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Korean Temple Artwork

Podae-hwasang – 포대화상


Podae-hwasang at Jeongamsa Temple in Gohan, Gangwon-do

Hello Again Everyone!!

Until recently, I had no idea that Podae-hwasang even existed in Buddhism. It was only after researching him a bit more that I found out who the easily misidentified jovial figure was. Sometimes, he can be confused for the Buddha, but he’s in fact Podae-hwasang.

Podae-hwasang, who is better known as Budai or Pu-Tai in Chinese, is a disguised monk. Podae-hwasang is believed to be an incarnation of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). The name Budai, in Chinese, means “hempen sack” (more on that later).

The Sermon on Vulture Peak Painting – Yeongsan Hoesang-do (영산 회상도)


The famous Yeongsan Heosang-do at Gimryongsa Temple that dates back to 1703.

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The English name for the Yeongsan Hoesang-do is “The Sermon on Vulture Peak” painting. It is a highly symbolic painting that most people see at a Korean temple, but they simply don’t understand its meaning. So what does the Vulture Peak painting look like? And what is the meaning behind it?

The Guardian Mural – Shinjung Taenghwa (신중 탱화)


The elaborate Shinjung Taenghwa at Naejangsa Temple.

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In English, the Shinjung Taenghwa is called the “Altar Painting of Guardian Deities” or the Guardian Mural for short. This painting is a highly intricate painting that most people have seen if you’ve been to any temple or hermitage throughout the Korean peninsula. However, what is less known about this painting is all of its rich detail and meaning. So what exactly does a Guardian Mural look like? And more specifically, what is the meaning behind it all?

Hungry Ghosts – Agwi (아귀)


A couple of monstrous-looking Agwi.

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Revolving Scriptures Library Pillar – Yunjangdae (윤장대)


 Inside the Daejang-jeon Hall at Yongmunsa Temple. The Yunjangdae is to the left with the oldest main altar relief to the right.

The Founder’s Hall – Josa-jeon (조사전)


A look across at the Josa-jeon Hall at Samyeongam Hermitage near Tongdosa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!! This is yet another article on little known or seen things you might encounter at a Korean Buddhist temple. This time, I thought I would explain the Josa-jeon Hall at a temple. While you might have seen this hall before, it may not be all that clear as to what purpose it serves. So what exactly is this halls purpose and what does it look like? In English, the “Josa” means “patriarch” or “founder; while “jeon” means hall. So the best name, at least in English, for the Josa-jeon Hall is “The Founder’s Hall.”

Large Buddhist Banner Painting – Gwaebul (괘불)


 The large-sized Gwaebul painting at Tongdosa Temple during Buddha’s birthday.

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In yet another article on little seen or known items at a Korean temple or hermitage, I thought I would talk about the Gwaebul painting just in time for Buddha’s birthday.

The largest paintings in Korea are known as Gwaebul (괘불), which means “Large Buddhist Banner Painting,” in English. These paintings are extremely hard to find throughout Korea because they are usually only put on display once a year. So what do they look like and what is the meaning behind them?

The Sweet Dew Painting – Gamno-do (감로도)


Two monks discussing the Gamno-do painting at Yeongsanjeongsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

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The next entry about rarities to be found at a Korean temple or hermitage is the extremely hard to find Gamno-do painting. In fact, I’ve only ever seen it publicly displayed at three temples in my three hundred plus temples I’ve visited throughout Korea.

Universal Salvation Pavilion – Boje-ru (보제루)


The Boje-ru Pavilion in the background behind the Cheonwangmun at Donghwasa Temple in Daegu.

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The next entry in the series of postings on rarely seen things you might encounter at a Korean temple or hermitage is the Boje-ru Pavilion.

The Diamond Gate – Geumgang-mun (금강문)


 The Diamond Gate at Magoksa Temple in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do.

The next article about lesser seen things at Korean temples or hermitages is about the Geumgangmun Gate, or the Diamond Gate in English. So what exactly does it look like, where is it found at a temple, and what is its meaning?

The Fireplace King Spirit – Jowang-shin (조왕신)

Anjeokam2 - Jowangshin

A faded portrait of Jowangshin found at Anjeokam Hermitage in the mountains of Cheonseongsan.

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In the next few articles, I thought I would explore some of the lesser seen or known sites at Korean temples or hermitages. These are rare finds that you might encounter during your travels and simply don’t know what they’re supposed to represent or even depict.

The Canopy - Datjib

The amazingly ornate red datjib inside the main hall at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan.

The Nimbus: Emanations of Wisdom and Authority

An extremely ornate body nimbus  around Birojana-bul
(The Buddha of Cosmic Light) at Buseoksa Temple

The Bell Pavilion

One of the better examples of a two-storied bell pavilion is at Tongdosa Temple, which houses all four of the Buddhist instruments.

Yin and Yang: The Supreme Ultimate

The Yin and Yang symbol found at Tongdosa Temple.

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The Hall of 1,000 Buddhas

The 1,000 bronze coloured Buddhas from Seokbulsa Temple in Busan.

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Korean Buddhist Temple Latticework

The wonderfully ornate Upright Diagonal Floral Grid latticework that adorns the doors of Guryongsa Temple in Bu

The Korean Pagoda (Part 3)

The extremely ornate pagoda from Samgwangsa Temple in Busan.

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The Korean Pagoda (Part 2)

The ancient pagoda from Singyesa Temple in North Korea.

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The Korean Pagoda (Part 1)

The very famous Dabotap pagoda from Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju.

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The Stupa – Budo (부도)

An extremely ornate budo from Haeinsa Temple.

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When you first enter a Korean temple or hermitage you might see a row of strangely designed stone markers that somewhat resemble headstones. These stupa, or “budo” in Korean, can also be found at the rear of a temple complex. So what exactly do they look like? Who are they for? And what is the meaning behind them?

The Twelve Spirit Generals

An ornate stupa from Manbulsa Temple. In front are tiny red capped baby statues and statues of all Twelve Spirit Generals including the Monkey, Dragon, and Rat.

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Korean Buddhist Temple Fish-Shaped Wind Chimes

A fine example of a fish-shaped wind chime from Gakwonsa Temple.

San shin – The Mountain god (산신)

A gorgeous representation of San shin from Songnimsa Temple in Daegu.

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Wonhyo and Uisang Temple Paintings

The famous pair of monks from Wonhyoam Hermitage in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. Uisang-daesa is on the left and his close friend Wonhyo-daesa to the right.

The Seven Stars - Chilseong (칠성)

A look inside Bukgeukjeon Hall at Anyangam Hermitage that  houses the shaman deity The Seven Stars, Chilseong.

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The Recluse - Dokseong (독성)

A look at Dokseong, the Recluse, the Korean shaman deity of long life and good fortune.

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Yongwang – 용왕 (The Dragon King)

A statue of Yongwang, the Dragon King, at Cheonbulsa Temple.

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Myeongbu-jeon: The Judgment Hall

The amazingly elaborate altar inside the Judgment Hall at Sinheungsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.
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At every major Korean temple there is a set of buildings that usually exist. One of these buildings is the Judgment Hall (Myeongbu-jeon, in Korean). The Judgment Hall is one of the more unique looking buildings at a temple because of its gruesome depictions of hell, the uplifting paintings of salvation, the ominous judges, and the serenely redemptive Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

Gwaneum-jeon: Hall of Avalokitesvara

Gwanseeum-bosal with his one thousand hands and eyes to help people at Girimsa Temple.

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