Colonial Korea: Muryangsa Temple – 무량사 (Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do)

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Flag pole supports in 1916 at Muryangsa Temple in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On the far western side of the Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do city limits is Muryangsa Temple. Scenically situated in a long valley at the base of Mt. Mansusan, Muryangsa Temple has a long history that stretches back to the 9th century.

Muryangsa Temple was first built during the reign of King Munseong (r. 839-856) by the National Preceptor, Beomil. Later, and during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), the temple was later repaired. And in 1592, during the Imjin War (1592-98), Muryangsa Temple was destroyed by the invading Japanese. A half century later, and during the reign of King Injo (r. 1623-49), the temple was rebuilt by the monk Jinmuk.

In total, the temple houses five Korean Treasures, which notably includes Treasure #356, the Geukrak-jeon Hall at Muryangsa Temple, as well as Treasure #185, the Five Story Stone Pagoda of Muryangsa Temple. The temple was also the last home to the Joseon Korean scholar and author, Kim Siseup.

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The five tier pagoda in 1916 that also just so happens to be Treasure #185.

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The stone lantern at Muryangsa Temple from 1916. It’s also Treasure #233.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1933. The main hall is also Treasure #356.

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The exterior to the main hall  from 1933.

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A look inside the main hall from 1933. The triad inside this hall is Treasure #1565.

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The Geukrak-jeon main hall with the five tier pagoda and stone lantern from 2015.

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A closer look at the main all, which also just so happens to be Treasure #356.

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The large triad on the main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall. This triad is Treasure #1565.

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One more look at Korean Treasure #356.

Mujinam Hermitage – 무진암 (Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do)

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An early morning image of Mujinam Hermitage in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Directly to the south of its associated temple, Muryangsa Temple, lies Mujinam Hermitage in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do. As you first approach the hermitage, you’ll be welcomed to the grounds by a dozen outlying stupas. It’s just past this monastic cemetery, as well as past the monks’ dorms, that you’ll finally enter the compact Mujinam Hermitage courtyard.

Immediately, you’ll notice the temple’s main hall with a three-story stone pagoda out in front of it. The base is adorned with four directional lions, as well as ornamental images of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. As for the main hall itself, there are simple Palsang-do murals adorning the exterior walls to the hall. Inside the main hall is probably one of the larger canopies hanging over the main altar that you’ll find in Korea. As for the main altar, there are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) seated underneath the golden canopy. He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This is a rather typical triad at smaller temples and hermitages throughout Korea. What is less typical are the golden hued murals that hang throughout the main hall. The first painting directly to the right of the main altar is the golden Chilseong (Seven Stars) mural. It’s joined on the right wall by the equally golden guardian mural. Both are highly original in their composition.

To the right rear of the main hall is the Yaksayore-bul statue with an ornate, fiery nimbus surrounding the seated image of the Buddha of Medicine. To the left of the main hall is the still unpainted Sanshin/Dokseong-gak. Much like the Chilseong mural and the guardian mural housed inside the main hall, both Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) are beautifully highlighted in golden hues.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Mujinam Hermitage, you’ll first need to get to Muryangsa Temple. From the Nambu Terminal in Seoul, you should take an express bus to the Buyeo Intercity Bus Terminal. From this terminal, head left out the exit and continue to walk towards the big street. After crossing the road, take Bus #127 from the Buyeo Market Bus Stop. Then, at the Muryang Village Bus Stop, which is 37 stops away, get off and walk towards Muryangsa Temple. However, before arriving at the larger Muryangsa Temple, hang a left for about 200 metres before arriving at the temple to get to Mujinam Hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While small in size, there are a few highlights to Mujinam Hermitage near Muryangsa Temple. One of these highlights are all the golden clothing of the various shaman figures in the hermitage’s paintings. Also, the masterful stone statue of Yaksayore-bul, as well as the hermitage’s pagoda are something to have a closer look at while visiting this hermitage.

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The monastic cemetery at Mujinam Hermitage.

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The early morning light at Mujinam Hermitage in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do.

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The three-story stone pagoda at the hermitage.

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One of the Palsang-do murals adorning the main hall at Mujinam Hermitage.

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The main altar inside the main hall.

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The golden guardian mural inside the main hall.

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As well as the equally golden Chilseong mural.

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The elegant Yaksayore-bul statue at Mujinam Hermitage.

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The Sanshin/Dokseong-gak at the hermitage.

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A look at the golden Sanshin.

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As well as the golden robed Dokseong.

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One last look around Mujinam Hermitage.

Muryangsa Temple – 무량사 (Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do)

DSC_2182-1024x678 A look through the Cheonwangmun Gate at Muryangsa Temple in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located at the foot of Mt. Mansusan, Muryangsa Temple was first built during the reign of King Munseong (r. 839-857). It was built by National Preceptor Beomil, and it was later repaired during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). Like so many temples throughout the Korean peninsula, Muryangsa Temple was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War in 1592. Later, it was rebuilt by the monk Jinmuk during the reign of King Injo (r. 1623-1649). In total, the temple houses five Korean designated Treasures. It was also the last home to Joseon Korean scholar and author Kim Siseup.

You first approach the temple past the aged Iljumun Gate at the entry and across the Mansu-cheon Stream. It’s looking through the boxy Cheonwangmun Gate with its mutant looking Four Heavenly Kings that you get a great view of the historic Geukrak-jeon and the treasured five-tier pagoda at Muryangsa Temple.

Beautifully framed by a low-lying tree and the surrounding mountains, the five-tier pagoda is believed to have been built sometime between the Baekje Dynasty (18 B.C to 660 A.D.) and the Unified Silla Dynasty (668 A.D to 935 A.D). But it’s the two story Geukrak-jeon main hall at Muryangsa Temple that truly stands out. Treasure #356 dates back to the mid-Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and houses the three largest seated statues in all of Asia. The triad is centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), and he’s 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 right of these structures lies the temple’s bell pavilion and Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Inside the bell pavilion is stored the Muryangsa Temple bell that dates back to 1636. As for the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, there’s a slender statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) that’s surrounded by ten equally slender seated statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the left of the Geukrak-jeon main hall are a collection of shrine halls. The first of these halls underneath another mature tree at the temple is the Cheonbul-jeon Hall with a thousand tiny white Buddha statues inside. These statues are joined by a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) on the main altar. To the front right of this hall is the Yeongjeong-gak with a mural of the famed patriot, Kim Siseup, inside. And the final hall in the collection is the Wontong-jeon with a multi-armed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside. He’s joined by hundreds of wooden statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Just a little further up the path, and just before taking a trail that leads you to the top of the neighbouring Mt. Mansusan, is the temple’s Samseong-gak. To the left of the head monks living quarters is the unassuming shaman shrine hall. The frowning/contemplative look of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), as well as the tiger-riding Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) are something to keep an eye out for when visiting the Samseong-gak.

Admission to the temple is 2,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Nambu Terminal in Seoul, you should take an express bus to the Buyeo Intercity Bus Terminal. From this terminal, head left out the exit and continue to walk towards the big street. After crossing the road, take Bus #127 from the Buyeo Market Bus Stop. Then, at the Muryang Village Bus Stop, which is 37 stops away, get off and walk about 400 metres towards Muryangsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. With a number of Korean Treasures, it’s the much vaunted Geukrak-jeon Hall that stands out the most at this serenely located Muryangsa Temple in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do. Other highlights to your visit will include the shrine hall dedicated to Kim Siseup, as well as the massive statues housed inside the Geukrak-jeon.

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The Iljumun Gate at Muryangsa Temple.

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The Mansucheon Stream at the temple.

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The path that makes its way up to Muryangsa Temple.

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The mutant-looking Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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A look towards the treasured five-tier pagoda and Geukrak-jeon.

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A different angle with the 19th century Myeongbu-jeon in view to the right.

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The 1636 bell at Muryangsa Temple.

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The slender Jijang-bosal statue inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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A look at the two-story Geukrak-jeon at Muryangsa Temple.

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The largest seated statues in Asia inside the Geukrak-jeon.

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A look towards the Cheonbul-jeon.

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A look towards the Yeongjeong-gak.

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With a framed picture of Kim Siseup inside the Yeongjeong-gak.

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 The Wontong-jeon with Gwanseeum-bosal front and centre.

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Some of the surrounding wooden statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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Awaiting you is the tiger-riding Sanshin painting.

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 One last look at two Korean Treasures.