Daeheungsa Temple – 대흥사 (Haenam, Jeollanam-do)


 One of the beautiful paths that winds its way through Daeheungsa Temple in Haenam, Jeollanam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Daeheungsa Temple, which is also known as its former name of Daedunsa Temple, is situated in Duryunsan Provincial Park near Haenam, Jeollanam-do. The temple is thought to be one of the oldest in Korea. It’s believed that the temple was founded by the monk Ado in 514; however, there are no exact records that verify this date. Originally, the temple was called Handeumjeol, after the original name of the neighbouring Mt. Handeumsan. This name was changed to Daedumsa Temple with the usage of Chinese characters. The name was changed once more to its present name of Daeheungsa Temple. It wasn’t until 1592 that the little known temple came to prominence. The warrior monk Seosan-daesa organized and trained a guerilla army of 5,000 monks to resist the invading Japanese forces during the Imjin War. During the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945, the name of the temple changed to Daedunsa Temple. It was only in 1993 that the temple reverted back to Daeheungsa Temple. So sometimes, even still, you’ll hear Daeheungsa Temple be referred to as Daedunsa Temple.

You first approach the temple up a long and beautiful path from the provincial park entrance. After arriving at the temple and crossing a couple granite bridges, the first thing to greet you at Daeheungsa Temple is the Haetalmun Gate, which means The Gate of Deliverance, in English. With no other gate at the temple, this is a rather atypical arrangement. Inside this gate are housed guardians as well as the youthful Munsu-bosal (who rides a blue lion) and Boyhun-bosal (who rides a white elephant).

Emerging on the other side, you can either head straight towards the Cheonbul-jeon hall, hang left towards the main hall, or turn right towards the Pyochungsa shrine. For the sake of this article, and following the path I took during my trip, I headed left towards the main hall. In this direction, you’ll pass by a beautiful white highlighted bell pavilion with a medium sized bronze bell inside it. Keeping to the left, you’ll cross over another granite bridge and through a pavilion. Finally, the main hall, the Daeungbo-jeon, lies straight ahead of you. This hall was first built in 1667, but was later destroyed in a fire in 1899. The exterior walls are decorated with the Palsang-do murals, as well as other Buddhist motif paintings. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, you’ll find large statues of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine), and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). On the far left wall hangs a handful of paintings such as a painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars) as well as a guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall that houses Jijang-bosal. To the right of the main hall, and perhaps the most unique building at the temple, is the Eungjin-jeon. This hall is divided into two sections. The one on the left houses the 16 Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). Uniquely, there’s no statue of Seokgamoni-bul inside. And through a narrow wooden entrance to the far right, you’ll enter the shaman hall that houses two of the most amazing paintings of Dokseong (The Recluse) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that you’ll see at any Korean temple. Just to the right of this hall, and on a lower terrace, stands a 4.3 metre tall pagoda that dates back to the Silla Dynasty.

Heading back towards the Haetalmun Gate, and entering through a pavilion that lies straight ahead, you’ll enter the rather small sized (at least in comparison to the North Court) South Court. The only building housed inside this courtyard is the Cheonbul-jeon. The exterior walls are adorned with some beautiful Ox-Herding murals. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s surrounded by 1,000 white stone sculptures of the Buddha. Each Buddha is sporting a yellow cape, and it makes for quite the sight.

To the right of the South Court are a collection of even more temple halls. To the left of a beautiful pond and garden is the Gwanseeum-jeon. Under an angelic light sits Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This statue is joined by a handful of paintings that depict the Buddha’s life, as well as a colourful painting that’s dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal, and backs the bronze statue on the main altar inside this hall.

Continuing to the right, and little further up the path, lies the Pyochungsa shrine. Behind a large red and blue yin-yang painting that adorns the shrines door, you’ll find two shrine halls behind a pavilion. The first of the set is the shrine hall dedicated to the warrior monks of Seosan, Sammyeong, and Choyeong who resisted the Japanese during the Imjin War. There images reside inside this hall. This hall dates back to 1788. Next to this hall, and to the right, is a stele dedicated to Seosan. The only other hall in this area is the Josa-jeon to the left of the Pyochungsa shrine. This hall is dedicated to prominent monks that formally resided at the temple.

Admission to the temple is 2,500 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Daeheungsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Haenam Intercity Bus Terminal from wherever it is you live in Korea. From the Haenam Intercity Bus Terminal, you can catch a bus that goes to Daeheungsa Temple (but it also may be referred to as Daedunsa Temple). The bus runs every 30 minutes starting at 6:50 in the morning and running until 19:40 at night. The bus ride will last about 20 minutes and the fare should set you back 1,000 won.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Daeheungsa Temple has a lot for the temple adventurer to see from the beautiful main hall, to the Cheonbul-jeon, and the Pyochungsa shrine. Also, the yellow caped Buddhas inside the Cheonbul-jeon and the uniquely painted shaman deities have a lot to keep you busy. One drawback is that most of the temple halls are newly built. But with over 10 halls to visit, this takes little away from Daeheungsa Temple.


 One of the granite bridges that leads you towards the large temple grounds.


 The Haetalmun Gate which is uniquely the only gate at Daeheungsa Temple.


 The youthful Bohyun-bosal atop his white elephant.


 The path that leads towards the North Court, and the main hall, at the temple.


 The pavilion that grants you entry to the North Court.


 The impressive Daeungbo-jeon main hall at Daeheungsa Temple.


 The Haetae sculpture that adorns the right side of the main hall.


 The main altar inside the Daeungbo-jeon.


 The Chilseong mural, which is one of several beautiful murals that adorns the interior to the main hall.


 The unique Eungjin-jeon that is two halls in one.


 Inside the Eungjin-jeon, and to the left, is the Buddha-less interior. Instead, only statues of the Nahan remain.


 And to the right hang two amazing murals dedicated to Sanshin and Dokseong


 The Silla-era three story granite pagoda outside the Eungjin-jeon.


 The temple’s bell pavilion that you pass to get to the South Court.


 A better look at the beautiful bronze bell.


 The only building to be housed inside the South Court: The Cheonbul-jeon.


 A look inside the Cheonbul-jeon at the triad of statues on the main altar as well as the yellow caped Buddhas that surround them.


 Just outside the South Court is the Gwaneeum-jeon.


 Inside this hall sits the solitary statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. She’s joined by some masterful paintings from the Buddha’s life.


The gate that greets you at the Pyochungsa shrine.


 A look at the Josa-jeon.


 A look at the Pyochungsa shrine to the left.


A look inside the Pyochungsa shrine at three paintings dedicated to the warrior monks.