Colonial Korea: Muwisa Temple – 무위사 (Gangjin, Jeollanam-do)

Muwisa6Part of Treasure #1315 is a painting centred by Amita-bul from 1476. This black and white picture was taken in 1933.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Muwisa Temple is located in the beautiful Wolchulsan National park on the south side near the city of Gangjin, Jeollanam-do. The temple is first believed to have been built back in 617 A.D. by the famed monk, Wonhyo-daesa. At this time, the temple was known as Gwaneumsa Temple after the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Gwanseeum-bosal. Later, in the 10th century, it was expanded by the equally famous monk, Doseon-guksa. It was at this time that the temple came to be known as Muwigapsa Temple.

In total, the temple houses two National Treasures and four additional Treasures. The first of the national treasures, National Treasure #13, is the main hall at Muwisa Temple: the Geukrakbo-jeon Hall. This hall dates back to 1430. The other national treasure is National Treasure #313, which is a mural of Amita-bul that backs the triad of statues on the main altar inside the Geukrakbo-jeon. The mural is believed to date back to 1476.


The exterior of the Geukrakbo-jeon Hall in 1933. The hall is National Treasure #13.


Some eaves from the main hall at Muwisa Temple.


And some more from the Geukrakbo-jeon Hall.


And a final picture that captures some more of the intricate woodwork on the main hall at Muwisa Temple.


A look inside the Geukrakbo-jeon at the historic painting of Amita-bul. This picture was also taken in 1933.


Another historic painting of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas inside the Geukrakbo-jeon from 1933.


The main altar inside the Geukrakbo-jeon. The mural backing the main altar is National Treasure #313.


The main altar inside the Geukrakbo-jeon Hall.


The ceiling inside the main hall above the main altar at Muwisa Temple.


The Geukrakbo-jeon as it appeared in 2014.


The main altar inside the Geukrakbo-jeon with National Treasure #313 backing the triad of altar statues.


The decorative ceiling above the main altar.


The Gwanseeum-bosal mural on the back side of the main altar.


One of the historic murals that adorns the interior of the Geukrakbo-jeon.


As well as another.

Muwisa Temple – 무위사 (Gangjin, Jeollanam-do)


The amazing and historic interior of the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Muwisa Temple. 

Hello Again Everyone!!

Muwisa Temple is located on the south side of Wolchulsan National Park near the city of Gangjin. The temple is first believed to have been established in 617 by the famed monk, Wonhyo-daesa. It was known at that time as Gwaneumsa Temple. It was later expanded in the early 10th century by the equally famed monk, Doseon. It was at this point that the temple changed its name to Muwigapsa Temple.

You make your way up to the rather open temple by way of the Iljumun Gate. The next gate to greet you is the Cheonwangmun Gate, which houses some pretty intense Heavenly Kings. Uniquely, this gate is painted simple brown and white colours. Finally, you’ll pass through a pavilion to gain access to temple courtyard.

Straight ahead lies the Geukrakbo-jeon hall that dates back to 1430. It’s reminiscent of the main hall at Buseoksa Temple in Gyeongsangbuk-do. This hall is National Treasure #13. Inside this main hall, and sitting on the main altar, are three Buddha statues. Sitting in the centre is an earthen made statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). It’s believed that this statue dates back to the 15th century. It’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). These were not constructed at the same time as the central statue, as they are made of wood; however, they are similar in design. Behind the triad of statues, and on the reverse side of the central altar, is painted a famed white mural of Gwanseeum-bosal. This hall is packed with historic paintings. In fact, there used to be 29 historic murals inside this hall. Now, most of them reside inside the temple museum. There are, however, still two remaining murals up near the eaves of the hall. The first, and to the west, are a collection of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Nahan. Below this painting is a modern day painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). On the east side is, perhaps, the more famous triad dedicated to Amita-bul. This fading mural is National Treasure #313, and it was painted in 1476. This hall is one of a kind for its historic beauty both architecturally, but artistically, as well.

To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall. Just as you step into the hall, you’ll be surprised by two eye popping guardians. Trust me! A little further into this hall, and you’ll be greeted by a green-haired Jijang-bosal and the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the left of the main hall are a collection of halls, a pagoda and a stele. The three-story stone pagoda is believed to date back to 946 and is rather plain in design. It’s joined by a stele dedicated to Supreme Master Seongak, who lived from 864 to 917. He was key in the re-establishment of Muwisa Temple, and the stele is well kept with its tortoise base and life of the monk written on its body-stone.

Behind these two structures, and to the left, is a rather ordinary Nahan-jeon hall. Its plain exterior is matched by is rather sparsely populated interior. Behind this hall, and slightly to the right, are two smaller sized halls. The first one to the right is a hall with a larger sized stone image of the Buddha of unknown origins or date. To the left of this hall is the Sanshin-gak. Inside is a rather plain style contemporary painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

The final hall to visit at Muwisa Temple is the Cheonbul-jeon hall that lies between the Nahan-jeon and the Sanshin-gak. Up a small trail and over a small bridge, you’ll find this newly constructed hall. Well populated with a thousand bronze coloured images of the Buddha, and fronted by a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul, is the beautiful interior to this hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Muwisa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Gangjin Intercity Bus Terminal from wherever it is you live in Korea. From there, a bus leaves at 06:40, 08:35, 10:30, 15:00, 16:00, 17:20 to get to the temple.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. By far, the main highlight to this temple is the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Muwisa temple. The date of this hall, 1430, combined with the historic paintings that also date back to the 15th century are truly unsurpassed in Korea. Additionally, there are several other halls, gates, and a historic pagoda and stele to see at this beautifully situated temple in Jeollanam-do.


 A look through the Iljumun Gate at the Cheonwangmun Gate.


 A closer look at the plainly painted Cheonwangmun Gate.


 A look at the side-wards glancing Heavenly King.


 A look back at the Iljumun Gate as the sun rises in the early morning hours.


 The pavilion you pass through to get to the temple courtyard.


 The famed Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Muwisa Temple.


 The beautiful statues that adorn the main altar. In the centre is the 15th century statue of Amita-bul.


 Behind the main altar is this famed painting of Gwanseeum-bosal.


 A collection of Buddhas inside the historic painting.


 The Amita-bul painting that dates back to 1476 and is a National Treasure.


 To the right of the main hall lies the Myeongbu-jeon.


 The frightening guardian that welcomes you to the Myeongbu-jeon.


 The altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon.


 To the left of the main hall is this collection of halls.


 The face of the stele that bears the history of the Supreme Master Seongak.


The rather plain interior of the Nahan-jeon.


 The contemporary Confucian-style painting of Sanshin.


 A large sized stone image of the Buddha.


 The Cheonbul-jeon hall that lies outside the main courtyard at Muwisa Temple.


 A look inside at the 1,000 Buddhas.


 And finally, it was time to head to the next temple.