Dubangsa Temple – 두방사 (Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The main hall and multi-tiered pagoda at Dubangsa Temple in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Dubangsa Temple is located east of Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do, and it lies just south of the Janggun-daesan peak on Mt. Wolasan. In fact, it lies just over the ridge line where the more famous Cheonggoksa Temple is located. Just under 250 metres in elevation, Dubangsa Temple has a beautiful view of the valley down below, and it seems to operate as a bit of a stop along the trail for mountain hikers.

You first approach Dubangsa Temple up a steep mountain road that eventually lands you just right of the main temple courtyard and next to the monks’ dorms. There are only a handful of shrine halls at Dubangsa Temple to enjoy, but it’s the imposing main hall that you’ll notice first.

The exterior walls to the main hall are adorned with a pair of mural sets. The first is the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals; while the other is the Palsang-do murals. Both sets are fading a bit in the sunlight. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, is a triad of ornate statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined by two regally crowned statues of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power for Amita-bul). To the right of the main altar hangs an elaborate guardian mural.

Out in front of the main hall are two completely opposite pagodas. The one to the right is the traditional Silla-designed three tier stone pagoda. But it’s the one to the left, the multi-story stone pagoda of Dubangsa Temple, that’s the more special of the two. The bluish hued multi-tiered pagoda dates back to the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. to 935 A.D.). Originally housed at the neighbouring Beopnyunsa Temple, it was moved in 1940 to Dubangsa Temple. It was only moved after there was nothing left of Beopnyunsa Temple after the Imjin War (1592-98) and the pagoda stood alone for hundreds of years.

The main hall and pagodas are joined in the main courtyard by the Myeongbu-jeon shrine hall. Inside is a golden capped Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), who is surrounded by hundreds of miniature incarnations of himself. Interestingly, on the northern portion of the shrine hall is a beautiful mural of Dubangsa Temple. Also appearing in the main courtyard is the temple’s bell pavilion and beautiful bronze bell.

Up the embankment, and to the left rear of the main hall, is the Samseong-gak at Dubangsa Temple. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with shamanic figures, and the interior houses four additional shamanic murals. The first mural to your immediate left when you enter the Samseong-gak is a Yongwang (The Dragon King) mural. It’s joined to the right by a unique mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). This mural is then joined by a rather typical Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. Rounding out the collection of four is a mural, in a similar style to the Sanshin painting, of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: Since there is no bus that directly goes to Dubangsa Temple, the only way to get to the temple is by taxi. From the Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal, you can catch a taxi to Dubangsa Temple. The ride should last about 30 minutes and costs about 13,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. While a lot smaller in size than the much more famous Cheonggoksa Temple, Dubangsa Temple has some things to offer the temple adventurer. The obvious highlight to the temple is the multi-tiered blue pagoda; but of note, and some things to keep an eye out for, are the temple bell and the shamanic murals hanging inside the Samseong-gak.

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The view as you first enter the temple courtyard.

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The view from the bell pavilion at Dubangsa Temple.

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A closer look of the bell at Dubangsa Temple.

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The main hall at Dubangsa Temple.

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The main altar inside the main hall.

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The elaborate guardian mural inside the main hall.

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Both the blue pagoda and main hall at Dubangsa Temple.

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The Myeongbu-jeon hall.

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The golden capped Jijang-bosal inside the Myeongbu-jeon.

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The temple mural that adorns the Myeongbu-jeon hall.

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The radiant view from the Myeongbu-jeon.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Dubangsa Temple.

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One of the murals that adorns the Samseong-gak.

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And yet another more peculiar one.

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The uniquely painted Sanshin mural inside the Samseong-gak. Have a look at that tiger’s eyes!

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And the Dokseong mural.

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The view from the Samseong-gak.

Cheonggoksa Temple – 청곡사 (Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The Sanshin-gak that houses three different images of the Mountain Spirit at Cheonggoksa Temple in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located just east of Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do, and on the southern slopes of Mt. Wolasan, is the historic Cheonggoksa Temple. Cheonggoksa Temple was first established in 879 A.D. by the famed monk Doseon-guksa (826-898). Doseon picked the location for Cheonggoksa Temple because of its divine energy. After watching a blue crane, from the banks of Namgang River in Jinju, land on the present temple location, Doseon knew it was the proper place to construct a temple. The temple was later reconstructed in 1380 by the monk Silsang. Like so many other temples in Korea, Cheonggoksa Temple was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Rebuilt in 1612, Cheonggoksa Temple was renovated at the end of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

You first approach Cheonggoksa Temple past the temple parking lot and to the right. It’s up this wooded trail that you’ll find a serene pond to your left. From the pond side benches, you can get a great view of the temple beautifully framed by the surrounding mountains. A little further up the trail and you’ll pass under the stately Iljumun Gate.

Out in front of the stream where the blue crane once landed, and across from the front façade of the temple grounds, is the temple’s cemetery. In total, there are eight different stupas for those monks that once called Cheonggoksa Temple home. They are joined by a darkened three tier pagoda and a stone lantern at the entrance of the cemetery.

Climbing the side-winding stairs and passing through the uninhabited Cheonwangmun Gate, you’ll finally pass under the Hwanhak-ru pavilion and enter the main temple courtyard. Straight ahead stands the Daeung-jeon main hall at Cheonggoksa Temple. The outside walls are largely unadorned, but the interior more than makes up for this shortcoming. Resting on the main altar are three large statues. In the centre rests Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the rear of the main altar is a smaller sized mural dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul. But it’s to the left of the main altar that’s the greatest surprise inside the Daeung-jeon. To the left sits Jaeseok-cheonwang (Heavenly King Deity, Indra) and Daebeom-cheonwang (The Great Dharma Heavenly King).

To the immediate right of the main hall stands the Eopgyeong-jeon shrine hall, which is also known as the Myeongbu-jeon hall at other temples. Housed inside this shrine hall, and resting on the main altar, is a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This Bodhisattva is then surrounded on all sides by some fantastic wooden statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the right rear of the main hall sits both the Nahan-jeon and the Chilseong-gak. They are joined by the historic three tier pagoda to the right. Inside the Nahan-jeon, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of white statues centred Seokgamoni-bul. This triad is joined by sixteen highly masterful wooden sculptures of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). To the left is the Chilseong-gak which houses older, elaborate murals to each of the Seven Stars (Chilseong), which is quite unique to have them each divided into their own murals.

Finally, to the left rear of the main hall is a shrine hall that is separated into three sections, even though they share the same space (much like at a Beomeosa Temple shrine hall). The first of the divided shrine halls is dedicated to Dokseong. The picture that rests inside this shrine hall is a copy of a much older painting that hangs inside the temple museum. The shrine section to the left is dedicated to prominent monks that once called Cheonggoksa Temple home. In fact, a mural of Doseon-guksa hangs in the centre of the half-a-dozen pictures inside this section. As for the central section is one of the main highlights at the temple. Inside this hall hangs two murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). The image to the left is a female Sanshin with more masculine features. To the right hangs a jocular male image of Sanshin, while in the centre sits a wooden statue of the female Sanshin.

The other things to be enjoyed at the temple is the bell pavilion with beautiful percussion instruments housed inside it. Also, the temple museum is something that shouldn’t be missed, as it houses a large Gwaebul mural from 1722.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to board Bus #261 to get to Cheonggoksa Temple. After 27 stops, or 34 minutes, get off at the “Shingi maeul” stop. From there, walk 1.5 km to get to the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Cheonggoksa Temple has so many rarities associated with it that it should keep a temple adventurer busy for quite some time. From its female Sanshin to the pair of seated Jaeseok-cheonwang and Daebeom-cheonwang, as well as the 18th century Gwaebul and the individual murals dedicated to Chilseong inside the Chilseong-gak, this temple has a laundry list of rarities which also includes the historic Dokseong mural. Take your time and enjoy this hidden gem east of Jinju!

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The path that leads up to the Iljumun Gate at Cheonggoksa Temple.

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The reflective pond out in front of the temple.

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The temple cemetery at Cheonggoksa Temple.

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The front facade at Cheonggoksa Temple.

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The uninhabited Cheonwangmun Gate.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall at the temple.

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The triad of statues on the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon.

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The mural on the backside of the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon.

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The extremely rare Jaeseok-cheonwang and Daebeom-cheonwang inside the main hall.

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The mural of the two that backs the seated statues.

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The Eopgyeong-jeon hall to the right of the main hall.

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This fierce guardian awaits your entry at the Eopgyeong-jeon hall.

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

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Just one of the eerie Ten Kings of the Underworld.

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The sectioned shrine hall to the left rear of the Daeung-jeon.

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A copy of the historic Dokseong mural.

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The amazing female Sanshin mural in the centre section of the shrine hall.

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The Josa-jeon section of the three part shrine hall.

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The temple museum at Cheonggoksa Temple.

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A look inside the bell pavilion at the temple.

Eungseoksa Temple – 응석사 (Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The unique pagoda and ancient main hall at Eungseoksa Temple in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Another temple I wanted to explore in the Jinju area, and not directly in the city, was Eungseoksa Temple. So making my way out to the country area, and down a long, and sometimes gravel road, I found myself at the temple run by Buddhist nuns.

Eungseoksa Temple (응석사) was first established in 554 A.D. by High Priest Yeongi. And its lecture hall was first created by the famous monk, Monk Uisang, in 662. And at one point, and through its popularity and growth, the temple grew to be some 163 buildings in size. But during the Imjin War of 1592 to 1598, after discovering a cache of weapons under the Buddha statues, they burnt the entire temple down to the ground. Finally, the temple was rebuilt in 1736, and it was later expanded on some more in 1899. A final renovation of the temple occurred in 1983.

When you first arrive at the temple, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful Iljumun Gate. It is adorned with various paintings like triads of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, as well dragon and Biseon murals. Passing through this gate, you’ll next come to the much larger Cheonwangmun (Heavenly Kings Gate). To the right of this gate are a couple of handmade pagodas and a wooden guardian spirit pole. To the left of the gate are a couple budos. Just out in front of the Cheonwangmun are two fierce tiger statues, as well as two more paintings of tigers on the face of the gate. As for inside the first floor, of the two storied Cheonwangmun (which also houses the bell pavilion on the second floor), you’ll encounter four simplistic paintings of the Four Heavenly Kings.

Having passed under the bell pavilion, and if you look back as you enter into the temple courtyard, you’ll notice the Eungseoksa Temple’s beautiful bronze bell with elaborate Biseon adorning it. Also, there’s a large sized Poroe dragon crowning the top of the bell, which also helps fasten the bell to the bell pavilion.

Looking around the temple grounds, you’ll notice that most of the administrative and day-to-day nun’s buildings are to your left like the kitchen, dorms, and main office. Directly ahead of you is the large sized main hall. Sitting out in front of the main hall is a highly unique, yet beautiful, seven tier pagoda. As for the paintings that adorn the exterior walls of the main hall, they are the Shimu-do (Ox-herding) murals. They are some of the finest that you’ll find in Korea in both their expression and execution. As for the interior of the main hall, there is a triad of statues that date back to 1643. Sitting in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He is flanked by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) to the left and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) to the right. This triad was highly popular at the time that they were created because they symbolize the doctrine of samsara, which expresses the idea of birth, death, and re-birth. And these statues are quite large in size, with the tallest, Seokgamoni-bul, standing 144.5 cm tall.

To the immediate left of the main hall is the uniquely oriented hall dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit) and Chilseong (Seven Stars). The reason that I say it’s uniquely oriented is that the hall faces towards the main hall with both its entrance door and paintings facing towards the Daeung-jeon, instead of facing outwards towards the temple courtyard. The first painting of the two to greet you to this shaman shrine hall is a wonderfully elaborate Chilseong painting with numerous celestial beings populating the painting. To the right of the Chilseong painting is the San shin painting. Have a look at the fierce golden eyes of the accompanying tiger to San shin’s side.

And even further west of the main hall is the extremely simplistic Nahan-jeon, which is dedicated to the 16 Disciples of the Historical Buddha. The exterior of this hall is largely unadorned all but for the basic colour-scheme. And the interior of the hall only houses a long main altar with all sixteen of the Nahan in a white line of stone statues. In the centre is an equally white statue of Seokgamoni-bul.

Perhaps the most unique hall at the temple is up another set of stairs on the second terrace at Eungseoksa Temple. Usually, Dokseong (The Recluse) is housed with the other shaman deities like San shin or Chilseong in the Samseong-gak. Either that, or San shin can be housed alone in a San shin-gak. However, it is very rare, even at larger temples, that Dokseong is housed all by himself. And yet, Dokseong is housed inside of his own hall. Sitting on the main altar is a large sized mural of this shaman deity, which dwarfs the statue of Dokseong that sits out in front of this huge mural.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to the Jinju Intercity Bus terminal in Jinju. From there, you’ll have to walk towards the big intersection in the area. From there, head north to get to a bus stop that will take you to the temple. This bus stop is beside the NH bank, and the walk, in total, will take you about 15 minutes from the bus terminal to the bus stop. From the bus stop, you’ll have to board bus #378 and get off at the Eungseoksa Temple bus stop. In total, the bus ride should take you about an hour.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. I have to admit, this temple came as a bit of a surprise; and yes, in a good way. So often I go to these temples, and they can disappoint; however, Eungseoksa Temple definitely exceeded my expectations from the large sized triad of historical statues that sit in the main hall, to the unique orientation and paintings inside of the shaman shrine hall that houses Chilseong and San shin murals. All the way up to the Dokseong-gak shrine hall with its large sized mural. And finally, the uniquely rendered pagoda and Iljumun Gate at the temple. If you’re only to see one temple in Jinju, have a look at Eungseoksa Temple first.

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The colourfully painted, yet ever stately, Iljumun Gate at Eungseoksa Temple.
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A better look at the intricate illustrations that adorn the stately Iljumun Gate.
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The walk up to the Cheonwangmun Gate, as well as the temple bell pavilion that rests on top of the second floor of the entrance gate.
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The stoutly shaped bell on the second floor of the entrance gate.
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A look back at the Iljumun Gate.
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The temple courtyard with the main hall set in the centre with the unique temple pagoda to the right.
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A closer look at the finial on top of the temple pagoda.
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One of the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.
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The historic triad of statues that date back to 1643. In the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), and he’s flanked on either side by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) to the left and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) to the right.
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With a stunning blue sky up ahead, the dancheong colours seemed that much more beautiful.
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A look at the shaman shrine hall to the left of the main hall.
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Inside, and to the right once you step into the shaman shrine hall, is this beautiful mural of San shin (The Mountain Spirit).
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And straight ahead inside the shaman shrine hall is this amazing Chilseong (The Seven Stars) murals. It’s definitely one of the more impressive that I’ve seen in my travels.
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Next to the shaman shrine hall on the right is the Nahan-jeon to the left.
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Inside the Nahan-jeon are these white statues of the Nahan with Seokgamoni-bul sitting in the centre of the altar.
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The plainly painted Dokseong-gak that crowns the temple heights.
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And inside the darkly lit hall is this large sized mural of Dokseong (The Recluse).

Uigoksa Temple – 의곡사 (Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A look inside the opulent Hall of 1,000 Buddhas at Uigoksa Temple in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Continuing my exploration of western Gyeongnam province, I decided to stop by Jinju. While Jinju doesn’t have a big name temple like Tongdosa Temple or Haeinsa Temple, there were a couple that I wanted to at least explore, and Uigoksa Temple was one of those temples.

At the end of a road, and through the temple’s parking lot, you’ll be greeted by the stately Cheonwangmun (Heavenly Kings Gate)/bell pavilion. As you pass through the Cheonwangmun, you’ll notice four beautiful renderings of the Heavenly Kings in the midst of the gate.

After passing through the gate, and under the bell pavilion, you’ll enter into the compact temple courtyard. And if you look upwards from where you first came, you’ll be able to see the stout temple bell that’s adorned with various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Biseon. On the immediate right side of the temple courtyard is the monks’ dorms. Interestingly, to your immediate left, and next to the temple’s main office, is a hall for visitors to sit and meditate. When I visited, there were at least ten people sitting and meditating in this hall.

Directly across from the meditation hall, and across the width of the temple courtyard, is the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas. Sitting on the main altar, and in the centre of a triad of statues, is a diminutive statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). This triad is surrounded by a thousand white Buddha statues that gives the hall its name. On the right wall is an older looking guardian mural. Strangely, there’s a mural of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) on the floor and at the foot of the guardian mural.

One of the final buildings at Uigoksa Temple is the main hall. The exterior is surrounded by the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals, as well as other murals like the Bodhidharma and Wonhyo’s enlightenment mural. And to the right rear there is a sheer rock face that houses an assortment of Buddhist statues. As for the interior of the hall, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul. To his left is a statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and to the right is a regal statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Framing this triad are two paintings on either side of the main altar. To the right is a colourful painting of Jijang-bosal surrounded by the Ten Kings of the Underworld. And to the left is an equally colourful guardian painting with Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings) at its centre.

The last building at the temple, and up an embankment to the right rear of the main hall, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. As you enter the hall, you’ll be greeted by a golden wall of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) statues on the left wall. As for the altar, a beautiful rendering of the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural sits in the centre. If you look close enough at the mural, you’ll notice the large headed Bukseong (Northern Star) figure in the top left. His head seems a bit larger than usual. And to the right and left of the Chilseong mural are the San shin and Dokseong (The Recluse) murals, which are good in their own right.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Uigoksa Temple, you’ll first have to get to Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal. From the bus terminal, you’ll easily be able to get a taxi to drive you the 1.8 kilometres it takes to get to Uigoksa Temple. In total, it should only take you ten minutes from the bus terminal to the temple, and it should cost you under 3,000 Won. It’s definitely one of the easier temples to find.

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OVERALL RATING: 6/10. While this temple won’t blow you away with what it has to offer, there are a couple unique things to grab your attention like the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas. Also, the murals inside of the Samseong-gak are both unique and expertly executed. And finally, the murals inside of the main hall, as well as the meditation hall for visitors are but a few highlights to Uigoksa Temple in Jinju.

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The Cheonwangmun and bell pavilion, which act as the entrance to Uigoksa Temple.
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One of the Cheonwang murals that hangs inside of the entrance gate.
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The main hall at the temple.
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One of the Shimu-do murals that adorns the outside wall of the main hall.
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And the collection of statues and figurines that visitors have left at the temple behind the main hall.
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The altar inside the main hall with Seokgamoni-bul in the centre, flanked by Jijang-bosal to the left and Gwanseeum-bosal to the right.
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The guardian mural to the left of the altar inside the main hall.
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And the Jijang-bosal mural to the right of the altar, also, inside the main hall.
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Another great look inside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas at Uigoksa Temple.
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The long set of stairs that leads up to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
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The view from the Samseong-gak hall down at the temple grounds.
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The Chilseong (Seven Stars) mural that sits inside, and in the centre, of the Samseong-gak. Look closely, and you’ll see Bukseong’s big (bigger than normal) head in the top left.
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As I was leaving, the morning incantation was just beginning.
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I also noticed a few flower pots near the entrance of the temple that had an array of lotus flowers in bloom. However, it must be admitted that this is one of the stranger looking lotus flowers that I’ve seen.
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A more traditional looking pink lotus flower fully in bloom.