Naewonsa Temple – 내원사 (Sancheong, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The temple grounds and surrounding mountains at Naewonsa Temple in Jirisan National Park.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I’ve long wanted to visit a host of temples in and around the Jirisan National Park area. And it just so happens that Naewonsa Temple, on the east side of Mt. Jirisan, is one of these temples.

Naewonsa Temple, which means “Inner House Temple” in English, was established in 657 A.D. It was reconstructed by National Master Muyeom-guksa (801-888). Originally, the name of the temple was Deoksansa Temple, but later changed its name to Naewonsa Temple during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). However, like a lot of others Buddhist temples during the Confucian practiced Joseon Dynasty, Naewonsa Temple fell into disrepair. And it was later laid to ruin by the Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Naewonsa Temple was further damaged during the Korean War. It wasn’t until 1959, under the guidance of monk Hong Won Jong, that the temple was reestablished in its present incarnation as a small temple.

Presently, the temple is under even more renovation, with a bridge being installed on the south side of the temple, so it’s probably best to enter from the east. A creek flows to the left of the temple grounds, and it acts as a guide leading you towards the temple grounds. As you step into the temple courtyard, and to your immediate left, are a set of buildings such as the visitors’ centre. And to your immediate right are the monks’ dorms.

Straight ahead, and under a rounded mountain top, are a set of three buildings. In front of these three buildings, and one of the highlights to the temple, is a pagoda that dates back to 657 A.D. to the left of the main hall. The three storied pagoda is typical in its Silla design. During the 1950’s, the pagoda was damaged by treasure robbers. More recently, and fortunately for us, it was restored to its past glory by head-monk Hong Jin-Sik. The finial no longer exists, and the top of the body of the pagoda is damaged, but its splendour still stands.

Behind this pagoda is the main hall at Naewonsa Temple. The exterior of the hall is surrounded by a handful of fading Shimu-do murals and an assortment of other paintings that are fading just as fast as the Ox-Herding murals. As for the interior of this extremely compact main hall, and sitting on the main hall, is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by both Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). All three sit on a narrow, yet extremely vibrant, main altar. To the left of this triad is an equally colourful Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) mural. What’s interesting about this mural, and extremely unique, are the scenes of judgment at the base of the mural. And the final mural inside of the main hall is the guardian mural that is no less vibrant than the other murals inside the main hall. The guardian mural is well populated and energetically executed.

To the left of the main hall is the newest of the three shrine halls. The exterior is unadorned all but for the dancheong patterns that enliven its walls. As for interior of this hall, and the second major highlight to this temple, is the Seated Stone Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) Statue of Seoknamam Hermitage. While the features have faded through weathering, it appears as though the statue dates back to 756 A.D. during the Silla Dynasty. It stands just over a metre in height and was built from granite. Additionally, it’s the oldest example of the Wisdom Fist mudra in Korea with the left hand fingers being surrounded by the right hand. It’s a fine example of Korean ancient artwork at its finest.

The final building in the set of three is the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Like the other buildings at Naewonsa Temple, this shaman shrine hall is quite original. At one point, according to the ever knowledgeable David Mason, the Samseong-gak use to be divided into three separate rooms with each shaman deity occupying a room with its own signboard over its respective entrance. However, in 2007, these walls were taken down for a more open feel in the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Now, the configuration has changed a bit with a few more occupants inside the Samseong-gak shrine hall. When you first enter the hall, you’re greeted by an older looking, yet no less amazing, mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Sitting in the centre of the main altar is a stone statue of Cheonwang-bosalnim, who is better known as Cheonwang-bong Seongmo-halmae. To the right of Cheonwang-bosalnim is a bronze statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Next to Gwanseeum-bosal is a vibrant painting of Dokseong (The Recluse). This painting is unique for the mudra that the attendant is making to the right of Dokseong. The next painting in the row is the abstract painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit). The final painting along the main altar is a common enough looking Yongwang (The Dragon King) mural. This Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is packed and perhaps one of the most original in Korea.

HOW TO GET THERE: The best, and easiest way, to get to Naewonsa Temple is from the Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal. So first, from wherever you are in Korea, you’ll have to get to Jinju. From the bus terminal, you’ll have to catch the bus that reads, “Daewonsa Hang,” which means “Towards Daewonsa.” This bus comes every 40 minutes. And from this bus, you’ll have to get off at “Daepo.” From the Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal to Daepo, it’ll take you about an hour. From Daepo to Naewonsa Temple, you’ll have to walk about 2.6 kilometres to the temple, but the signs leading you to Naewonsa Temple are well placed and acted as a good guide.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. There are numerous highlights at this smaller sized temple. Two definite highlights are the Silla-aged pagoda and Birojana-bul granite statue. But a surprising highlight, which I was completely unprepared for, was the Samseong-gak with its folk-like San shin mural, its original Dokseong and Chilseong mural, and the extremely rare Cheonwang-bosalnim statue. While not as obvious as a temple like Ssangyesa Temple, Naewonsa Temple has a lot of treasures to offer the temple adventurer!

The crane that welcomes you to the side entrance of the temple. Yes, the temple is under construction.
The triad of shrine halls at Naewonsa Temple.
To the left of the main hall is this ancient three-tier pagoda that dates back to 657 A.D.
A look inside the main hall at the main altar and Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who sits in the centre of the triad of statues. To his left and right are Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).
To the left of the main altar is this unique painting of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
And to the right is this rather interesting guardian mural.
Surrounding the exterior walls of the main hall are these fast fading Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals.
Another look at the Silla pagoda with a newer looking shrine hall dedicated to the stone statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) in the background.
The statue of Birojana-bul inside of the hall that dates back to 756 A.D.
The view from the Birojana-bul Hall over at the main hall and the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
A closer look at the Samseong-gak.
The extremely unique pagoda that sits out in front of the Samseong-gak.
And a mural of one of the Shinseon (Daoist Immortals) that adorns the exterior walls of the Samseong-gak.
The older looking Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural that first welcomes you into the Samseong-gak.
The extremely rare statue of Cheonwang-bosalnim that sits in the centre of shaman statues and murals.
The strange statue and simple mural of Dokseong (The Recluse).
The folkish looking San shin (The Mountain Spirit) mural.
And the rather customary looking Yongwang (The Dragon King) mural at the end of the row of murals and statues.
And one last look at the main hall before it was time to head home.

Naewonsa Temple – 내원사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Picture 124A water lily in the pond at Naewonsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I thought I would talk about one of the nicer temples here in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do: Naewonsa Temple (내원사). Naewonsa Temple is different in one significant way than most of the temples that I’ve visited in Korea. Unlike most temples, Naewonsa Temple is by nuns.

Naewonsa Temple is beautifully situated in a valley underneath the watching eye of Chunseoungsan Mountain.  And it is through this striking valley corridor that leads you to Naewonsa Temple. Originally, Naewonsa Temple was established by High Priest Wonhyo during the Silla Dynasty. During the Korean War, Naewonsa Temple was destroyed.  In 1958, Naewonsa Temple was reconstructed by the nun Suok Biguni.  In total, there are approximately 70 nuns that now reside at Naewonsa Temple.

You first approach the temple from the wandering valley that during the summer has hundreds of people splashing around in the water cascades and natural pools of water. Up the paved hill is the Naewonsa Temple complex. In total, there are about 10 temple buildings. This is a very active temple with very kind nuns that run it; however, most of the temple buildings are off limits. The road forks as you first approach the temple: to the right is the main temple courtyard, and to the left is the old Bulimun entrance gate. The Bulimun Gate is decorated with some beautiful paintings. The gate doors are decorated with two fierce paintings of the temple guardians, Heng and Ha. Around these gates are two beautiful paintings of the blue lion riding Bodhisattva, Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). Directly across from this painting is Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), who rides a one-eyed elephant. Directly above the respective temple gates are two highly original paintings. To the right is a painting of two nuns accompanied by the founding monk Wonhyo. They look off in the distance to where a future Naewonsa Temple will be built. To the left is a beautiful drawing of a group of nuns outside Naewonsa Temple as holy scripture appears in the sky above. Through these gates, you get a great view of the temple courtyard; however, you’re not allowed to go past the entry of the Bulimun Gate. Instead, you’ll have to backtrack to the fork in the road and head right.

In the right direction, you’ll first encounter a group of nun dorms. As you continue straight, you’ll come to a road that is slightly elevated. This path leads you to the upper courtyard, where the main hall is situated. This main hall is long, but rather unassuming. The central altar piece in the main hall is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the left of the main altar triad is a beautiful red guardian painting. Uniquely, the main hall (like the rest of the temple) is adorned with wooden turtle doorknobs. They’re pretty cute, so look for them. Next to the main hall is another nun’s dorm. There were several children crowded around this area as a senior nun handed out candy to them. Personally, I greeted a nun with a bow and an “Annyeong Haseyo,” to which I heard a responding “Hello.” As I said, the nuns here are amongst the friendliest in Korea. Next to the dorm is the temple’s kitchen and off-limits courtyard. There is a unique gong and wishing well to the front of the nun’s dorm.

Admission for adults is 2,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE:  You can get to Naewonsa Temple either from Busan or Eonyang.  From Busan, Naewonsa Temple can be found by taking an intercity bus from Busan to Yangsan. Once you are at the Yangsan bus terminal, you can take a direct bus to Naewonsa Temple.  As for Eonyang, you can take an intercity bus from the Yangsan bus terminal.  These buses leave every 10 minutes (approximately). Again, from the Yangsan bus terminal, you can get a city bus that will take you directly to Naewonsa.  Once you have arrived at Naewonsa Temple, it is approximately a 30 minute walk up a valley. And just remember, this is an active nunnery, so please be on your best behaviour at Naewonsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING:  7/10.  In total, there are about 10 uniquely painted and designed temple buildings at Naewonsa Temple.  Some of the more interesting features at Naewonsa Temple are the turtle doorknobs and the lily ponds. Also, there are beautiful paintings inside the Bulimun Gate at the temple. There are some beautiful views of Korean nature from this temple, and if you’ve lived in Korea long enough, you know that these beautiful views of nature can sometimes be few and far between.

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As previously mentioned, this is part of the long walk down the valley that brings you to Naewonsa Temple.
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Along the way, you will see your first signs of Naewonsa Temple when you come across the monk cemetary and headstones.
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A close-up of the intricate stone work surrounding the cemetery.
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A slow stream trickles beside you as you near Naewonsa Temple.
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A look up at Naewonsa Temple as you first approach it.
And a look down, from 2006, at a nun sweeping the fall leaves.
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A look at the beautiful Buli-mun gate at Naewonsa Temple.
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Two gorgeous paintings inside the Buli-mun gate. The painting on the bottom is a nice scenic painting, while the painting on top is Moonnsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) riding a blue lion.
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The other painting inside the Buli-mun gate is a pair of monks wandering on the bottom painting, while the top painting is Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) riding a one-eyed white elephant.
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The right entrance gate door is adorned with the protective guardian, Ha.
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On the left door is the other protective guardian, Heng.
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Another beautiful painting inside the gate is the one depicting nuns at Naewonsa Temple pointing to the sky and the scripture that appears in it’s midst.
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And another beautiful painting is the High Priest Wonhyo pointing to the nuns where a temple should be built. This temple would be Naewonsa Temple.
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A look through the Buli-mun gate into the main courtyard at the temple.
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A view of the first few buildings that greet you in the courtyard at Naewonsa Temple.  In total, there are roughly 10 temple buildings at Naewonsa Temple.
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A study hall at the temple. There’s a nun hard a work.
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A look at the upper courtyard with the main hall to the right and the nuns dorm to the left.
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Yet another of the intricately adorned Naewonsa Temple buildings.
Picture 205The a better view of the main hall at the temple.
A nun going off to prayer.
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A cute doorknob at Naewonsa.  I’ve never seen a turtle doorknob at any other temple in Korea.
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A look inside the main hall. Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) sits as the central altar piece.
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The beautifully intricate guardian painting inside the main hall.
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It’s still there! The cutest and most original structure at Naewonsa Temple.
DSC03922And there she was again, finishing up her job sweeping the fall leaves back in 2006.