Yongyeonsa Temple – 용연사 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)


The guardian murals inside the Geukrak-jeon main hall at Yongyeonsa Temple in Daegu.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yongyeonsa Temple, which is located north of Mt. Biseulsan, and south of Daegu, was first established in 912 A.D. by the monk Boyang. The name of the temple, Yongyeonsa Temple, means “Dragon Flying to the Sky Temple,” in English. According to a legend, a dragon lived in a pond at the temple. By flying up into the sky, the dragon became a divine being. Repaired in 1419 by the monk Cheonil, the temple suffered severe damage by the invading Japanese in 1592. Finally, in 1728, the temple was restored to its former glory.

Just to the left of Yongyeon-ji pond, and at a bend in the road, you’ll finally approach the temple grounds. The first thing to welcome you to the temple grounds is the rather unique Iljumun Gate. Squat in stature, the gate is both vibrant and elaborate in the decorative artwork that adorns it.

A little further up the trail, and the path forks to both the right and left at the temple’s tea shop. To the right lays the temple’s main courtyard, while to the left lies the temple’s Jeokmyeol Bogung (a shrine that houses the Buddha’s remains established by the monk Jajang-yulsa).

To the right, you’ll first make your way through the temple’s Cheonwangmun Gate. Housed inside this gate are four older looking murals dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings. Emerging on the other side of the Anyang-ru Pavilion, you’ll finally be situated in the centre of the temple’s main courtyard.

Straight ahead is the early 18th century Geukrak-jeon main hall at Yongyeonsa Temple. The exterior walls are lined with various Buddhist-motif murals like the Bodhidharma, Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa, and several others. Additionally, the lining walls that divide the grounds from the main hall are occupied by devotees’ rosary beads and statues that they’ve left behind. As for the main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon, it’s occupied by a centrally seated Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul). The interior is also filled with numerous ancient paintings that are spread throughout. These paintings include a mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal, as well as protective guardians.

Out in front of the Geukrak-jeon stands a 3.2 metre tall, three-tier stone pagoda that dates back to the early Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) or the late Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935). To the left of the pagoda and the main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Inside are housed three elaborate shaman murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And to the right of the main hall stands the Nahan-jeon with beautiful Palsang-do murals decorating the exterior walls. As for the interior, and sitting in the centre of the main altar, is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined by two lines of Nahan statues and vibrant paintings of the Historical Disciples of the Buddha.

Back down the pathway that leads through the temples grounds, and back to the part of the trail that forks, you’ll now need to head left to make your way towards the historic Jeokmyeol Bogung. No more than 5 minutes up the hillside lays another compound at Yongyeonsa Temple. Past the newly painted Four Heavenly Kings that await you, and up an uneven set of stone stairs, you’ll be welcomed by the hall that looks out onto the Jeokmyeol Bogung.

During the Imjin War, in 1592, the Buddha’s sari (crystallized remains) that were housed at Tongdosa Temple were safely moved to Mt. Myohyangsan. After the war, the sari were returned to Tongdosa Temple, but a portion of the sari were enshrined at Yongyeongsa Temple by the monk Cheongjin (a disciple of the famed monk, Samyeong-daesa). The ordination altar, or Seokjo Gyedan, that houses the sari was first established in 1613. Alongside Tongdosa Temple and Geumsansa Temple, the ordination altar is only one of three in Korea.

The ordination altar is buttressed by two smaller sized auxiliary halls. And the hall that people can pray inside that looks out onto the Seokjo Gyedan is occupied by several blue Buddha paintings populated by even smaller images of Seokgamoni-bul. As for the exterior walls to this hall, it’s decorated with simplistic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Daegu Seobu (West) Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take Bus #606 and get off after 17 stops, or 27 minutes, at the Dalseong Middle School stop. The stop is across from the middle school. From there, take Bus #600 or the Dalseong 2 bus. After riding either bus for 11 stops, or 31 minutes, get off at the Yongyeonsa Temple stop. From this stop, you’ll need to walk about 1.1 km, or 15 minutes, up the road to get to the temple.

You can take a bus to the temple or you can simply take a taxi from the Daegu Seobu Bus Terminal. The taxi ride should take about 25 minutes, or 14.8 km, and cost about 13,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Just for being one of three temples in Korea that houses a historic ordination altar, it rates as highly as it does. But there is a lot more to see at Yongyeonsa Temple like the elaborate shaman murals inside the Samseong-gak, as well as the historic murals that fill the Geukrak-jeon main hall. While a bit out of the way, Yongyeonsa Temple makes for a nice day trip in the neighbouring Daegu countryside.


The squat Iljumun Gate at Yongyeonsa Temple.


Some of the decorative artwork that adorns the Iljumun Gate.


The path and Cheonwangmun Gate the leads up to the main temple courtyard.


One of the Four Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.


The Geukrak-jeon main hall at Yongyeonsa Temple.


Some of the murals that adorn the exterior walls to the Geukrak-jeon.


A closer look at Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa.


Some of the knick-knacks that have been left behind by temple devotees.


The main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon.


One of the historic murals inside the main hall.


The mural on the back side of the main altar.


The Gwanseeum-bosal mural inside the Geukrak-jeon.


The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left of the main hall.


One of the Shinseon (Spirit Immortals) that adorns the Samseong-gak’s exterior walls.


A look inside the Samseong-gak hall at a seated Sanshin (Mountain Spirit).


To the left of the main hall stands the Nahan-jeon.


One of the Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls of the Nahan-jeon.


The main altar inside the Nahan-jeon.


A row of Nahan statues and paintings.


The path that leads towards the Jeokmyeol Bogung shrine.


One of the vibrant Four Heavenly Kings near the ordination altar grounds.


The hall that looks out onto the Seokjo Gyedan.


Just one of the beautiful Ox-Herding murals that adorns the observational hall.


And a look at the Seokjo Gyedan ordination altar.