Cheoneunsa Temple – 천은사 (Gurye, Jeollanam-do)


 Just one of the fierce looking Heavenly Kings at Cheoneunsa Temple in Jirisan National Park.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Cheoneunsa Temple (“Hidden Spring Temple,” in English), which is located on the southwest section of Jirisan National Park, is said to date back to 828 A.D., when it was established by the Indian monk, Seuru, and a Korean monk, Deokun. The temple was originally called Gamnosa Temple. The temple was later destroyed, like so many other temples in Korea, during the Imjin War (1592-98). The temple was soon rebuilt in 1610, but was destroyed, once more, in 1676. Again, the temple was rebuilt in 1677. This cycle was repeated in 1773, when the temple was damaged, only to be rebuilt in 1775 by monk Hyeam. It’s from this era that the present temple buildings date back to. Currently, there are twenty buildings at Cheoneunsa Temple.

After arriving in the temple parking lot, you’ll make your way up a long pathway that leads you to the Iljumun Gate. Hanging to the left, you’ll hug the neighbouring ravine that runs into a beautiful lake. This ravine eventually takes you to a bridge that is inhabited by a quaint pavilion. A bit further along, and you’ll see the Cheonwangmun Gate up a set of steep stairs. Inside the Cheonwangmun Gate are four of the fiercest and most original four Heavenly Kings that you’ll see in all of Korea. Emerging on the other side of the gate, you’ll see the temple’s bell pavilion to your right and a very unique stone lantern with a stone set of stairs out in front of it.

Up another set of stairs and you’ll finally be in the main temple courtyard. Straight ahead is the main hall at the temple, the Geuknakbo-jeon. The exterior walls are adorned with beautifully simplistic Shimu-do, Ox-herding, murals. Also, there was a large infestation of wasps around the right rear when I visited, so be warned. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a large seated statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by two standing statues of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul).

To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall, which is dedicated to Jijang-bosal. The exterior walls are rather plain, but they are made up for by the interior. Sitting on the main altar is a stoically seated statue of a green haired Jijang-bosal. And he’s surrounded on both sides by the Ten Kings of the Underworld both in statue and painted forms.

Through a path that leads you past the main hall and the Myeongbu-jeon, you’ll come to a set of stairs that leads you to the upper terrace of buildings at Cheoneunsa Temple. In total, there are four shrine halls that you can enter in this area. The first, and to the far right, is the Nahan-jeon. Inside, and sitting on the main altar, is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined by sixteen colourful statues of the Nahan, as well as a set of vibrant paintings of the Nahan.

Next to the Nahan-jeon is the Palsang-jeon hall. Inside this hall are housed eight stunning paintings from Seokgamoni-bul’s, the Historical Buddha’s, life. These paintings inside this hall are equal to the ones that you can find at Beopjusa Temple, Tongdosa Temple, or even Beomeosa Temple.

To the left of the Palsang-jeon hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon. Inside this hall is an extremely elaborate statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. This golden, one thousand armed, Bodhisattva is truly something to behold. The final hall to the far left is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. All three paintings of the shaman deities, Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Dokseong (The Recluse), are masterfully painted. The double tiger painting of Sanshin is pretty original in its own right.

Admission to the temple, for an adult, is 1,600 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Cheoneunsa Temple, you’ll first have to get to the city of Gurye. And to get to Gurye from Busan, you’ll first have to get to Nopo Bus Terminal, on line 1, stop # 134. The buses to Gurye from Busan leave 18 times a day, and the trip takes about three hours.

Then from the Gurye Bus Terminal, you can take a bus directly to Cheoneunsa Temple. The bus that goes to the temple leaves 6 times a day. There is a schedule in the bus terminal that tells you the exact time that they leave, but roughly, they leave at: 8:35/10:00/12:20/14:10/16:10/17:30.

And if you visit the neighbouring Hwaeomsa Temple first, you can simply take a taxi to Cheoneunsa Temple. The ride lasts about 15 minutes (or 7.7 km), and the fee should cost about 7,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. This temple is well populated with shrine halls. Starting with the stunning main hall and making your way up to the second terrace with the beautiful set of halls both with beautiful paintings and statues, and you have more than enough reason to visit the temple that is unfortunately dwarfed by the neighbouring, and much more popular, Ssangyesa Temple and Hwaeomsa Temple. Add into the mix the ferocious Heavenly Kings, the best in Korea, and the beautiful scenery, and you’ll have to add this temple to your list of “must sees” in Jirisan National Park.


The path that leads up to the Iljumun Gate.


A look at the ravine and the pavilion that spans it.


The view of the lake from the bridge pavilion.


A look up at the Cheonwangmun Gate.


Another of the intimidating Heavenly Kings that takes up residence inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.


The stone lantern with a stone staircase out in front of it.


The neighbouring bell pavilion at Cheoneunsa Temple.


The main hall, the Geukrakbo-jeon, and the Myeongbu-jeon, at Cheoneunsa Temple.


Just one, from the set of ten, Shimu-do murals.


The main altar inside the main hall with Amita-bul front and centre.


A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon hall reveals Jijang-bosal.


The upper terrace at the temple that houses four unique shrine halls.


The first is this interior of the Nahan-jeon.


And a look inside the Palsang-jeon hall with the elaborate and vibrant Palsang murals.


Inside the third hall, the Gwaneeum-jeon, are the helpful hands of this elaborate Gwanseeum-bosal statue.


The final hall of the four is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Here is the beautiful painting of Chilseong.


Next to Chilseong hangs this painting of Sanshin.


One final look at the main hall before heading off to my next adventure at Jirisan National Park.