Hello Again Everyone!!
For Children’s Day, the Korean family and I decided to head up to Gyeongsangbuk-do and visit Manbulsa Temple (만불사). Manbulsa Temple (“Ten Thousand Buddhas Temple”) is a temple the wife, in-laws, and I wanted to visit for some time. So with a day off for all of us, we decided to head up to the neighbouring province and see what Manbulsa Temple had to offer.
So hopping in the trusty KIA Pride, we headed up Highway 1, and were at the temple in just over an hour. As we approached the temple, the first thing you’ll see is Yongcheon Pond to your right. In the centre of this rather large pond is a seated Buddha. Continuing up the road, you’ll see the first row of the 10,000 Buddhas yet to come. At the end of the first row of Buddhas, you’ll come to the temple parking lot. As you approach, you’ll notice that Manbulsa Temple is a temple still largely under construction. Having only started constructing the temple in 1995, a lot of the buildings are still being constructed or refined. So keep that in mind when looking around and walking around the yet to be paved roads.
Just past the parking lot, and across the road, you’ll see an ox-herding statue depicting all the different stages of the journey within the Buddhist faith. There are a couple other statues and a cute looking water fountain in the area. But once you see these, you’ll get your first good glimpse of the bell tower, the lantern tower, and the main hall. So cross the road once more, and you’ll first see the spectacularly beautiful and breath taking lantern tower. I’ve never seen anything like the golden lantern tower at any other Korean temple. With the triple golden spires reaching up towards the sky, and thousands of miniature Buddhas adorning its exterior, this lantern tower is probably the most spectacular thing at the temple. At the base of the lantern tower are stone statues of babies with red caps adorning their heads. These statues are there for babies that died all too young. Directly to the left of the lantern hall, and in the same courtyard, is the Manbul bell tower. While not spectacular in its painting or refined woodwork, the bell that is housed in it is amazing in its size, as is the height of the bell tower. Supposedly, the bell tower is the tallest bell tower in all of Korea. Between both the lantern and bell towers is the main hall: Manbul Treasures Hall. This is an extremely unique main hall. As you approach, there is a small garden with various sculptures, the most impressive being a green Buddha statue in the process of the Buddha gaining enlightenment. Up the stairs, you’ll first notice tiny Buddha statues. These tiny Buddhas are in both the exterior and interior of the temple. These Buddhas all have name plates attributable to donors of the temple. Inside the hall, there are large, masculine looking Buddha altar pieces. When I was there, there were two monks conducting a service while dozens prayed. This is a very popular temple, so I’m pretty sure this is typical of any day you might want to visit the temple. Just to the left, and to the rear of the main hall, is a maze with the Buddhist scriptures on golden rolls that can be spun. If you touch these golden Buddhist sayings, all your bad karma will disappear.
Further along, you’ll arrive in another courtyard. This courtyard is for Avaloketeshvara hall. Avaloketeshvara will save people with great mercy and compassion. Along with this mercy and passion, there is also a tree in a plastic tent. This tree is a descendent of the tree that the Buddha sat under to gain enlightenment. There is also a small bell tower, and for a small donation, you can ring the bell and gain good luck from its reverberations.
Continuing up the unpaved road, and along the ceramic Buddhas that will keep you company along the way, you’ll finally arrive at the crest of the hill. At the top, there is a small zoo for deer. To the immediate right, you can walk towards the 33 metre tall Amita Buddha (The Buddha from the land of pure bliss). But before you head towards this 33 metre tall golden Buddha, head left. There is a hall for the Amita Buddha. Amongst the headstones for the cemetery, there is a Buddha statue that is lying down. This Buddha of Nirvana is 15 metres long from head to toe, and if you rub its feet, you’ll also gain good luck.
After rubbing the Buddha’s toes, finally make your way to the Amita Buddha. It won’t be hard to follow, because the 33 metre Amita Buddha stands like a beacon over the rest of the temple. The walk will take you about 5 minutes. The 33 metre tall Buddha is nicely situated on top of a hill, but it’s a bit garish and gaudy, lacking the refinement of stone Buddha at Donghwasa Temple in Daegu. Down the nearby stairs, you’ll get some really good pictures of the entire temple complex from on high. Take your time and capture from great pictures from the side of the mountain. In total, the trek from the parking lot and back again, will take you about 45 minutes, while taking enough time to take some great pictures. Some enjoy the trek and take your time.
HOW TO GET THERE: You can catch a train to the Dongdaegu station. From Busan, this train ride takes an hour by KTX. And from Seoul, it’ll take you an hour and thirty-seven minutes. A bus to Manbulsa temple, from the Dongdaegu station takes about an hour and ten minutes. For more information about directions or information about the temple check out the Manbulsa Temple website.
View 만불사 in a larger map
OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. While a bit garish at points, such as the plastic looking Buddhas and the 33 metre tall Amita Buddha, the temple has a lot to offer the average temple goer. And I would highly recommend visiting this temple at least once while you’re in Korea. The lantern tower alone, with the golden spires is worth the visit. But add to it the elaborate main hall, the massive bell tower, and the lying Buddha of Nirvana, and this temple is more than worth the trek to the Gyeongsangbuk-do countryside.