Gyeongheungsa Temple – 경흥사 (Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The view from the Sanhin-gak at Gyeongheungsa Temple in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just south of the Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do city centre and east of Mt. Byeongpungsan lies Gyeongheungsa Temple. As you approach the temple grounds, and enter the temple parking lot, you’ll first notice the temple stupa field to the right of the temple shrine halls. Slightly elevated, there are a row of six stupas of varying shape that first greet you.

A little further to the left and past the monks’ facilities, are a cluster of some four temple shrine halls. The first of the four is beautifully adorned with various Buddhist motif murals like Wonhyo-daesa’s enlightenment and the Bodhidharma. Housed inside this hall is a triad centred by a uniquely designed Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) statue. He’s joined on either side by a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), as well as Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the far right of the main altar hangs a guardian mural.

Between the monks’ dorms and the first temple shrine hall, and up a set of wooden stairs, is the temple’s main hall, the Daeung-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with Palsang-do murals that depict the eight scenes from the Buddha’s life. As for inside this hall, there are a triad of historic statues resting on the main altar. Centred by Seokgamoni-bul and joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), these statues date back to 1644. Combined, these three statues make up Korea’s Treasure #1750. Also housed inside this shrine hall is a beautiful mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

To the rear of these two halls, and slightly up an embankment, are two smaller sized shrine halls at Gyeongheungsa Temple. Twisting to the left and then to the right, you’ll make your way towards these shrine halls up a forested pathway. The first of the two is the Chilseong-Dokseong-gak. Housed inside this shaman shrine hall are a pair of original murals dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and the blue backdrop for Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). And a little further to the right is the Sanshin-gak that also houses a blue background for Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) with a tiger with a nearly human-like face.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to walk about 5 minutes (300 metres) to get to the Gyeongsan Shijang (market) bus stop. From this stop, you’ll need to board the Namcheon bus. After 15 stops, or 18 minutes, you’ll need to get off at the Sinseok (Cheongdo) stop. From where the bus lets you off, you’ll need to walk about 3 kilometres to Gyeongheungsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. The one major highlight to this temple is the triad of 17th century statues housed inside the Daeung-jeon main hall at Gyeongheungsa Temple. Other points of interest at this temple are all three of the shaman murals and the collection of stupas at the temple stupa field.

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The first of four shrine halls at Gyeongheungsa Temple.

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The Wonhyo-daesa enlightenment painting.

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The Bodhidharma mural, as well.

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The main altar inside the first of the four shrine halls.

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The stairs that lead up to the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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One of the eight paintings from the Palsang-do set that make up the exterior wall murals on the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The historic 17th century statues on the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Jijang-bosal painting inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Chilseong-Dokseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Gyeongheungsa Temple.

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The Chilseong mural housed inside the first shaman shrine hall.

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As well as the Dokseong mural.

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The Sanshin-gak at the temple.

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The unique blue backed Sanshin mural at Gyeongheungsa Temple.

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The stupa field at the temple.

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With a closer look at one of the individual stupas.

Jaeseoksa Temple – 제석사 (Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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Inside the Wonhyo shrine hall at Jaeseoksa Temple in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located just east of the Gyeongsan city centre, in Gyeongsangbuk-do, is Jaeseoksa Temple. This urban temple is also located in the famed Wonhyo-daesa’s hometown (more on that later).

You first approach the temple down a few narrow side-streets, until you stumble upon Jaeseoksa Temple almost by chance. The entrance gate that awaits you is beautifully painted with various images like Sanshin Dosa and a pair of intense Vajra Warriors adorning the temple doors.

Stepping inside the temple courtyard, you’ll first notice the temple buildings that line the exterior walls to the temple confines. These are the nuns’ living quarters, the visitors centre, as well as the temple kitchen. Straight ahead lies the temple’s main hall. This hall is beautifully decorated both inside and out. Around the exterior walls, there are the traditional Palsang-do set that depict the life of the Buddha. The front latticework consists of the Four Heavenly Kings. And there are some extremely descriptive Nathwi (Monster Mask) reliefs at the base of the latticework. As for inside the main hall, and resting on the main altar, there’s a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who is joined on either side by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). The rest of the hall is filled with beautiful murals like the Dragon Ship of Wisdom and the guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall, and slightly elevated, is the smaller sized Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The exterior walls are adorned with the three most popular shaman deities in the Korean pantheon as is the interior. Resting in the centre of the main altar inside the Samseong-gak is an older, elaborate mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This painting is joined to the left by an older, longer ear lobed mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), who is joined by a leopard-looking tiger at his side. Rounding out the three is a more modern painting of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

The final hall that visitors can explore is one of the most original halls I’ve seen at a Korean temple. This hall is dedicated to the hometown monk, Wonhyo-daesa. The exterior walls are adorned with various murals from his life like the fish pointing scene from Oeosa Temple in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do or his friendship with Uisang-daesa. As for the interior, there’s the highly original Palsang-do set of eight paintings. But instead of depicting the Buddha’s life from birth to death, they depict the life of Wonhyo-daesa. And resting on the main altar is a golden statue of Wonhyo-daesa.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to walk about 300 metres, or five minutes, to get to the Gyeongsan Shijang (market) bus stop. From there, you’ll need to take Bus #990. After twenty stops, or twenty-two minutes, you’ll need to get off at the Jainmyeon Sahmuso (office).From there, walk about 450 metres, or seven minutes, to get to Jaeseoksa Temple.

You can take a bus, or you can simply take a taxi from the Gyeongsan Intercity Bus Terminal. If you do decide to take a taxi from there, it’ll last about 17 minutes and cost 11,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. This is a difficult temple to rate. While smaller in size, Jaeseoksa Temple has quite a few highly original features like the stunning set of eight Palsang-do murals dedicated to Wonhyo-daesa. Also, the Four Heavenly Kings adorning the main hall’s front latticework, as well as the beautiful shaman murals, make this temple a must see if you’re in the Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do hometown of the famed Wonhyo-daesa.

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The entry gate at Jaeseoksa Temple.

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What appears to be a Sanshin Dosa painted on the entry gate.

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One of the fierce Vajra warriors adorning the entry door at the temple.

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A look towards the main hall and an arching tree that obscures the view.

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One of the faces of the Four Heavenly Kings that adorns the lattices of the main hall.

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One of the Nathwi adorning the main hall.

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A giant ornamental dragon on the exterior of the main hall.

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The main altar inside the main hall.

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The guardian mural inside the main hall.

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The Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural inside the main hall, as well.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Jaeseoksa Temple.

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The older looking, and elaborate, Chilseong mural inside the Samseong-gak.

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As well as this amazing older looking mural dedicated to Sanshin.

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The highly unique Wonhyo shrine hall at Jaeseoksa Temple.

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The exterior painting on the Wonhyo shrine hall that commemorates the friendship between Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa.

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An up close of Wonhyo-daesa’s birth from the Wonhyo-daesa Palsang-do set.

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And a mural from the Wonhyo Palsang-do set that illustrates Wonhyo’s enlightenment.

Seonggulsa Temple – 성굴사 (Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The Yaksayore-bul statue inside the Yaksa-jeon cave shrine at Seonggulsa Temple in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seonggulsa Temple, in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do, is located on the northeastern side of Mt. Sangwonsan. Seonggulsa Temple is located south of the better known Gyeongheungsa Temple and was formerly known as Mansusa Temple.

You first approach the temple up a long valley. On the eastern banks of a narrow stream is the eccentric Seonggulsa Temple. The first thing to greet you at the temple is a beautiful three metre tall statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). To the left lies the temple parking lot with numerous stone pagodas reminiscent of Tapsa Temple. On the side of the largest pagoda is an Indian inspired multi-arm and headed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). It’s just beyond this, and dug out of the rock face, a wooden entry to an artificial cave is situated. Inside this bomb shelter-like cave sits a solitary statue of Yaksayore-bul at the end of the cave. The walls are lined with a solitary string of pink paper lotus lanterns, and water drips from the roof of the cave down onto the wooden platform for devotees to pray.

To the right of the Yaksa-jeon cave shrine hall is the two storied main hall. This modern looking 1970s influenced Geukrak-jeon Hall’s exterior paint job is fading. Inside the second floor main hall rest multiple statues and paintings. On the main altar, there sits a triad of statues. In the centre is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power of Amita-bul). To the left of the triad rests a painting and statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the right of the main altar triad are a pair of paintings. The first is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Star) and the second is the temple’s guardian mural. Both are modern and masterful in their design.

To the right rear of the main hall is another artificial cave at Seonggulsa Temple. This cave is all but abandoned and I had to stumble around in the dark because there were ultimately no lights to guide my way. Formerly, the statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) that now takes up residence in the main hall once called this cave home. If you do venture inside this abandoned cave, be careful because the wooden floor boards are now brittle caused by the dripping ceiling water.

To the right of the abandoned cave is an altar with what looks to be a moon rock on it. In front of the moon rock stands an upright stone with red painting on it. The red painting reads Buddha’s Mind. It’s past the monks residence that you’ll also find the Sanshin-gak at Seonggulsa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to walk about 5 minutes (300 metres) to get to the Gyeongsan Shijang (market) bus stop. From this stop, you’ll need to board the Namcheon bus. After 15 stops, or 18 minutes, you’ll need to get off at the Sinseok (Cheongdo) stop. From where the bus lets you off, you’ll need to walk 3.5 kilometres, or 52 minutes, to the temple. You can take public transportation or a taxi directly to Seonggulsa Temple. The taxi ride should take about 30 minutes and cost 12,500 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. This temple has to be one of the most bizarre temples I’ve visited in Korea with its dual caves (one of which is abandoned), as well as the numerous stone pagodas and the retro main hall. This is a good temple to visit if you want something a bit different from the every day.

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The front entry statue of Yaksayore-bul.

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Some of the stone pagodas at Seonggulsa Temple.

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The wooden entry to the first cave shrine at the temple.

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The multi-armed and headed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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Inside the first cave shrine hall.

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A look around the cave.

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The main altar statue of Yaksayore-bul.

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The modern inspired main hall at Seonggulsa Temple.

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A look around the main hall.

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A statue of the Buddha that someone has left behind.

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The moon rock altar with the writing in red ink that reads Buddha’s Mind.

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The second cave at Seonggulsa Temple.

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A look around the abandoned cave.

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And the main altar inside the second cave.

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One more look around the temple grounds.

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As well as another look at some of the stone pagodas.