Jeongtosa Temple – 정토사 (Nam-gu, Ulsan)

The Daeung-jeon Hall and temple pagoda at Jeongtosa Temple in Ulsan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located south of the Taehwa River that bisects the city of Ulsan, and just south of a very large cemetery called Ulsan Gongwon Myowon, is the beautiful Jeongtosa Temple. This temple is undergoing pretty extensive construction and renovation.

As you first approach Jeongtosa Temple, you’ll notice an upright stone marker that says the temple name on it: 정토사. Making your way towards the temple buildings, and up a slight incline, you’ll notice stone statues dedicated to a dongja (assistant) and Podae-hwasang with a well-worn belly that’s been rubbed for good luck. Book-ending buildings guide your way up towards the main hall on the upper terrace. These buildings are the monks’ dorms, the visitor centre, and the temple’s kitchen.

A little to the left and then back to the right up another concrete incline, you’ll be standing squarely in the temple’s main temple courtyard. Straight ahead is the Daeung-jeon Hall. This large main hall is adorned by various Buddhist motif paintings around the exterior walls like an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) riding a white elephant. As for inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find a triad of statues seated on the main altar. Seated in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined to the left by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and to the right is Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). On the far left wall is a painting of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom ferrying people across samsara, as well as the temple’s Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian mural). And to the right of the triad of statues resting on the main altar is a multi-armed mural and statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

Out in front of the Daeung-jeon Hall, and reminiscent of the famed pagoda at Hwaeomsa Temple, is a four lion based, three tier, stone pagoda. Housed inside are the purported sari of the Buddha. And to the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Housed inside this shrine hall is a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) seated on the main altar. And this statue is joined on both sides by the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the left of both the main hall and the beautiful stone pagoda is a large stone statue and shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal. And to the right of this statue is the highly unique concrete pantheon of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. On the top level there are such Buddhas as Seokgamoni-bul and Amita-bul, while the five statues on the bottom represent such figures as Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy), Yaksayore-bul, and Gwanseeum-bosal. I have never personally seen a shrine like this before in Korea.

To the rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall, and up another embankment, is the newly built Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. In fact, the shrine hall is so new that it has yet to be painted with the traditional dancheong colours. As for the murals housed inside the Samseong-gak, you’ll find rather traditional paintings of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) in the centre of the three paintings, while Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) hang to both the right and left of the central mural.

To the far, far right, and housed on an overlooking terrace, is a stone semi-circular shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul. This large stone statue is surrounded on all sides by his sixteen disciples, as well as the Cheonwang (Heavenly Kings). And to the rear of this shrine will be the Geukrak-jeon Hall; however, it’s currently being built. And it’s also from this height that you can look down on the temple grounds and see the large temple murals that adorn the temple buildings like the three piece, twelve mural set, dedicated to the history of Buddhism and Buddhism in Korea.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Ulsan Intercity Bus Terminal in Nam-gu, you can take a taxi. The ride should last about 20 minutes and cost 8,000 won. You can do that or take a bus from just north of the terminal around the KEB bank. You’ll need to head north for about 500 metres. You can then take bus # 401, 307, 124, 417, 482, 712, 134, 432, or 733. The bus ride should take about 20 to 25 minutes. The name of the final bus stop, in Korean, is “공원묘지입구.” And from this bus stop, you’ll need to head north for about 5 minutes (just follow the signs).

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. I was very pleasantly surprised while visiting Jeongtosa Temple. There are a lot of halls, shrines, a beautiful pagoda, and murals to enjoy in and around the temple grounds. The highlights at this temple are the pantheon of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the semi-circular shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul, and the lion-based pagoda out in front of the main hall. But there is definitely a lot to see and enjoy at this lesser known temple near downtown Ulsan.

The entry to Jeongtosa Temple.

The entry as you make your way to the main hall.

The beautiful four lion based, three tier, pagoda reminiscent of the one at Hwaeomsa Temple.

The large Daeung-jeon main hall at Jeongtosa Temple.

One of the murals that adorns its exterior walls. This one is dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

The entry between the Myeongbu-jeon Hall and the Daeung-jeon Hall.

One of the three panels that describes the history of Buddhism, as well as its place in Korean culture.

The second panel

And the third.

The stone statue dedicated to Gwaneeum-bosal.

The pantheon of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to the left of the main hall.

A closer look at the statues housed inside the shrine.

The newly built Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

A look inside at the unpainted interior. The two paintings here are dedicated to Chilseong to the left and Sanshin to the right.

A stone statue of Sanshin out in front of the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

The beautiful stone shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul and the Nahan.

A closer look at the disciples of the Buddha.

The amazing view from where the Geukrak-jeon Hall will be housed.

And the temple’s bell pavilion at Jeongtosa Temple.