Sujeongsa Temple – 수정사 (Cheongsong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The Daeung-jeon Hall at Sujeongsa Temple in Cheongsong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just west of the summit of Mt. Bibongsan in northern Cheongsong, Gyeongsangbuk-do lays Sujeongsa Temple. This temple for nuns is situated at the end of a long valley and next to a wandering stream that flows the entire way.

Sujeongsa Temple was first constructed by the monk Naong (1320-76) during the reign of King Gongmin (1351-74) of the Goryeo Dynasty. Completely destroyed at the end of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), it was later rebuilt during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

As you approach the temple from the west, you’ll first approach a slender Iljumun Gate along the way. A further kilometre along, and you’ll finally find yourself squarely located in the temple parking lot. Just to the right of the nuns’ dorms, and to the left, you’ll find yourself squarely at the edge of the temple courtyard.

Straight ahead is the temple’s main hall: the Daeung-jeon Hall. This hall dates back to the Joseon Dynasty, and while smaller in size, it’s Gyeongsangbuk-do’s Cultural Heritage #73. The main hall is surrounded by beautiful floral and Buddhist motif murals. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of white and gold statues centred by 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). This triad is backed by a stunning gold leaf painting of the Buddha. To the left of the main altar are two paintings. The first is the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural, while the other is the temple’s guardian mural. And to the right of the main altar is a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). The entire main hall lies under a beautiful, and colourful, canopy of paper lotus flowers.

To the right rear of the main hall is another compact shrine hall. This hall is the Sanshin-gak, which is dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). While the exterior walls to this hall are all unadorned all but for the traditional dancheong colours, the interior houses a large Sanshin mural that is masterfully executed.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to the remote Sujeongsa Temple in Cheongsong, Gyeongsangbuk-do is to take a taxi from the Cheongsong Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should take about 20 minutes and cost 15,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. While there isn’t just one feature at Sujeongsa Temple in Cheongsong, Gyeongsangbuk-do that will blow you away, there are several highlights to keep an eye out for like the Sanshin Taenghwa mural housed inside the Sanshin-gak. The other main highlight is the Daeung-jeon Hall and main altar housed inside it.

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The view from the temple parking lot.

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The view as you enter the temple courtyard.

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One of the floral murals that adorns the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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And another more peculiar painting that adorns the main hall.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at the main altar.

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The guardian mural inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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As well as the Chilseong mural.

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And the Jijang-bosal mural.

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All of which is housed under a beautiful rainbow of paper lotus flowers.

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A closer look at the main altar and the gold leaf mural.

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The view from the Daeung-jeon Hall towards Mt. Bibongsan.

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The Sanshin-gak at Sujeongsa Temple.

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And the descriptive Sanshin mural housed inside it.

The Story of…Sujeongsa Temple

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 Inside the elaborate and colourful main hall at Sujeongsa Temple in Ulsan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Sujeongsa Temple was recommended to me by a friend. He glowingly spoke about the temple and its double Samseong-gak (a shrine hall inside a shrine hall). It only took us a couple drive-bys and misses to finally spot the unmarked turn-off to the temple. Up a long and narrow one lane road, we finally arrived at the end of the road and the temple at the same time.

Getting out to explore the unassuming Sujeongsa Temple, we were greeted by a volunteer at the hermitage. She was happy to see me again at the temple. I looked at her with a confused look on my face. So my wife talked to her for a bit more clarification, as she explained to the woman that it was the first time for me to visit Sujeongsa Temple. With a surprised look on her face, I realized that she was confusing me with my friend. I’m pretty sure that we’re the only two expats to have ever visited this out of the way temple.

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 A closer look at the breath-taking main altar.

The next person to approach us was the head nun at Sujeongsa Temple. As I was exploring the main hall and my wife was praying, the head nun introduced herself to us. She went on to basically give us a private tour of the temple, as there were no other visitors at the temple but us. She told us how she had a dream about how the interior of the main hall should look. So with a professor from Dongguk University, she was able to see her vision come to fruition. Surrounding the main altar is an elaborate relief of seventeen Gwanseeum-bosals (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This relief is joined by an equally beautiful relief of a Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian motif) and one of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), as well. The base of the altar amazingly depicts the Palsang-do images, and the main chandelier that hangs from the main hall is made from the same material as airplanes.

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 A look at the double Samseong-gak at Sujeongsa Temple.

She then directed us towards the Samseong-gak, which is a shrine hall inside another shrine hall. The head nun told us how she had initially intended to simply knock down the 200 year old Samseong-gak; however, Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) appeared to the head nun three times in a dream. During an early morning ceremony at the Samseong-gak, a picture was taken that captured what looked to be a neighbouring pine tree on fire. The head nun took this as a sign, so she built a new protective Samseong-gak around the old one. The reason she did this, as she explained it, is that if she didn’t, someone would die.

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 The apparent flame above the old Samseong-gak.

The final stop along the tour led by the head nun at Sujeongsa Temple was of the Yongwang (The Dragon King) shrine to the far left of the Samseong-gak. She explained to us that before you pray, you can lift the stone that sits on the Yongwang altar. However, once you pray, you’re no longer able to lift this stone. So me being me, I decided to put her words to the test. And strangely, she was right.

We were very fortunate to have the head nun as our personal tour guide. It’s not very often that this happens. And as we were saying thank you just before we left, a collection of cars arrived at the temple.

For so many reasons, we were lucky in the time we had at Sujeongsa Temple in Ulsan.

For more on Sujeongsa Temple.

Sujeongsa Temple – 수정사 (Ulju-gun, Ulsan)

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One of the most impressive interiors to a main hall can be found at Sujeongsa Temple in Ulsan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Another amazing temple was recommended to me by a friend. And after a few attempts to find it, we finally found Sujeongsa Temple. And the effort to locate this well hidden temple was well worth it.

After traveling down a narrow one lane road for three kilometres, we finally arrived at the Sujeongsa Temple (수정사) grounds. When you first arrive, a nun complex with the dorms and kitchen are to your immediate right, with a view of the main hall straight ahead. In front of the main hall, in a grassy courtyard, is a five metre tall statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue of Amita-bul is beautifully rendered with some equally amazing guardians at the base of the statue.

Straight ahead is the ornately decorated exterior of the main hall. Surrounding the exterior are the Palsang-do paintings that depict the life of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). In addition to these eight paintings are two paintings on the left side of people being judged by the Ten Kings of the Underworld. On the right side of the main hall are beautiful Biseon and triad paintings. There is gorgeous latticework at the front of the main hall. At the front of the main hall are all of the Spirit Generals (zodiac animals) adorning the latticework. And even though they are covered in a mesh to protect them from the elements, you can still see them to be able to recognize just how brilliant they look.

When I was outside photographing the latticework, I heard my wife exclaim “wow” inside. And when I stepped inside the main hall, I completely understood what she meant with her “wow.” Without a doubt, the interior of the main hall is one of (if not the) most beautiful interiors I’ve seen in all of Korea. The interior is completely covered in absolutely stunning wood carvings of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and guardians. Luckily, the very kind head-nun at the temple came out and explained some of the designs inside the main hall. She told us how she had a dream, and later sketched her dream about how the interior of the main hall should appear. And with the assistance from a professor at the Dongguk University, she was able to finalize her planned design. Sitting on the main altar is a radiant Seokgamoni-bul in the centre, and he’s flanked by two equally radiant statues of Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). These three statues sit upon a wooden altar that is gorgeously carved. The altar depicts the Palsang-do series, and will soon be an Ulsan city treasure. To the right of the altar is a beautifully carved statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Next to the Jijang-bosal shrine are sixteen statues of Gwanseeum-bosal, who is the Bodhisattva of Compassion (more on them later). On the far left wall is the guardian carving with over one hundred guardians that are depicted. Next to the guardian carving is another seventeen Gwanseeum-bosal wood carvings. We were told by the head-nun that she had a dream about the thirty-three Gwanseeum-bosals that inhabit Botasan Mountain in China. And finally, there is a beautiful octagonal dragon crest at the centre of the ceiling in the main hall. And the gorgeous pink lotus lamp that hangs from the ceiling is made from the same material as airplaines (yes, airplanes!). Again, the main hall is one of the most beautiful and spectacular main halls in Korea as a result of the gorgeously made wood carvings of various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and guardians.

The only other shrine hall at Sujeongsa Temple is the Samseong-gak shrine hall to the left of the main hall. And much like the originality of the main hall, the Samseong-gak shrine hall is equally unique. There is a Samseong-gak shrine hall inside of a Samseong-gak shrine hall. The head-nun, continuing with us on our tour of the temple, told us how she had another dream: this time, about San shin (The Mountain deity). Originally, the head-nun at the temple had planned on simply knocking down the 200 year old Samseong-gak shrine hall and building a new one in its place. However, San shin appeared to the head-nun in a dream three times. So the head-nun decided to build a cheaper quality protective building around the older Samseong-gak. Strangely, during a ceremony being performed at the Samseong-gak shrine hall the photographer captured a picture of a pine tree on the neighbouring mountain appear as though it was on fire. The head-nun took this as a sign and decided to build a beautiful new Samseong-gak shrine around the 200 year old original Samseong-gak shrine. She did this, as she explained, because she felt that if she didn’t “someone would die.” An amazing story that goes perfectly with an amazingly original design with the Samseong-gak shrine hall inside another Samseong-gak shrine hall.

Finally, there’s a Yongwang shrine dedicated to the Dragon king near a cascade of water beside the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Interestingly, the head-nun told us a story about a stone that sits out in front of the Yongwang shrine altar. She said that you can pick up the stone without first praying; however, once you do pray, you’re unable to pick the stone up off of its altar. Testing this story, it actually came true, as I was unable to lift the stone off of its altar.

For more on Sujeongsa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: Without a mode of transportation, whether it be a scooter, motorbike, or car, as well as an amazingly accurate GPS system, this temple is next to impossible to both locate and find. This temple is located on the western side of Ulsan in the countryside. Other than that, it’s next to impossible to explain its location. In fact, I was the only the second foreigner ever to visit this temple.

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OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Even though this temple only has two shrine halls and an outdoor shrine, for so many other reasons this temple rates as highly as it does. Starting with the zodiac latticework on the exterior of the main hall, and continuing inside, the extremely ornate and skillfully designed and rendered interior main hall, is just one reason this temple is worth the effort to find. Another reason is the highly original Samseong-gak shrine hall inside of another Samseong-gak shrine hall. And finally, the mind-bending prayer rock at the Yongwang altar, all make Sujeongsa Temple an amazing destination for a Korean temple adventurer.

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A look at the nuns’ dorms, kitchen, and the courtyard with a statue of Amita-bul to the left.
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A view of the very impressive main hall at Sujeongsa Temple.
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A look across the front of the main hall.
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The gorgeous latticework with the Spirit Generals (zodiac signs) depicted in each frame.
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And below the zodiac signs are these cross-eyed Nathwi.
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On the left side of the exterior walls on the main hall is this grotesque judgment painting.
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And wrapped around the entire length of the main hall are the Palsang-do murals depicting the Buddha’s life.
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And inside the main hall is one of the most impressively decorated interiors in all of Korea.
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Carved at the base of the main altar are the eight Palsang-do scenes from the Buddha’s life. In this panel, on the right, is the Buddha teaching, and on the left is the Buddha dying from his earthly life. Absolutely stunning craftsmanship.
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To the right of the main altar is the shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
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Just sixteen, of the thirty-three, Gwanseeum-bosal statues both to the immediate right and left of the main altar.
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An upclose of one of the Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Each of the altar statues is beautifully painted and carved.
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The amazingly elaborate one hundred plus guardian rendering.
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An upclose of the central figures in the mural, including the winged Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Dharma).
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The octagonal dragon crest that sits in the centre of the ceiling with the lotus lamps made from airplane material.
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A look at the unpainted Samseong-gak shrine hall side-by-side with the main hall.
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A closer look reveals a Samseong-gak shrine hall inside of another Samseong-gak shrine hall. This set-up is definitely a first for me.
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A look inside the interior Samseong-gak shrine hall at the main altar. A statue of San shin (The Mountain god) is in the centre, with a painting of Dokseong (The Recluse) to the right, and a wooden tablet depicting Chilseong (The Seven Stars) to the left.
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A better look at an older and atypical painting of The Recluse, Dokseong.
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An arrow points to the fire that appeared during a San shin ceremony. The nun was adamant that it was San shin making an appearance.
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The Yongwang (The Dragon King) shrine with the prayer rock out in front of the altar. Make a wish and see what happens.