Okcheonsa Temple – 옥천사 (Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do)


A stunning look at the famous Jabangnu Hall at Okcheonsa Temple in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had long wanted to visit Okcheonsa Temple in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do. Knowing that Goseong has quite a few famous temples, and that the most famous and popular of those temples is Okcheonsa Temple, it made perfect since that I would want to visit this temple.

Okcheonsa Temple (옥천사), which means Jade Springs Temple, in Goseong dates back to 670 A.D., and it was established by Uisang-daesa. The name for the temple comes from the famous spring to the right of the main hall. And during the Imjin War from 1592 to 1598, the temple acted as a defence temple for managing the armed monk soldiers. After being burnt down during the Japanese Invasion, it was later rebuilt and used once more as a defence temple against the potential invasion of the Japanese, once more. Between 1733 to 1842, some 340 soldiers called the temple home. And during the 20th century, it was the first religious home to the famous monk, Cheongdam, who was a reformer of Korean Buddhism.

You first arrive at the temple parking lot up a very long and winding road. As you enter the temple grounds, you’ll be greeted by a stele to your immediate left, and the hidden bell pavilion a bit further to the west. However, the most imposing building to greet you at the temple, which harkens back to its military origins, is the Jabangnu Hall. It’s situated in front of the temple courtyard like a fortress. It’s extremely long in length and it’s decorated with numerous pastoral scenes. The hall was used for military meetings and training.

Ascending the stairs to the left of the Jabangnu Hall, you’ll enter into the compact courtyard. Buildings almost seem to be touching each other because they’re so close in proximity. To your immediate left and right are the administrative buildings at Okcheonsa Temple. And straight ahead is the main hall. The original main hall was burnt down during the Imjin War, however, it was later rebuilt in 1657 by Monk Yongseong. The exterior of the hall is largely unadorned all but for a handful of fading murals. As for the interior of the main hall, and sitting on the main altar, is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre. To his right and left are Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Amita-bul’s Power and Wisdom). A couple interesting notes about the interior of the hall is that both the murals of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Recluse) are housed inside the main hall for reasons that will become obvious later. Another mural that’s inside the main hall is the guardian mural to the left of the altar, as well as a set of murals dedicated to various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to the right of the main altar. Additionally, the entire interior of the main hall is beautiful decorated with various floral and scenic murals.

To the immediate right of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon. The beautiful hall is dedicated to the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). Sitting on the main altar is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) that is surrounded by the 16 Nahan. Above the main altar is a gorgeous dragon mural. As for the rest of the interior of this hall, there are numerous dragon heads up in the ceiling which are some of the finest I’ve yet to see. And next to the Nahan-jeon is the spring for which the temple gets its name. Be careful if you decided to enter into the hall that houses the jade spring because of the low entry. Also, there’s a mural above the spring with a triad of figures like Yongwang (The Dragon King).

To the left of the main hall is one of the more beautiful, and seemingly cavernous, Myeongbu-jeon Halls in all of Korea. The present Myeongbu-jeon Hall dates back to 1895. Much like the main hall, the exterior is largely unadorned. It isn’t until you step inside of this hall that you get the full effect of its beauty. Like stepping into a wooden cave, you’re first greeted by a pair of guardians. As you step further inside, you’ll notice the 10 Kings of the Underworld surrounding Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), who sits on the main altar. All the statues look older in age; however, the murals that back the 10 Kings are nothing more than copies of the originals, which I assume reside in the temple museum. Fortunately, there’s some elaborate dancheong mural designs throughout the interior of this hall.

Behind the Myeongbu-jeon are a row of three buildings on the upper terrace. The first of the three, and to the far left, is a beautiful hall dedicated to prominent monks at the temple. Sitting at the centre of the various monks is Uisang-daesa. Next to this hall are two shrine halls that are under renovation/reconstruction depending on which way you want to look at it. These are the former residences for San shin and Dokseong, and that’s why the paintings of these two shaman deities are housed inside the main hall.

The final hall at Okcheonsa Temple is the Palsang-jeon dedicated to the eight murals of the Buddha’s life. Unfortunately, the murals inside of this hall are just replicas of the originals. However, there is a beautiful statue of Jijang-bosal inside this hall, as well as a finely executed Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural at the foot of the Palsang-do replica murals.

HOW TO GET THERE: While Okcheonsa Temple is a bit complicated to get to, it’s well worth the effort. First, you’ll have to catch a bus to the city of Jinju. If you live in Busan, you can catch a bus from the Seobu Bus Terminal to Jinju Bus Terminal. Starting from 5:40 a.m., the buses leave every 15 minutes. In total, the bus trip will take you about an hour and twenty minutes, and it’ll cost you 6,700 won. At night, which starts at 10 p.m., a bus ride will cost you 8,500 won. From the Jinju Bus Terminal, take the bus that reads “Goseong haeng” (고성행), which means “towards Goseong.” You’ll then have to get off at Geumgok. From this stop, you’ll then have to take a taxi the remainder of the way. You can either ride the taxi all the way, or you can get off at the Okcheonsa Temple entrance and walk the remaining 30 minutes to the temple courtyard.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. There’s a lot to see at this historical and militaristic temple, which all starts at the Jabangnu Hall. The highlights continue with the interior of the main hall, the Myeongbu-jeon Hall and the Nahan-jeon. And it’s all capped off with the unique jade spring that gives the temple it’s name, Okcheonsa Temple.

A look across the front facade at Jabangnu Hall.
The pagoda to your immediate left as you enter the temple grounds.
And the bell pavilion that runs parallel to the pagoda.
The compact temple courtyard with the main hall to the left.
Inside the main hall and a look at the altar with Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the cetnre. And both Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal are flanking the celestial Buddha.
A look up at the wonderfully decorated canopy inside the main hall.
A beautiful floral pattern inside the main hall and to the right of the main altar.
The set of murals that flanks the main altar to the right.
And as you enter the main hall, and to your immediate left, is this San shin (The Mountain Spirit) mural. Surprising, I know!
The view from the main hall out onto the temple courtyard with the Jabangnu Hall in the middle.
A look inside the militaristic Jabangnu Hall.
Just three, of the sixteen, Nahan statues that sit inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.
Just one of the decorative dragons that adorns the ceiling inside the Nahan-jeon.
The famous spring that the temple gets its name from.
A closer look at the jade spring.
Behind the main hall is the Palsang-jeon Hall dedicated to the murals that depict the eight stages of the Historical Buddha’s life.
A look inside the Palsang-jeon Hall.
A look over at the Myeongbu-jeon Judgement Hall to the left of the main hall.
This simplistic painting adorns the exterior wall of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall at the main altar and Jijang-bosal.
The renovated/reconstructed, depending on how you view it, halls dedicated to both San shin and Dokseong. Perhaps that’s why they temporarily reside inside the main hall.
A mural of Uisang-daesa, just one of the famous monks that resided at Okcheonsa Temple at one time or another. It’s housed inside the hall dedicated to prominent historical monks at the temple.