Sudosa Temple – 수도사 (Uiryeong, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The beautiful pink wild flowers that bring a little natural colour to the right of the San shin-gak at Sudosa Temple in Uiryeong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Sudosa  Temple in Uiryeong, Gyeongsangnam-do was nothing more than an add-on temple after I visited my first choice:  Ilbungsa  Temple. However, after seeing Sudosa Temple, I’m glad that I decided to visit this temple.

Sudosa  Temple, which means  Training  Path  Temple (the name of the temple will become apparent soon), is an old temple from the Silla Dynasty on the mid-slope of  Mt.  Sindeok. In the rear, rocks called “folding screens” surround the temple. Great Master Wonhyo, with more than 100 disciples, cultivated their Buddhist faith; and hence, why the temple is named Sudosa Temple.

You first make your way up to Sudosa Temple (수도사) down a long road that runs about 1.3 kilometres. Finally, you’ll arrive at your destination at the Sudosa Temple’s parking lot. I know, it sounds strange, but you’ll be parallel to the temple which resides on the other side of the mountain’s slope. It’s from this embankment that you get a serene view of Sudosa Temple.

Sitting in the valley below is a bridge that acts as an alternative route to gain admittance to the temple grounds. However, the easier way is around the bend in the road that spans a tiny creek that trickles under your feet as you make your way over the bridge meant for vehicles. The first buildings to greet you at the temple are the monks’ dorms, the visitors’ centre, and the kitchen.

Once you pass by these auxiliary buildings, you’ll enter into the temple courtyard. To your immediate right is a plainly decorated two-storied conference pavilion. This natural wood looking structure has a set of stairs that passes under the second story and allows you to enter the courtyard in another way. Straight ahead, and once more, is another row of monks’ dorms.

To your immediate left is a pagoda that dates back to the Silla Dynasty. Just from its appearance alone, you can tell that the pagoda has seen its fair share of Korean history. While a bit uneven in parts, the pagoda speaks to Korean craftsmanship and artistry.

Up the embankment, and on the upper tier of the courtyard, is the main hall. Much like the natural wood-looking conference pavilion, the main hall, also known as a Geungnak-jeon hall, is unadorned around its exterior. The most unique aspect to the main hall is its interior; and more specifically, the triad of statues that sit on the main altar. Sitting in the centre of this triad is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He is flanked by a long haired Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right, and an equally long-haired Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left. All three of these statues look to be older in their unique design. To the right of this triad is the guardian painting, and to the left is a Jijang-bosal painting. Much like the exterior, the interior has an all natural wood finish to it.

To the right of the main hall, the Geungnak-jeon hall, is the Chilseong-gak shrine hall, which is also the oldest building at the temple. In front of this hall are a couple of crookedly placed stone lanterns that have been shifted by the passing of time, as well as a row of beautiful purple flowers that were fully in bloom. While largely unadorned around its exterior, there are a handful of fading murals near the eaves of the shrine hall. You’ll have to tug hard on the left sided entrance door to gain admittance to the Chilseong-gak. In fact, at first, I thought this hall might be off-limits to visitors. But with a good tug, I was able to enter the low ceilinged shrine hall. Sitting in the centre of this hall is a crookedly hung Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. To the left is a simplistic painting of Yongwang (The Dragon King), and to the right is an equally simplistic painting of Dokseong (The Recluse).

The highlight of this temple, by far in my humble opinion, is the San shin-gak, which crowns Sudosa Temple just around the corner from the Chilseong-gak. Up a long set of newly built stairs is a gorgeous San shin painting. San shin (The Mountain Spirit) is joined by three fierce-looking tigers. To the right of the stairs that lead up to the shrine hall are beautiful pink wild flowers. While the temple has resisted colouring its own halls, nature has saw it fit to add a little of its own.

HOW TO GET THERE: Much like Ilbungsa Temple, which is also in Uiryeong, you’ll first have to get to the Uiryeong Inter-City Bus Terminal. And from the bus terminal you’ll have to take a taxi for the 11 kilometre distance. In total, the ride should last you anywhere between 30 to 40 minutes and cost you eight to ten thousand won.

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OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Sudosa Temple has a long and storied history, which is in stark contrast to the neighbouring Ilbungsa Temple. In addition, Sudosa Temple’s beauty is a lot more subtle than that of its neighbour. All the same, there are a few highlights to this temple like the valley bridge and the two-storied conference pavilion. Added to it are the main altar triad statues, the Chilseong-gak building, and the painting and wild flowers in and around the San shin-gak, and you have a good reason to visit Sudosa Temple.

It’s that way to Sudosa Temple.
Sudosa Temple that sits beautifully on the slopes of Mt. Sindeok.
The bridge that spans a creek in the valley below.
The view at the main hall, the Geungnak-jeon, as you pass through the two-storied conference pavilion.
The monk dorms as you first enter the temple grounds from the west.
A better look at the two-storied conference pavilion at the temple.
A better look at the main hall, the Geungnak-jeon.
A look at the ancient pagoda that stands 2.5 metres in height.
To the left is a look at the unique triad of statues that sit on the main altar inside of the main hall with the guardian painting to the right.
And to the left of the triad of main altar piece statues is this Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) mural.
A different look through a door at the main hall out at the two-storied conference pavilion.
To the right of the main hall is this Chilseong-gak shrine hall.
Sitting in the centre of the altar inside the Chilseong-gak is this slightly off-centre Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting.
And equally off centre are these two stone lanterns just outside of the Chilseong-gak.
While most of the temple buildings are unpainted, the temple was alive with natural colour and beauty.
A nice little look around the corner of the Chilseong-gak as you approach the San shin-gak.
The flowery San shin-gak.
And a look inside of the San shin-gak and the beautiful multi-tigered San shin (The Mountain Spirit) mural.

Video: Sudosa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

The second temple I visited in Uiryeong, Gyeongsangnam-do was the scenic Sudosa Temple (수도사). It was founded by the famous monk Wonhyo-daesa, and while the buildings lack a little bit of colour, they’re beautifully designed both inside and out. And even without these colours, the natural beauty of the flowers that surround Sudosa Temple make up for the man-made structures. So please, enjoy the video.

Ilbungsa Temple – 일붕사 (Uiryeong, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The amazing entrance that leads into the inner-chamber of the cave main hall at Ilbungsa Temple in Uiryeong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

I had long wanted to visit the city of  Uiryeong, and Ilbungsa  Temple in particular, but never really wanted to get up at 6 to go and visit. That is, until this weekend. It has quite the buzz around it in the Korean blogosphere, so I thought I would visit and see what the entire hubbub is about.

In the year of 727, the 26th year of King Seongdeok the Great’s reign, Hyecho Sunim from Silla had a dream on the way back home from a Buddhist pilgrimage to China and India. The dream was that Jijang-bosal was smiling peacefully on a cliff surrounded by rocks of beautiful and fantastic shapes. And he said that this place would be a treasure to the country if he built a temple where people could console the spirits of the dead.

So as soon as Hyecho Sunim returned to  Korea, he told King Seongdeok, then he looked for a similar place to the one that he saw in his dream. After finding such a place, he built a temple. After it was completed, he called it Seongdeoksa Temple after the great Silla king.

But ever since its creation, Seongdeoksa Temple burnt down repeatedly. And for the longest of time no one dared touch it or even think of rebuilding it because it was so sacred, that was, until 1987 when Haeun Sunim heeded the advice of a fellow monk and decided to rebuild Seongdeoksa Temple. The reason he decided to rebuild the temple is that this spot in the mountain was said to have really strong fire energy. To help avoid any future fire damage, Haeun Sunim decided to construct the main hall inside a man-made cave. With this change to the main hall, the temple was also renamed to Ilbungsa Temple. This cave is eight metres tall and 1,260 m2 in size. As a result of its sheer size, the main hall that’s inside of the cave at Ilbungsa Temple is the largest Buddhist cave hall in all of Asia, as recognized by Guiness Book of World Records.

When you first arrive at Ilbungsa Temple (일붕사) you’re greeted by a sheer mountain face that the temple rests upon. The left side of the trail that leads up to the temple grounds is lined with various stone statues. And even further up the mountain’s face is a compact courtyard that also houses the temple’s stupas. It’s from this area that you can find the stairs that lead up to the top of the mountain where the temple resides.

The first actual building to greet you at the temple is the Cheonwangmun Gate that also acts as the bell pavilion on the second floor of the structure. Housed inside of the Cheonwangmun are the Four Heavenly Kings that look as fierce as ever. Passing through this gate, you gain admittance to the temple. To your immediate left are the temple’s visitors’ centre and the monks’ dorms. Straight ahead is an apartment looking white building that houses the retiree population at the temple.

It’s to the left that all the important halls at Ilbungsa Temple reside. On the lower courtyard, and as you face the mountain, is a shrine hall dedicated to the founder of the temple. Inside, there’s a painting of him in a golden frame. To the left of this hall is a nine-tier stone pagoda.

Up the stairs that extend over a coy pond, is the upper courtyard. It’s in this upper courtyard that you can see numerous temple halls. To the far left is another residence hall for monks. Perched precariously on the face of the mountain is the Dokseong-gak which houses a large sized statue of Dokseong (The Recluse). To the right of this shrine hall is a small waterfall; unfortunately, when I visited, because it’s been so dry this year, there was no water. And to the right of this is a hall with beautiful latticework on the main doors, and there are also some beautiful paintings of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) around the exterior of this hall, as well. Inside is a rather unique interior. Sitting in the centre is what looks to be Amita-bul. He’s joined by Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). All three of these statues are atypical. They look nothing like the traditional looking Korean statues. And they are surrounded by equally atypical statues of Jijang-bosal on all of the hall’s walls.

One of the real highlights to this temple is the main hall. The main hall is actually inside of a man-made cave. The front façade of the main hall looks like any other main hall building you would see in Korea. It isn’t until you enter that you realize you’re in for something special. The spacious path that leads into the main hall is decorated with stunning murals of the twelve zodiac signs, as well as an amazing dragon mural on the ceiling of the cave entryway. Stepping into the large cave opening that acts as the main hall, you’ll notice three large stone etchings that rest on the main altar. In the middle is a masterfully stone carved relief of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). This hall is lined with various paintings and statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The final structure in this upper courtyard is a pavilion that houses a stone statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). In front of this pavilion is the temple’s water fountain with a statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King) inside of this sheltered area. To the left of the Yaksayore-bul shrine is a bronze statue of the founding monk. And in front of this statue are three monkeys that embody the “Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil” idea.

The other amazing aspect to this temple is the golden Geungnak-jeon hall that resides 500 metres behind the main temple grounds. It’s a bit of a hike as the road is almost exclusively up hill. The first sign that you’re close to the hall are the headstones for the recently departed. The golden Geungnak-jeon sits in the centre of a pond, elevated above the water. The hall is surrounded by the Shimu-do murals, and they are expertly rendered. As for the interior, and of little surprise, is a triad of statues that sit on the altar centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). This triad is surrounded by an ornately decorated red canopy.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to the city of Uiryeong from wherever you might be residing in Korea. From the Inter-City Bus Terminal, you’ll have to take a taxi to Ilbungsa Temple (일붕사). The ride will last you about 40 minutes (23.7 km) and cost you between 15,000 to 20,000 won.

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OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. This temple is all but unknown in the ex-pat community. However, this hidden gem can’t remain hidden forever. With its amazing cave that acts as the main hall, the waterfall that flows through the middle of the temple grounds, and the golden Geungnak-jeon hall that sits on top of a pond, and you have more than enough reason to visit Ilbungsa Temple.

The mountain face, literally, that greets you at the temple entrance.
The statues that line the path that lead up to the temple grounds.
The two tiered Cheonwangmun Gate and bell pavilion that allow you admittance to the temple grounds.
The pagoda-holding Damun Cheonwang, who is just one of the Four Heavenly Kings.
The shrine hall dedicated to the founding monk at llbungsa Temple.
A look at the nine-tier pagoda in the lower courtyard.
On the rock face, and to the left, is the precariously perched Dokseong-gak.
The waterless waterfall. It’s been a really rainless spring.
A good look at the upper courtyard at Ilbungsa Temple.
The beautiful entrance to the hall for the dead.
Sitting on the altar inside of this hall is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Afterlife) in the centre.
Perhaps the most unique main hall in all of Korea. Inside of this rather ordinary looking main hall is…
A spacious man-made cave. And sitting in the centre of the rock-sculpted main altar is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy).
On the upper tier of the main courtyard is the San shin-gak and a beautifully sculpted rock of what looks to be Dokseong.
The highly unique San shin painting with both a male and female San shin (Mountain Spirit).
Three monkeys that represent the ideology of “Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.”
The Yaksa-jeon pavilion dedicated to Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha).
A better look at the medicinal Buddha.
The headstones that first welcome you to the outer part of the Geungnak-jeon courtyard.
Your first look at the golden Geungnak-jeon hall.
A better look at the bridge that spans the pond and allows you access to the golden Geungnak-jeon.
The ornately decorated interior and altar inside of the Geungnak-jeon hall. Sitting on the main altar is Amita-bul, who is flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal. And just like the exterior, the interior is painted a rich golden colour.
To the left rear of the Geungnak-jeon hall is this San shin-gak.
And to the right rear is another bridge that spans the murky pond and allows you access to the Dokseong-gak.

Video: Ilbungsa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

Here is yet another attempt by me to video a beautiful temple. In the future, I hope to make a weekly video of the temple I visit. Hopefully, this will remain a weekly feature alongside the weekly temple adventure.

This past weekend I visited the city of Uiryeong, in Gyeongsangnam-do, and while there I visited the well hidden Ilbungsa Temple. This temple had a lot to see for a temple adventurer like me like the largest cave main hall in all of Asia, as well as the golden Geungnak-jeon hall that sits above a murky pond. So follow me as I explored Ilbungsa Temple.