Yongjusa Temple – 용주사 (Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Inside the main hall at Yongjusa Temple in Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yongjusa Temple, not to be confused with the more famous one in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do, is located in Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do. Yongjusa Temple, in English, means “Dragon Jewel Temple.” There are two Yongjusa Temples in Changnyeong. This Yongjusa Temple is located in Gyeseong-myeon. The temple is beautifully framed by Mt. Guhyeonsan (579m). And just to the north is the more popular Samseongam Hermitage. Yongjusa Temple belongs to the Taego-jong Order, which allows its monks to marry.

You first approach Yongjusa Temple off the main highway and down a country road. The entry to the temple is wide and spacious, and the main hall just kind of sits there in a clearing. The first thing you’ll notice is the main hall, which points to the south. There are elaborate blue floral patterns that adorn the exterior walls to this hall, as well as large Shimu-do, Ox-Herding murals.

Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll notice a triad of statues seated on the main altar. Sitting in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of the main altar is a shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And on the far right wall is another shrine; this time, it’s dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the left of the main altar hangs a beautiful Shinjung Taenghwa, guardian mural. The interior, much like the exterior, is decorated with simplistic Buddhist motif murals, which are somewhat in contrast to the murals you’ll find at Jogye-jong Order temples.

To the left rear of the main hall is the Sanshin-gak Hall. Inside is housed a simplistic painting dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), as well as a statue dedicated to Sanshin-dosa.

In front of the Sanshin-gak, and almost parallel with the main hall, is the Yongwang-dang. Housed inside this hall is another simplistic shaman painting; however this time, the painting is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). In front of this painting is a beautiful green dragon statue.

HOW TO GET THERE: If you’re attempting to get to Yongjusa Temple from Daegu, Busan, or Miryang, you can take a bus that heads to the city of Yeongsan. The bus to Yeongsan specifically says Yeongsan-haeng (영산행) on it. During this bus ride to Yeongsan, you’ll have to get off at Gyeseong. And from Gyeseong, you can take a local a taxi. You simply have to tell the taxi driver “Yongjusa” and they’ll know the rest, hopefully.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. While smaller in size, Yongjusa Temple does have a few highlights to enjoy. First, it’s a Taego-jong Order temple, which has a different feel than a Jogye-jong Order temple (which are the majority of temples in Korea), or even Cheontae-jong Order temples. So it’s a great introduction to a different sect especially when looking at the various artwork. And seeing Yongjusa Temple and the neighbouring Samseongam Hermitage together can make for a nice little day trip.

The main hall as you first approach it.

Some beautiful flowers in bloom in and around the temple grounds.

One of the Shimu-do murals adorning the main hall.

And another of the paintings from the Ox-Herding mural set.

The main altar inside the main hall with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) sitting in the middle.

To the right of the main altar is this shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

On the far right wall is this altar dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

And to the left of the main altar is this Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian mural).

The front facade to the main hall at Yongjusa Temple.

The Sanshin-gak at Yongjusa Temple.

Inside is this mural dedicated to Sanshin and a statue dedicated to Sanshin-dosa.

Inside the Yongwang-dang is a mural and statue dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).

In front of Yongwang is this beautiful dragon statue.

And off in the distance is the neighbouring Samseongam Hermitage.

Colonial Korea: Gwanryongsa Temple – 관룡사 (Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The early Joseon Dynasty era Yaksa-jeon Hall at Gwanryongsa Temple in 1933.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just south of the 753 metre peak of Mt. Gwanryongsan in the scenic city of Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do lies the historic Gwanryongsa Temple. The name of the temple harkens back to the famed monk, Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.). One day while Wonhyo-daesa was praying with one of his disciples, Songpa, during a one hundred day prayer session, they saw nine dragons appear from a neighbouring pond and soar up to the sky around the peaks of Mt. Hwawangsan. With this in mind, “Gwan” means “see” in Chinese characters, while “ryong” means “dragon.” So the name of the temple, Gwanryongsa Temple, literally means “See Dragon Temple,” in English.

While Gwanryongsa Temple was considered one of the eight most important temples of the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C.E to 935 A.D), the exact date of the temples creation is unknown; however, this hasn’t prevented scholars from speculating. One foundation myth states that Gwanryongsa Temple was first established in 349 A.D., while another states that the temple was first built in 583 A.D. by Jeungbeop-guksa.

In total, Gwanryongsa Temple houses six Korean Treasures. Of special note is the Yaksa-jeon Hall, which dates back to the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the Stone Seated Buddha at Yongseondae Cliff that dates back to the Unified Silla Dynasty (668 A.D. to 935 A.D.), as well as the large mural of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the back side of the Daeung-jeon Hall’s main altar.

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The Woneum-ru Pavilion from 1933.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall in 1933.

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Inside the Daeung-jeon main hall at Gwanryongsa Temple.

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Another look around the interior of the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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A look towards the large canopy that hangs over the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A look at the historic Yaksa-jeon Hall, which also just so happens to be Gwanryongsa Temple’s oldest building.

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Another look at the Yaksa-jeon Hall in 1933.

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The Woneum-ru Pavilion in 2012.

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A scenic mountainside look at the Daeung-jeon Hall in 2012.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at the main altar’s colourful canopy.

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The backside of the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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Approaching the Yaksa-jeon Hall.

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A better look at the Yaksa-jeon Hall in 2012.

Samseongam Hermitage – 삼성암 (Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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This beautiful cherry blossom tree was in full bloom when we arrived at Samseongam Hermitage in Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

We had never planned on visiting Samseongam Hermitage, let alone ever heard of it. But on the way to the neighbouring, and much more popular and famous Gwanryongsa Temple, we saw a temple high up in the Hwawang mountain range. This temple turned out to be Samseongam Hermitage.

Samseongam Hermitage, which means “Three Stars Hermitage” in English, dates back at least a couple hundred years, but probably several hundred more. You first make your way up a very steep road that leads up Mt. Hwawang. Our car nearly stalled halfway up the 500 metre climb.

Finally at the ledge that houses Samseongam Hermitage, you’re first greeted by a three storied visitors’ centre and meeting hall. A bit further along are several beautiful cherry blossom trees. The views from this side of the hermitage of Changnyeong below are beautiful. They are only bettered by the views from the tiny pavilion that juts out over the quickly receding mountainside. The views from this pavilion are amazing.

Around the bend in the road, and a bit closer towards the hermitage grounds, is the monks’ dorm. It’s rather new looking with just the natural wood finish still untouched by a Korean temple’s colourful painted patterns. The next temple building to greet you is the Myeongbu-jeon hall dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). The exterior is adorned with Shimu-do murals, better known as the Ox-Herding murals in English. As for the interior, it took me a few strong pulls on the door even to gain entrance to this hall. But with a bit of muscle, I was finally able to gain access to the beautiful decorated interior. Sitting on the main altar of the Myeongbu-jeon hall is an atypical stone statue of Jijang-bosal. This Bodhisattva is backed by an older looking mural of himself with Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To the left of the stone Jijang-bosal statue is a painting of The Dragon Ship of Wisdom. And in front of this mural are two statues, of dissimilar size, of Yongwang (The Dragon King). On the right side of Jijang-bosal is another Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural. The other difference between the two is that a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) sits on the right side of the altar. Amazingly, and all about this hall, there are masterful paintings of various birds like ducks, peacocks, and falcons.

Next to the Myeongbu-jeon hall is the main hall at Samseongam Hermitage. The exterior of this hall is atypically adorned with various murals like monks chasing after a scroll with the name of Wonhyo-daesa written on it in Chinese characters. As for the interior, the hermitage’s most prized historical possession sits on the main altar in the main hall. The wooden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal is Gyeongsangnam-do’s Tangible Cultural Property #414. The rounded facial expressions are reminiscent of the late Joseon Period. And connected literature of the time dates the serene wooden statue back to 1838. This statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) sits all alone on the main altar. On either side of the main altar are paintings and statues of the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). And on the right side of the altar, just below the statues of the Nahan is a painting of the famous Wonhyo-daesa. And on the far right wall is a mural dedicated to the Buddhist Silla martyr, Ichadon.

The final building of any significance at Samseongam Hermitage is to the left rear of the main hall. Interestingly, the hall should be called the Samseong-gak shrine hall because it houses the three most popular Korean shaman deities, and yet, it’s not named the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Instead, above each of the three entrances to this hall is a name plate written in Chinese characters that identifies each of the three shaman deities. As you step into this hall, and in the centre, is a simplistic painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the right is another atypical painting at Samseongam Hermitage. This time, the painting is of Dokseong (The Recluse). Finally, and to the left, is a mural of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) that is accompanied by a rather fierce-looking, but bloated, tiger. Strangely, there’s another statue of Yongwang in front of the San shin mural.

From the hermitage compound grounds, you get a great view of the neighbouring Hwawangsan mountain range, and the valley below where the city of Changnyeong resides. And behind the hermitage are several trails that lead up to the top of Mt. Hwawang.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: Depending on where you’re coming from, you can arrive at Samseongam Hermitage in a couple ways. If you’re coming from Seoul, you can take a bus that leaves five times a day to Changnyeong. And if you’re leaving from Daegu, Busan, or Miryang, you can take a bus that heads to the city of Youngsan. The bus to Youngsan specifically says Youngsan-haeng (영산행) on it. During this bus ride to Youngsan, you’ll have to get off at Gyeseong. And from Gyeseong, you can take a local a taxi. You simply have to tell the taxi driver “Samseongam” and they’ll know the rest. Either that, or they’ll get to the base of the mountain where Samseongam Hermitage lies up a very steep road, and tell you get out and walk it.

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OVERALL RATING: 6/10. If you’re in the Changnyeong area, and you want to visit a couple of beautiful temples or hermitages, I would suggest visiting Samseongam Hermitage in conjunction with those other temples. The views from the hermitage, at any vantage point, are amazing. Added to this is the historically important Gwanseeum-bosal statue inside the main hall and the stunning bird murals inside the Myeongbu-jeon hall. All of these things add up for a nice little visit to an out of the way hermitage in Gyeongsangnam-do.

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The front facade that welcomes you to Samseongam Hermitage. It’s noticeable from the valley below.
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The amazing view from the hermitage.
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Only bettered by the view from this pavilion that is perched precariously over a steep falling mountainside.
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The view! I told you it was good.
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The road that leads up to the hermitage courtyard is lined with cherry blossom trees.
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An amazing look up at the cherry blossoms at Samseongam Hermitage.
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A view from the hermitage courtyard of the cliff side road that winds its way up from the valley floor to the hermitage.
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The Myeongbu-jeon hall to the right of the main hall.
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Inside, and on its main altar, sits the stone statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
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To the Jijang-bosal’s left is this painting of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom and the two different statues of Yongwang (The Dragon King).
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Surrounding the trim of the Myeongbu-jeon ceiling are numerous paintings of stunning birds like these falcons.
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And in the centre of the hermitage’s buildings is the compact main hall.
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A look inside of the main hall during morning prayer.
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A zoomed in look at the historical statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that dates back to 1838.
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And next to the main hall, and slightly up the embankment to the left, is the shaman shrine hall that has three unique name plates to each of the deities housed inside of the shaman shrine hall.
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And a look at just one of the paintings inside of the shaman shrine hall.  The painted San shin (Mountain Spirit) is next to a bloated tiger. And in front of this painting, strangely, is yet another statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King).

Cheongryeonsa Temple – 청련사 (Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A view of the beautiful cherry blossoms in bloom as well as the bell pavilion at Cheongryeonsa Temple in Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Because Cheongryeonsa Temple is so close to the neighbouring Gwanryongsa Temple, we decided to visit yet another of the beautiful temples located in Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Just outside the gates for Mt. Hwawangsan Park, and along a beautiful riverside that houses several rows of cherry blossoms, is Cheongryeonsa Temple. Up a newly laid asphalt road that twists and turns is where the beautiful temple is located. And while there is a lot of construction further up the road, Cheongryeonsa Temple is well cared for and maintained.

As you first approach the temple, you’ll be greeted by a greenish looking stone statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Light). He sits out in front of the temple in a little shrine pavilion. Further up the road, and to the right, you’ll finally arrive at the main temple compound. And the first thing to greet you, besides the towering cherry blossoms that were fully in bloom when we arrived, is an ornately decorated Cheonwangmun Gate dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings that are meant to protect the temple from evil spirits. The doors to this gate are decorated with fierce looking paintings of Heng and Ha. The open mouthed Ha is to the right, while the fully-flared nostrils of Heng are to the left. The same artist that painted the Heng and Ha murals probably painted the Four Heavenly Kings, as well. Unfortunately, when these doors are open, two, of the four, kings are hidden. But either way, you get a good glimpse of these kings that are atypically painted on the walls of the Cheonwangmun Gate. Above these Heavenly King murals are four floral totting and music playing Biseon. Around the exterior of this gate are various murals like Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa, as well as the Dharma.

After stepping through this gate, you’ll be greeted by a well-manicured courtyard. While there aren’t as many buildings as the neighbouring Gwanryongsa Temple, the grounds are just as pleasing to the eye. To your immediate left is the temple’s visitors’ centre and kitchen. And to your immediate right is the temple’s bell pavilion. Solitarily sitting in the depths of the bell pavilion is a large sized Brahma Bell, and on each of the four corners of the bell pavilion are four fierce looking, and protective, lions. The bell pavilion is joined by numerous neighbouring cherry blossom trees that hover over the roof of the pavilion, much like the imposing neighbouring mountain does to the west of the temple grounds. Next to this bell pavilion is a rather non-descript row of monks’ dorms.

The most impressive feature of Cheongryeonsa Temple is the main hall. Out in front of the main hall is a nice looking coy pond with beautiful bright red coy inside the pond. The only unfortunate thing about it is that there is an ugly mesh cover over the coy pond. As for the exterior of the main hall, it’s adorned with some nicely rendered Palsang-do paintings of the Historical Buddha’s life. Sitting on the main altar is a triad centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To his right sits Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and to the left of Amita-bul is Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). These three statues date back to the late-Joseon Period and were transferred to this temple from their former location of Daeheungsa Temple. Backing this triad is a copy of the Yeongsan Hoehu Bultaeng of Cheongryeonsa Temple. The original dates back to 1863, and in the centre of the mural sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Perhaps the most amazing feature of this altar are the wood-engravings throughout the base of the altar that depicts various Bodhisattvas, Biseon, demons, tigers, and elephants. On the far right wall is a newer looking mural of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom. And next to this, understandably, is a statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). On the far left wall is an elaborately painted, and masterfully executed, guardian painting. And with the same masterful brush, the neighbouring Chilseong (Seven Stars) painting is situated.

Up the hill, and up a newly constructed set of wooden stairs, is the equally newly built San shin-gak. This hall is soley dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit). Be careful when you visit because the floor of the shrine hall is littered with dead wasps. I guess there’s something that attracts wasps to the sweet wood smell of the San shin-gak shrine hall at Cheongryeonsa Temple. Resting on the altar, of the yet to be painted interior and exterior of this hall, is a large size San shin statue. The Mountain Spirit is resting upon his accompanying tiger. The statue is joined by two helpers. All of this is backed by a mural of just a tiger.

HOW TO GET THERE: Depending on where you’re coming from, you can arrive at Cheongryeonsa Temple in a couple ways. If you’re coming from Seoul, you can take a bus that leaves five times a day to Changnyeong. And if you’re leaving from Daegu, Busan, or Miryang, you can take a bus that heads to the city of Youngsan. The bus to Youngsan specifically says Youngsan-haeng (영산행) on it. During this bus ride to Youngsan, you’ll have to get off at Gyeseong. And from Gyeseong, you can take a local a taxi. You simply have to tell the taxi driver “Cheongryeonsa” and they’ll know the rest.

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OVERALL RATING: 6/10. While not nearly as impressive as the neighbouring Gwanryongsa Temple, in conjunction with this temple, Cheongryeonsa Temple can make for a nice little visit to the small town of Changnyeong. The highlights of this temple are easily the statue of Birojana-bul out in front of the temple grounds. As for the temple itself, the highlights are the bell pavilion and accompanying cherry blossom trees, as well as the decorative main hall with the mural and triad of statues.

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The greenish looking Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) that welcomes you to the temple.
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The welcoming cherry blossoms.
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A look through the Cheonwangmun Gate at the main hall at Cheongryeonsa Temple.
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A look at one of the guardians that adorns the entrance gates at the temple. With nostrils flared, this one is Heng.
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Just one of the four Heavenly Kings that is painted inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.
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A mural that adorns the exterior walls of Cheonwangmun Gate. This one depicts Wonhyo-daesa’s enlightenment.
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The gorgeous bell pavilion is surrounded by cherry blossoms on all sides.
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A look up at a magnolia tree in bloom inside the temple courtyard.
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A look over at one of the guardian lions that ornamentallly adorns the bell pavilion. It’s backed by some beautiful cherry blossoms.
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The guarded coy pond in front of the main hall.
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Just one of the Palsang-do paintings that surround the exterior walls of the main hall.
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A look inside of the main hall at the triad of altar pieces.
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Just one of the rather impressive woodcarvings that adorns the base of the main altar inside the main hall at Cheongryeonsa Temple.
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And one of the wooden elephants at each corner of the altar’s base.
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The statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the right of the main altar.
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The gorgeous Chilseong (Seven Stars) painting to the left of the main altar.
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A look up at the newly constructed San shin-gak at Cheongryeonsa Temple.
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And a look down at the temple grounds from the heights of the San shin-gak shrine hall.
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The rather large San shin (Mountain Spirit) statue inside of the San shin-gak shrine hall.

Gwanryongsa Temple – 관룡사 (Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The photogenic front facade of Gwanryongsa Temple in Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do. 

Hello Again Everyone!!

As I continue to explore Gyeongsangnam-do Province, another city on the list was Changnyeong. While a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of larger cities in the area, Changnyeong certainly didn’t disappoint with its beauty.

Gwanryongsa Temple (관룡사) refers to Gwan, which means to “see” in Chinese characters, while ryong means “dragon.” This harkens back to when Wonhyo-daesa was praying on the neighbouring Mt. Hwawang with his 1,000 followers. On the last day of his 100 days of prayer, he saw nine dragons spring forth from wells and fly around the peaks of Mt. Hwawang. As a result, this temple is famous for being one of eight locations that Wonhyo preached Hwaemgyeong to his followers. Interestingly, the temple has two foundation stories. The first states that the temple was first built in 349. The other foundation story states that it was first built in 583 by Jeungbeopguksa.

As you pass the entrance gate to Hwawangsan Park, and make your way up through the gorgeous cherry blossoms, you’ll see a pair of granite guardian spirit poles in a farmer’s field. This set of guardian spirit poles date back to sometime during the Joseon Dynasty, and there are perhaps only about one hundred of these original guardian spirit poles still in existence. The one on the left is male, while the one on the right is female. They are both fiercely baring their canine teeth. The exact meaning behind their existence is unknown, there are at least three different theories that try to explain them. The first is that they were boundary markers for the Gwanryongsa Temple land, so that people wouldn’t hunt or fish on Buddhist land; the second states that they were meant to ward off evil spirits; while the third theory states that they were used to help counteract any possible geomantic weakness on the land. Whatever the reason that they were first built, keep a sharp eye open for these extremely rare, and original, granite guardian spirit poles.

Finally, having made your way up the beautiful cherry blossom road, you’ll be greeted by the beautiful face of the temple’s front facade. The most noticeable aspect of this front facade is the protruding bell pavilion that houses a nice looking bell and an ancient looking Dharma drum. To the right of this protruding bell pavilion is the stone entrance way; and if you’re anything like me, you’ll have to watch your head. To the right of this entrance way, and greeting you to the temple, are four stele.

Having finally passed by all that Gwanryongsa Temple has to greet you with, you’ll pass through the Cheonwangmun entrance gate. Unfortunately, there’s no paintings or statues dedicated to these four Heavenly Kings. Passing through this gate, you’ll finally enter into the well populated temple courtyard. To your immediate right is the monks’ dorm, while straight ahead is an older looking meeting hall for monks. Between these two buildings is the temple’s main hall. The main hall is largely unadorned on the exterior, all but for some beautiful floral patterns up on the eaves of the hall, and it dates back to 1618 after the original main hall was burnt down to the ground during the Imjin War of 1592. However, this hall, framed by the neighbouring Hwawang mountain range, makes for a postcard-like picture. As for the interior of the main hall, and sitting on the main altar, is a central Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) to his right and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) to his left. This hall also has a beautiful floral ceiling that dates back at least a hundred years. On the far right wall is the main hall’s guardian painting. And on the far left wall is a painting of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s joined by a neighbouring, and equally older looking, mural of Amita-bul. But the most amazing feature of this hall is the 5 metre tall older looking painting of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the wall behind the main altar. It is both highly original and amazing!

To the immediate left of the main hall is a compact Myeongbu-jeon hall dedicated to Jijang-bosal. He’s joined by the Ten Kings of the Underworld, as well as by helpers and guardians. Uniquely, each of the Ten Kings individually have their Korean name written on paper next to each individual statue. Slightly in front of the main hall and the Myeongbu-jeon hall, and to the left, is the Yaksa-jeon Hall dedicated to Yaksayore-bul. This building was the only hall not to be burnt to the ground by the Japanese during the Imjin War, and it is estimated to date back to the 15 century. The exterior is adorned with some gorgeously old floral patterns. Inside this hall is a statue of Yaksayore that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty. And while the pedestal dates back to 772, the statue itself was made at a different date during the Goryeo Period. But with that being said, it’s estimated that it was also built some time during the 8th century. This hall is filled with beautiful scenes from nature, as well as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas filling the trim between the ceiling and the walls of this hall.

To the right of the main hall are three equally interesting buildings. Just behind the temple watering hole, is a hall dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars). The painting of Yongwang, while stunning, is also one of the fiercest of this king that I’ve seen in Korea. And the painting of Chilseong is both beautiful and old. To the left of this shrine hall is an extremely compact shrine hall dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Recluse). The older looking painting of San shin is unlike anything that I’ve ever seen in Korea. The third and finally hall is the Nahan-jeon, which is dedicated to the disciples of Seokgamoni-bul. Much like the Myeongbu-jeon hall, all of the Nahan have their Korean names placed in front of each of their statues. And sitting on the altar is a statue of the past, present, and future Buddha and Bodhisattvas (Jaehwagara-bosal, Seokgamoni-bul, and Mireuk-bosal).

Surrounding the temple are some unique items. First, there are numerous stone stupas housing the remains of the prominent monks at the temple. And if you still have enough energy after seeing all that the temple has to offer, you can make your way up, and to the left of the temple compound, to Yongseon-dae. Sitting on this rock outcropping, roughly 500 metres up the mountainside, is a statue of Buddha from the Unified Silla period. It looks a bit like a lesser version of the same statue at Seokguram Hermitage in Gyeongju. The only difference between the two, besides craftsmanship, is that this statue is exposed to the elements non-stop.

HOW TO GET THERE: Depending on where you’re coming from, you can arrive at Gwanryongsa Temple in a couple ways. If you’re coming from Seoul, you can take a bus that leaves five times a day to Changnyeong. And if you’re leaving from Daegu, Busan, or Miryang, you can take a bus that heads to the city of Youngsan. The bus to Youngsan specifically says Youngsan-haeng (영산행) on it. During this bus ride to Youngsan, you’ll have to get off at Gyeseong. And from Gyeseong, you can either take a local bus or a taxi. Again, I would suggest a taxi after such a long bus ride. You simply have to tell the taxi driver “Gwanryongsa” and they’ll know the rest.

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OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. Gwanryongsa Temple, if you couldn’t already tell, has a lot to offer the Korean temple adventurer. From the guardian spirit poles, to the 5 metre tall Gwanseeum-bosal mural in the main hall, to the 15th century Yaksa-jeon, to the 8th century stone statue of Yaksayore inside of this hall, to all the shaman paintings, and finally to the stone Buddha statue on the neighbouring cliff side, this temple has it all and so much more. While it’s a bit out of the way, it’s most definitely worth the effort to find this off-the-beaten-trail temple.

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The beautiful cherry blossoms were in full bloom all along the road that leads up to the temple.
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And next to the road is this neighbouring stream, mountains, and cherry blossoms.
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The two guardian spirit poles that first greet you at Gwanryongsa Temple.
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A better look at the male guardian spirit poles on the left.
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A look up at the bell pavilion that protrudes forth from the front facade of Gwanryongsa Temple.
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And the ancient looking Dharma drum that resides inside of the bell pavilion.
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The stone archway that greets you to the temple grounds.
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A beautiful look at the main hall and surrounding Hwawangsan mountains in the background.
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And sitting on the altar is this triad of Buddha and Bodhisattvas. In the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), and he’s flanked by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) to the right and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) to the left.
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The gorgeous Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) behind the main altar.
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The Myeongbu-jeon hall to the left of the main hall.
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Inside sits a stately Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and the ten accompanying Kings of the Underworld.
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The oldest building at the temple is the Yaksa-jeon. It dates back to the 15th century.
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At the rear of this hall is this fading floral mural.
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And inside of the Yaksa-jeon hall is a stone statue of Yaksyore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). The statue dates back to the 8th century.
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On the left side of the interior wall inside of the Yaksa-jeon is this older looking mural of a hummingbird.
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A nice little picture of one of the dragon zodiac statue next to the watering hole at the temple.
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The shrine hall dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars).
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Without a doubt, the Yongwang mural is perhaps one of the fiercest and best looking in all of Korea.
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The diminutive shaman shrine hall dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit) on the left and Dokseong (The Recluse) on the right.
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The San shin painting inside of this shrine hall is one of the more unique ones I’ve seen.
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The altar inside of the Nahan-jeon hall with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre. He’s flanked by Jaehwagara-bosal (The Past Bodhisattva) to his left and Mireuk-bosal (The Future Bodhisattva) to the right.
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An older looking budo that dates back to the early Joseon Period (1392-1910).