Juwolsa Temple – 주월사 (Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

Juwolsa Temple in Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Temple History

Juwolsa Temple is located in eastern Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do to the north of Mt. Dochiksan (257.8 m). It’s believed that the temple was first established during the reign of King Sinmun of Silla (r. 681-692 A.D.). It isn’t known exactly when Juwolsa Temple was first established. However, it’s believed that the famed monk Uisang-daesa (625-702 A.D.) first built the temple. The temple was later abandoned during the early part of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The temple would be rebuilt in the 18th century. At this time, the temple was known as Juwolam Hermitage. It was finally promoted to a temple, Juwolsa Temple, in 1994, when repairs took place on the temple.

According to legend, during the reign of King Sinmun of Silla, there was a pond named Cheon-ji Pond on Mt. Bulchulsan above the current location of Juwolsa Temple. From this pond rose three Buddhas, so it was decided that the three Buddhas would be enshrined at Gounsa Temple, Eunhyeonsa Temple, and Juwolsa Temple. Then the surrounding timber around this location was cut down to prepare for the building of a temple. However, one night, the timber simply disappeared. Later, it was discovered that the timber had been transported to a different location, which would be the current temple site of Juwolsa Temple. When people realized that the timber had moved, they also noticed that there were dozens of rabbits around the transported timber. The people that saw this believed that the timber had been moved by the rabbits; and as a result, the temple was thought to have an auspicious location. And on the night that Juwolsa Temple was completed, it’s said that the moon stopped in the sky for several hours. So the temple was named “Juwolsa” because it means “Where the Moon Stays Temple” in English.

Temple Layout

Climbing the stone set of stairs from the temple parking lot, you’ll arrive inside the compact temple grounds. Along the way, you’ll pass by a pair of stone lanterns with intertwining dragon-bases. These highly unique lanterns are matched by the five-story pagoda with four compact lions supporting the weight of the body of the pagoda.

Behind the modern five-story pagoda is the Daeung-jeon Hall at Juwolsa Temple. The exterior walls of the main hall are adorned with various paintings of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). In addition to these exterior paintings of the Nahan, and after entering the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find even more paintings dedicated to the Nahan. As for the main altar, you’ll find a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who is joined on either side by images of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of the main altar is a Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural). And to the left of the main altar, and rather peculiarly, are two white papered walls with a statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattvas of the Afterlife) in the midst of the paper.

To the immediate right and left of the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find the monks’ dorms and the temple’s kitchen. It’s up the embankment that you’ll find the next shrine hall at Juwolsa Temple. This shrine hall is the Yonghwa-jeon Hall, which houses a metre tall stone statue dedicated to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

It’s to the right of both the Yonghwa-jeon Hall and the monks’ dorms that you’ll find the Samseong-gak Hall at Juwolsa Temple. Across a bridge that spans a small pond is the entry to the shaman shrine hall. Immediately upon entering the Samseong-gak Hall, you’ll be welcomed by a stunning Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural with the hypnotizing presence of a tiger that stands next to the Mountain Spirit. Rounding out the set of shaman deities is a painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and a painting dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). The three shaman paintings are a set, and they are older in appearance.

How To Get There

From the Uiseong Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take the bus that reads “의성 – 화목 / Uiseong – Hwamok” on it. You’ll need to take this bus for 13 stops, or 26 minutes. Finally, you’ll need to get off at the “양지3리 – Yangji 3-ri” bus stop. From this stop, you’ll need to walk 1.4 km, or 21 minutes, to get to Juwolsa Temple.

And if public transportation isn’t your thing, you can simply take a taxi from the Uiseong Intercity Bus Terminal to get to Juwolsa Temple. From the Uiseong Intercity Bus Terminal, it’ll take 22 minutes and cost about 14,000 won (one way) to get to Juwolsa Temple.

Overall Rating: 6/10

Juwolsa Temple is situated in a rather remote part of the country in Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do. With that being said, the pond out in front of the Samseong-gak Hall and the paintings inside the shaman shrine hall are stunning, as is the temple masonry in the form of the five-story pagoda and dragon-based stone lanterns. You can also enjoy the beautiful views of the valley down below. Juwolsa Temple is especially tempting to those that want to visit the lesser traveled parts of Korea.

The dragon-based stone lantern at the entry of Juwolsa Temple.
The Daeung-jeon Hall fronted by the modern lion-based five-story pagoda.
A look inside the main hall.
The central image of Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings) from the Daeung-jeon Hall’s Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).
The white walls with Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) in their midst.
A painting of one of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha).
The unpainted Yonghwa-jeon Hall.
The stone Goryeo-era statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) inside.
The Samseong-gak Hall.
A painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) inside the shaman shrine hall.
Joined by this image of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).