Ingaksa Temple – 인각사 (Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The snowy Sallyeong-gak at Ingaksa Temple in Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Ingaksa Temple in south-eastern Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do is said to have purportedly been first constructed by the famed Wonhyo-daesa during the reign of Queen Seondeok (r. 632-647 A.D.). The name of the temple relates to the neigbouring landscape that surrounds Ingaksa Temple. Ingaksa Temple, in English, means “Giraffe Horn Temple.” With the Wicheon Stream flowing to the north of the temple, Ingaksa Temple is surrounded by Mt. Hwasan. Historically, people thought that Mt. Hwasan looked like a giraffe. And where Ingaksa Temple is located is where, according to these people, a corresponding giraffe’s horn should be located.

Ingaksa Temple was further expanded during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), and with its growth, it also became one of the most prominent temples throughout the Korean peninsula. Ingaksa Temple is closely associated with the famed Ilyeon (1206-89) because it’s believed that he wrote the Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) at Ingaksa Temple over a five year period starting in 1281.

You first approach Ingaksa Temple in a bend in the Wicheon Stream. Entering the temple parking lot and past the field of stone artifacts which date back to the Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935 A.D.), you’ll finally enter the large temple courtyard. Straight ahead lies the Geukrak-jeon main hall. Out in front of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is a three tier pagoda. Housed inside the recently renovated main hall is a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Amita-bul is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the left of this triad are a pair of paintings. The first is an elaborate Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural that’s joined to the rear by a rather unique Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. Rounding out the set, and to the right of the main altar, is the temple’s guardian mural.

To the right of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is the Guksa-jeon Hall (The Hall for the State Preceptor). In this case, this Guksa-jeon is dedicated to Ilyeon-guksa. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Housed inside this large shrine hall are a pair of murals dedicated to Ilyeon. To the rear of this hall, and to the right, are a pair of stone artifacts. The first is a seated stone image of the Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul, that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty. This stone sculpture is joined to the right by the octagonal stone stupa for Ilyeon. It’s believed that the stupa dates back to between 1289 (the time of Ilyeon’s death) and 1295. Either way, the stupa has been amazingly preserved for its age. A little less well preserved is the stele to the left rear of the Guksa-jeon Hall. Like the stupa, it dates back to between 1289 and 1295, but only the stone body of the stele still exists. And even this is in rough shape. Both the stupa and stele for Ilyeon-guksa are Korean Treasure #428.

Between both the Geukrak-jeon Hall and the Guksa-jeon Hall is the temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Inside the dancheong exterior of the Judgment Hall is a smaller, green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This statue is joined by ten smaller sized statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld, as well.

To the rear of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, and up an elevated path, is the Sallyeong-gak, which houses a fading mural of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Unlike the other shrine halls, the Sallyeong-gak shaman shrine hall cannot be entered. Instead, at this diminutive shrine, a person must pray outside towards the painting inside.

The final shrine hall a person can enter is the Mireuk-dang Hall, which is housed in a modern building. The damaged image of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) rests all alone on the main altar and dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty.

And no trip to Ingaksa Temple would be complete without visiting the museum dedicated to the monk Ilyeon-guksa at the front of the temple grounds.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gunwi Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to board a bus that reads “Gunwi – Nakjeon, 군위 – 낙전” or “Gunwi – Hakam, 군위 – 학암.” With either of these buses, you’ll need to take the bus for 21 stops, or 57 minutes. You’ll then need to get off at the Hwabuk 1 ri (화북 1리) stop. From where the bus lets you of, you’ll need to walk an additional 900 metres, or 13 minutes, to get to Ingaksa Temple.

You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Gunwi Intercity Bus Terminal. The taxi ride should last 33 minutes and set you back 23,200 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Like so many other temples on the peninsula, Ingaksa Temple has quite the past. But what sets this temple apart is its connection with Ilyeon-guksa with the Guksa-jeon Hall, as well as the stele and stupa dedicated to the writer of the Samguk Yusa. Other points of interest at Ingaksa Temple is the painting of Sanshin housed inside the Sallyeong-gak and the stone artifacts at the front of the temple.

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The temple courtyard at Ingaksa Temple.

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A look at the stone artifacts of the temple from the Unified Silla Dynasty.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall and three tier stone pagoda out in front of it.

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A look inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall at the main altar and the Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural.

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The Chilseong mural to the left rear of the main hall.

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The Ilyeon Museum at Ingaksa Temple.

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The Goryeo Dynasty Buddha statue at the temple.

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The octagonal stupa for Ilyeon-guksa at Ingaksa Temple.

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The Guksa-jeon Hall to the right of the main hall.

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A look inside the Guksa-jeon Hall.

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One painting dedicated to the author of the Samguk Yusa.

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And the other painting dedicated to Ilyeon-guksa on the main altar.

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The enclosure for the battered stele dedicated to Ilyeon-guksa.

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The late 13th century stele has seen better days.

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One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the Guksa-jeon Hall.

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The view from the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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

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The Sallyeong-gak shrine hall dedicated to Sanshin.

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And the beautiful, fading mural dedicated to the Mountain Spirit inside.

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The snowy trail leading up to the Sallyeong-gak with a devotee praying at it.

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The statue of Mireuk-bul from the Goryeo Dynasty that’s seen better days.

Daeyulsa Temple – 대율사 (Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The shrine that houses the ancient Buddha statue at Daeyulsa Temple in Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Daeyulsa Temple is a little known temple that is small in size and is reached up a narrow alleyway-type road. In fact, I didn’t even notice it the first time I passed it. But once you finally do notice the gate for the temple with its metal manja across the gate, and the small entranceway that allows you access to Daeyulsa Temple, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what awaits you.

The first thing to greet you is a row of monks’ dorms to the left. And to the right is a house. A little further in, and you’ll notice the main highlight, by far, to this diminutive little temple. Standing out in front of the main hall, and under its own little protective shrine hall, is the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. – 935 A.D.) statue of the Buddha. It stands 2.65 metres in height and is a bit strange. The right hand shows the mudra of boundless mercy, while the left hand is placed over the chest. The statue looks stiff in appearance with most of its facial features washed away by the passage of time.

To the left of the ancient Buddha is the Sanshin-gak, which is just barely squeezed inside the stone fence confines of the temple. Inside rests a painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) with a cartoonish looking tiger by his side and a dongja (assistant) offering him peaches.

Just behind these two shrine halls is the smaller-looking main hall. The concrete walls are adorned with fading Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). To the far left is a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), while to the right hangs a painting of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). In front of this painting is a slim-looking statue of a green haired Jijang-bosal.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two buses that go to Daeyulsa Temple from the Gunwi Intercity Bus Terminal. The first is the Gunwi to Dundeok bus, while the other is the Gunwi to 2nd Seokuram bus. In either case, you’ll need to take the bus for 16 stops and get off at the Daeyul 2 Ri stop. From this stop, you’ll need to walk eight minutes to the west to get to Daeyulsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. This temple won’t blow you away with all the halls it offers. Instead, the main feature to Daeyulsa Temple is the Silla-era stone statue of the Buddha. There are a couple other features like the nice Sanshin painting and the Jijang-bosal statue, but the real reason anyone comes to this temple is to see the ancient Buddhist statue.

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The entrance to Daeyulsa Temple.

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The shrine and main hall at the temple.

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A look at the main highlight to this temple: the Silla-era Buddha.

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A closer look at the ancient Buddha.

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The Sanshin mural inside the Sanshin-gak, which is situated to the left of the shrine for the ancient Buddha.

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A look at the shrine, as you make your way towards the main hall.

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A look along the main altar inside the main hall at Daeyulsa Temple.

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To the far right is this statue of Jijang-bosal.

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The blue fading Ox-Herding murals.

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A look across the back side of the main hall at some more of the Ox-Herding murals.

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A look at the fish wind-chime and surrounding mountains under a gorgeous blue sky.

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Some purple flowers in full bloom along the country road.

Gunwi Grotto (2nd Seokguram) – 군위 석굴 (Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The temple courtyard that houses the Gunwi Grotto in Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

You first approach the temple grounds from the left (south). You’ll be welcomed by an intimidatingly large sized visitors’ and study centre that seemed unused and unoccupied after crossing a bridge with a small stream that runs under the bridge. Just to the right, and behind a shrine hall that you can’t enter, are both the temple’s bell pavilion and a biseok dedicated to a deceased monk from the temple. Further behind these structures are the long monks’ quarters that are strictly off-limits.

Just a little further right, once more, and you’ll come to another biseok, as well as a statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) that sits in front of a shallow artificial pond. The statue of this Buddha is well preserved considering it dates back to the 9th century.

Just past the bamboo grove that surrounds the statue of Birojana-bul is the main temple courtyard. Immediately, you’ll notice the hole in the sheer mountain face that houses the triad of Buddhist statues. This grotto, the Gunwi Grotto, predates the much more famous Seokguram Hermitage in Gyeongju by 100 years. The cave hovers twenty metres above the ground. And the dimensions of the naturally occurring cave measure 4.25 metres by 4.3 metres. Inside this cave are three statues. In the centre sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in a lotus posture. He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). Unfortunately, you can’t climb the stairs to get a closer look at these amazing statues; however, you can still get a pretty good look at them from a relatively close distance. The Gunwi Grotto is National Treasure #109.

Just before this grotto, and to the left, is the temple’s main hall. Out in front of the hall are a pair of statues of a child-like Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). Surrounding the exterior walls of this hall are some masterful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Inside this hall, and resting in the centre of the main altar is a statue of Birojana-bul. On the far left wall of the main hall is the guardian mural, and the interior walls to this hall are lined with paintings of various Bodhisattvas like Gwanseeum-bosal, Munsu-bosal, and Bohyun-bosal.

Out in front of the main hall, as you make your way towards the Samseong-gak that rests behind the main hall on the mountain, is one of the more peculiar pagodas that you’ll see in Korea. It’s a one story pagoda made of white bricks that dates back to Unified Silla Period (668 A.D. – 935 A.D.). As for the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, it rests precariously on the face of the mountain. Inside, there are three rather ordinary-looking paintings dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to the Gunwi Grotto, you’ll need to get a bus from the Gunwi Bus Terminal that heads towards Mt. Palgongsan. Just make sure with the bus driver that the bus crosses path with the grotto. Buses from the terminal start at 8:25 a.m. in the morning and run throughout the day until 7:10 p.m.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. This temple is a bit of a tough one to rate. It doesn’t have many temple halls, but what it does have is pretty good. Add into the mix the grotto, and Gunwi Grotto becomes pretty special. But the difficulty of getting to this temple takes a bit away from its overall rating. Either way, if you have an opportunity to see the Gunwi Grotto, I recommend you make the trip, especially if you’re in or visiting the Daegu area.

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The stream that flows next to the temple grounds.

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The massive study hall at Gunwi Grotto.

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One of the biseok that welcomes you to the temple grounds.

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The bell pavilion that’s well hidden in front of the monks’ dorms.

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The ancient statue of Birojana-bul at Gunwi Grotto.

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The beautiful main hall at Gunwi Grotto.

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A statue of Munsu-bosal beneath a pine tree.

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One of the masterful Shimu-do murals that’s painted on the main hall’s walls.

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The triad of statues that take up residence on the main altar inside the main hall.

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The wooden guardian relief inside the main hall.

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The strange looking one-tier white brick pagoda in the temple courtyard.

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A look up at the naturally occurring grotto.

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A closer look at the triad of ancient statues housed inside the Gunwi Grotto.

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A look up at the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at the temple.

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The paintings inside Samseong-gak.