Wongaksa Temple – 원각사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The temple courtyard at Wongaksa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in the central part of a wide eastern valley on Mt. Muhaksan (761 m) Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do lies Wongaksa Temple. In fact, halfway up the aforementioned valley, you’ll first see a rather plain looking Iljumun Gate with the name of the temple written on it. Passing through this gate, and past a collection of rundown buildings, you’ll eventually come to a paved clearing where Wongaksa Temple lies.

Immediately you’ll know you’re in the right place when you spot the blue metal banner with the words “원각사” written on it. It’s behind this metal banner that you encounter yet another entry gate for the temple. This temple gate is a lot more refined than the first with beautiful floral murals adorning it, as well as a pair of fierce guardians painted on its doors.

Stepping inside the main temple grounds, you’ll immediately notice the temple bell pavilion straight ahead of you. Uniquely, there is a large bronze bell under the wooden structure with another equally good sized bronze bell exposed to the elements with only a neighbouring tree as protection.

To your immediate right is the temple’s visitors’ centre. It’s next to this building that you’ll find the unique main hall at Wongaksa Temple. Stepping inside the nearly square shaped main hall, which is all but unadorned except for the dancheong colours, you’ll first notice the main altar. The main triad consists of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre and joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). On either side of this triad is a smaller wooden pagoda and a stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And all five statues are fronted by a much larger golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. The interior of the main hall is lined with smaller statues of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

To the left of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Sitting all alone on the main altar is a seated black haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This older looking statue is backed by an equally older looking painting of Jijang-bosal. To the right of the main altar is a triad of older shaman paintings dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

Across the temple’s main courtyard, and over a bridge that spans a narrow stream, is the southern portion of the temple. Housed inside an unassuming brick façade is the temple’s Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Housed inside this hall, besides pooling water from the neighbouring stream, is a tall granite statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

While the Gwaneum-jeon Hall lies to the right, there is a small courtyard that houses a collection of stupas, stele, and a slender five tier pagoda.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go to where Wongaksa Temple is located. One of these buses is Bus #707. After eight stops, or sixteen minutes, you’ll need to get off at the “Seowongok Ipgu” stop. From the stop, walk about eleven minutes, or 800 metres, to get to the temple. There are various signs leading you in the direction of Wongaksa Temple. You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal. A taxi ride will set you back 6,000 won over the 15 minute ride.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. There are a few highlights to Wongaksa Temple. The first is the older collection of shaman paintings housed inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Another is the main altar inside the main hall at Wongaksa Temple. The final highlight to Wongaksa Temple, besides the beautiful Mt. Muhaksan in all directions, is the unassuming shrine hall that houses an elegant statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A spider lily outside the temple grounds.

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The first of two gates that welcome you to Wongaksa Temple.

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The shacks that line the route towards Wongaksa Temple.

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The blue metal banner and the second entry gate at Wongaksa Temple.

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The stream that divides the temple in half.

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The second entry gate at Wongaksa Temple.

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One of the guardian murals that adorns the second entry gate.

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As well as this beautiful floral mural.

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The temple bell pavilion.

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The main hall at Wongaksa Temple.

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The unique main altar inside the main hall at Wongaksa Temple.

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A look across the Myeongbu-jeon Hall towards the main hall.

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The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall with Jijang-bosal front and centre.

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The amazing and old shaman triad of paintings inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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The view from the Myeongbu-jeon Hall out onto the the temple courtyard.

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Across the stream is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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Inside is this beautiful stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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To the left of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall is this stupa and stele field.

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As well as this slender five tier pagoda.

Wongaksa Temple – 원각사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The central altar statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) inside the main hall at Wongaksa Temple in Yangsan Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!!

Wongaksa Temple is situated at the base of Mt. Cheonseongsan in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do down a nearly deserted country road. When you first approach the temple, the first thing to greet you is a yellow sign with the Korean word “원각사” and an arrow pointing towards the temple grounds. Up the temple driveway is the visitors’ centre with the dorms and kitchen to the right.

To the left of this initial cluster of buildings are the temple halls. Next to the visitors’ centre is a stone statue and alcove that houses a standing statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). This statue is backed by a bit of a fading picture of lotus flowers. Around this outdoor altar are smaller statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Further left, and next to the outdoor altar centred by Yaksayore-bul, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall dedicated to three shaman deities. This temple hall appears to the right rear of the main hall. Inside the shrine hall are three beautiful renderings of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

Next to the Samseong-gak shrine hall is the main hall at Wongaksa Temple. In front of this hall is a three-tier pagoda that is Silla inspired. Inside the hall, and sitting on the main altar, is the triad of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left. The hall has two walls of miniature statues dedicated to various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Next to these bronze coloured statues, on the far right wall, is an elaborate guardian painting. The exterior walls are adorned with simplistic Ox-Herding murals. These murals are said to have been painted by the head monk at Wongaksa Temple. Strangely, and this is a first for me, there was a punching bag to the right rear of the main hall. I guess when you need to get your stress out, no matter your calling, you have to get it out!

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to Wongaksa Temple is to take a taxi from the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should take about 20 minutes and cost 11,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. On its own, this temple really doesn’t have that much to offer. It does have a quaint outdoor altar dedicated to Yaksayore-bul, as well as the beautiful murals inside the Samseong-gak shrine hall and the head monk’s Ox-Herding murals around the main hall. And don’t forget the punching bag behind the main hall. However, if you include this temple with a couple other temples and hermitages in the area, it can make Wongaksa Temple worth the trek.

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The view as you make your way towards Wongaksa Temple.

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The welcoming yellow sign that greets you at the temple.

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A look around the temple courtyard.

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A standing statue of Yaksayore-bul at the temple.

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A closer look at the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Wongaksa Temple.

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Inside hangs this impressive incarnation of Chilseong.

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As well as this equally impressive Dokseong mural.

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The visitors’ centre and monks’ dorms at the temple.

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The Silla inspired three-tier stone pagoda out in front of the main hall.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar with Amita-bul front and centre.

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The guardian mural that hangs inside the main hall.

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Another look around the main hall’s interior.

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One of the murals that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall.

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The rather odd punching bag that’s placed behind the main hall. Perhaps one of the monks fancies himself a boxer in his spare time.