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Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri – 홍천 괘석리 사사자 삼층석탑 (Hongcheon, Gangwon-do)

The Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri in Hongcheon, Gangwon-do.

Pagoda History

The Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri is currently located out in front of the county office in Hongcheon, Gangwon-do. The pagoda was moved to this new location in 1969. Formerly, it was housed at a temple site in Gwaeseok-ri, Duchon-myeon, Gangwon-do. However, the former temple site is now used as a farmer’s field. In addition to the Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri, the temple site had a few roof tile shards strewn throughout its grounds.

The Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri was declared Korean Treasure #540 in July, 1971.

Pagoda Design

The Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri is located to the south of the county office and the neighbouring Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Huimang-ri, which is Korean Treasure #79. The Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri has three stories, which is mounted on a two-tier base that consists of four seated stone lions. In total, the pagoda stands 3.5 metres in height. The pagoda’s design is reminiscent of the Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda of Hwaeomsa Temple, but it’s less refined and smaller in size.

The Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri has four sides to its base that are sculpted with floral designs. Each of the four stone lions occupies one of the four corners of the pagoda. Collectively, these stone lions support a wide stone slab above their heads. A lotus pedestal is visible on the stone slab above the four lions. And in the middle of the stone slab on which they are seated, a Buddha image used to appear, but it’s now missing. Interestingly, the tails of the lions are shaped like hearts. The roof stones are separated from the rest of the pagoda, and it has a three-tier edged base. The roof stones are rather plain and thin. And the four tips of the roof are slightly turned upwards at the end. There are holes at the end where wind chimes used to hang. The finial is missing from the pagoda with only the dew basin still remaining. In addition to most of the missing finial, parts of the second and third story stones have broken away, but the pagoda still retains its overall original appearance. As a whole, and based upon its design, it’s strongly believed that the Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri dates back to the mid-Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392); however, its overall design is heavily influenced by Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.).

How To Get There

From the Hongcheon Intercity Bus Terminal, you can simply walk to get to the Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri. You can head east from the bus terminal along Hongcheon-ro Street and past the rotary. Head east along this street for about 800 metres until you come to Majigi-ro Street. Head north along this street for about 600 metres. Head east, once more, along Hwaemang-ro Street for an additional 150 metres. To the north, and as you walk, you’ll see the county office for Hongcheon. The Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri is to the south of this county office and to the west of its parking lot. In total, the hike is about 1.3 km, or 20 minutes in duration.

If walking isn’t your thing, or it’s already been a long day, a taxi ride from the Hongcheon Intercity Bus Terminal to Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri is about a 5 minute ride that will cost you 4,000 won.

Overall Rating: 3/10

On its own, the The Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri is a beautiful example of the lion-based design found in the design of some of Korea’s most famous pagodas. While slightly damaged, the pagoda retains its overall beautiful aesthetic. In addition to this beautiful Korean Treasure, you can find yet another Korean Treasure, the Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Huimang-ri, in front of the county office at Hongcheon. And paired together, the two pagodas can make for a nice little trip to the centre of Hongcheon, Gangwon-do to visit one of the lesser known lion-based pagodas in Korea.

The Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri.
A closer look at the base of the pagoda.
And an even closer look at one of the four lions that comprise the base of the pagoda.
The pagoda from a different angle with damage evident to the top two stories of the stone structure.
The four lions from a different angle.
And the body of the pagoda up-close.
Some of the other artifacts nearby the Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri.
And the Four Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Gwaeseok-ri and the Three-Story Stone Pagoda in Huimang-ri both out in front of the county office in Hongcheon.

Colonial Korea – Gyeongju

Seokguram Grotto Before (Left) and After (Right) Japanaese Restoration During Japanese Colonial Rule (1910-1945). (Picture Courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).


In general, there were numerous reasons as to why the Japanese were so focused on archaeology throughout the Korean Peninsula. One of the reasons was to portray the Korean colony as inferior to Japan and in need of civilizing. Another reason was to justify the annexation of Korea through tourism and conservation that had previously been overlooked by the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). And the subsequent revenue would help the Japanese war effort in China. Finally, the other link that the Japanese attempted to form through these archaeological endeavors was to form a bond that united the two people through a form of pan-Asian Buddhism to help combat Western and Christian influences.

More specifically, the reason for these restorative acts on Korean Buddhist artifacts and sites were in line with the Japanese thought that “Buddhism was the core of the Eastern Spirit,” which was an idea pursued by the Japanese since the Meiji era (Jan 25, 1868 – Jul 30, 1912). Additionally, it was the cultural assets of Korea that the Japanese placed the greatest value upon, which were created before the Joseon Dynasty. The reason for this is that the Japanese were attempting to evoke in the minds of Koreans the memory of cultural achievements founded during the “Buddhist era” that predated the Joseon Dynasty. Japan needed to point to a pre-modern era that predated the “ruin” of Korea. This “ruin” had been brought on by the rulers of Joseon that were anti-Buddhist. According to the Japanese, the glory of Korea lay in its distant past that had flourished when Buddhism was at the very heart of its society and its successes. So it made sense to attack Joseon rule, while elevating what came before it. It fed into the narrative that Japan had to promote Buddhism which linked the two people together, supported tourism, and combated Western-influence.

These repairs and restorative efforts were then carried out on artifacts across various regions in Korea. However, among these efforts, most of this work was concentrated on Silla Buddhist artifacts and sites in the former Silla capital of Gyeongju.

The Daeung-jeon Hall at Bulguksa Temple in 1909. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

Bulguksa Temple

In Gyeongju, Japanese authorities paid particular attention to two sites: Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Hermitage. In restoring Bulguksa Temple, and for almost all sites in Gyeongju, the Japanese authorities didn’t consult the original floor plans or diagrams. There are a couple reasons for this. The first is that most historic sites had fallen into disrepair through neglect and the original floor plans simply didn’t exist. And the second is that the Japanese didn’t consult Koreans; instead, the Japanese used their own judgment and ultimate authority in reconstructing temples like Bulguksa Temple.

Bulguksa Temple, when the Japanese took control over the Korean Peninsula, had fallen into disrepair for decades. The temple had come to be badly neglected and partially looted. With all this in mind, and with the Japanese attempting to pursue their previously mentioned archaeological goals, Japanese authorities attempted to put Bulguksa Temple back together again. There are examples where the Japanese seem to have made mistakes with the overall layout of the temple grounds. For example, the Beomyeong-ru Pavilion (Floating Reflection Pavilion) and the Jwagyeong-ru Pavilion (Sutra Pavilion) don’t appear in the photographs or temple floor plans prepared by the “Oriental Society” (Toyo kyokai 東洋協會) in 1909, when Bulguksa Temple was originally surveyed by the Japanese.

Another major difference we see today is that the entire lower courtyard that includes the Daeung-jeon Hall and the Geukrak-jeon Hall have corridors. At the time of the Japanese reconstruction, only the corridors seem to have existed in the floor plans around the Daeung-jeon Hall and the Museol-jeon Hall (which is located to the rear of the main hall).

There are numerous other discrepancies at Bulguksa Temple that were made during Japanese occupation that could probably have been set straight through further archaeological investigation, but without any original floor plans from the Joseon Dynasty, the Japanese did what they could and wanted to do. Other discrepancies include the location of the Geukrak-jeon Hall. According to the “Oriental Society” floor plans, this hall was originally the Wichuk-jeon Hall (The Invoking Blessings Hall). And the monk living quarters were located to the left and right of the Geukrak-jeon Hall. The Anyangmun Gate, which stands out in front of the Geukrak-jeon Hall, originally stood slightly in front of its current location.

As for the current configuration of Bulguksa Temple, two shrine halls seem to be absent from the “Oriental Society” floor plans. They are the Hyangro-jeon Hall (The Incense Burner Hall) and the Sipwang-jeon Hall (The Ten Kings of the Underworld Hall). It appears as though they probably existed on the current site of the Beophwa-jeon Hall (Lotus Sutra Hall).

There is a slight caveat to the Japanese efforts to restore Bulguksa Temple and the difficulty they had in reconstructing the temple to its former design. The caveat is this: there’s no way of knowing if what the Japanese did was true to the original floor plan. And the reason for this is that there is no way of knowing that the floor plan that the Japanese were working from was the original layout of the temple from its original creation by Kim Daeseong (700-774 A.D.) in the eighth century. It would appear that the original layout of the temple grounds had changed from the time of Kim Daeseong to when the Japanese authorities attempted to piece Bulguksa Temple back together again.

The “Stupa of Bulguksa Temple” missing the capstone. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).
The “Stupa of Bulguksa Temple” with the capstone attached. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

As a bit of of an aside, one of the more interesting tales about Bulguksa Temple during Japanese Colonial Rule (1910-1945) concerns the “Stupa of Bulguksa Temple,” which is now located to the rear of the temple grounds next to the Biro-jeon Hall. This stupa was originally recorded in Dr. Sekino’s first report on Bulguksa Temple. However, the photograph from this report doesn’t show the capstone or upper part of the wheel-shaped finial. However, it later appears in the photos in an essay entitled “Cultural Relics of the Silla Dynasty in Korea’s Gyeongju,” which was published in volume one of “Toyo kyokai chosabu gakujutsu hokoku 1 – Academic Report of Investigations by the Oriental Society.” It’s unknown whether the capstone belonging to the stupa was later found nearby and attached or whether a capstone of similar size was roughly aligned and placed atop the stupa at the time of Sekino’s report.

More specifically, the “Stupa of Bulguksa Temple,” in 1905, was taken out of Korea and brought to Ueno Onshi Park in Tokyo by the Japanese. And it was owned by Nagao Kinya. However, this is only part of the story. According to the Korean newspaper, the Maeil Sinbo, someone from Kaesong (Gaeseong), convinced a monk at Bulguksa Temple to sell the stupa, which he did. The stupa was then transported to Tokyo by boat at night. The “Stupa of Bulguksa Temple” would eventually be returned to Korea in June, 1933.

The Seokguram Grotto in 1922. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

Seokguram Hermitage

The other major site that the Japanese focused on extensively in Gyeongju was Seokguram Hermitage and its grotto. With the annexation of Korea by the Japanese in 1910, the Governor-General of Chosen repair on Seokguram Hermitage began almost immediately. Seokguram Hermitage and its grotto was one of the main reasons that Gyeongju grew to such prominence. This is demonstrated by newspaper articles that applauded the stone hermitage.

In the past, Seokguram Hermitage, and specifically the famed grotto, had been used as a scenic spot for the yangban, a site for prayer by the Buddhist community, and a place to relax by commoners out for a hike or a picnic. However, at the end of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Seokguram Hermitage and its grotto had fallen into disrepair. It took the efforts of Japanese engineers employed by the Japanese Colonial government to repair Seokguram Hermitage. This started in 1913, and it took place over two years under the instruction of Governor-General Terauchi Masatake (1852-1919). However, with the Japanese repairing the Seokguram Grotto, the meaning behind its functionality changed from a religious one to one of aesthetic beauty as a piece of art.

In a poem-like essay, Asakawa Noritaka, who visited Seokguram Hermitage in 1921 and who was known for his research on Korean porcelain, wrote about the grotto. In his writing, he wrote about how the grotto awakened a certain sense of Toyo (the Orient/the Far East). Asakawa would go a step further by attempting to read the minds of the Silla people who originally built Seokguram Hermitage atop Mt. Tohamsan. According to Asakawa, Seokguram Hermitage was built so that the Buddha could protect sea travel between Silla and Nara, Japan. He also believed that there was a “unilinear flow of beauty” that was created by Tang China, continued in the Baekje Kingdom, migrated onward to the Silla Kingdom, and eventually arrived in Nara, Japan. The symbol and artistry found in the Seokguram Grotto, according to Asakawa, called for a revival of the great Orient. Asakawa would write, “Eternal Seokguram, you who speak the words of God/May the people of the Orient return to their homeland deep in your heart.”

So it seems rather obvious that the goal of Japan was twofold. The first was to allow the Seokguram Grotto to symbolically act as the pinnacle of Buddhist artistry, while also acting as a way to unify various nations within the purview of Japanese Colonial rule and expansion. The Japanese would disguise these motives in a couple of ways; namely, tourism and archaeologically, but the root of Japan’s efforts was to unify the colonial subjects under Japan’s colonial rule. But for this to take place, there were a few things that first needed to take place.

On September 20, 1923, about a month after further repair work was completed on the Seokguram Grotto, the Maeil Sinbo newspaper carried an article entitled, “Historic Remains in the Old City of Silla.” This article carried a picture of the grotto in it. The article would state that the Seokguram Grotto was “a collection of incomparable flowers of Oriental art.” In another newspaper, the Donga Ilbo, dated June 30, 1923, in a series entitled “Miracles of the World,” encouraged a sense of national pride in the supreme artistry found inside the grotto at Seokguram Hermitage. The newspaper would go on to state that the image of the Buddha inside the grotto was “the greatest of the oldest artworks in Asia.” The newspaper, by focusing on the Seokguram Grotto, was attempting to appeal to a sense of nationalism in the framework of a pan-Asian Buddhism.

The central statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) inside Seokguram Grotto in 1922. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

Another way that the Japanese would use Seokguram Hermitage and its grotto was to transform the image of the Buddha from Buddhist rituals to that of a world class piece of artwork. Before the Seokguram Hermitage and its grotto was elevated, Japanese art historians were traveling throughout the capitals of western countries and their museums. In doing this, and viewing Christian art, the Japanese art historians would attempt to elevate historical Buddhist images from Buddhist ritual and make them artwork in their own aesthetic right much like what had happened to Christian art in western nations. Not long after this exploration and discovery, Western-style institutions such as exhibitions and art schools were open in Japan. Also, famous artisans of Buddhist images were hired as university professors. Then in 1873, at the Vienna World Exhibition, a large Buddha image from Kamakura was put on display. So as a result of the introduction of the Western concept of art, as introduced and influenced by the Japanese during Japanese Colonial Rule over the Korean Peninsula, this idea would transform and influence how the world and Koreans would view their Buddhist icons and images. And at the heart of this transformation was the Seokguram Hermitage and its grotto. This would start from the 1910’s.

The first attempted elevation of Seokguram Hermitage and its grotto beyond its religious iconography was taken by Yanagi Muneyoshi (1889-1950). In the publication “Geijutsu,” Yanagi wrote an article entitled “On the Sculptures of Seokguram,” which was published in June, 1919. Yanagi would state in this article about the Seokguram Grotto that it was “…not just the work of one country but a crystallization of the Buddhism of Sui and Tang China and of Oriental religion and art.” This quote squarely places Seokguram Hermitage and its grotto in a line of Buddhist artistry from China to Japan, as well as elevating and separating the Buddhist images from their original meaning rooted in Buddhism and attempting to elevate them as a piece of art.

This approach by Yanagi, and its indifference to how Seokguram Hermitage and its grotto had previously been experienced by Koreans, was secondary to the way that Japanese authorities now intended to interact with the icons inside Seokguram Grotto. This was very much of an attitude of the colonizer ruling the colonized. This approach highlighted the Japanese efforts to be the ultimate authority over the meaning and uses of Korean Buddhist icons through the interpretative-lense of Japanese Imperialism.

The way in which Yanagi is able to detach Buddhism from the Buddhist icon at Seokguram Hermitage and grotto is that he grounds the creation of the grotto in the individual mind of Kim Daeseong. By doing this, the statues inside the grotto first appears as an interpretative artwork that is only later grounded in Buddhism. This is a rather odd way to attempt to separate the religious from the religious statue, but it was something that Yanagi committed to and promoted. This is only one example of what the Japanese attempted to do with all Buddhist images in Korea and not just in Gyeongju or Seokguram Hermitage and its grotto.

This ideology by the Japanese was furthered by Inoue Tetsujiro (1855-1944), who was a Japanese religious studies scholar and a pioneer of comparative religions in Japan. He was quick to focus on what he thought of the connection found between India, China, Korea, and Japan. He believed that Buddhism was as great and universal a religion as Christianity in the West. In fact, Inoue believed that Buddhism wasn’t just equal to Christianity, but that it was in fact superior to Christianity in its Mahayana form and tradition.

So both Yanagi and Inoue were two leading scholars that attempted to put the stamp of Japanese Buddhism and scholarship on Korean Buddhism. Yanagi did this by reinterpreting Korean Buddhists icons as pieces of art, while Inoue was placing Korean Buddhism in the spectrum of Mahayana Buddhism from India, to China and Korea, and on to Japan. This spectrum would help, at least in the eyes of Japanese authorities, to unite, in part, the two people, Koreans and Japanese, into one.

After the discovery and the re-interpretation of Seokguram Hermitage and grotto by the Japanese, it quickly helped elevate Gyeongju as a tourist attraction for the Japanese, as well as Koreans, alongside Mt. Geumgangsan. As a result, it was quite common for Gyeongju to become a backdrop for Japanese writers and their experiences on the Korean Peninsula.

The back wall relief of Gwanseeum-bosal in 1915 during Japanese renovations on Seokguram Grotto. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

Besides the central seated image of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) inside Seokguram Grotto, there is also the hidden relief of an eleven-faced image of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) directly to the rear of the central seated image of Seokgamoni-bul. People are only able to see this image of Gwanseeum-bosal if they are in fact inside the grotto because it’s obstructed from the front. With the discovery of the Seokguram Grotto by the Japanese, this image of Gwanseeum-bosal came to be admired as the image of Seokgamoni-bul. Examples of its prominent position can be found in Japanese language tourist books that were used for advertising the historic sites of Gyeongju. More specifically, three pictures of Seokguram Grotto were included in a deluxe book edited and published by the “Society for the Preservation of Historic Remains in Gyeongju.” And one of these three images was the image of Gwanseeum-bosal inside Seokguram Grotto. This picture was accompanied with the comment, “It’s carved in such an elegant and elaborate way as to tower over others in the grotto.”

In another publication published by the Japanese, which focused on a series of colonial historiography and archaeology, the image of Gwanseeum-bosal inside Seokguram Grotto appears, once more. This time, and along with an image of Gwanseeum-bosal, is an introduction about the image that reads, “…with the finest craft and the subtlest carving applied, it alone can speak for Buddhist art.”

However, not only did the Japanese have a fascination with Seokguram Hermitage and its grotto, but Koreans had a renewed sense of pride, as well. Gwon Deokgyu (1890-1950), who was a scholar of the Korean language, wrote an essay entitled “Gyeongju Bound,” where he is quoted as saying in this text, ‘‘I heard that Dr. Sekino explained that the Many Treasures Pagoda [Dabo-tap] of Bulguksa Temple, along with Seokguram Grotto, is ‘the ultimate treasure of the world.’” Gwon would continue, “…even possessing insufficient knowledge of architectural engineering, we became proud of ourselves. This derived from Dr. Sekino’s endless praise of the two monuments, saying they were both Korea’s treasure and the world’s at the same time.’’

This pride, not only in Seokguram Hermitage but in all of Gyeongju as the ancient capital of Silla, started with the preservation of Seokguram Hermitage. This preservation was reported by newly emerging Korean language print media as an administrative achievement of the Japanese authorities. More specifically, the “Society for the Preservation of Historic Remains in Gyeongju,” found by local officials in 1911, organized itself around a series of projects, including giving support to the Governor-General of Chosen’s repair work on Seokguram Hermitage and its grotto.

With this support for the Governor General of Chosen’s efforts on Seokguram Hermitage, the society was assigned the right to survey, preserve, and exhibit historical remains in Gyeongju with a specific focus on its connection with Silla. By doing this, the society was highlighting the Buddhist achievements of Silla at the expense of the one thousand years that followed both during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties. The reason for this, rather coyly, was to help heighten the connection that the Japanese were attempting to form between the Japanese and Koreans through Buddhism. The society also took part in developing the historic remains of Gyeongju as a source of income for the tourist industry. This would help Korea gain some much needed revenue, while also helping to support the burgeoning war efforts in China, as well.

The “Stone Brick Pagoda of Bunhwangsa Temple” in 1914. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

Bunhwangsa Temple

Other than Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Hermitage, another focus that the Japanese authorities took was on Bunhwangsa Temple. Japanese researchers, including Dr. Sekino, regarded the stone pagodas of Bulguksa Temple and Bunhwangsa Temple as particularly important Korean cultural assets.

With this in mind, Japanese authorities included Bunhwangsa Temple in a 1904 report that surveyed historic sites in Korea. Included in this report is a photograph of the “Stone Brick Pagoda of Bunhwangsa Temple,” which is the oldest pagoda in Gyeongju dating back to 634 A.D. In this picture, the pagoda appears with its base nearly collapsed and its capstone overgrown with weeds and covered in dirt.

One of the ways that the Japanese used photographs and conditions like this was through propaganda. And the way they did this was by juxtaposing images of dilapidated conditions in Korea before Japanese Colonial Rule (1910-1945) with a repaired and renovated image during Japanese Colonial Rule. One of the ways they specifically did this was in the “Chosen koseki zufu – Illustrated Record of Korean Relics.” In a 1916 photograph of the stone pagoda at Bunhwangsa Temple in this text, two photographs are placed together. One picture is of the neatly repaired pagoda, while the other was taken before Japanese repairs on the structure. The reason this was done was to show the world, including Japanese citizenry, Japan’s intention as a “guardian of civilization” and the “successor of the Eastern Spirit (Buddhism).”

However, while the Japanese did restore the “Stone Brick Pagoda of Bunhwangsa Temple,” it’s unclear whether the restoration was loyal to the original design of the pagoda at the time of its creation. While the Japanese specialist probably did save the stone pagoda from collapse, no one knows for sure whether they did a proper job because of a lack of information on the original pagoda’s design. There are two specific examples of this; first, the lion statues that appear on the four corners of the pagoda, were actually scattered around the temple grounds upon their re-discovery. The Japanese authorities then placed these four lions at the base of the pagoda, though it’s unclear if this was their original location. And another example is the foundational embankment that the base of the stone structure now rests upon. It’s unclear if this was the original configuration of the pagoda upon its creation. A lot was unknown, not only about Bunhwangsa Temple but about Gyeongju and its historic sites as a whole; and yet, the Japanese authorities persisted with their efforts.

One of the four lions of the “Stone Brick Pagoda of Bunhwangsa Temple” that was scattered on the temple grounds. The picture is from 1918. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).
One of the four lions placed on the “Stone Brick Pagoda of Bunhwangsa Temple” after Japanese renovations on the pagoda. The specific date of the picture is unknown, but it was taken during Japanese Colonial Rule. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

Historic Statues of Gyeongju

1. Stone Standing Buddha Triad in Bae-dong

Outside Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Hermitage, and Bunhwangsa Temple, there are other historic sites in Gyeongju that were of interest to Japanese authorities, as well. One of these historic sites is the “Stone Standing Buddha Triad in Bae-dong.” Originally, this triad was located further up the mountain at the Seonbangsa-ji Temple Site. According to Sunkyung Kim’s paper, “Research on a Buddha Mountain in Colonial-Period Korea: A Preliminary Discussion,” Kim discusses how a Japanese man by the name of Osaka Kintaro first discovered the triad during Japanese Colonization (1910-1945). Osaka Kintaro was the principal of the Gyeongju public primary school, and upon his arrival in Gyeongju in 1915, Osaka Kintaro had heard rumours about a stone Buddha triad almost completely buried near Poseokjeong on the northwest part Mt. Namsan. However, it wasn’t until 1917 that Osaka Kintaro actually found it after using a local kid’s directions. Then in 1922, anticipating Prince Kotohito’s visit to Gyeongju, who was the Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff from 1931 to 1940, the “Society for the Preservation of Historical Remains of Gyeongju” wanted to move the triad to their exhibition room. The Society were a group of professionally trained archaeologists, ethnologists, anthropologists, and administrators from Japan, as well as local Koreans. Originally they were known as the “Silla Society.” However, because of the technological challenges of moving such large statues, they ended up leaving the triad where it was on Mt. Namsan.

The “Stone Standing Buddha Triad in Bae-dong” now at Sambulsa Temple from 1924. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

When Osaka Kintaro later re-visited the triad, he described it in his book “Pastimes of Gyeongju.” Here he described how the locals of Mt. Namsan had started to stack small stones in front of the statue while making a wish. He would go on to describe how he believed that not only was the triad an active place of worship for the locals, but that the entire mountain of Mt. Namsan continued to be a place of worship for Koreans.

The first printed images of the “Stone Standing Buddha Triad in Bae-dong” appeared in the “Art of Korea’s Gyeongju – Chosen keishu no bijutsu” in 1929 by Nakamura Ryohei. Nakamura Ryohei was a teacher at Ulsan Public School. The photographs in this work show the triad in a similar layout to the present day configurations, while the photos in the “Buddhist Relics of Gyeongju’s Namsan – Keishu nanzan no busseki” from 1940 by the Governor General’s Office of Korea shows a Buddha triad that is collapsed and scattered. It’s unclear when this damage took place; however, judging by the fact that Moroga Hideo, who was a central figure in the “Society for the Preservation of Gyeongju Relics,” asked the Governor General Saito Makoto (1858-1936) for funds for the restoration of the “Stone Standing Buddha Triad in Bae-dong” in 1923, it can be confirmed that the restoration took place sometime between 1923 and 1929. And the subsequent positioning of the Bodhisattvas to the left and right of the central Buddha might have been designated at this time by the restorative conducted by the Japanese.

The “Rock-Carved Buddhas at Chilbulam Hermitage in Namsan Mountain” before Japanese repairs. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).
And the “Rock-Carved Buddhas at Chilbulam Hermitage in Namsan Mountain” after repairs. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

2. Rock-Carved Buddhas at Chilbulam Hermitage in Namsan Mountain

Another example of a historic site outside the three major sites in Gyeongju for the Japanese authorities was Chilbulam Hermitage on Mt. Namsan. Much like Bunhwangsa Temple, Japanese authorities attempted to juxtapose the before and after images of the “Rock-Carved Buddhas at Chilbulam Hermitage in Namsan Mountain” in the “Illustrated Record of Korean Relics – Chosen koseki zufu” in 1917 with those found in the “Buddhist Relics of Gyeongju’s Namsan – Keishu nanzan no busseki” in 1940. The former photo shows the central Buddha image with a flat nose from years of wear. The latter photo, on the other hand, shows the damaged nose having been repaired. But not only has the nose been fixed, but the heavily damaged upper left part of the chest and arms have been repaired, as well. This is yet another example of how Japan was attempting to show that not only were they the “successor of the Eastern Spirit (Buddhism),” but that they were also attempting to be the guardians of Korean interests, as well.

The “Stone Buddhas in Four Directions at Gulbulsa Temple Site” before Japanese repairs. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).
The “Stone Buddhas in Four Directions at Gulbulsa Temple Site” after repairs. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

3. Stone Buddhas in Four Directions at Gulbulsa Temple Site

Another example of restoration work conducted in Gyeongju was at the Gulbulsa-ji Temple Site on the “Stone Buddhas in Four Directions at Gulbulsa Temple Site.” The “Stone Buddhas in Four Directions at Gulbulsa Temple Site” was first photographed by the Japanese, and Dr. Sekino in particular, in 1904. At this time the stone Buddhas were almost completely buried in dirt on the foot of Baengnyulsa Temple. It was common for silt to wash down from the neighbouring mountain, so it easily accumulated around where the “Stone Buddhas in Four Directions at Gulbulsa Temple Site” was and is located.

With all this in mind, the “Stone Buddhas in Four Directions at Gulbulsa Temple Site” was already partially buried in dirt when the Japanese discovered it. Subsequently, the Japanese published two photographs of the stone Buddhas in 1910 in the “Overview of Korean Art – Chosen bijutsu taikan.” In these photos, the Buddhist sculpture is partial exposed after the removal of some of the surrounding dirt. Besides the upper part of the torso being exposed, the two photos also show the head of the Buddha and the crown of the Bodhisattvas on the left as being damaged. And the Bodhisattva to the right is simply absent from the two photos.

Later, and in the “Illustrated Record of Korean Relics – Chosen koseki zufu” of 1917, there is a photo of the Bodhisattva on the right standing with its upper body damaged. This implies that the “Stone Buddhas in Four Directions at Gulbulsa Temple Site” was restored to its present configuration sometime between 1910 and 1917. In addition to this work, the Japanese also built a stone embankment that was piled up behind the “Stone Buddhas in Four Directions at Gulbulsa Temple Site” to guard against dirt build-up. Once again, the Gulbulsa-ji Temple Site is another example of how Japan was attempting to show that not only were they the “successor of the Eastern Spirit (Buddhism),” but that they were also attempting to be the guardians of Korean interests, as well.

The “Stone Seated Buddha in Yongjangsa-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain” before repairs by the Japanese. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).
The “Stone Seated Buddha in Yongjangsa-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain” after being reassembled by the Japanese. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

4. Stone Seated Buddha in Yongjangsa-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain

Yet another example of the work conducted in Gyeongju; and more specifically on Mt. Namsan, by the Japanese authorities can be found in the form of the Yongjangsa-ji Temple Site up the Yongjangsa-gok Valley. And particular attention was give to the “Stone Seated Buddha in Yongjangsa-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain” and it’s three-story pedestal on which a headless image of the Buddha rests. This pedestal was damaged up until the early 1920’s. On the stone wall behind the “Stone Seated Buddha in Yongjangsa-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain” is an inscription. This inscription states that the Governor-General of Chosen was ordered to reconstruct the three-story stone pagoda and pedestal that had already collapsed in the twelfth year of Taisho (1923). And the work done to restore the two objects, both the pagoda and pedestal, were completed the following year. However, the 1924 restoration couldn’t completely reproduce the original shape of the pedestal. The way in which the current “Stone Seated Buddha in Yongjangsa-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain” looks in its distinctive features was through the Japanese restoration. It’s believed that current form of the “Stone Seated Buddha in Yongjangsa-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain” was produced from several stones that had been piled up and scattered around the vicinity of the Japanese restoration that took place from 1923 to 1924.

The “Stone Seated Buddha in Mireuk-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain” in 1923. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).
The “Stone Seated Buddha in Mireuk-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain” reassembled at Borisa Temple. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

5. Stone Seated Buddha in Mireuk-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain

In comparison to the extensive work done on the “Stone Seated Buddha in Yongjangsa-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain,” other Buddha statues on Mt. Namsan and Gyeongju were only partially repaired. As a result, only relatively minor modifications and repairs were conducted on these stone Buddhas like the “Stone Seated Buddha in Mireuk-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain” which is now located at Borisa Temple on the northeastern part of Mt. Namsan.

In photos from “Pastimes of Gyeongju – Shumi no keishu,” which was published in 1931 by Osaka Kintaro, who had first come to Korea in 1898, the photos of the “Stone Seated Buddha in Mireuk-gok Valley of Namsan Mountain” reveal that the seated stone Buddha was also not intact. Osaka worked as a part-time employee at the “Society for the Preservation of Gyeongju Relics” since 1915 and took a intense interest in the artifacts and historic sites in Gyeongju. Originally, this statue was located in Mireuk-gok Valley and not at Borisa Temple when Osaka took his photos. This was further supported by the report written by the “Society for Research on Korean Relics” in 1938. The statue was moved from its original location in Mireuk-gok Valley to flat ground on Borisa Temple.


At the very heart of Japanese archaeological efforts in Korea; and more specifically, in Gyeongju, was the idea of preservation. And the reason for this preservation was threefold. The first was to help create a bond between the two people through a form of Pan-Asian Buddhism to combat Western influences. Another reason was to help raise capital for both Japan and Korea through tourism. For Korea, it would be to help the impoverished nation, while for Japan it was to help ongoing and future war efforts. And finally, the reason that Japan went to such great lengths to help preserve Korean cultural assets was to help civilize a nation in need of “modernizing” and “civilizing.”

There were various ways in which the Japanese went about this in Korea. Perhaps the most nationalistic was to prey upon the patriotic feelings of Korea. The way the Japanese did this was by pointing back to a time in Korea’s past where Buddhism helped unify and advance the nation as a whole. So the Japanese looked back to the Silla Kingdom, whose capital was located in Gyeongju, to help promote this ideology. The subsequent centuries of Joseon Dynasty rule had only helped to reverse these advancements, in the eyes of the Japanese. That’s why Gyeongju was so important to the propaganda that the Japanese authorities held during Japanese Colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula that helped to subjugate and make Koreans subjects of Imperial Japan.

The Cheonwangsa-ji Temple Site in Gyeongju. The date is unknown, but the picture was taken during Japanese Colonial Rule. (Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

Fan Meetup Announcement 2023

I'm having my third fan meetup in Korea! I made a video announcing the location, date, and time for the event. If you're currently in Korea (or will be during the fan meetup) I'd love to see you there! There's a link to RSVP in the video description.

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 Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean





K&F Magnetic Nano Filter Kit

Ever since I bought my K&F square filters last year, I have been impressed with how well they were built and the quality of the images that I have made with them. Not only that, I joined their amazing facebook community and have loved all the activity that takes place in that group.

One of the best parts about the group are the numerous ways to win free products from the company. This is something that is pretty unusual for companies these days and something that I feel says a lot about the kind of company that K&F is. They are actively supporting their community by giving back to the photographers that support their business!

How exactly are they doing this? Each month they have a contest in their facebook community giving regular photographers the chance to win some of their gear. No purchase necessary and no need to be a flaky instagram influencer either.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky winners a couple of months ago and won a set of their Magnetic Nano Series Filter Kit. This included a UV filter, CPL, and an ND1000. I was extremely eager to test these out as I love the idea of the magnetic attachment system as opposed to screwing on and off circular filters like I used to to.

The Key Features:

The Magnetic Attachment System

The standout feature of this filter kit is the magnetic attachment system. The filters incorporate a magnetic frame that securely attaches to a thin metal ring, which is easily screwed onto the lens. This magnetic design allows for quick and hassle-free filter swapping without the need for screwing or threading.

This honestly saves you more time than you think. Some cheaply made filters are notorious for getting stuck on the ends of lenses and they can be a nightmare to get off if you accidentally over tighten them. With this system, you never have to worry about that again. The filters just pop on and off with a smooth and satisfying magnetic click.

Another great feature is that the magnets are strong enough to securely attach not just one filter but all of the filters in the set! So that means you get the same stacking ability as you will with the square filters but with the ease of use of the magnetic attachment.

High-Quality Optics

The K&F Magnetic Nano Series filters are made using high-end optical glass with multiple layers of anti-reflective coatings. This basically means that you are not going to get and weird artifacts, colour casts, ghosting or glare in your shots. The filters deliver exceptional optical performance, maintaining image sharpness and detail.

This is something that really surprised me even with the square filters. For the price point that these filters sell for, you’d expect a little bit some distortion or colour cast being that most ND1000 filters of this quality see for a lot more money. Yet, in my tests, I have not noticed any issues. In fact, I have been seriously impressed with the level of detail in the images that I too with these filters.

Build Quality

The build quality of the K&F Magnetic Nano Series Filter Kit is amazing to say the least! The aluminum alloy filter frames feel sturdy and durable, providing ample protection for the glass. Nothing in this kit feels cheap or poorly made.

The metal rings that attach to the lens are slim and attach to the lens well. Even with all of the filters attached they don’t cause any interference or hindering the use of lens caps or lens hoods on my canon EOS R.

The magnetic connection is secure and reliable, ensuring the filters remain firmly in place during use. This was something that I was wondering about when I first got them. I didn’t think that you could securely stack the filters to get the benefits of the UV protection, the CPL and the ND1000. Yet, in all trials recently, the filters attached securely and no light leaks were detected.

The filters are also lightweight, making them easy to carry and handle in the field. Not to mention that a lot of thought went into the design of the pouch. I have mine clipped to the strap on my backpack. This adds so much to the ease of use for this system. I don’t have to go digging around for anything.

You can even clip them to your belt as another option too. This little pouch is something that I actually wish that my larger square filters came with as I was forced to use a cloth pouch that I picked up from Daiso to hold everything.


The magnetic attachment system gives you hassle-free filter swapping and eliminates the need for time-consuming movements like digging through your bag or trying to juggle cases and pouches when putting them on or taking them off your lens. This makes the kit ideal for fast-paced shooting situations or when working in challenging weather or lighting conditions.

The magnetic frame is designed to minimize vignetting, ensuring compatibility with wide-angle lenses. I normally shoot with my 24-105mm lens and have yet to see any vignetting. The filters are clearly labeled, and their thin profiles facilitate stacking multiple filters without significant vignetting issues.

The included filter case, as I mentioned before, provides secure storage and easy organization for the filters during transport. Not to mention that it is particularly low-profile meaning that the whole kit and case won’t take up too much space in your camera bag.

The bottomline here is that the K&F Magnetic Nano Series Filter Kit offers excellent value for photographers seeking a versatile and reliable filter system. There is absolutely no reason to shell out big bucks for over-priced filters when you can get it all done with these filters for a fraction of the cost.

With their magnetic attachment system, high-quality optics, nano-coating technology, and wide range of included filters, this kit caters to your various photography needs. I can’t say enough good things about this system. I have rarely been this impressed with a piece of equipment before but I am honestly telling you that these are great filters.

The post K&F Magnetic Nano Filter Kit appeared first on The Sajin.

Jason Teale 

Photographer, educator, podcaster

Podcast    Website    Instagram

Photographing Korea and the world beyond!



2023 Cherry Blossoms

It’s been several months since I have made a post here and even a podcast for some reason. However, I seem to have got some more energy recently and have decided to make an effort to put out some more content. Hopefully, I can keep it going for a while.

As I look out my back window here in Ulsan, South Korea, I can see that the blossoms are long long…. way gone and have been replaced by flowers of all sorts here. This truly is a beautiful time of year to be in Korea. The weather is nice and the recent rain has washed away most of the fine dust that was building up around the city.

However, I still think about the weekend I managed to get out and enjoy the Jakcheon Cherry Blossom festival. I was camping in the area and walking over to enjoy the cherry blossoms at night. It was a great time and one of the few places that I actually ventured out to capture. It’s been a while since I have gotten out like that.

With the pandemic seemingly over and mask restriction all but gone here in Korea, the festivals are finally back. That also means that there are tons of people everywhere. What this means for the average person is that parking is at a premium and crowds are common at even the most basic of attractions.

Seosaengpo Waeseong Fortress

That being said, I still enjoy this time of year and I really love the cherry blossoms around the country. One of the places that I enjoyed visiting was the the Seongsaengpo Waeseong Fortress. This is a Japanese fortress that overlooks Jinha Beach and the surrounding area.

Only fortress walls remain but it is an interesting look into the history of the area. The historical site comes alive during the spring when the blossoms bloom highlighting the stone walls that just out from the mountain above the village.

While this historical site is a good place to visit year round, spring is arguably the best time to visit. However, now that the blossoms are pretty much gone, do not feel disappointed. It still offers some great views and probably a decent spot for some sunrise photography from a unique vantage point.

JakJeong Cherry Blossom walk

With the covid restrictions lifted, the Cherry Blossom walk and the respective festival was a huge success. There were tons of people this year.

Much like last year, I camped out at a nearby campground and walked over during the evening. I just missed the fireworks show but they were not the star of the show, the blossoms were.

This was a great time. I met a few people and actually ended up teaching a couple of ajummas some basic photography tips. It was a great evening and I was very happy with the shots that I got from that night.

The bottomline is that this year was a busy one but I am just glad that I got out and could enjoy the cherry blossoms. I hope that you enjoy these shots and I really hope that you all got out as well.

The post 2023 Cherry Blossoms appeared first on The Sajin.

Okcheonsa Temple – 옥천사 (Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The Jabang-ru Pavilion at Okcheonsa Temple in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Temple History

Okcheonsa Temple, which means “Jade Springs Temple” in English, is located in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do. Okcheonsa Temple dates back to 676 A.D., when it was first established by Uisang-daesa (625-702 A.D.). Okcheonsa Temple was one of the Hwaeom-shipchal (The Ten Great Hwaeom Temples) alongside such temples as Buseoksa Temple, Haeinsa Temple, Hwaeomsa Temple, Gapsa Temple, Beomeosa Temple, Bulguksa Temple, and Bongjeongsa Temple. For these efforts, Uisang-daesa is also known as the “Temple Builder.”

Rather interestingly, and according to Choi Chiwon (857–10th century), nearby Ssanggyesa Temple was originally named Okcheonsa Temple, when it was first founded in 722 A.D. But because Okcheonsa Temple in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do predated the founding of the former temple by some 50 years, Jingam-seonsa (774-850 A.D.) decided to change the name of the temple to Ssanggyesa Temple.

Okcheonsa Temple went through several phases of restoration and expansion following its original construction. Jingyeong-guksa of Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.) and Jingak-guksa of Goryeo (918-1392) both resided here in order to study Buddhism. And during the Imjin War (1592-98), the temple served as a defensive temple. The temple managed parts of the Righteous Army. The temple was completely destroyed in 1592.

In the 18th century, Okcheonsa Temple was rebuilt. At this time, it was greatly expanded. Not only was the temple rebuilt for religious reasons, but it was also rebuilt for defensive reasons, as well. As a result, the state provided funds for the restoration of the temple. Perhaps the greatest indication that the temple was partially used for militaristic reasons is that from 1733 to 1842 some 340 conscripted soldiers lived at Okcheonsa Temple.

In the 20th century, Okcheonsa Temple was the first home to the great monk Cheongdam. In fact, and on the September 27th of each year according to the lunar calendar, both Uisang-daesa and Cheongdam are celebrated. Okcheonsa Temple also has three additional hermitages on the temple grounds. They are Baegnyeonam Hermitage, Cheongnyeonam Hermitage, and Yeondaeam Hermitage.

In total, Okcheonsa Temple is home to three Korean Treasures. They are the Bronze Banja Gong with Inscription of Imja at Okcheonsa Temple, which is Korean Treasure #495; the Buddhist Paintings of Okcheonsa Temple, Goseong (Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and Ten Underworld Kings), which is Korean Treasure #1693; and the Hanging Scroll Drawing of Shakyamuni Preaching the Lotus Sutra at Vulture Peak, which is Korean Treasure #2110.

Temple Layout

You’ll first approach Okcheonsa Temple up a winding road. When you arrive at the temple parking lot, you’ll notice a stele to your immediate left, as well as a hidden Jong-ru Pavilion (Bell Pavilion). The Jong-ru Pavilion is home to the four traditional Buddhist percussion instruments. However, the most imposing structure to greet you at Okcheonsa Temple is the Jabang-ru Pavilion. It’s situated in front of the main temple courtyard like a walled-off fortress. This structure hearkens back to the temple’s military history just after the Imjin War and the funding behind it’s rebuild in the early 17th century. The hall was once used as a military meeting place, as well as a barrier to protect the inner sanctum of the temple grounds. The Jabang-ru Pavilion is extremely long in length, and it’s adorned with numerous scenic murals.

Climbing the stairs to the left of the Jabang-ru Pavilion, you’ll enter into the compact temple courtyard. Because of the compact temple courtyard, the buildings at Okcheonsa Temple almost appear to be touching each other in this part of the temple grounds. To your immediate left and right, you’ll find the administrative office and monk facilities at Okcheonsa Temple. Straight ahead of you, on the other hand, is the Daeung-jeon Hall. The original Daeung-jeon Hall was destroyed during the Imjin War; however, the main hall was restored in 1657, and it’s been repaired several times since. The exterior walls to the Daeung-jeon Hall are largely unadorned. Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find a triad of statues resting on the main altar. The central image is dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), while the accompanying statues are dedicated to Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). To the left of the main altar is the Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural). The entire interior is filled with beautiful older murals adorning the Daeung-jeon Hall’s walls. These murals include various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, floral, as well as, scenic murals.

To the immediate right of the Daeung-jeon Hall is the Palsang-jeon Hall. Resting on the main altar is a statue dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul. This main altar statue is then joined on either side by sixteen statues dedicated to the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). And these sixteen statues are then joined by replicas of historic Palsang-do (The Eight Scenes from the Buddha’s Life).

To the left of the Daeung-jeon Hall, on the other hand, is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. The Myeongbu-jeon Hall at Okcheonsa Temple is rather cavernous. The present Myeongbu-jeon Hall dates back to 1895. Much like the Daeung-jeon Hall, the Myeongbu-jeon Hall’s exterior is largely unadorned. It isn’t until you step inside the shrine hall that you see all the beauty that the Myeongbu-jeon Hall has in store for you. Like stepping inside a wooden cave, you’re first greeted by a pair of Vajra Warriors. A little further in, and you’ll notice the Siwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld), who are joined by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the main altar. All of these statues look older in appearance. The Siwang, much like the Palsang-jeon Hall, are backed by copies of the original murals.

Directly to the rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall, on the other hand, is the Nahan-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to the Nahan-jeon Hall are adorned with various murals depicting Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, while at the base of the entry doors are a pair of taegeuk. Stepping inside the Nahan-jeon Hall, you’ll find sixteen larger sized images dedicated to the Nahan, as well as a glass enclosure on the main altar. Inside this glass enclosure are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. And joining this central image are two statues: one dedicated to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) and the other to Seokdeung-bul (The Past Buddha). And surrounding all of these statues are some amazing dancheong colours and wooden dragon statues up in the ceiling of the structure.

To the immediate right of the Nahan-jeon Hall is the tiny pavilion that houses the jade spring for which the temple gets its name. There is a low entry way that welcomes you to the pavilion. And mounted above the flowing spring water is a mural with three images. The central image is the Jade Emperor, while the image to the left is that of Yongwang (The Dragon King). While previously faded, it appears as though this mural has undergone a recent touch-up (like most of the temple shrine halls).

To the left of the Nahan-jeon Hall, there are a row of four smaller sized shrines and shrine halls. The first of the four is the smaller sized shrine, the Sanryeong-gak Hall, which houses a modern image of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). The somber-looking image of Sanshin is joined by a ferocious tiger. This image of was formerly housed inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, while the present shaman shrine hall was being renovated.

To the left of the Sanryeong-gak Hall is the Dokseong-gak Hall. Much like the Sanryeong-gak Hall, the Dokseong-gak Hall is a tiny shrine that houses an emaciated image of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). And again, much like the image of Sanshin, the mural dedicated to Dokseong was formerly housed inside the Dokseong-gak Hall, while the shaman shrine hall was under renovation.

To the left rear of the Dokseong-gak Hall is the Josa-jeon Hall. Inside this larger hall are murals dedicated to prominent monks that once called Okcheonsa Temple home. And on the main altar hangs a mural, rather unsurprisingly, dedicated to Uisang-daesa. And the final temple shrine hall that visitors can explore at Okcheonsa Temple is located to the front left of the Josa-jeon Hall. This shrine hall is the Chilseong-gak Hall. This shaman shrine hall is similar in size to that of the neighbouring Josa-jeon Hall, and it houses a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

How To Get There

While Okcheonsa Temple is a bit complicated to get to, it’s well worth the effort. First, you’ll have to catch a bus to Jinju. From the Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to board a bus bound for Okcheonsa Temple. The name of this bus is the “Goseong-haeng – 고성행.” This bus first leaves at 5:40 a.m., and it runs throughout the day at 15 minute intervals. In total, the bus trip will take you about an hour and twenty minutes, and it’ll cost you over 7,000 won. You’ll then need to get off at the “Geumgok – 금곡” stop. From this stop, you’ll then have to take a taxi the remainder of the way. You can either ride the taxi all the way, or you can get off at the Okcheonsa Temple entrance and walk the remaining 30 minutes to the temple courtyard.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

There’s a lot to see and appreciate at Okcheonsa Temple from beginning to end starting with the militaristic Jabang-ru Pavilion at the entry of the temple grounds. Continuing on, the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall, the Nahan-jeon Hall, and the Myeongbu-jeon Hall are all beautifully executed with their dynamic dancheong colours and dragon statues up in the ceiling of the shrine halls. Additionally, the jade spring and accompanying mural dedicated to the Jade Emperor and Yongwang, as well as the the numerous shrines dedicated to various shaman deities like Sanshin, Dokseong, and Chilseong are something to keep an eye out for, as well, at Okcheonsa Temple.

The Jabang-ru Pavilion at the entry to the temple grounds.
A side look across the Jabang-ru Pavilion.
The Jong-ru Pavilion (Bell Pavilion).
A look inside the Jabang-ru Pavilion.
The main temple courtyard at Okcheonsa Temple with the Daeung-jeon Hall to the left.
The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
A look inside the Palsang-jeon Hall.
The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
The Nahan-jeon Hall to the rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall.
Four of the Nahan (Historical Disciples of the Buddha) inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.
And one of the decorative dragons up in the ceiling of the Nahan-jeon Hall.
The pavilion that houses the jade spring from which the temple gets its name.
The spring and painting hanging above it dedicated to both Yongwang (The Dragon King) and the Jade Emperor.
The mural of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) housed inside the Sanryeong-gak Hall.
And the mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) housed inside the Dokseong-gak Hall.
The central mural inside the Josa-jeon Hall dedicated to Uisang-daesa.

“Each” is NOT “Every” 마다 vs 모든 | Korean FAQ

The words 모든 and 마다 can both translate as "EVERY" depending on the sentence, but these words are completely unrelated and used in different ways. I'll explain how "Each" and "Every" have different uses in Korean, as well as how to use 마다 and how to use 모든.

The post “Each” is NOT “Every” 마다 vs 모든 | Korean FAQ appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

Colonial Korea – Beomeosa Temple

Beomeosa Temple in Geumjeong-gu, Busan in 1927. (Picture Courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).

Temple History

Beomeosa Temple is located on the northeast side of Mt. Geumjeongsan (801.5 m) in Geumjeong-gu, Busan. Beomeosa Temple means “Nirvana Fish Temple” in English. Beomeosa Temple was first established in 678 A.D. by the famed monk, and temple builder, Uisang-daesa (625-702 A.D.). The temple was first established as one of the ten major temples of the Hwaeom School. These ten are known as Ten Monasteries of Hwaeom, or the Hwaeom Sipchal in Korean. The name of the temple is related to the location of Beomeosa Temple. Beomeosa Temple is located in the foothills of Mt. Geumjeongsan, which means “Golden Well Mountain” in English. The name of the mountain comes from a myth that states that a golden fish descended down from the heavens on a five-coloured cloud and played in a well on top of Mt. Geumjeongsan. It’s believed that this golden well never dries up.

Originally, the temple was built on 360 gyeol (an ancient measurement of land), which would be equal to 12,240 square metres. Tragically, and like so many other temples on the Korean Peninsula, Beomeosa Temple was largely destroyed by fire during the Imjin War (1592-1598). It wasn’t until 1613, and through the efforts of two monks, monk Myojeon and Haemin, that the temple was rebuilt. And the oldest structures at the temple, like the Daeung-jeon Hall and the Jogyemun Gate, date back to this time period.

The famous monk Gyeongheo-seonsa (1849-1912) opened a Seon centre at Beomeosa Temple in 1900. Inspired by Gyeongheo-seonsa, the abbot of Beomeosa Temple at this time, Seongwol, taught the Seon tradition by establishing Seon assemblies at the six Beomeosa Temple hermitages. This was started in 1899 at Geumgangam Hermitage, then at Anyangam Hermitage in 1900, followed by Gyemyeongam Hermitage in 1902 and Wonhyoam Hermitage in 1906. These assemblies were completed at Daeseongam Hermitage in 1910.

More recently, and in 2012, Beomeosa Temple was designated a Geumjeong Chongnim, which is one of the eight monastic training centres for the Jogye-jong Order of Korean Buddhism. Currently, Beomeosa Temple is one of the sixth largest temples in Korea. In total, Beomeosa Temple is home to four Korean Treasures and one Natural Monument.

Colonial Era Photography

It should be noted that one of the reasons that the Japanese took so many pictures of Korean Buddhist temples during Japanese Colonial Rule (1910-1945) was to provide images for tourist photos and illustrations in guidebooks, postcards, and photo albums for Japanese consumption. They would then juxtapose these images of “old Korea” with “now” images of Korea. The former category identified the old Korea with old customs and traditions through grainy black-and-white photos.

These “old Korea” images were then contrasted with “new” Korea images featuring recently constructed modern colonial structures built by the Japanese. This was especially true for archaeological or temple work that contrasted the dilapidated former structures with the recently renovated or rebuilt Japanese efforts on the old Korean structures contrasting Japan’s efforts with the way that Korea had long neglected their most treasured of structures and/or sites.

This visual methodology was a tried and true method of contrasting the old (bad) with the new (good). All of this was done to show the success of Japan’s “civilizing mission” on the rest of the world and especially on the Korean Peninsula. Furthering this visual propaganda was supplemental material that explained the inseparable nature found between Koreans and the Japanese from the beginning of time. 

To further reinforce this point, the archaeological “rediscovery” of Japan’s antiquity in the form of excavated sites of beautifully restored Silla temples and tombs found in Japanese photography was the most tangible evidence for the supposed common ancestry both racially and culturally. As such, the colonial travel industry played a large part in promoting this “nostalgic” image of Korea as a lost and poor country, whose shared cultural and ethnic past was being restored to prominence once more through the superior Japanese and their “enlightened” government. And Beomeosa Temple played a large part in the the propagation of this propaganda, especially since it played such a prominent role in Korean Buddhist history and culture. Here are a collection of Colonial era pictures of Beomeosa Temple through the years.

Pictures of Colonial Era Beomeosa Temple


The Boje-ru Pavilion at Beomeosa Temple. (All pictures courtesy of the National Museum of Korea).
The eaves of the Boje-ru Pavilion.
A ceremonial bronze bell from inside the Boje-ru Pavilion.
The Biro-jeon Hall.
The eaves of the Biro-jeon Hall.
The Gwaneum-jeon Hall at Beomeosa Temple.
The eaves of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.
The Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
The eaves of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
The Three-Story Stone Pagoda of Beomeosa Temple.

Pictures of Colonial Era Beomeosa Temple


The Three-Story Stone Pagoda of Beomeosa Temple.
The seokdeung (stone lantern) at Beomeosa Temple.

Pictures of Colonial Era Beomeosa Temple

Specific Dates Unknown (1909-1945)

The Beomeosa Temple grounds.
The Three-Story Stone Pagoda of Beomeosa Temple.
The seokdeung (stone lantern) at Beomeosa Temple.


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