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.

Yongmunsa Temple – 용문사 (Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The amazingly decorative main hall at Yongmunsa Temple in Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Another temple I had long wanted to visit in the Namhae area was Yongmunsa Temple. And the wait was well worth it to this ancient temple.

Yongmunsa Temple (용문사), which means Dragon Gate Temple in English, was first built by Wonhyo-daesa in a round-about-way. While the exact date of the temple’s creation is unknown, there is a lot about it that we do know. First, it’s believed that Wonhyo-daesa built Bogwangsa Temple on Mt. Geumsan during the Silla Period. This temple was later moved to its present location on Mt. Hogusan and renamed Yongmunsa Temple. Yongmunsa Temple was burnt to the ground, like a lot of famous temples of its time, during the Imjin War from 1592 to 1598. Monks from this temple served to defend Korea from the invading Japanese, and as a result, it’s been designated a temple of national defence and preserved by the present Korean government.

Down a long road that roams through houses and fields, you’ll come to the first sign of the temple: two guardian spirit poles. While these two guardian spirit poles are new in design, they are excellently executed with playful and devilish looks. Further up the road, you’ll finally arrive at the temple. To the far right is the temple parking lot, which also houses a large, and newly built, shrine to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

If you continue to walk straight, you’ll cross a beautiful bridge, and then enter one of the older Cheonwang-muns in all of Korea. And while the Four Heavenly Kings inside the hall have seen better days, as made evident by one of the kings dropping their lute and another dropping their staff, these subtleties point to the impertinence of time that is so central to the Buddhist faith.

Around the corner of the large conference hall, you’ll enter the temple courtyard. The temple grounds are well maintained. When you first enter, and to your immediate right, are the monks’ dorms. And across the courtyard, and straight ahead, are the monks’ facilities like the temple kitchen and dining area. To the right of that building, and in a row, is another off-limit building. And to the left, and in a bit of a secluded courtyard, is the temple’s bell pavilion. Interestingly, the rawhide drum has been struck so many times that the leather surface has a hole in it.

The crowning achievement to Yongmunsa Temple, by far, is the main hall. The exterior paintings that surround the hall are simplistic Shimu-do murals. And up in the eaves are some of the best examples of wooden dragon heads in all of Korea. They are large, colourful, and masterfully executed. As for the interior of the main hall, the ceiling decorations are reminiscent of the main hall at Eunhaesa in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. There are various creatures like dragons suspended from the ceiling. As for the main altar itself, it’s occupied by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre. He’s flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva that is the Power and Wisdom of Amita). To the far right is a beautiful mural that dates back to 1897, and it depicts the Vulture Peak Assembly. To the far left is a guardian mural that also dates back to 1897. These are two of the oldest murals of these types that I’ve seen inside a temple hall and not inside a museum. Amazing stuff!

To the right of the main hall is a Myeongbu-jeon that dates back to 1662. Sitting on the main altar is a green haired Jijang-bosal, who is perched on a red silk pillow adorned with numerous dragon heads. Jijang-bosal is surrounded by ten large statues, both seated and standing, of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. Interestingly, and a bit hidden away around the corner of the Myeongbu-jeon, is a courtyard and tiny shrine hall that houses the Stone Buddha of Yongmunsa statue. This white crowned statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) dates back to Goryeo Period (918-1392) and was buried in the ground to protect it from destruction at the hands of the Japanese during the invading Imjin War from 1592 to 1598.

To the far left of the main hall, and up the embankment, are two buildings. The first is the Nahan-jeon which houses the 16 disciples of the Historical Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul, as well as the past, present, and future Buddha that sit as a triad on the main altar. Another interesting aspect to this temple is the second hall in the upper courtyard: The Chilseong-gak. Inside of this hall are not just one, but three Chilseong (The Seven Stars) paintings. All three are old in age, and masterful in design. To the left of these three paintings is the San shin (The Mountain Spirit) painting, and to the far right is the Dokseong (The Recluse) painting. All five paintings have seen better days, but are still as beautiful as ever.

HOW TO GET THERE: If you’re traveling from anywhere outside of Namhae, you will first have to travel to the Namhae Intercity Bus Terminal. From this large sized terminal, you can then catch a taxi to Yongmunsa Temple. The distance is 13.8 km and it takes about 25 minutes. The total cost of the taxi ride should be between 10,000 to 15,000 won.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. The rarity of a lot of what this temple houses allows it to rate as highly as it does. Some of the highlights, at least in hall form, are the Cheonwangmun, the Myeongbu-jeon, and especially the main hall. Added to it are the rare murals inside of the main hall and the Chilseong-gak, as well as the ancient statue of Mireuk-bul, and this temple is a must see if you’re in the Namhae area of Gyeongsangnam-do.

The pair of guardian spirit poles that greet you at Yongmunsa Temple.
A better look at one of the comical, yet devilish, faces of the spirit guardian poles.
A look across the bridge at the Cheonwangmun Gate.
One of the Four Heavenly Kings that seems to have lost a grip on his lute.
One more bridge and a look up at the large conference hall at the temple.
A gorgeous view around the temple courtyard and the amazingly designed main hall in the centre of it all.
Just the first of many amazing dragon heads in the eaves around the exterior of the main hall.
Returning to earthly life, the final mural in the set of ten, from the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals.
A look at the triad of statues and the mural that adorn the altar inside the main hall.
Just one of the four-legged dragons that resides around the ceiling inside the main hall.
Just one, in a set of two, older murals inside of the main hall. This one depicts the Assembly at Vulture Peak.
The view of the courtyard from the main hall.
To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall that is dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and his ten accompanying Kings of the Underworld.
Just one of the seated Ten Kings of the Underworld.
Around the corner, in an equally diminutive courtyard, is this shrine hall. It houses…
This white statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) that dates back to the Goryeo Period.
A unique look at some of the monks’ quarters.
And a look at some of the beautiful blue flowers that were in bloom as you enter into the upper courtyard at Yongmunsa Temple.
The altar pieces inside the Nahan-jeon.
And a look up at the crowning Chilseong-gak. It houses five of the more unique shaman paintings in Korea.
A look at just three of the five murals inside the Chilseong-gak.