Euirimsa Temple – 의림사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The main hall at Euirimsa Temple in south-western Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Euirimsa Temple is located in south-western Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do in a valley below Mt. Inseongsan. Euirimsa Temple was first constructed in 688 A.D. by the famed monk Uisang-daesa (625 A.D. – 702 A.D.). Initially, Mt. Inseongsan was called Mt. Yeohangsan. The name Mt. Yeohangsan was in reference to the Buddha’s teachings enlightening all living beings towards Paramita (perfection or completeness). Like Mt. Yeohangsan, Euirimsa Temple was initially called Bongguksa Temple. It was only after the Imjin War (1592-98), after the warrior monk Samyeong-daesa (1544-1610) defended the nation from this temple, that the temple changed its name to Euirimsa Temple. During the Korean War (1950-53), Euirimsa Temple was completely destroyed. It was only a full forty years after its destruction, in 1995, that Euirimsa Temple was rebuilt to its former glory. And even now, in 2016, Euirimsa Temple continues to undergo renovation and reconstruction.

You first approach Euirimsa Temple down a long country road. You’ll know that you’ve arrived at the temple when the road ends and the temple parking lot begins. Just before the temple parking lot is a colourful and stately built Iljumun Gate. Have a look up as you pass under it at its intricate patterns and vibrant colours.

After passing under the Iljumun Gate, you’ll approach the outskirts of the main temple grounds. The front façade that first welcomes you to the temple courtyard is Euirimsa Temple’s bell pavilion and conference hall. Taking the stone stairs to the right of both of these structures, you’ll be able to see all that the temple has to offer.

To your far left is the temple’s main hall. The exterior walls are adorned with an expanded set of thirty-two Palsang-do murals. Have a look, because I’ve never seen anything like them before. And to the left of the main hall is an eloquent Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) statue. As for inside this large main hall, and resting on the main altar, are three large seated statues. The first one in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal.

To the right of the main hall, which is one of three, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Of the three paintings, it’s the older Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) that’s the most unique. But the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) painting, with its white tiger, is also pretty nice, as well. Rounding out the set is the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) in the centre.

The next hall in the line of three shrine halls is the Nahan-jeon Hall. While this unpainted shrine hall looks older in style, the interior is newly redone. The interior of this hall is filled with brand new paintings adorning its walls, as well as several dozen all white statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha).

The final hall of the three, and also unpainted like the Nahan-jeon, is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Out in front of this hall is an ancient three tier pagoda. As for inside, and seated all alone, is a beautiful statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. To the left of the main altar is a magnificent guardian mural. And rounding out this hall are various painted incarnations of Gwanseeum-bosal, so have a look around.

It should be noted that Euirimsa Temple, as of late 2016, is under major restorations.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to Euirimsa Temple is from the Masan Nambu Intercity Bus Terminal. From the terminal, take a taxi for 24 minutes, or 18 kilometres. The ride will set you back 15,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. There are quite a few things to explore at Euirimsa Temple like the older painting dedicated to Dokseong inside the Samseong-gak. Also, the artwork in and around the Gwaneum-jeon Hall is really second to none, as are the extended Palsang-do murals that adorn the exterior walls to the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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The newly built, and colourful, Iljumun Gate at Euirimsa Temple.

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The front facade to Euirimsa Temple.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall at Euirimsa Temple.

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The old three tier pagoda in the temple courtyard.

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The Gwanseeum-bosal statue to the left of the main hall.

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The fifteenth painting from the extended set of Palsang-do murals that adorns the main hall.

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A better look at some more of the extended Palsang-do set at Euirimsa Temple.

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A look inside the main hall during morning prayer.

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The bell pavilion at Euirimsa Temple.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The mural of Sanshin and his white tiger.

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As well as this older Dokseong mural that resides inside the Samseong-gak.

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The Nahan-jeon Hall to the right of the Samseong-gak.

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A look inside the Nahan-jeon at the main altar.

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The rows of white Nahan statues inside the hall.

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And the Gwaneum-jeon Hall to the right of the Nahan-jeon Hall.

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The main altar statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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A look at the guardian mural inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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As well as one of the murals of Gwanseeum-bosal adorning the interior walls.

Jingwansa Temple – 진관사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A look up at the main hall past a mature red pine at Jingwansa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in the south-western part of Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do, and under the two towering peaks of Suri-bong and Oknyeo-bong, is Jingwansa Temple.

Just beyond a cluttered cluster of older homes and up a valley with a stream at its side are the outskirts to Jingwansa Temple. When you first approach this Jogye Order Buddhist temple, your eyes will first be drawn to the large silver triad to the right of the main hall. Seated in the centre of this triad appears to be Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined to the right by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and to the left by Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). This large courtyard that houses these three equally large silver statues are backed by a row of Palsang-do murals and fronted by two simplistic stone lanterns.

To the left of this courtyard is the temple’s main hall. The main hall is adorned with large Palsang-do murals, as well as other Buddhist motif murals like an all-white image of Gwanseeum-bosal. The front latticework is beautiful in its intricate nature. And just out in front of the main hall is the temple’s diminutive bell pavilion. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a main altar of statues that’s comprised of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) in the centre. On either side sits Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Looking up at the ceiling and around at the walls inside the main hall, you’ll notice some beautiful paintings dedicated to Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Podae-hwasang (The Hempen Sack). Rounding out the images inside the main hall is a smaller guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall and past the monks’ dorms is the Samseong-gak. You’ll have to cross a stream that intersects the temple over an out of place blue bridge. Once you’ve crossed it with the temple garden to your left, you’ll enter the shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are three larger images of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

The final thing to be seen at Jingwansa Temple after re-crossing the blue temple bridge is a shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) at the head of the stream. The large granite statue of Yongwang stands on top of a stone turtle. Both statues are then fronted by two ornate stone lanterns and backed by a beautiful mature forest.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to Jingwansa Temple is to take a taxi from the Masan Nambu Intercity Bus terminal. The taxi ride will take 25 minutes, or 14.2 kilometres, and cost 13,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Upon first entering Jingwansa Temple, it has a bit of a strange feel to it with its fading paintings and chipped large silver statues. But after walking around a bit, the Jogye Order temple starts to grow on you with its more rustic feel. Have a look at the Yongwang shrine and enjoy the slightly eccentric courtyard that houses the three large silver statues of the Buddha.

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As you first approach the strange silver statues of the Buddha.

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The row of Palsang-do murals that back the silver statues.

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The three statues in a row with Amita-bul in the centre joined by Seokgamoni-bul to the right and Mireuk-bul to the left.

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A look towards the main hall from the eastern courtyard.

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A closer look as you approach the main hall.

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The temple’s tiny bell pavilion.

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Some of the ornate and vibrant latticework that fronts the main hall’s doors.

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One of the paintings from the Palsang-do set that adorns some of the exterior walls to the main hall.

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As well as this all-white Gwanseeum-bosal painting.

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This beautiful painting of Munsu-bosal awaits you as you first enter the main hall.

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The main altar statues inside the main hall.

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The paintings of flowers and Podae-hwasang that adorn the ceiling inside the main hall.

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The guardian mural housed inside the main hall.

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The blue bridge and Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Jingwansa Temple.

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The large Chilseong mural housed inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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Alongside Dokseong.

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And Sanshin.

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The beautiful Yongwang shrine placed on the north end of the temple grounds.

Cheongyeonam Hermitage – 청연암 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The Koi pond at Cheongyeonam Hermitage in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Cheongyeonam Hermitage in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do is situated just to the south of the valley that houses both Wongaksa Temple and Baekunsa Temple. And it’s beautifully framed, like the other two temples, by the towering Mt. Muhaksan (761.4m).

Off of the busy Muhak Road, and up a winding country side street, you’ll come across Cheongyeonam Hermitage. On the lower courtyard of the hermitage are the monks’ dorms and visitors’ centre, as well as a beautiful Koi pond that is placed in the centre of some beautifully cared-for and manicured grounds.

There is a bridge that intersects the beautiful Koi pond, and it also leads you towards a set of uneven stone stairs and the upper courtyard at Cheongyeonam Hermitage. And there is really only one hall at the hermitage that you can visit, the Daeung-jeon main hall. The exterior walls to this beautiful large hall are painted with a pair of mural sets. The first, on top, is the Palsang-do set. And the one on the bottom is the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, mural set. Both are masterfully rendered.

As for stepping inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll be welcomed by a set of three statues seated on the main altar. The one in the middle is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s joined to the right by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and to the left by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Filling out the rest of the hall, and to the right of the main altar, is an older guardian mural and a more recent mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal. But it’s to the left of the main altar that you get to enjoy an older set of shaman murals. The first is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), while the other two are dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). The final shaman painting in the set, and a much more recent addition than the others, is Yongwang (The Dragon King) mural.

Just to the right of the main hall is a rather unique stone structure. I’ve never seen this before, but the stone structure almost looks to be a stele and pagoda put together into one structure. It’s unique and beautiful.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go to where Cheongyeonam Hermitage is located. One of these buses is Bus #707. After eight stops, or sixteen minutes, you’ll need to get off at the “Seowongok Ipgu” stop. Head south from where the bus lets you off. Head that way for about a kilometre on Muhak Road. The sign for the hermitage will appear on your right as you head south. Follow that side-street for a little and you’ll arrive at Cheongyeonam Hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. There are certainly a few highlights to this temple, but because it’s a bit smaller, it gets the rating it does. First, the older shaman paintings inside the Daeung-jeon Hall are second to known. Another highlight is the beautiful and serene Koi pond out in front of the main hall. And the final is the stele/pagoda combination to the right of the main hall.

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The large Daeung-jeon main hall at Cheongryeonam Hermitage.

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The stele/pagoda combination to the right of the main hall.

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A closer look at a part of the body of the pagoda.

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One of the Shimu-do murals.

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And a mural taken from the Palsang-do mural set.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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Joined by this older looking Sanshin mural.

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This Dokseong mural.

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And this Chilseong mural.

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A look at the main hall from the front.

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The Koi pond out in front of the main hall.

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And a closer look at the colourful Koi that swim in the pond.

Baekunsa Temple – 백운사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The view behind the main hall at Baekunsa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

A little further along the valley that houses Wongaksa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do is Baekunsa Temple, or “White Cloud Temple,” in English. The temple is beautifully placed along the very same stream that divides Wongaksa Temple and underneath the towering peaks of Mt. Muhaksan (761m). In fact, just to the west of Baekunsa Temple is a trail head that leads up towards the towering mountain.

Crossing a cement bridge that spans the depths of the stream, and underneath the boxy Iljumun Gate, you’ll enter the diminutive temple grounds at Baekunsa Temple. To your far right is the temple’s bell pavilion with a broken stone lantern and a unique six-tier stone pagoda.

Up the right side of stairs to the two storied shrine hall, you’ll be able to gain entrance to Baekunsa Temple’s main hall. The exterior walls to this main hall are adorned with various Buddhist motif murals. Housed inside the main hall, and seated on the main altar, is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This statue is then joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the left of this main altar is a beautiful guardian mural, as well as a mural dedicated to the Ten Kings of the Underworld. And to the right of this triad is a large and beautiful Gamno-do mural.

To the left rear of the second story main hall is a shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). The painting and statue contained within the Yongwang shrine are capped by a beautiful granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

The final shrine hall people can enjoy at Baekunsa Temple is to the far left and past the monks’ dorms, visitors’ centre, and temple kitchen. Behind a pair of metal doors and next to a tree that has been cut down stands the Sanshin-gak. Inside this shaman shrine hall hangs a beautiful mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go to where Baekunsa Temple is located. One of these buses is Bus #707. After eight stops, or sixteen minutes, you’ll need to get off at the “Seowongok Ipgu” stop. From the stop, walk about twenty minutes, or 1.5 kilometres, to get to the temple. There are various signs leading you in the direction of Baekunsa Temple. You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal. A taxi ride will set you back 6,000 won over the 15 minute ride.

OVERALL RATING: 3.5/10. Baekunsa Temple is beautifully located at the base of the towering Mt. Muhaksan in a picturesque valley. As for Baekunsa Temple, you should keep your eyes open for the beautiful Sanshin mural, as well as the rare Gamno-do mural kept inside the main hall.

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The entry gate to Baekunsa Temple.

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The rocky stream that runs next to the temple.

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One of the guardians that protects the temple. This painting adorns one of the entry doors.

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A look up towards the second floor main hall.

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The bell pavilion and six-tier stone pagoda at Baekunsa Temple.

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One of the Buddhist murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.

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As well as this Gwanseeum-bosal mural.

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The Yongwang shrine out back of the main hall.

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A look at the main altar of the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The beautiful Gamno-do mural at Baekunsa Temple.

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A look to the left of the main altar.

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The Sanshin-gak at the temple.

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And the Sanshin mural taking up residence inside the shaman shrine hall.

Wongaksa Temple – 원각사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The temple courtyard at Wongaksa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in the central part of a wide eastern valley on Mt. Muhaksan (761 m) Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do lies Wongaksa Temple. In fact, halfway up the aforementioned valley, you’ll first see a rather plain looking Iljumun Gate with the name of the temple written on it. Passing through this gate, and past a collection of rundown buildings, you’ll eventually come to a paved clearing where Wongaksa Temple lies.

Immediately you’ll know you’re in the right place when you spot the blue metal banner with the words “원각사” written on it. It’s behind this metal banner that you encounter yet another entry gate for the temple. This temple gate is a lot more refined than the first with beautiful floral murals adorning it, as well as a pair of fierce guardians painted on its doors.

Stepping inside the main temple grounds, you’ll immediately notice the temple bell pavilion straight ahead of you. Uniquely, there is a large bronze bell under the wooden structure with another equally good sized bronze bell exposed to the elements with only a neighbouring tree as protection.

To your immediate right is the temple’s visitors’ centre. It’s next to this building that you’ll find the unique main hall at Wongaksa Temple. Stepping inside the nearly square shaped main hall, which is all but unadorned except for the dancheong colours, you’ll first notice the main altar. The main triad consists of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre and joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). On either side of this triad is a smaller wooden pagoda and a stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And all five statues are fronted by a much larger golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. The interior of the main hall is lined with smaller statues of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

To the left of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Sitting all alone on the main altar is a seated black haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This older looking statue is backed by an equally older looking painting of Jijang-bosal. To the right of the main altar is a triad of older shaman paintings dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

Across the temple’s main courtyard, and over a bridge that spans a narrow stream, is the southern portion of the temple. Housed inside an unassuming brick façade is the temple’s Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Housed inside this hall, besides pooling water from the neighbouring stream, is a tall granite statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

While the Gwaneum-jeon Hall lies to the right, there is a small courtyard that houses a collection of stupas, stele, and a slender five tier pagoda.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go to where Wongaksa Temple is located. One of these buses is Bus #707. After eight stops, or sixteen minutes, you’ll need to get off at the “Seowongok Ipgu” stop. From the stop, walk about eleven minutes, or 800 metres, to get to the temple. There are various signs leading you in the direction of Wongaksa Temple. You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal. A taxi ride will set you back 6,000 won over the 15 minute ride.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. There are a few highlights to Wongaksa Temple. The first is the older collection of shaman paintings housed inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Another is the main altar inside the main hall at Wongaksa Temple. The final highlight to Wongaksa Temple, besides the beautiful Mt. Muhaksan in all directions, is the unassuming shrine hall that houses an elegant statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A spider lily outside the temple grounds.

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The first of two gates that welcome you to Wongaksa Temple.

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The shacks that line the route towards Wongaksa Temple.

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The blue metal banner and the second entry gate at Wongaksa Temple.

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The stream that divides the temple in half.

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The second entry gate at Wongaksa Temple.

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One of the guardian murals that adorns the second entry gate.

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As well as this beautiful floral mural.

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The temple bell pavilion.

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The main hall at Wongaksa Temple.

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The unique main altar inside the main hall at Wongaksa Temple.

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A look across the Myeongbu-jeon Hall towards the main hall.

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The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall with Jijang-bosal front and centre.

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The amazing and old shaman triad of paintings inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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The view from the Myeongbu-jeon Hall out onto the the temple courtyard.

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Across the stream is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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Inside is this beautiful stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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To the left of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall is this stupa and stele field.

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As well as this slender five tier pagoda.

Geumryongsa Temple – 금룡사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The unique entry to Geumryongsa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Ever since visiting the neighbouring Seongdeokam Hermitage in the winter of 2015, and passing Geumryongsa Temple by, I thought I would revisit this temple as well as the eastern portion of Mt. Muhaksan in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

You first approach Geumryongsa Temple down some narrow side streets, until you eventually stumble upon the outskirts of the temple grounds and the welcoming Iljumun Gate. Besides the two pillar entry gate, and a steep incline to crest before entering the main temple grounds, you’ll also notice a golden three tier pagoda standing on the heights of the temple grounds to the left of the Iljumun Gate.

Walking up the paved incline, you’ll finally have a better idea of what Geumryongsa Temple has to offer a visitor. To your immediate right and left are the temple’s visitors’ centre and monks’ dorms. It’s also to your right that you’ll be welcomed to the temple by a jovial, golden statue of Podae-hwasang.

Straight ahead, on the other hand, is the Daeung-jeon main hall at Geumryongsa Temple. The exterior is painted with various Biseon either offering up fruit or playing a musical instruction. Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll be able to see a main altar centred by a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) on either side.

To the left rear of the main hall is a small overgrown pond with an even smaller granite bridge spanning its depths. It’s to the left of the main hall, and up a steep set of stairs, that you’ll next come to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are three newer, well executed, shaman paintings dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

The final shrine hall to be visited at Geumryongsa Temple lies up another set of stairs; this time, to the rear of the Samseong-gak. Rather strangely, this diminutive shrine hall is a Gwaneum-jeon Hall dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), which is made apparent by the solitary golden statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take Bus #101, or City Bus #122 at the Daeshin Bookstore, which is just outside the terminal. You’ll need to take either bus for ten stops and get off at the Burim Market stop. You’ll need to walk towards the hill for ten minutes from the stop to get to Geumryongsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. While certainly not as impressive as the neighbouring Seongdeokam Hermitage, Geumryongsa Temple has a few highlights of its own like the small pond and the shaman paintings inside the Samseong-gak, as well as the very entry to the temple. In combination with Seongdeokam Hermitage, or along the way, Geumryongsa Temple can make for nice little add-on to your temple adventure in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

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The cityscape from the entry of Geumryongsa Temple.

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The steep incline towards the main temple grounds at Geumryongsa Temple.

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The statue of Podae-hwasang that greets you at the temple.

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Part of the grounds at Geumryongsa Temple.

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The Daeung-jeon Hall.

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Some of the decorative Biseon that adorn the exterior walls to the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at the main altar and Seokgamoni-bul.

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The pond to the left of the main hall.

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The view as you near the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall with the city of Masan all around you.

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The previous pond down below as you continue to climb the stairs.

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A look up towards the Samseong-gak.

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The painting of Sanshin that adorns one of the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak.

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The Chilseong mural inside the shaman shrine hall.

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As well as a mural of Dokseong inside the Samseong-gak.

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A look over top of the Samseong-gak.

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From the rather strangely placed Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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And inside the Gwaneum-jeon is this solitary statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

Bongrimsa Temple – 봉림사 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The main hall and Boje-ru Pavilion that welcomes you at Bongrimsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Bongrimsa Temple in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do is known as “Phoenix Forest Temple” in English. Bongrimsa Temple is one of the Nine Mountain Zen-Gate temples in Korea, or the Gusan Seonmun in Korean. They were the original homes of Seon Buddhism in Korea. The original locations of the nine temples were spread throughout the Silla Kingdom away from Gyeongju, the capital of the kingdom. This radical form of Buddhism, at least at that time, first spread from Tang Dynasty China and made its way to the Korean peninsula during the 8th and 9th century. The reason that these temples were built on remote mountains throughout the kingdom was to avoid the governmental authority in Gyeongju that supported scholastic (Gyo) and devotional Buddhism. Unfortunately, after heavy shelling during the Korean War, there is only one relic that remains from the temple’s past: a three story Silla pagoda that is now housed on a local university campus.

Besides some foundation stones, Bongrimsa-ji Temple is no more. Instead, a brand new Bongrimsa Temple, which has undergone some new construction as of late, stands in its place 1,500 metres from its former home on Mt. Bongrimsan.

When you first approach the temple up a long, and somewhat steep, road, you’ll first be met by a building for devotees and monks. This modern building is joined by a large gravel parking lot and the yet unpainted Boje-ru Pavilion. To the far right, and just beyond the temple’s washroom, is the trail head that leads up to the former temple grounds of Bongrimsa-ji. Besides an older looking stone marker and a clearing once you arrive at the site, there really isn’t that much to see.

However, if you climbed the set of stairs that leads up through the plainly adorned Boje-ru Pavilion, you’ll be met by a large sized, and newly constructed, main hall. The main hall is painted with various Buddhist motif style murals of such luminaries as Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa. As for inside this massive main hall, there is a large seated statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).

Next to the main hall, and to the right, is the temple’s rather dour looking visitors’ centre. There are future plans to construct a Sanshin-gak to the right rear of the main hall, as well as a Geukrak-jeon to the left, but these have yet to materialize. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, both of these halls will be built to bring Bongrimsa Temple’s past glory into the present.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take a taxi to Bongrimsa Temple. The ride should last 12 minutes and cost 8,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. Besides the main hall and the stately Boje-ru Pavilion that first greets you at Bongrimsa Temple, there really isn’t all that much to see. But being a bit of a temple fanatic, Bongrimsa Temple is well worth a visit to take a stroll down its famed past. For this, and this alone, Bongrimsa Temple gets the rating it does.

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The new building for monks and devotees.

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The old Bongrimsa Temple sign that marks the trail that leads up to Bongrimsa-ji.

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Part of the trail that leads up to the historic temple.

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The plainly coloured Boje-ru that first welcomes you to the temple grounds.

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The stairs that lead up to the temple courtyard.

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The bell housed inside the Boje-ru.

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The large sized main hall with a statue of Seokgamoni-bul inside.

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Uisang-daesa reaching enlightenment.

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And Wonhyo-daesa gaining enlightenment in the most peculiar of ways.

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Some of the paper lanterns that lead to the Boje-ru from the main hall.

Gilsangsa Temple – 길상사 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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Mt. Jeongbyeongsan and a highway overpass together at Gilsangsa Temple in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gilsangsa Temple is located on the eastern outskirts of Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do. Situated next to Changwon University, and under the Highway 25 overpass, Gilsangsa Temple is beautifully framed by the neighbouring Mt. Jeongbyeongsan.

First approaching from a little rural road off of Highway 25, you’ll find the Gilsangsa Temple parking lot that hikers also use so that they can explore Mt. Jeongbyeongsan. Passing under a towering overpass, and past an artificial pond, you’ll finally approach the temple courtyard. The first things to greet you are the beautiful gardens and a Koi pond. During the summer months, these gardens come alive with baby-blue hydrangea and pale pink lotus flowers. As for the Koi pond, it’s well stocked with colourful Koi and a Japanese maple situated on an elevated island in the middle of the pond.

Having passed through trees that help canopy the temple gardens, you’ll finally notice the two-story golden main hall at Gilsangsa Temple. It’s the only hall at the temple (besides the monks’ dorms and the visitors’ centre). Out in front of the elevated golden main hall is a stone relief of a triad of figures. In the centre stands Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This relief is then joined by a row of beautiful pink, potted lotus flowers.

Either heading right or left towards the stairs that lead up to the main hall, you’ll pass by a dense bamboo forest that surrounds the golden Geukrak-jeon on all sides. The bamboo forest is decorated with a string of white paper lanterns. Uniquely, the main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon faces towards the left and not front to back. But when you realize that the main altar faces the west and that the Geukrak-jeon main hall is built for housing Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), the main hall’s peculiarity starts to make a bit more sense. And joining Amita-bul on the main altar is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul).

To the far right, and still on the first floor of the Geukrak-jeon, you’ll notice a set of stairs. These stairs lead up to the second story of the main hall. The first site to greet you are row upon row of miniature Buddha statues. The rows upon rows of Buddhas inside the Cheonbul-jeon Hall are joined on the main altar by three larger statues. In the centre of these three statues sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the far left of this collection of statues hangs a mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). This rather plain looking shaman deity is also joined by a solitary statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha), who is tucked away in the far left corner.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to any temple is to take a taxi from the closest intercity bus terminal and Gilsangsa Temple is no different. From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take a taxi to Gilsangsa Temple. It’ll take about 22 minutes and cost about 13,500 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Without a doubt, the beautiful two-story golden, Geukrak-jeon main hall is the star attraction at Gilsangsa Temple. With its large open concept that packs a collection of shrines inside this hall, you’ll need to take your time to make sure you see all that the hall has to offer. In addition to this hall, you can also enjoy the unique combination of nature and construction with the closeness of a 500 metre tall mountain that runs up against Highway 25. Additionally, the temple’s gardens are something to enjoy for their vibrancy and colour.

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Another beautiful view of the overpass and nature, together.

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The reflection of the overpass imprinting itself on the artificial pond.

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The forested pathway that leads towards the temple’s main hall.

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A beautiful baby blue hydrangea.

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A Koi swimming around the shallow pond.

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One of the lotus flowers at Gilsangsa Temple.

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The golden Geukrak-jeon main hall that’s beautifully framed by the fog covered Mt. Jeongbyeongsan.

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A stunning pink lotus flower in full bloom.

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A closer look at the two-story golden main hall.

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A line of white paper lanterns adorning the thick bamboo forest at Gilsangsa Temple.

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The front entrance to the golden main hall.

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The main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon.

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The winding stairs that lead up to the second-story inside the Geukrak-jeon.

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The rows of smaller sized Buddha statues.

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Yaksayore-bul who is tucked away in the corner.

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Yaksayore-bul is joined by this mural of Sanshin.

Bulgoksa Temple – 불곡사 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The temple courtyard at Bulgoksa Temple in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in the heart of Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do, Bulgoksa Temple is a compact temple that is undergoing a bit of a renovation.

When you first approach the temple up a steep road that is located next to terrace upon terrace of parked cars, you’ll first encounter one of the most unique Iljumun Gates in all of Korea (and that’s not hyperbole, either). Looking up at the roof, you’ll notice the bodies of wooden snakes as they lay intertwined with the gate. On one end of the gate is a large turtle, and at the other is a grinning tiger that looks down on you.

Just a little further up the path, and you’ll see one of the smaller sized Boje-ru pavilions straight ahead. To get to the compact temple courtyard, you’ll have to pass under this pavilion; but before you do, have a look to your right at the ancient, and uniquely designed, pagoda.

Having passed through the pavilion, you’ll emerge on the other side to see a handful of halls. The one that lies straight ahead is the smaller sized main hall. The exterior walls are adorned with a beautiful set of Palsang-do murals. As for inside this hall, the statue inside is truly the highlight of the entire temple. Housed inside this hall is a statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) that dates back to the Unified Silla Dynasty, around 850 to 900 A.D. Birojana-bul is seated and he holds his hand in the Diamond Fist mudra. He has a serene looking smile, and he’s seated on a lotus pedestal. This statue is Treasure #436. The rest of the main hall is filled with a guardian murals and an all white-clad mural of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall. The exterior walls are painted with Judgment murals and an intricate Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural. As for the contents of this hall, a golden statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) is backed by a fiery nimbus. On both sides, Jijang-bosal is joined on the altar by a painting of all ten Kings of the Underworld. And between the Myeongbu-jeon and the main hall is a bell pavilion with herbs and flowers growing in a make-shift garden.

The final two halls at Bulgoksa Temple lie to the left of the main hall. The longer of the two is the Gwaneeum-jeon with an extremely elaborate 1,000 armed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside. Joining this statue inside the hall are a pair of guardian murals; also, they were sprucing up the hall by painting the exterior walls. Tucked in between the main hall and the Gwaneeum-jeon is the Samseong-gak. One of the exterior walls is adorned with a realistic orange mural of a tiger just as you’re about to enter this shaman hall. Inside this hall are three rather traditional paintings of the three most popular deities in Korean shamanism: Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), and Dokseong (The Recluse).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take bus #801. After five stops, you’ll need to get off at the 사파 동성 아파트 (가음정공원) Stop. Walk along the road towards the south and the Bulgoksa Temple intersection for about 5 minutes. At the intersection, turn right and walk for another 5 minutes. Eventually, you’ll see the temple’s parking lot to your right.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. The two highlights of this temple that really stand out are the Iljumun Gate that’s adorned with elaborate wooden carvings and the historic stone statue of Birojana-bul. Besides these two highlights, the elaborate golden statues of Jijang-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal stand out. And with its central location in Changwon, it can make for a pretty relaxing, and beautiful break from the daily grind.

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The colourful, yet highly original, Iljumun Gate at Bulgoksa Temple.

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The grinning tiger to the left on the Iljumun Gate.

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And the blue dragon just to the tiger’s right.

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A good look at the compact Boje-ru Pavilion.

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To its right is this uniquely designed pagoda that looks like it might have once been a stupa.

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The Myeongbu-jeon hall to the right of the main hall.

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The Dragon Ship of Wisdom that’s painted on its exterior wall.

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Inside is this fiery statue of Jijang-bosal.

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Joining Jijang-bosal are wall-to-wall paintings of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

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Between the main hall and the Myeongbu-jeon is the diminutive bell pavilion.

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The golden latticework of the main hall.

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Just one of the Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.

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The ancient statue of Birojana-bul that sits inside the main hall.

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To the left of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon and the smaller sized Samseong-gak.

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The painting of the life-like tiger on the exterior walls of the Samseong-gak  just as you are about to enter it.

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 The extremely elaborate and ornate statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside the Gwaneeum-jeon.

 

Seongjusa Temple – 성주사 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The hundreds of stone statues inside the Seolbeop-jeon at Seongjusa Temple in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seongjusa Temple, in English, is a combination of two words. In English, “Seong” means “holy,” while “Ju” means “live.” So together it means Holy Live Temple. It was named like this because it’s believed that a holy man lived here. During King Heungdeok’s reign from 826 to 836 A.D., the monk Muyeom was the king’s advisor. Because King Heungdeok was able to defeat the Japanese due to the monk Muyeom’s mystic powers, the king gave monk Muyeom a temple and land. This temple became known as Seongjusa Temple. Unfortunately, the temple was destroyed during the Imjin War. The temple was later rebuilt and expanded between 1674 and 1834. The temple is also called Ungsinsa Temple, or Bear Saint Temple, in English, because of a legend that surrounds the temple. The legend states that a bear appeared and helped move all the wood required to rebuild the temple in its current location. That’s why you can see at least three different murals at the temple of bears helping rebuild Seongjusa Temple. Seongjusa Temple is located on the north-west foot of Mt. Bulmosan.

You can first approach the temple up a beautiful forested path. It’s not that long, perhaps a couple hundred metres in length. Also during this walk, you can see a small stupa field and some ancient graffiti adorning the faces of several rocks. As you emerge on the other side of the trail, you’ll be welcomed to the temple by a smaller sized bell pavilion to your left. The bronze bell that’s housed inside this pavilion is equally small in size. Just to the right of this pavilion, and slightly up the hill, is a five-tier stone pagoda that’s framed by a twin pair of stone lanterns. Framing this entire scene is a pond and water fountain that shoots water several metres in the air.

Just to the right of the pond and water fountain is the main entrance to the temple. Uniquely, it seems as though they’ve filled-in the area where you were formerly able to enter Seongjusa Temple under the Boje-ru Pavilion. Now, you pass to the right of the Boje-ru to gain admittance to the spacious temple courtyard.

Straight ahead are three smaller sized halls. In the centre of the three is the Daeung-jeon, main hall. The exterior walls are largely unadorned all but for a couple paintings dedicated to the saintly bear that helped raze the wood for the re-building of the temple. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This slightly atypical statue is joined on either side by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha).

To the left of the main hall is one of the most unique Samseong-gak shaman shrine halls that I have seen in Korea. Immediately when you step into this hall, you’ll be greeted by an older looking mural of Dokseong (The Recluse). This older painting of Dokseong has a pig-like face with a stout nose. He’s joined to the left by two rather traditional paintings of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). What truly sets this hall apart are the murals that adorn the interior walls. Yongwang (The Dragon King), saints, Heng and Ha, and dragons, adorn every square inch. As for the exterior walls, there are ferocious guardians, while quickly fading, scaring away any evil spirits.

To the right of the main hall is a newly constructed Nahan-jeon. This plain appearing hall looks to have replaced the older Jijang-jeon. The exterior walls have yet to be painted with dancheong colours or Buddhist style paintings. However, inside this hall, and resting on the main altar, is a statue centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined by some rather traditional looking Nahan statues. But the real highlight to this temple building are the masterful paintings of the Nahan that back the statues of themselves.

The other hall in the main temple courtyard is the Seolbeop-jeon. Housed inside this long hall are rows upon rows of granite statues of the Buddha. In the middle of them is Amita-bul. He’s fronted by a triad of statues centred by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

Just to the right of the Seolbeop-jeon, and in a courtyard of its own, is the Myeongbu-jeon. This hall houses a large statue of a green-haired Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s joined on all sides by equally large-sized statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. The most interesting thing about this hall is the ancient Gamno-do painting that hangs on the far right wall. It’s Local Tangible Cultural Asset #336. The exterior walls of this hall are adorned with beautiful murals like the Dragon Ship of Wisdom and a peculiar Gamno-do painting that has murder, drinking, and a car accident painted on it.

Above the Myeongbu-jeon sits another new building. This is a plain-looking hall that houses a stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. The standing stone statue of this Bodhisattva is Local Tangible Cultural Asset #335. And rather strangely, there are a pair of large sized floats to the right of this hall; perhaps, for Buddha’s birthday.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways to get to Seongjusa Temple. The first is to take a taxi from the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal. The drive should take about 20 minutes, depending on traffic, and cost about 10,000 won. The other way, if you’re travelling by train, is to go to the Seongjusa Train Station. From there, you can get a taxi to the temple. It’ll take about 13 minutes and set you back about 4,500 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. This temple actually surprised me in how good it was. I wasn’t expecting much, for no particular reason, and it exceeded my expectations. The artwork inside both the Samseong-gak and the Myeongbu-jeon are second to none. And the unique painting of the bears around various halls at the temple, as well as the statue of Gwanseeum-bosal are two more highlights to this temple. There seems to be a lot of newer construction going on at the temple, so have a look and be prepared to be impressed.

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The beautiful little trail that leads up to the temple.

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The compact bell pavilion.

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And the equally diminutive bell housed inside it.

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The Boje-ru Pavilion from a distance.

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A little closer with the five story pagoda in the foreground.

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The spouting water fountain with the beautiful Boje-ru Pavilion as a backdrop.

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As you first enter the Seongjusa Temple courtyard.

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A better look at all the buildings with the main hall front and centre.

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A better look at the beautiful Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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Probably one of the most unique paintings of Dokseong that I’ve laid my eyes on.

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Yongwang, the Dragon King, who adorns one of the interior walls of the Samseong-gak.

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One of the bear paintings that adorns the main hall.

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The plain looking Nahan-jeon.

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A look inside the Nahan-jeon.

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A closer look at one of the masterful Nahan paintings inside the Nahan-jeon.

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The main altar inside the Seolbeop-jeon.

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The Myeongbu-jeon in the lower courtyard.

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The peculiar Gamno-do painting that adorns the Myeongbu-jeon’s back wall.

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 The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon with Jijang-bosal front and centre.

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Just five of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

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The pond next to the Myeongbu-jeon.

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The front door to the newly built hall that houses the standing stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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And the stone statue in question.

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 The bear and elephant floats for Buddha’s birthday?