Dogapsa Temple – 도갑사 (Yeongam, Jeollanam-do)


 A beautiful view of the temple grounds and halls at Dogapsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Dogapsa Temple, which is located on the western portion of Wolchulsan National Park, was first established in 881 A.D. by Doseon-guksa. However, more recent excavation dates it to the Baekje Period in Korean history which lasted from 18 B.C to 660 A.D. Under the watchful eye of monk Sumi, who was an adviser to the king, the temple continued to grow and prosper. And by 1597, there were over 780 monks and 12 neighbouring hermitages directly associated with the temple. However, most of Dogapsa Temple was destroyed during the Imjin War. After the war, Dogapsa Temple was rebuilt and continued to grow. But once more, in 1950, during the Korean War, several fires damaged a large portion of the temple. Then, between 1995 and 1999, there were four excavation digs which helped aid in understanding the original layout of the temple. As a result, and more recently, a large scale restoration project to rehabilitate Dogapsa Temple to its former glory is currently underway. Now, there are currently over ten halls and shrines to visit at Dogapsa Temple.

You first approach Dogapsa Temple up a beautiful trail. Eventually, you’ll come to the large sized Iljumun Gate and the ticket booth. Just a little further up the path, and just left of a calm flowing ravine, is the historic Haltaemun Gate, which means Gate of Deliverance, in English. It was first constructed in 1493. Of note, it’s National Treasure #50 in Korea. As you step inside this gate, you’ll be greeted by two of the happiest guardians. Next to these two standing guardians, on opposite sides of the gate, are the elephant riding Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and the blue lion riding Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom).

After exiting this gate and making your way through the large pavilion, you’ll emerge on the other side in the spacious temple courtyard. In front of the large sized two-story main hall stands a five-story stone pagoda that dates back to the early Goryeo Dynasty. The exterior walls are adorned with some of the most beautiful, and large, Palsang-do murals in all of Korea. As for the interior, and sitting in the centre of the large main altar is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). On the left wall is a wooden guardian relief while to the right is an unpainted Yeongsan Taenghwa. There are several other paintings throughout the main hall including Sanskrit lettering above the main altar triad.

To the right rear of the main hall is the Josa-jeon hall, which is dedicated to prominent former monks that resided at the temple. Just to the right of this hall is a stele dedicated to Sumi-wangsa. Have a look at the gargoyle-like face base of the stele.

To the left rear of the main hall are three more halls. The first of the three is the Cheonbul-jeon hall. Inside are a thousand bronze incarnations of the Buddha, as well as a large sized statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) centering a triad of statues on the main altar. To the left and right of the main altar hang a guardian mural and a Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. Next to the Cheonbul-jeon is the Sanshin-gak. Hanging on the main altar is a wooden relief of the Mountain Spirit. He’s joined by wooden sculptures of elderly men. The final hall in this area is the Myeongbu-jeon hall. The exterior walls are adorned with depictions of the Underworld, as well as a set of murals depicting life from infancy to adulthood. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, there’s a green-haired rendering of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s surrounded by older looking seated statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

Along a trail that runs between the Sanshin-gak and the Myeongbu-jeon are a pair of smaller sized waterfalls. The two together are called Yongsu-pokpo. And there’s a small pavilion that you can sit in to enjoy the view as you relax.

Just beyond the falls, and over the stream that feeds these falls, are two sectioned off areas. The first is an area for stupas for prominent monks from Dogapsa Temple. Beside, and to the right, is stele dedicated to Doseon and Sumi, who rebuilt Dogapsa Temple. It was completed in 1653. Uniquely, there are rolled lotus images on the back of the turtle base. And to the left, and a little further up the trail, is the Mireuk-jeon, which houses a three metre tall stone statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

Admission to the temple is 2,000 won. And if you bring your car, it’ll cost you 2,000 won more at the Wolchulsan National Park entrance.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Yeongam, which is where Dogapsa Temple is located, you’ll first have to go to the city of Mokpo. From Mokpo, you can catch a bus that goes to Yeongam. From Yeongam, you can catch a bus or take a taxi. There are only two buses that go to Dogapsa Temple throughout the day: 09:30 and 16:10. For a taxi, the ride should cost you just a little over 10,000 won and take about 30 minutes depending on traffic.

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OVERALL RATING: 8/10. There are a few highlights to this temple. The first is the Haltaemun Gate that was first constructed in 1493. Beyond this, everything about the main hall is amazing and big including the altar statues and the Palsang-do murals. In addition to these two structures, there are several other structures to keep the temple adventurer busy. So enjoy and take your time while exploring the large sized temple grounds.


 The Iljumun Gate at Dogapsa Temple.


 The Haltaemun Gate that welcomes you to the temple.


 A Vajra Guardian inside the Haltaemun Gate.


 Bohyun-bosal riding his six-tusked elephant.


 The Boje-ru that you’ll pass under to enter the temple courtyard.


 The view of the temple courtyard and just some of the halls.


 The massive two-story main hall at Dogapsa Temple.


 Just one of the massive Palsang-do murals that adorn the exterior walls of the main hall.


 The equally massive main altar statues that is centred by Birojana-bul.


 The beautiful Sinjung Taenghwa relief inside the main hall.


 The Josa-jeon that houses paintings of prominent monks that formerly took up residence at the temple.


 The head of the stele dedicated to Sumi-wangsa.


 The three halls to the left rear of the main hall.


 First is the elaborately decorated Cheonbul-jeon.


 Another is the Myeongbu-jeon with its judgment murals.


 The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon with a green-haired Jijang-bosal.


 Finally, the larger sized Sanshin-gak.


 Inside is this colourful relief of the Mountain Spirit.


 Just past the Sanshin-gak is this tiny waterfall.


 Up this embankment is the temple’s stupa field, as well as a pavilion is housed in this area.


 The pavilion is dedicated to Doseon and Sumi.


 The entry to the Mireuk-jeon.