Amazing Temples: Naesosa Temple in Jeollabuk-do

by - September 19, 2017

After a long hiatus from trips, we finally ventured outside of Seoul, again heading to a bunch of places on the west coast of Korea, namely Buan, Jeollabuk-do. We began our journey with the visit to the Naeososa Temple, which is an old Buddhist temple famous for its templestay program. The temple is all the way in Buan in Jeollabuk-do, and took us around 3 hours to reach. It may take longer depending on traffic, so I suggest staying the night if time permits.

The Naesosa Temple is an old Buddhist temple originally constructed way back in 633 A.D. by the monk Hyegu during the Baekje Dynasty; A quick recap, the Baekje dynasty was one of the three dynasties that ruled Korea. The temple was originally known as Soraesa Temple, but was destroyed and then a thousand years later, was rebuilt in 1633 by the monk Cheongmin which was in the Josean Dynasty, the most recent dynasty. It was later that the temple's name was changed to Naesosa Temple.

In order to get to the temple, you can get your tickets and you pass through the first gate, known as the Iljumun Gate. Then, you walk about a 600 meters to get to what is called the Cheonwangmun Gate which is beautifully lined with mature fir trees. Near the very end, and right before this gate, are cherry trees. The rather tall Cheonwangmun Gate houses four rather expressive Heavenly Kings. These kings are also called Sacheonwangsang that “guard” the temple and their expressions are matched by the demonic faces of the demons they are trampling under foot.

Upon reaching the temple itself (just past the guards) the first thing you’ll notice is the 1000-year-old tree. It didnt look so old, but they call it the grandma tree, cause grandmas live long!

Just as you go up the stairs, and on opposite ends of the temple grounds, are two separate bell pavilions. The one to the far right houses the contemporary bells used in morning and evening rituals for the templestay program. We did not see those. Instead, we went towards the bell pavilion to the left houses a bronze bell that dates back to 1222. These are common in many Buddhist temples. This one in particular, was built during the Goryeo era and has three images of Buddge called Samjonsang. This includes an image of a Buddha on a lotus flower with two Bodhisattvas standing at his side. 

After that, there was another pavilion which was open, and didn't have anything there. There were little pieces of paper hanging from it with people’s thoughts and prayers on them. 

Finally, you’ll reappear out from under the pavilion and on the terrace where the main Budde hall is located.  Out in front of the main hall is a three-story stone pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty. 

The Main Buddha Hall itself was rebuilt as well, without using any iron nails in 1633. If you look close enough, you’ll see that there are wooden slats that connect the frame. There is beautiful floral latticework adorning the front doors to the temple, as there are unpainted dragons up in the eaves.

As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, sits a triad of statues centered by the Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of the main altar hangs a colourful and well populated guardian mural. And to the left hangs a uniquely painted red mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). 

Once outside, there are a collection of monk facilities and dorms to the right of the main hall and the remaining halls that people can visit at Naesosa Temple are to the left of the main hall.

One of the halls we visited was the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. This newer looking hall is adorned with some of the most elaborate paintings of the Ten Kings of the Underworld along the exterior walls. Each is represented in their own painting judging over their own territory in the underworld. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a golden-capped, Jijang-bosal (Buddha of the Afterlife). He is joined by newer looking, and vibrantly painted, Ten Kings of the Underworld statues. 

To the far left is a shrine for the dead, so be respectful while looking in this hall.

Behind these three halls, and slightly up the embankment and a stone trail that winds its way up to it, is a plain looking shaman shrine hall. Inside this hall are three folk-like paintings. It’s also from this hall that you get a great view of the temple grounds down below and the towering mountains all around.

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