Colonial Korea: Silleuksa Temple – 신륵사 (Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do)


Sillleuksa Temple in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do from 1916.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Silleuksa Temple is located in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do. The name of the temple means “Divine Bridle Temple,” in English, and it has to do with a legend that surrounds the temple. The name of the temple relates to a horse that was uncontrollable. The horse was reined in by the power of the Buddha.

There is little known about the early years of the temple. There are two stories related to the establishment of Silleuksa Temple. One believes that Silleuksa Temple was first established during the reign of King Jinpyeong (r. 579-632); while another story relates how the temple was first founded by the famed monk Wonhyo-daesa (617-686).

However, after the temple was first established, Silleuksa Temple has been expanded and destroyed by fire. And in 1469, Silleuksa Temple became the prayer sanctuary to the royal mausoleum to the great King Sejong. Silleuksa Temple has a scenic location and beautiful shrine halls; it also houses numerous treasures.

Silleuksa - Main Hall Geukrak

The Geukrak-jeon main hall at Silleuksa in 1932.

Silleuksa3 - Main Hall Geukrak

A closer look at the front facade of the main hall at Silleuksa Temple.

Silleuksa1 - Main Hall Geukrak

A look at some of the eaves work on the main hall.

Silleuksa2 - Main Hall Geukrak

A look around the decorative interior of the Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1932.

Silleuksa100 - 7 tier

The seven tier marble pagoda that lies out in front of the Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1933.

Silleuksa101 - 7 tier

A closer look at the marble pagoda.

Silleuksa102 - 7 tier

And an even closer look at the base of the pagoda.

Silleuksa4 - Josajeon

The Josa-jeon Hall. It’s also the oldest building at the temple. This picture dates back to 1932.

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The intricate woodwork adorning the Josa-jeon Hall.


The six-story brick pagoda. The picture was taken in 1916.


A closer look at the design of the bricks.


The Geukrak-jeon Hall in 2015.


The seven tier marble pagoda as it appears today.


A closer look at the unique pagoda.


The six story stone pagoda that overlooks the river.


A thing of beauty.

Silleuksa Temple – 신륵사 (Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do)


The beautifully scenic view at Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do means “Divine Bridle Temple,” in English. While there isn’t all that much concrete information on the foundation of the temple, it’s believed by some that it was established during King Jinpyeong’s reign (r. 579-632), others believe it was founded by the famed monk, Wonhyo-daesa (617-686). The name of the temple is related to a legend where an uncontrollable horse was reined in by the power of the Buddha. Throughout the years, it’s been expanded and destroyed by fires. In 1469, Silleuksa Temple became the prayer sanctuary to the royal mausoleum to the great King Sejong. Currently, the temple houses numerous treasures.

You first approach the temple grounds to the west of Silleuksa Temple. With the Temple Stay facilities to your left, you’ll pass through a guardian gate with two fiercely painted Vajra warriors on its entry doors. A little further along, and with the Han River to your right, as well as a pavilion that looks over the serene body of water, you’ll finally come to the outskirts of the temple grounds.

The first thing to greet you at the temple is the rather wide Boje-ru pavilion. To the right of this pavilion, and past a stone marker, you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard. Straight ahead is a beautiful seven-tier marble pagoda that dates back to the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It’s masterfully adorned with dragon and lotus carvings. This pagoda is framed by the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Silleuksa Temple. The exterior walls are adorned with some recent, and amazingly rendered, Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for inside this main hall, there are a triad of statues that rest on the main altar. Seated in the centre sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by two standing statues of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul).

To the rear of the Geukrakbo-jeon, and slightly to the left, is the Josa-dong. Unfortunately, the hall was under renovation when I visited; but typically, it houses the portraits of the famed monks Naong (1320-76), Muhak (1327-1405), and Jigong (d.1363). This hall is also the oldest at Silleuksa Temple.

To the left of the Josa-dong is the Myeongbu-jeon, which houses a green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the main altar. He’s joined on all sides by seated statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. Just outside this hall is an altar with a highly original piece of circular artwork dedicated to Jijang-bosal, as well. To the rear of this hall are a collection of stupas that house the remains of former monks at Silleuksa Temple, including the Naong’s stupa.

To the right of the main hall, and past the monks’ dorms, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Inside this hall are some of the more original paintings dedicated to the three most popular shaman deities in Korea. Have a close look at the meditative posture Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) is striking, as well as the elfish-looking Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) who is joined by a massive tiger.

But perhaps Silleuksa Temple is most famous for its location. With it being one of a handful of river temples in Korea, it makes for some great pictures. As you approach the river from the hillside, you’ll pass by the six-tier brick pagoda, which is somewhat reminiscent of the brick pagoda at Songnimsa Temple in Daegu. Just to the rear of this pagoda at Silleuksa Temple is a memorial tablet to the Daejang-gak, which was a two-story library built during the late Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

Just past these two treasures, treasure #230 and #226, is the Han River. Beautifully perched alongside a historic pagoda is a pavilion that people can enjoy the peace and quiet of the flowing river. This area of the temple also allows for some of the most picturesque photos that you’ll get at any temple in Korea.

Admission to the temple costs 2,200 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Silleuksa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal and take an intercity bus bound for Yeoju. The first bus leaves at 6:30 a.m. and the final one leaves at 22:30. These buses to Yeoju leave every thirty minutes. From the Yeoju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to catch Bus #980. You can catch this bus after leaving the terminal and heading right for about 100 metres. Cross the road and you can catch the #980 bus from this stop. Finally, you’ll need to get off at the Silleuksa Temple bus stop.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10. There is so much to love about Silleuksa Temple. Probably its number one feature is its location amongst a park where the temple is located, as well as the beautiful Han River that flows just south of the temple grounds. Add into the mix the amazing paintings housed inside the Samseong-gak, as well as a handful of treasures including Naong’s stupa, and you have ample reason to get out and see the beautifully scenic Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do Province.


The guardian gate as you first approach Silleuksa Temple.


One of the Vajra warriors protecting the temple.


The park and pavilion you’ll pass by and through to get to the temple.


The neighbouring Han River.


The first view of Silleuksa Temple as you approach.


The Boje-ru Pavilion at Silleuksa Temple.


Some of the initial sites at the temple.


The Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Silleuksa Temple.


The seven-tier marble pagoda.


Some of the intricate artwork adorning the pagoda.


One of the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals on the main hall.


Another angle of the main hall at Silleuksa Temple.


The Myeongbu-jeon at the temple.


Some of the neighbouring artwork of Jijang-bosal.


The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon.


The stupas behind the Myeongbu-jeon.


The view from the stupas of Silleuksa Temple.


A look towards the Samseong-gak.


The amazing Sanshin mural.


A look towards the six-story brick pagoda at Silleuksa Temple.


A better look at both the brick pagoda and the neighbouring river.


The tranquil river and the watchmen pagoda.


 A better look at both.