Colonial Korea: Geumsansa Temple – 금산사 (Gimje, Jeollabuk-do)

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The Bangdeung-gyedan shrine in 1916 at Geumsansa Temple in Gimje, Jeollabuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

The famed Geumsansa Temple is located on the western slopes of Moaksan Provincial Park in Gimje, Jeollabuk-do. Geumsansa Temple, which means Golden Mountain Temple, in English, was first established in either 599 or 600 A.D. Unlike its prominence today, Geumsansa Temple was not an important temple at the time of its construction. But then, from 722 to 766 A.D., Geumsansa Temple was rebuilt and expanded by master monk, Jinpyo.

Geumsansa Temple has a long history associated with Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). And this association comes from a vision Jinpyo had of Mireuk-bul. In a dream, Jinpyo received a book on divination, as well as 189 divination sticks directly from Mireuk-bul. From this dream, a statue was made of Mireuk-bul and placed inside the main hall. As a result of these actions, Geumsansa Temple becamse known as a headquarters for practicing the worship of Mireuk-bul during the Unified Silla Period (668-935 A.D.).

During the destructive Imjin War in 1592, Geumsansa Temple acted as a training centre for Buddhist monks in the defence of the Korean peninsula. As a result of these efforts, Geumsansa Temple, and its neighbouring hermitages, was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese. Then, in 1635, over forty years later, Geumsansa Temple was rebuilt. And from its rebuild in the 17th century, Geumsansa Temple has grown in both size and importance within the Korean Buddhist community.

In total, Geumsansa Temple houses one national treasure, the Mireuk-jeon Hall, which is National Treasure #62. It also houses nine additional Treasures.

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The Geumgangmun Gate in 1933

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A closer look at the Geumgangmun Gate.

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The Daejeokgwang-jeon main hall in 1933 at Geumsansa Temple.

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A closer look at the main hall.

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 The hexagonal black stoned pagoda that just so happens to be Treasure #27. This picture was taken in 1916.

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The Daejang-jeon Hall that houses an amazing Mireuk-bul statue in 1933.

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A closer look at the Daejang-jeon.

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The intricate main altar inside the Daejang-jeon Hall.

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The towering Mireuk-jeon Hall in 1933. It also just so happens to be National Treasure #62.

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A better look at the Mireuk-jeon Hall.

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The Bangdeung-gyedan shrine in 1916.

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The five tier pagoda in front of the shrine from 1916.

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And another angle for the five tier pagoda.

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The stone sculpture in the centre of the Bangdeung-gyedan shrine. Inside are housed the Buddha’s partial remains.

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One of the stone guardians around the gyedan in 1916.

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And one of the biseok at Geumsansa Temple in 1916.

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The main temple courtyard at Geumsansa Temple in 2014. The main hall is to the right with the Myeongbu-jeon Hall and the Daejang-jeon Hall to the left.

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A closer look at the Daejang-jeon Hall with the Myeongbu-jeon Hall in the background from 2014.

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The Bangdeung-gyedan shrine and Mireuk-jeon Hall in 2014.

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 The hexagonal black stoned pagoda and Bangdeung-gyedan shrine in 2014.

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A closer look at the pagoda in front of the Bangdeung-gyedan shrine in 2014.

Geumsansa Temple – 금산사 (Gimje, Jeollabuk-do)

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 The amazing, but under renovation, Mireuk-jeon and Bangdeung-gyedan shrine at Geumsansa Temple in Gimje, Jeollabuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Geumsansa Temple, which means Golden Mountain Temple, in English, lies in a flat river valley on the western slope of Moaksan Provincial Park. It was first established in 599 A.D. or 600 A.D. (depending on the historic document that is being used). At that time, it was not a prominent temple like it is today. Then from 722 to 766, the temple was rebuilt and expanded under the watchful eye of master monk, Jinpyo. According to legend, Jinpyo had a vision of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). In this dream he received a book on divination and 189 divination sticks from Mireuk-bul. As a result, a statue was made of Mireuk-bul and enshrined in the main hall. With this in mind, Geumsansa Temple became the headquarters for practicing Mireuk-bul worship during the Unified Silla Period. During the Imjin War in 1592, the temple acted as a training ground for monks in the defence of the Korean peninsula. Unfortunately, the entire temple and neighbouring hermitages were completely destroyed by the Japanese. Not long after, in 1635, the temple was rebuilt. Through these efforts, and subsequent ones, Geumsansa Temple is not only one of the largest in Korea; it’s also one of the most popular.

You first make your way towards the temple up a path that neighbours a frozen stream. You’ll then cross over a newly built bridge that has a dragon underneath. The first structure to greet you at the temple is the Haetalmun Gate, which houses statues of a youthful Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). They are joined by two guardians behind a screened-off area for their protection; however, this screen doesn’t allow for the best of pictures. This is also the problem with the large sized Cheonwangmun Gate. Even though the statues are tall and fierce in design, they also are blocked from a clear view because of the protective meshing that lies in front of them.

After passing through both gates, and under the Bojae-ru pavilion, you’ll enter into the expansive temple courtyard. To your immediate left is the temple’s rather large bell pavilion. And to your immediate right is the newer looking Gwaneeum-jeon. Housed inside this hall is a seated multi-armed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). She wears a unique crown where two of her hands hold up an image of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) over her head. Have a close look, it’s pretty special.

Straight ahead lays the large and long main hall. Originally, it was National Treasure #476, until it burnt down in 1986. It was quickly rebuilt, and it currently houses 11 statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas along the main altar. The central image is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s joined to the right and left by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of this triad stand four more statues. They are, in order, Nosana-bul (The Reward Body Buddha), Ilgwang-bosal (The Sun Bodhisattva), Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha), and Wolgwang-bosal (The Moon Bodhisattva). To the left of the central triad, in order, are Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). As you can tell, this main hall is absolutely packed. Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures inside, and there’s a woman making sure you don’t.

To the left of the main hall are two smaller sized shrine halls. The first is Daejang-jeon, which is dedicated to Mireuk-bul. The outside walls are littered with monk paintings, while the interior is lined with Palsang-do murals, which record the life of Seokgamoni-bul. As for the main altar inside this hall, you’ll get to see one of the most beautiful renderings of Mireuk-bul. This Buddha statue is surrounded by an amazing fiery nimbus. To the right of this hall is the Myeongbu-jeon. Sitting on the main altar inside this hall is an older looking statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s surrounded on both sides by seated wooden statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. Just in front of this hall is the extremely unique stone carving called Noju. Its original purpose is no longer known.

Just behind the main hall are three more temple halls. The first one to the far left is the large, but rather plain, Josa-jeon, which houses a row of paintings dedicated to former prominent monks at the temple. To its right is the highly elaborate, and well populated, Nahan-jeon. The triad sitting on the main altar is centred by Seokgamoni-bul, and he’s joined on either side by Mireuk-bul and Jihwakara-bul (The Past Buddha). These statues are joined by 16 Nahan on the main altar, who are in turn joined by 500 Nahan in the background. If you look close enough, you might even see a Nahan that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Unfortunately, and like the main hall, the Nahan-jeon burned to the ground in 1986. Between these two halls lays the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Out in front is an ugly gnarled tree with three older looking murals of Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), and Dokseong (The Recluse) inside.

Up a stone set of stairs that is situated next to the Nahan-jeon, you’ll come to the Bangdeung-gyedan. Housed in the centre of this stone shrine is a crowned stone lotus bud that formally housed five sari from Seokgamoni-bul. These sari are now housed in the Geumsansa Temple museum. In front of this stone lotus bud is a Goryeo Period five-story stone pagoda. The entire stone structure is surrounded by various, and descriptive, stone guardians. Just to the right is the Jeokmyeol-bogung. Like Tongdosa Temple’s main hall, this hall has no statues of the Buddha. Instead, the window inside this hall looks out onto the Bangdeung-gyedan and the Buddha’s remains.

The final hall at Geumsansa Temple, and the most impressive, is the three-story wooden structure called the Mireuk-jeon. This hall is National Treasure #62, and it dates back to 1635. Housed inside this hall are three massive statues. The tallest, which stands nearly 12 meters in height, is dedicated to Mireuk-bul, who is the namesake of the hall. He’s joined on either side by two Bodhisattvas, Beophwarim-bosal and Daemyosang-bosal. Unfortunately, when I visited, this hall was under renovation.

Admission to the temple is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Geumsansa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Jeonju Express Bus Terminal. From there, take Bus #79 to Geumsansa Temple. The buses start leaving from the terminal at 6:24 in the morning, and they stop running at 22:45 at night. The buses leave every 25 minutes. Also, you can catch a bus from the Gimje Intercity Bus Terminal or Gimje Station. You’ll need to board Bus #5, which is a direct bus to Geumsansa Temple.


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OVERALL RATING: 10/10. What isn’t to love about Geumsansa Temple? The amazing Mireuk-jeon is something special, as is the massive main hall with the eleven statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Also, you can visit nearly a dozen halls at Geumsansa Temple. It’s no wonder this temple is so popular. In addition, the Bangdeung-gyedan, similar to the stone structure at Tongdosa Temple, which formally housed five sari from the Buddha, is something else that adds to Geumsansa Temple’s status as something special amongst temples throughout the Korean peninsula. As you can tell, I love this temple!

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The first view of Geumsansa Temple as you approach it from the pathway.

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The frozen stream that neighbours the pathway.

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The beautiful bridge that lets you into the temple grounds.

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The Haetalmun Gate that’s the first structure to greet you at the temple.

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The next is the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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One of the tall, but meshed off, Heavenly Kings.

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The Bojae-ru pavilion that blocks the view of the main temple courtyard.

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The bell pavilion to the left, as you first enter the temple grounds.

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The main hall, the Myeongbu-jeon, and the Daejang-jeon.

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A look inside the Daejang-jeon at the fiery Mireuk-bul statue.

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A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon at the green-haired Jijang-bosal.

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A closer look at the massive main hall with a well-populated interior.

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This hexagonal black stoned pagoda is National Treasure #27.

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A look at the Nahan-jeon on the right and the Josa-jeon on the left.

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

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With a Nahan statue of Arnie.

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The Samseong-gak that lies between both the Nahan-jeon and the Josa-jeon.

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The Sanshin painting inside the Samseong-gak.

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A look at the elevated Bangdeung-gyedan shrine that formally housed the Buddha’s remains.

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The Jeokmyeol-bogung Hall that looks out onto the stone shrine.

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The view from the hall.

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The historic Mireuk-jeon hall that is unfortunately under renovation (unfortunate for me).

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A look up at the massive altar statues inside the Mireuk-jeon.

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The Gwaneeum-jeon under a winter sun.

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The unique multi-armed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

Temple Stay: Geumsansa Temple (Jeollabuk-do)

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The three story Mireuk-jeon pagoda at Geumsansa Temple (courtesy of Wikipedia).

Hello Again Everyone!!

Introduction to the Temple:

Geumsansa Temple (Golden Mountain Temple) was first established in 599 A.D., and the temple was built to pray for the Baekje king’s, King Beop’s, prosperity and good fortune. The temple is beautifully perched on the western foothills of Mt. Moaksan. Mt. Moaksan is known as the “Mother Mountain,” because it’s the cradle of many indigenous religions in Korea. Additionally, the mountain also looks like a mother cradling her baby. Later, in 766 A.D., the temple was further expanded by the monk, Jinpyo. In fact, the temple, at this time, became the head temple for the worship of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). The temple is best known for its beautiful three story Mireuk-jeon Hall, which is the only one of its kind in Korea. The other highlights at this temple are the Noju building divider, Seogyeondae lotus-based stone pedestal, Ocheung Seoktap five-story pagoda, and the Yukgak Tachung Soktap, which is a hexagonally shaped pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). There are simply too many highlights at this temple to see and experience to mention them all.

In total, Geumsansa Temple runs three different types of programs at its temple. The first is “Templestay: Whispering Together…”, which is a one night and two days program. The other program is the “Seon: Understanding Myself,” program that is a one week program that focuses on practicing Buddhism on a daily basis. And the third program is the yearly Temple Stay, where former participants gather to enjoy the program once more. This program is called “Memories of Templestay.”

The most common, and popular, program is the one night and two days program. Because of the number of monks and volunteers at the Geumsansa Temple Stay program, participants can interact more freely with monks at any given time. Also during this program, it features Seon meditation, 108 bows, a tea ceremony, and a walking meditation. It truly has something for everyone.

For more information on Geumsansa Temple.

(Courtesy of the Geumsansa Temple Stay website).

Directions:

There are two ways to get to Geumsansa Temple from Seoul. First, you can take subway line #2 to the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, and get a bus for Gimjae (about 2 hours 50 minutes). Across the street from the Gimjae Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take a bus directly to Geumsansa Temple (50 minutes), and then walk for 10 minutes to get to the temple.

And the second way you can get to the temple is you can take subway line #3 to the Nambu Bus Terminal, and then get a bus to Jeonju (about 2 hours 30 minutes). There’s a bus stop for Geumsansa Temple directly in front of the Jeonju Express Bus Terminal (about 50 minutes), and then you’ll need to walk 10 minutes to get to the temple. 



General Schedule:

Geumsansa Temple Stay features three different programs. It features a one week program that focuses on an authentic experience as a practicing Buddhist. The second is a yearly Temple Stay program, where past participants enjoy the Temple Stay experience all over again. And the final one is the one night, two days Regular Schedule program. Here is a sample schedule of what you might experience during this program:

Day One:

15:00~16:00 : Registration & Free Time
17:00~18:00 : Orientation (Learn About Temple Etiquette)
18:00~18:50 : Traditional Buddhist Meal
19:00~19:30 : Striking the Temple Bell & Evening Service
19:30~20:00 : Walking in Peace (Walking Meditation)
20:00~21:00 : Down Time
21:00~ : Sleeping

Day Two:
03:30~04:00 : Early Morning Service (Optional)
04:00~04:30 : 108 Prostrations (Optional)
04:30~05:00 : Seon Meditation
05:00~06:00 : Walking Along a Tranquil Forest Path
06:00~07:00 : Temple Breakfast
07:00~07:30 : Communal Work (Sweeping the Grounds)
07:30~09:00 : Making 108 Prayer Beads
09:00~10:30 : Tea-time with a Monk
10:30~11:30 : Temple Tour
11:30~12:00 : Comments and Feedback
12:10~13:00 : Temple Lunch
After lunch : Departure

*Bring your own toiletries (toothbrush, towels), T-shirts, running shoes and an umbrella.

* If you want to use your own room (only for you or with family or with friends), then +20,000 won per night.

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(Courtesy of the Geumsansa Temple Stay website).

Geumsansa Temple Information:

Address : 39, Geumsan-ri, Geumsan-myeon Gimje-si Jeollabuk-do
Tel : +82-63-542-0048 / Fax : +82-63-548-1390
homepage : http://www.geumsansa.org
E-mail : geumsansa@templestay.com

Fees:

Adults: 50,000 won; Teens: 30,000 won; Under 13: 30,000 won (Regular Schedule)

*Add 20,000 won if you want your own room.

Link:

Reservations for the Geumsansa Temple Stay program.

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(Courtesy of Wikipedia).