Maneosa Temple – 만어사 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The amazing black boulders that start at the base of the mountain and make their way up to Maneosa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Checking another temple off of the list for Gyeongsangnam-do temples I have yet to visit, I decided to visit  Maneosa  Temple in southern Miryang.

Like all historical temples, Maneosa has a pretty good creation story. In fact, it’s memorialized in the famous Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms). In this text, it states that during the reign of King Suro (r. 42 A.D. – 199 A.D.) lived in a lotus pond called Okji within the Gaya Kingdom (around present day Gimhae). This dragon started a relationship with a Nachal, which is similar to a siren from Greek mythology. As a result of this relationship, thunderstorms and hailstorms rained down on the Gaya Kingdom for four years, which prevented grains from growing. In a attempt to alleviate these drought like conditions, King Suro used sorcery. With this not working, King Suro then called on the Buddha in India. Through his divine power, the Buddha became aware of the king’s problems and came to Korea to help. He was joined by six monks and ten thousand followers. The Buddha was easily able to defeat the dragon and the Nachal, which brought an end to all problems in the kingdom. As a sign of thanks, King Suro built ManeosaTemple for the Buddha.

You first approach Maneosa Temple (만어사), which means 10,000 Fish Temple in English, up a long and steep mountain side road situated on Mt. Maneosan. Finally, you’ll arrive at the temple. You can enter the courtyard in one of two ways. The first way is to head up the ramp to the right of the bell pavilion, or you can head up the steep set of stone stairs. It’s funny, because there’s actually a sign that says for older people to use the ramp instead of the stairs. I wonder what happened to warrant such a sign.

If you’re like me, and you head up the set of stone (slash boulder) stairway, you’ll see a colourful bell pavilion to your far left. Next to this is the building that acts as the monks’ dorms and kitchen. Straight ahead is the very compact main hall at the temple. Around the exterior of this hall are some beautifully rendered Palsang-do paintings that depict the Historical Buddha’s life. And in front of the main hall are two delicate designed stone lanterns. As for the interior of the hall, it’s wonderfully adorned with various colours. On the main altar a triad of statues is centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the left of this altar is a golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the right of the main altar is a statue of a green-haired Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). On the far right wall is an originally and uniquely designed guardian painting with one of the best renderings of Dongjin-bosal (The Protector of the Buddha’s Teachings) in the centre of the mural that I’ve seen in quite some time. Interestingly, and next to the guardian painting, is a mural of Gwanseeum-bosal. And beneath this mural, and resting on the altar, is an altar dedicated to the former Korean president, Roh Moo Hyun. It’s definitely a very unique touch to the temple.

To the right of the main hall is the Samseong-gak shrine hall. The exterior of this hall, surprisingly, is unadorned. However, the interior of the hall has three beautiful paintings of the three most popular shaman deities in Korean shamanism. In the centre is Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and he’s flanked on either side by Dokseong (The Recluse) and San shin (The Mountain Spirit). The painting of San shin, and especially the painting of the tiger, are two of the more intense paintings of the spirit I’ve seen in a while.

It’s from the vantage point of the Samseong-gak shrine hall that you first catch the amazing views of the valley below that possesses numerous rolling hills, as well as the sea of black rocks that leads down the mountain like a trail of bread crumbs. So the story goes that the rocks use to be five women and a dragon that lived in the area. Together, they would do evil deeds. One day, they heard the Buddha’s sermon and turned into stone. Currently, all of the stones are turned towards the peak and if you tap on them they’ll either sound like iron or jade.

Next to the Samseong-gak shrine hall is a masterfully rendered stone statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the  Western Paradise). And not too surprisingly, he’s facing the west. Stepping down from this stone statue altar, and housed in the centre of the temple courtyard, is a stone pagoda that dates back to sometime around 1181.

Slightly to the left, and through a path that leads through a part of the black stone bread crumbs, is the temple’s most unique hall. As you approach, the first thing you’ll notice is that the hall is actually two stories high. And wrapped around the hall are some of the cutest Shimu-do paintings you’ll see. Strangely, there’s a hole cut out of the back of the hall with a rock that appears to jut into this hall. And once you do enter the hall you’ll see a massive rock housed inside of this hall. The story behind this rock being housed inside this hall, just like having a rock housed inside of a Buddhist hall, is unique. The story states how the son of the Dragon King (Yongwang) came from the East Sea and crossed the Nakdong River because he realized his death was near. He came looking for the famous monk at Mt. Mucheoksan. The son of the Dragon King asked the monk for a new place to reside. The monk told him to reside where a prince sat to rest. And after the prince eventually left after resting, thousands of fish followed Yongwang’s son to where Maneosa Temple is located.  As for the prince, he supposedly turned into Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and appeared on the large rock inside of the shrine hall at Maneosa Temple. As for the fish that followed Yongwang’s son, they turned into the thousands of black rocks known as Eosanbulyeong. And now, if you pray to this rock inside of the shrine hall at ManeosaTemple you will be blessed with a son.

HOW TO GET THERE: Before you ever arrive at Maneosa Temple, you’ll first have to do a couple things to get to this well hidden gem. First, you’ll have to get to the city of Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do from wherever it is in Korea that you call home. Then you have to get a bus that heads to “Samrangjin” (삼랑진) at the Miryang Bus Terminal. From this bus, you’ll have to get off at Samrangjin Station and board a local bus to “Ugokri” (우곡리). It’s from Ugokri that you’ll have to walk the rest of the way up to Maneosa Temple.

View 만어사 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. There are a few reasons that this smaller sized temple rates as high as it does. First, the sea of mountains that appears from the temple halls is one reason. The others are the black breadcrumb like rocks that wind their way up and down the mountain, as well as the altar dedicated to Roh Moo Hyun in the main hall, and the two storied hall that houses a massive rock that has an image of the Buddha on it. For all these reason, this temple, while not that well known, is a must see in Gyeongsangnam-do.

The colourful bell pavilion that you pass on your way to the temple courtyard.
The view from the temple’s parking lot. A pretty nice welcome.
The diminutive main hall at Maneosa Temple.
Siddhartha Gautama fleeing his princely life. This is just one of the murals in the Palsang-do set.
The beautifully designed main hall. To the left is the main altar triad. In the centre is the green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal. And to the far right is the elaborate guardian painting.
This statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) sits to the left of the main altar.
The painting of Gwanseeum-bosal with a picture of former Korean president Roh Moo Hyun to the bottom left.
A nice look up at the Samseong-gak shrine hall with a look over at the masterful stone statue of Amita-bul sculpted into the mountain’s rock face.
The painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) with a fierce looking tiger at his side.
The picturesque view from the Samseong-gak shrine hall.
A better look at the beautiful stone statue of Amita-bul with the early morning sun shining through the trees.
A better look at the face of serenity.
And just before you descend down the stairs to the altar dedicated to Amita-bul, have a look out on all that Korea’s natural countryside has to offer.
A look back at the Samseong-gak shrine hall as you make your way down the stone path that leads over to the temple’s most unique hall.
Finally, a sighting of the two storied shrine hall.
A look up at the hall with the radiant sun at its back.
The charming paintings that depict the Shimu-do murals.
And to my surprise, this massive rock was housed inside of the hall. If you look close enough, you can see the image of the Buddha that appears on the top right side of the boulder.
I was wondering why this rock was part of the hall’s exterior. But after seeing the interior, it wasn’t hall the difficult to guess why.