Ingaksa Temple – 인각사 (Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do)


The snowy Sallyeong-gak at Ingaksa Temple in Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Ingaksa Temple in south-eastern Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do is said to have purportedly been first constructed by the famed Wonhyo-daesa during the reign of Queen Seondeok (r. 632-647 A.D.). The name of the temple relates to the neigbouring landscape that surrounds Ingaksa Temple. Ingaksa Temple, in English, means “Giraffe Horn Temple.” With the Wicheon Stream flowing to the north of the temple, Ingaksa Temple is surrounded by Mt. Hwasan. Historically, people thought that Mt. Hwasan looked like a giraffe. And where Ingaksa Temple is located is where, according to these people, a corresponding giraffe’s horn should be located.

Ingaksa Temple was further expanded during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), and with its growth, it also became one of the most prominent temples throughout the Korean peninsula. Ingaksa Temple is closely associated with the famed Ilyeon (1206-89) because it’s believed that he wrote the Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) at Ingaksa Temple over a five year period starting in 1281.

You first approach Ingaksa Temple in a bend in the Wicheon Stream. Entering the temple parking lot and past the field of stone artifacts which date back to the Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935 A.D.), you’ll finally enter the large temple courtyard. Straight ahead lies the Geukrak-jeon main hall. Out in front of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is a three tier pagoda. Housed inside the recently renovated main hall is a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Amita-bul is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the left of this triad are a pair of paintings. The first is an elaborate Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural that’s joined to the rear by a rather unique Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. Rounding out the set, and to the right of the main altar, is the temple’s guardian mural.

To the right of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is the Guksa-jeon Hall (The Hall for the State Preceptor). In this case, this Guksa-jeon is dedicated to Ilyeon-guksa. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Housed inside this large shrine hall are a pair of murals dedicated to Ilyeon. To the rear of this hall, and to the right, are a pair of stone artifacts. The first is a seated stone image of the Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul, that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty. This stone sculpture is joined to the right by the octagonal stone stupa for Ilyeon. It’s believed that the stupa dates back to between 1289 (the time of Ilyeon’s death) and 1295. Either way, the stupa has been amazingly preserved for its age. A little less well preserved is the stele to the left rear of the Guksa-jeon Hall. Like the stupa, it dates back to between 1289 and 1295, but only the stone body of the stele still exists. And even this is in rough shape. Both the stupa and stele for Ilyeon-guksa are Korean Treasure #428.

Between both the Geukrak-jeon Hall and the Guksa-jeon Hall is the temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Inside the dancheong exterior of the Judgment Hall is a smaller, green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This statue is joined by ten smaller sized statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld, as well.

To the rear of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, and up an elevated path, is the Sallyeong-gak, which houses a fading mural of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Unlike the other shrine halls, the Sallyeong-gak shaman shrine hall cannot be entered. Instead, at this diminutive shrine, a person must pray outside towards the painting inside.

The final shrine hall a person can enter is the Mireuk-dang Hall, which is housed in a modern building. The damaged image of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) rests all alone on the main altar and dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty.

And no trip to Ingaksa Temple would be complete without visiting the museum dedicated to the monk Ilyeon-guksa at the front of the temple grounds.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gunwi Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to board a bus that reads “Gunwi – Nakjeon, 군위 – 낙전” or “Gunwi – Hakam, 군위 – 학암.” With either of these buses, you’ll need to take the bus for 21 stops, or 57 minutes. You’ll then need to get off at the Hwabuk 1 ri (화북 1리) stop. From where the bus lets you of, you’ll need to walk an additional 900 metres, or 13 minutes, to get to Ingaksa Temple.

You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Gunwi Intercity Bus Terminal. The taxi ride should last 33 minutes and set you back 23,200 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Like so many other temples on the peninsula, Ingaksa Temple has quite the past. But what sets this temple apart is its connection with Ilyeon-guksa with the Guksa-jeon Hall, as well as the stele and stupa dedicated to the writer of the Samguk Yusa. Other points of interest at Ingaksa Temple is the painting of Sanshin housed inside the Sallyeong-gak and the stone artifacts at the front of the temple.


The temple courtyard at Ingaksa Temple.


A look at the stone artifacts of the temple from the Unified Silla Dynasty.


The Geukrak-jeon Hall and three tier stone pagoda out in front of it.


A look inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall at the main altar and the Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural.


The Chilseong mural to the left rear of the main hall.


The Ilyeon Museum at Ingaksa Temple.


The Goryeo Dynasty Buddha statue at the temple.


The octagonal stupa for Ilyeon-guksa at Ingaksa Temple.


The Guksa-jeon Hall to the right of the main hall.


A look inside the Guksa-jeon Hall.


One painting dedicated to the author of the Samguk Yusa.


And the other painting dedicated to Ilyeon-guksa on the main altar.


The enclosure for the battered stele dedicated to Ilyeon-guksa.


The late 13th century stele has seen better days.


One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the Guksa-jeon Hall.


The view from the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.


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


The Sallyeong-gak shrine hall dedicated to Sanshin.


And the beautiful, fading mural dedicated to the Mountain Spirit inside.


The snowy trail leading up to the Sallyeong-gak with a devotee praying at it.


The statue of Mireuk-bul from the Goryeo Dynasty that’s seen better days.