Borisa Temple – 보리사 (Gyeongju)

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The serene statue of Seokgamoni-bul that dates back a thousand years at Borisa Temple in Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

When you first approach Borisa Temple up a winding road on the north side of Mt. Namsan in Gyeongju, you’ll first be greeted by the temple’s bell pavilion. The temple itself dates back to the Silla Period (57 B.C. to 935 A.D.) in Korean history.

After passing by the bell pavilion that stands to your left, you’ll enter the temple courtyard. Straight ahead is the large sized main hall at Borisa Temple. The exterior walls are adorned with colourful Palsang-do murals that depict the eight stages of the Buddha’s life. As for the interior, and somewhat similar to the interior of Sujeongsa Temple in Ulsan, but not quite as elaborate, sits a golden main altar. In the centre of the altar sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s clothed in beautiful silks, and he’s joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) on the main altar. This triad is backed by a wonderfully elaborate golden high relief sculpture that is well populated under an equally golden canopy. And there are large sized Biseon (Flying Angels) floating around the main altar canopy. To the left of this stunning altar sits Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). In his hands he holds a long staff and golden pearl. Jijang-bosal is also wearing a beautiful golden robe, and he’s backed by a stunning mural of himself in the company of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. To the right of the main altar hangs the vibrant guardian mural, the Shinjung Taenghwa. The rest of the hall is filled with images of the Buddha in various acts of kindness and mercy.

In front of the main hall is a three tier stone pagoda, which is reminiscent of Silla design. And to the right of the main hall is the temple’s administrative building and dorms. To the left of the main hall, and situated under a large red pine, is the beautiful Samseong-gak, which is dedicated to Shaman deities. The exterior walls are wrapped in paintings of the Shinseon (The Daoist Immortals) and a white tiger. As for the interior, there are some impressive impressions of the three most popular shaman deities in Korean Buddhism. In the centre hangs the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural that is well populated. Uniquely, there are a pair of attendants in a crystal bubble. To the right of this mural is a rather standard painting of Dokseong (The Recluse). And to the left is a pretty standard painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). However, what sets this painting apart are the glowing golden eyes of the tiger that joins Sanshin in the painting.

Finally, and the main reason you’ve probably come to Borisa Temple, is the Silla Period statue of Seokgamoni-bul. The statue is known as The Seated Stone Buddha Statue of Borisa Temple. The statue itself stands two and a half metres in height, and with the lotus pedestal that it sits upon, the entire statue stands an impressive 4.36 metres in height. The face of the Buddha smiles with half-closed eyes. The statue itself is backed by a beautiful floral halo that surrounds the entire statue. And on the back of this halo is the very faint image of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha), who holds a medicine bowl in his left hand. You’ll have to look really close to see this image. Overall, this statue is really well preserved considering it’s believed to date back to the latter half of the Unified Silla Period (668 A.D to 935 A.D.).

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Borisa Temple, you’ll first have to get to Gyeongju. Once you arrive at the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, you can get a taxi from just outside the terminal to the temple. Because the temple is relatively close to the bus terminal, the ride should only cost you about 8,000 won (give or take).

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OVERALL RATING: 8/10. The main highlight to this temple is the Unified Silla Period statue of Seokgamoni-bul with its serene smile and stunning features; however, this isn’t the only highlight to this temple. The main hall, with its golden canopy and triad of golden statues, is yet another beautiful highlight at this ancient temple. Add into the mix the fierce golden eyes of the tiger that keeps Sanshin company inside the Samseong-gak, and you have yet another great reason to visit the religious Mt. Namsan in Gyeongju.

The winding road that leads up to the bell pavilion at Borisa Temple.
The large main hall at the temple.
And to the left of the main hall is the ancient statue of Seokgamoni-bul and the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
A closer look around the main hall reveals a set of Palsang-do murals.
A look inside the main hall reveals this beautiful golden altar.
To the left of the main altar is this statue and painting of Jijang-bosal.
And to the right of the main altar is this guardian mural.
The view to the south of the main hall at the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall and the three red pines that keep it company.
The Chilseong mural inside the Samseong-gak shrine hall.
And the Sanshin mural with the golden eyed tiger.
Finally, a look at the ancient, and yet, well preserved, statue of Seokgamoni-bul.
A closer look at the 1,000+ year old statue of the Historical Buddha.
And an even closer look at the cracks and crevices of the statue.
In the shadows of Mt. Namsan, the statue of Seokgamoni-bul looks out over the city of Gyeongju.
The sites that Seokgamoni-bul stands over at Borisa Temple.
One more look and then it was time to go.