Yongmunsa Temple – 용문사 (Yecheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)


 The main hall at Yongmunsa Temple in Yecheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yongmunsa Temple, which means “Dragon Gate Temple,” in English, is situated in Yecheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do, which is just north-west of Andong. Yongmunsa Temple was first established in 870 A.D. by the monk, Duun. Initially, the Daejang-jeon hall at the temple was first built in 1173 to house part of the famed Tripitaka Koreana that is now housed at Haeinsa Temple.

From the temple parking lot, and after making your way up the winding road that leads to the temple, you’ll make your way towards the temple courtyard up an unevenly laid path. This path skirts Yongmunsa Temple’s museum. Finally, after getting a gorgeous view of the valley below, you’ll emerge on the far side of the temple courtyard. The first thing to greet you are two stately looking five tier pagodas. The one on the left is adorned with Buddhas and guardians, while the one on the right is left plain and without adornment. Behind these two pagodas sits the main hall at Yongmunsa Temple. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with a set of Palsang-do and Shimu-do murals. While not the most amazing in style, they are rustic like much of the area that surrounds the temple. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, rest a triad of statues. In the centre sits the much larger Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy).

To the right of the main hall rests a large bronze statue of Podae-hwasang. And next to it is the most famous structure at the temple: the Daejang-jeon hall. The exterior walls are plainly painted pink, while the rafters are adorned with wooden Nathwi carvings. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, sit a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Amita-bul is joined by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). Behind the triad of statues hangs a golden wooden relief that is the oldest of its kind in all of Korea. Flanking the main altar on either side are two uniquely designed bookshelves that date back to 1173, and they were later renovated in 1625. The doors to these bookshelves are beautifully adorned with various kinds of floral patterns.

To the right of the Daejang-jeon hall are a collection of buildings. The first set are the halls where the Korean Temple Stay program takes place at Yongmunsa Temple. Behind these is the Myeongbu-jeon hall. This newly constructed building is colourfully adorned with various Nathwi on the exterior doors. As for inside this hall, there is green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) that takes up residence on the main altar. He’s surrounded on all sides by ten large statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. Another building in this area is the Nahan-jeon hall with a collection of emaciated statues of both the Buddha and all of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha).

At an elbowed-bend in the path, in which the monks’ quarters lie a little up the mountain in a well manicured corner of the temple, you’ll make your way to the upper courtyard at Yongmunsa Temple. Currently, they are constructing the Gwaneum-jeon that will house Gwanseeum-bosal. For now, there are two other halls in this area. First, there is the large sized Cheonbul-jeon hall, which houses a collection of 1,000 white Buddhas and a large golden statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in their centre. If you look up at the ceiling, you’ll see some amazing paintings of a blue haetae, a pair of white elephants, and various Biseon flying all around the hall. Just in front of the Cheonbul-jeon is the Sanshin-gak. Inside this hall sits a large painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). And on the left exterior wall, you’ll see a nicely painted picture of a tiger sitting all by itself on a mountainous look-out.

The final collection of buildings at Yongmunsa Temple are just out in front of the main hall. The first is the Cheonwangmun Gate that welcomes you to the temple at the base of the temple courtyard. Unfortunately, this gate is off-limits for the time being as it’s under renovation. However, housed inside this hall are four vibrantly painted Heavenly Kings. Just a little further up the introductory path, and you’ll next come to a pavilion that is currently under renovation. It’s to the right of this pavilion, and while standing in the temple courtyard, that you’ll see the understated bell pavilion; however, one of the most impressive wooden fish gongs takes up residence inside this bell pavilion.

As you can tell, Yongmunsa Temple is currently under a lot of new renovation and construction. Also, it’s a well populated temple with a wide range of temple halls. So be aware, but also, enjoy!

HOW TO GET THERE:From the Busan Central Bus Terminal in Nopo, subway stop #134, you’ll need to take a bus that goes to the Daegu bus terminal. These buses leave every 30 minutes and they cost 6,700 won. The bus ride lasts about an hour and thirty minutes. Then, from the Daegu bus terminal, you’ll need to catch a bus to the city of Yecheon. The ride lasts about two hours and thirty minutes. Once you arrive at the Yecheon Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take one more bus to Yongmunsa Temple. The bus ride takes thirty minutes. Buses to the temple leave at 6:10 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:50 p.m., and 7 p.m.

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OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. There is literally something for everyone at this temple. And if there isn’t, they are building it; either that, or you just don’t like visiting Korean Buddhist temples. But the true highlights of this temple are what reside inside the Daejang-jeon hall with both the oldest relief painting in all of Korea, as well as the twin bookshelves inside this hall that date back to 1173. This, in combination with all the halls at Yongmunsa Temple, is truly a temple adventurers dream come true.


 The beautiful fall colours at Yongmunsa Temple.


 The first buildings to greet you at the temple.


 The view from the temple courtyard with the main hall in the centre.


 The twin pagodas in the temple courtyard.


 With the main hall at Yongmunsa Temple behind them.


 The Shimu-do murals on the bottom with the Palsang-do murals on top.


 A look inside the main hall at Birojana-bul sitting on the main altar.


 The bronze statue of Podae-hwasang next to the main hall.


The famed Daejang-jeon hall that houses the temple’s most precious treasures.


 The main altar inside the Daejang-jeon hall with the oldest painting in Korea behind the triad of statues, as well as a bookshelf that dates back to 1173 A.D.


The Myeongbu-jeon hall at Yongmunsa Temple.


A look inside the well populated Myeongbu-jeon hall with Jijang-bosal front and centre on the main altar.


A look inside the Nahan-jeon hall at some of the more unique statues inside such a hall in all of Korea.


The view from the Nahan-jeon hall out and over the Temple Stay building.


The monks’ quarters at Yongmunsa Temple.


The beautiful view as you look up at the Cheonbul-jeon hall.


A better look at the upper terrace, and the Cheonbul-jeon hall, at Yongmunsa Temple.


A look inside the Cheonbul-jeon hall. There are literally a thousand tiny white statues of the Buddha inside this hall; thus, giving the hall its name.


The Sanshin-gak at Yongmunsa Temple.


A look at the large Sanshin painting inside the Sanshin-gak.


The view from the main hall.


The bell pavilion at the temple. And for such a large temple, it’s rather small in size.


A look at the Cheonwangmun Gate from a distance.


A look at just one of the uniquely designed statues of a Heavenly King inside the Cheonwangmun.