha is elevated on a mound of earth and stands 10 metres in height with a granite altar in front of it.  Below it is an ancient looking pagoda simplistic in design. If you’re still feeling adventurous, there is a path that continues up the hill and circles around the Buddha from on high.  There are a lot of great photo opportunities of the Buddha from these vantage points.

Admission is free to this temple as it is at Suwolseonwon Temple.

OVERALL RATING 5.5/10.  While almost equal in size to Suwolseonwon Temple, there are a couple features that separate it from its twin, and why it rates slightly higher.  First, are the extremely unique psychedelic paintings of the Buddha’s life on the side of the main hall.  Also, there is a massively slender Buddha overlooking Buk-gu.  When I first visited this temple in 2004, with my then girlfriend (now wife), there was no granite Buddha perched above the rest of the temple complex.  So if you have the time, visit both Suwolseonwon Temple and Guryongsa Temple; however, if time is in short supply, I would recommend Guryongsa Temple over its twin on the other side of the mountain in the Buk-gu area of Busan.


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The parking lot welcoming you to Guryongsa Temple.  Just up the hill is the temple to the left.
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A statue of Buddha, and friends, along the way.
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Instead of heading right where the path forks, I first went left where the main temple grounds are.  The building (centre to right) is the study hall at Guryongsa Temple.  And the banner on the building reads (translated): Buddhist University.
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The visitor’s centre with a tree literally growing out of it!?!
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The main hall, as you head up to the path that overlooks the rest of the temple grounds.
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A look at the prayer buildings beside the main hall.
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A look left of the main hall towards the bell tower and monk headstones.
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The not so picturesque or statuesque bell tower at Guryongsa Temple, but that’s ok, because the rest of the temple makes up for this rather unimpressive structure.
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The monk stupas.
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As I looked over my shoulder, I noticed these psychodelic paintings about the Buddha’s life on the main hall.  They’re new because they weren’t there in 2004 when I first visited Guryongsa Temple.
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An up-close of the main temple’s paintings.  I’m not even going to pretend to describe them.  I’ll let your imagination do that.
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Another of the paintings.
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And another.
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Yet another.
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And the final one in the psychodelic series.
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Another look at the main hall as I was about to look inside.
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The main altar in the main hall.
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A look in the corner at the main hall.
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A close-up of the guardian painting in the main hall.
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This statue in the main hall use to be outside.
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A look up at this unique peacock painting on the ceiling of the main hall.
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A look at the shrine hall at Guryongsa Temple.
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The altar in the shrine hall with Chilseong in the centre, Sanshin on the right, and Dokseong to the left.
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A first look at the massive and slender Buddha on top of the hill at Guryongsa Temple.
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A better look at the Buddha with an intricately designed stone lantern.
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A view of what the Buddha sees: the area of Buk-gu in Busan.