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Heungnyunsa Temple – 흥륜사 (Gyeongju)

The View From the Old Temple Site Towards the New Temple Site at Heungnyunsa Temple in Gyeongju.

Temple History

Heungnyunsa Temple was first established by the Goguryeo missionary monk Ado-hwasang. Ado-hwasang came to the Silla Kingdom from the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.) to help spread the teachings of Buddhism. Heungnyunsa Temple was originally built as a poor thatched-roof building. Heungnyunsa Temple was later rebuilt as a great temple of the Silla Kingdom after the martyrdom of the monk Ichadon (501-527 A.D.).

Heungnyunsa Temple, which is also known as Heungnyunsa-ji Temple Site, was the first temple to be officially state-sponsored by the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. to 935 A.D.) in February, 544 A.D. The temple was expanded and rebuilt from its humble beginnings into a royal temple. So Heungnyunsa Temple served as one of the temples that acted as a protector of both the state and the royal family: a symbol of patriotism, national prosperity, and peace.

During the reign of Queen Seondeok (r. 632-647), and according to the Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia from the Three Kingdoms), an Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) triad and ten Silla saint images made from clay were enshrined in the Golden Hall (main hall) at Heungnyunsa Temple by Kim Yang-do, who was the prime minister during Queen Seondeok’s reign. However, during the decline of the Silla Kingdom, Heungnyunsa Temple was burned to the ground during an uprising. Heungnyunsa Temple was later rebuilt in 921 A.D. The temple was then destroyed, once more, during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It would remain closed until the 1980’s, when it was reopened in its present form.

With all that being said, there seems to be some dispute as to whether the present location of Heungnyunsa Temple is in fact located on the former temple site of Heungnyunsa-ji Temple Site. The temple site was first accidentally discovered in 1910 during Japanese Colonial Rule (1910-1945). It was presumed at this time to be the Heungnyunsa-ji Temple Site. It was also around this time that the Roof-end Tile with Human Face, or “The Smile of Silla” was discovered at this temple site. It was on this piece of tile that “Yeongmyosa” was written. In 1934, a Japanese doctor named Toshinobu Tanaka bought the “The Smile of Silla” tile from an antique shop in Gyeongju. The Japanese doctor would then bring this historic tile to Japan. But then, in October, 1972, “The Smile of Silla” was donated by Toshinobu Tanaka, through the efforts of the director of the Gyeongju National Museum.

It should also be noted that Yeongmyosa Temple was also a temple established in Gyeongju during the reign of Queen Seondeok (r. 632-647). Some historians have postulated that where Heungnyunsa Temple is presently located is in fact the former site for Yeongmyosa Temple. And where the Gyeongju Technical High School is located, which was also a large former temple site, is actually the Heungnyunsa-ji Temple Site. Further excavation work was completed in June, 1972 and 1977.

Heungnyunsa-ji Temple Site is Historic Site #15. As was previously mentioned, “The Smile of Silla” is now housed at the Gyeongju National Museum, and as of 2018, the roof tile was designated Korean Treasure #2010.

“The Smile of Silla” tile now housed at the Gyeongju National Museum (Picture courtesy of

Temple Myth

There are several stories about Heungnyunsa Temple in the Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms). One story is related to the prime minister, Kim Daeseong (700-774 A.D.). Kim Daeseong, it should be remembered, was the person that founded both Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Hermitage to honour his parents both in his current and past life. As for the story from the Samguk Yusa relating to Heungnyunsa Temple and Kim Daeseong, here is the passage from the Samguk Yusa:

“In the small village of Moryang-ri on the western outskirts of Gyeongju there lived a poor woman named Gyeongcho who had an odd-looking son. The child was the laughing-stock of the village because of his big head and flat forehead like a wall. The people called him Daeseong (Big Wall).

“His mother [Kim Daeseong’s mother] was too poor to feed him, so she gave the lad to a rich neighbour named Bokan as a farm labourer. Daeseong worked so hard that his master liked him very much and gave him a small rice field to feed his mother and himself.

“About that time Cheomgae, a virtuous monk from Heungnyunsa Temple, visited the house of Bokan and asked for a donation for a great ceremony at the temple. Bokan gave him fifty rolls of cotton cloth. The monk bowed in thanks and said, ‘You are loving and giving. The great Buddha is pleased with your donation that he will give you ten thousand times what you have donated, and bless you with long life and happiness.’

“Daeseong overheard this and ran home and told his mother, ‘Now we are poor, and if we do not give something to the temple we will be poorer. Why not give our little rice field for the ceremony so that we may have a great reward in our afterlives?’ His kind-hearted mother readily consented and the rice field was donated to the temple through Cheomgae.

“A few months later Daeseong died. On the night of his death a voice from heaven heard above the house of Kim Munryang (?-771), the prime minister, saying ‘Daeseong, the good boy of Moryang-ri, will be reborn in your family.’

“In great astonishment, the prime minister sent servants to the village, and they found that Daeseong was indeed dead. Wonderful to relate, in the same hour as the heavenly announcement the prime minister’s wife conceived, and in due course gave birth to a boy. The child kept the fingers of his left hand tightly clenched until seven days after his birth, and when at last he opened them, the characters for Daeseong were seen written in gold on his palm. They gave him his old name again and invited his previous mother to care for him.”

Temple Layout

There are two ways to enter Heungnyunsa Temple. There’s the main entry to the north and there’s a southern entry through the back side streets. Passing through the unpainted southern entryway, you’ll emerge on the newer side of the temple grounds. Straight ahead of you is the hexagonal-shaped bell pavilion. This elevated bell pavilion, or “Jong-ru” in Korean, has a beautiful Brahma bell housed inside it with a twisting Poroe atop of the bronze bell. And if you look up near the roof of the interior of the bell pavilion, you’ll notice a Bicheon (Flying Heavenly Deity) sprinkling some magic dust down towards the Brahma Bell.

Behind this Jong-ru is the Daeung-jeon Hall. The exterior walls of the main hall are adorned with several beautiful murals including the Bodhidharma and Dazu Huike (487-593 A.D.) mural, the martyrdom of Ichadon (501-527 A.D.), and a beautiful flowing image of an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find a triad on the main altar centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This statue is joined on either side by images of Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). To the right of the main altar, you’ll find an older mural and statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Also to the right is a large Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural). And to the left of the main altar, you’ll find a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), as well as a long mural dedicated to the martyr, Ichadon.

Behind the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find a collection of stone artifacts from the presumed remains of the historic Heungnyunsa-ji Temple Site. Also, you’ll find a collection of three turtle-based Biseok (stele) to the rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall, as well.

To the right of the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find a collection of buildings. These are the visitors centre and the nuns dorms. It’s also in this area, and up a set of uneven stairs, that you’ll find the former site for Heungnyunsa Temple. This is where the temple is believed to be formerly located. It is now occupied by a trail joined on either side by beautiful azaleas.

One of the more interesting features to Heungnyunsa Temple is the uniquely designed memorial in the courtyard in front of the Daeung-jeon Hall. This memorial looks to be a cross between a pagoda and a stupa. There are four separate lions guarding each of the cardinal directions at the base of the pagoda. There are also Bicheon (Flying Heavenly Deities) adorning the base of the pagoda. As for the body of the memorial, there are in fact no stories to this long, slender, black body. Instead, there are Hanja characters written around five of its six hexagonal sides. And on the front side, you see more Hanja characters joined by a relief of the beheading of Ichadon.

How To Get There

To get to Heungnyunsa Temple from the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll first need to head towards the Daereungwon Royal Tombs and Beopjansa Temple. Before you make it to either one of these sites, you’ll notice Highway 35 to your right. Turn right down this highway/road for about a kilometre. You’ll then see a sign with “Heungryunsa – 흥륜사” on it. This sign is elevated and brown. Head down the road where this sign is located. Walk for about three hundred metres down a side street between country houses and past a ride paddy. To your left you’ll see another sign that reads “Heungnyunsa – 흥륜사” on it. The southern entry to Heungnyunsa Temple is to your right.

Overall Rating: 5/10

While certainly not as spectacular as some of the other major temples in Gyeongju, both Heungnyunsa Temple and the Heungnyunsa-ji Temple Site have a certain charm all their own. Just the history alone of this temple should be enough to draw you in; but when you add the beautiful artwork surrounding the Daeung-jeon Hall, the painting dedicated to Ichadon inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, the beautiful bell pavilion, and the memorial dedicated to Ichadon in the front courtyard, you should definitely make the time for Heungnyunsa Temple. This temple is perfect for those that want to explore a lesser known attraction in Gyeongju.

The walled-off compound of Heungnyunsa Temple.
The back entry gate to the Gyeongju temple.
The Jong-ru (Bell Pavilion) at Heungnyunsa Temple with a newly constructed outdoor shrine dedicated to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) to the right rear.
The Daeung-jeon Hall that stands next to the Jong-ru.
One of the murals that adorns the Daeung-jeon Hall. This mural is dedicated to the Bodhidharma and Dazu Huike.
Another of the murals that adorns the Daeung-jeon Hall. This one is dedicated to the martyrdom of the monk Ichadon.
Inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
And a mural dedicated to Ichadon inside the Daeung-jeon Hall to the left of the main altar.
The top portion of the memorial dedicated to Icadhon.
And the body of the memorial with the stone relief dedicated to the sacrifice of Ichadon.
The pathway leading through the Heungnyunsa-ji Temple Site.

Seasons & Weather in Korean – Know this for your next trip

In this article, we will be learning about how to say seasons in Korean. Possibly you’ve already checked our lesson for months in Korean, but we’ll also identify and describe what season takes place in those months.

If you’re in the search for things related to the Korean seasons and weather, this lesson is perfect for you. This may come in handy if you plan to visit the Land of the morning calm during a certain season. By the end of the lesson, you may very well be able to describe the seasons and even mark your calendar for these seasons in Korean!

Seasons in Korean

Seasons in Korean

Countries in the world have different types of seasons depending on their location. This is determined by certain temperatures, weather conditions, and most importantly, the Earth’s position in relation to the sun. But for this lesson, we’ll focus more on how to say words related to season in Korean!

How to say “seasons” in Korean?

There are different seasons in Korea but the Korean word for “season” is 계절 (gyejeol).

How many seasons are there in Korea?

Korea has four distinctive seasons, namely spring, summer, autumn, and winter. There are also many countries all over the world with four seasons like the United States and Japan.

What are the four seasons in Korean?

Now we know that there are four seasons in Korea. Let us now learn how to say and describe each of them in the Korean language. In addition, it is advantageous to know each season in the Korean language to explain your home country’s climate and different seasons (or lack of) to a Korean friend.

Spring in Korean

The word for spring in Korean is 봄 (bom). In Korea, it is a fairly short season, but a beautiful one when all the flowers, like the various tree blossoms, bloom.

Summer in Korean

여름 (yeoreum) is the term for summer in Korean. It’s hot and humid, with a monsoon season squeezed in, season in Korea. In the summertime, the perfect place for a quick summer getaway is the beach. Beach in Korean is called 해변 (haebyeon). While the sea or ocean in Korean is 바다 (bada).

Autumn in Korean

Another short but beautiful season in Korea is autumn, or 가을 (gaeul) in Korean. You would also use 가을 (gaeul) to say fall in Korean. It’s the time of year the mountainous country is filled with beautifully colored leaves.

Winter in Korean

The last (and first) season in the year, winter in Korean is called 겨울 (gyeoul). Lasting for around three months, temperatures drop in Korea in the wintertime. Snow in Korean, which is the first thing to come to mind when talking about winter is 눈 (nun). In many parts of Korea, it can be quite snowy during winter!

When do these seasons occur each year?

This question is often asked especially when people have travel plans to Korea. If you are visiting in a certain month and you need to know what season it will be, read on!

What months is spring in Korea?

Spring in Korea normally happens between April and June. It’s said to be the best time to visit because it’s when the temperature is just right and all the flowers bloom.

What months is summer in Korea?

The summer season is usually just from July to August. It’s short but it can get really hot and humid.

What months is autumn in Korea?

Autumn is another great time to travel to Korea which is between September to November. Chuseok or the Korean Thanksgiving is also celebrated during this season.

What months is winter in Korea?

If you plan to visit Korea to enjoy a variety of winter festivals, it’s best to go between December to March. Make sure to mark your calendar for this!

Weather in Korean

Great, now you know how to say the four seasons in Korean! So, let’s move on to the list below and learn some weather vocabulary in the Korean language with its English counterpart. With this vocabulary, it will also be possible to describe and understand daily forecasts.

Girl with Umbrella and Dog

climate기후 (gihu)
weather날씨 (nalssi)
forecast 예보 (yebo)
temperature 온도 (ondo)
below zero 영하 (yeongha)
비 (bi)
to rain 비가 오다 (biga oda)
rainy day 비오는 날 (bioneun nal)
폭우 (pogu)
cloud 구름 (gureum)
cloudy, overcast
흐리다 (heurida)
rain shower
소나기 (sonagi)
sunrise 동틀녘, 일출 (dongteullyeok, ilchul)
sunset 노을, 일몰, 석양, 해질녘 (noeul, ilmol, seongnyang, haejillyeok)
dry, arid
건조 (geonjo)
가뭄 (gamum)
습하다 (seupada)
춥다, 차갑다 (chupda, chagapda)
hot덥다 (deopda)
쌀쌀하다 (ssalssalhada)
heat 더위 (deowi)
폭염 (pongnyeom)
wind 바람 (baram)
windy day 바람 부는 날 (baram buneun nal)
fog, mist 안개 (angae)
foggy 안개가 끼다 (angaega kkida)
light breeze 남실바람, 경풍 (namsilbaram, gyeongpung)
천둥 (cheondung)
lightning 번개 (beongae)
thunderstorm 뇌우 (noeu)
snow 눈 (nun)
snowy day 눈 오는 날 (nun oneun nal)
snowstorm, blizzard 눈보라 (nunbora)
강설, 강설량 (gangseol, gangseollyang)
tropical 열대의 (yeoldaeui)
temperate, mild
온화하다 (onhwahada)
drizzle 보슬보슬 내리다 (boseulboseul naerida)
warm 따뜻하다, 포근하다 (ttatteuthada, pogeunhada)
hail 우박 (ubak)
storm 폭풍 (pokpung)
cold front 한랭 전선 (hallaeng jeonseon)
warm front 온난 전선 (onnan jeonseon)
ice storm 얼음 폭풍 (eoreum pokpung)
gust 돌풍 (dolpung)
whirlwind 돌개바람 (dolgaebaram)
air pressure 기압 (giap)
서리 (seori)
smog 연무 (yeonmu)
low pressure 저압 (jeoap)
wind chill
풍속 냉각 (pungsok naenggak)
진눈깨비 (jinnunkkaebi)
monsoon 장마 (jangma)
sunny 맑다 (malda)

Note: Minus temperatures (below zero temperatures) are said like this:

영하 7도 (yeongha 7do)

-7 degrees

Weather in Korean

To start, the term for weather in Korean is 날씨 (nalssi). In a simple definition, it is the state of the atmosphere often describing whether it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy. Or it could be sunny, cloudy, windy, rainy, and stormy.

Hot in Korean

There are different terms for “hot” in Korean. In this topic, the term that we will use is 덥다 (deobda). This describes the hot environment or weather.

Cool in Korean

There are different terms and meanings for “cool”, but in this lesson, we’ll focus on it as an adjective describing the weather. The term for cool in Korean in this context is 시원해요 (shiwonhaeyo). However, if you want to know the other terms for “cool”, we have another article for how to say cool in Korean.

Dry in Korean

Dry in Korean is 건조 (geonjo). This is used to describe a period where the amount of rainfall is low. This is more common in tropical countries where there are only dry and wet seasons.

Humid in Korean

Humid in Korean is 습하다 (seupada). People often experience this temperature in the summertime.

Rain in Korean

The term for rain in Korean is 비 (bi), while the lighter version of rain, which is a shower in Korean is called 소나기 (sonagi). Also, umbrella in Korean is 우산 (usan). These go hand in hand so make sure you have your umbrella with you when it rains!

Wind in Korean

Don’t you just love it when there’s a cool breeze brought by the wind? The term for wind in Korean is 바람 (baram), while the air in Korean which is often associated with it is 공기 (gonggi).

Thunder in Korean

Thunder in Korean is 천둥 (cheondung). It’s something we can expect during thunderstorms and it often appears with lightning. Lightning in Korean is lightning 번개 (beongae).

Warm in Korean

This defines a temperature that contains heat but is not enough to be called hot. There are two terms for warm in Korean which are 따뜻하다, 포근하다 (ttatteuthada, pogeunhada). On the other hand, the temperature in Korean is called 온도 (ondo).

Blizzard in Korean

Blizzard in Korean is 눈보라 (nunbora). This is defined to be a very strong snowstorm.

Nature words in Korean

Here is some nature vocabulary in the Korean language to get you started on describing what the nature around you looks like.

Rural scene with natural tree.Vector illustration.Beautiful summer nature landscape.Forest with mountain and sky background.Garden green grass with bushes and trees.Trees and flower set flat style

air 공기 (gonggi)
arctic 북극의 (bukgeugui)
beach 해변 (haebyeon)
canyon 협곡 (hyeopgok)
cave 동굴 (donggul)
cliff 절벽 (jeolbyeok)
coast, shore 해안 (haean)
desert 사막 (samak)
field 들판 (deulpan)
forest 숲 (sup)
glacier 빙하 (bingha)
ice 얼음 (eoreum)
island 섬 (seom)
lake 호수 (hosu)
mountain 산 (san)
nature 자연 (jayeon)
ocean, sea 바다 (bada)
rainbow 무지개 (mujigae)
rainforest 우림 (urim)
river 강 (gang)
savanna 사바나 (sabana)
valley 계곡 (gyegok)
volcano 화산 (hwasan)
waterfall 폭포 (pokpo)
wildlife 야생 동물 (yasaeng dongmul)

Natural disaster words in Korean

One last set of vocabulary we’ll be teaching you today is the vocabulary for natural disasters in the Korean language. These may also be useful and even interesting to learn.

Natural disaster 자연 재해, 천재 (jayeon jaehae, cheonjae)
Earthquake 지진 (jijin)
Volcano eruption 화산 폭발 (hwasan pokbal)
Landslide, Avalanche 산사태 (sansatae)
Famine 기근 (gigeun)
Drought 가뭄 (gamum)
Hurricane 허리케인 (heorikein)
Tornado 회오리바람, 토네이도 (hoeoribaram, toneido)
Cyclone 사이클론 (saikeullon)
Typhoon 태풍 (taepung)
Flood 홍수 (hongsu)
Tsunami 쓰나미 (sseunami)
Extreme temperature 극한 기온 (geukan gion)
Wildfire 산불 (sanbul)

Additional related vocabulary to learn

Here are more words that will be crucial for you to learn in Korean:

Fire in Korean

There are two words for fire in Korean language, depending on how you are to use it.

The more common term for fire in Korean is 불 (bul). Specifically, this word means flame or the object of fire. This is the term you may use for the flame you see when cooking, for example. It’s also used to describe foods that are so hot they make your mouth feel like it’s on fire, like 불닭 (buldal), aka “fire chicken”. It’s also popular to call a Friday night out, playing with friends, a 불금 (bulgeum), so a “fire Friday”.

The other term for fire in Korean is 화재 (hwajae). When you see a house or a building or the equivalent on fire, this is the word to use. Specifically, it describes a disaster caused by something catching on fire.

Water in Korean

The term for water in Korean is 물 (mul). Many related words exist, but for water itself, this is the word you’ll want to use. We actually have a whole article dedicated to how to say water in Korean – perhaps a great lesson to take up next?

Sun in Korean

We have some vocabulary above for sunset and sunrise, but what’s the word for sun in Korean you may ask. Sun in Korean is called 해 (hae) which is the most common term used.

Sky in Korean

Sky in Korean is 하늘 (haneul). Looking up at the sky is how we often determine how the weather’s going to be like for the day.

Congratulations! You have now successfully reached the end of today’s highly informative lesson. So be sure to take some time to digest what you’ve just learned. But do come back after your break to tell us, using your newly learned vocabulary in the Korean language, something about your country’s climate or seasons!

The post Seasons & Weather in Korean – Know this for your next trip appeared first on 90 Day Korean®.

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"Or" ~(이)나, ~거나, 아니면 | Live Class Abridged

My most recent live stream was about how to say "Or" in Korean.

In order to do this (it's a large topic), we needed to learn about several forms including (이)나, 거나, and 아니면.

We also learned a more efficient way to ask people to make choices using "Or," simply by splitting the question into two sentences.

The post "Or" ~(이)나, ~거나, 아니면 | Live Class Abridged appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

 Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean





Bicheon – Flying Heavenly Deities: 비천

A Magical Bicheon in the Jong-ru (Bell Pavilion) at Heungnyunsa Temple in Central Gyeongju.

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Bicheon Introduction

One of the more common figures you’ll see floating around Korean Buddhist temples and hermitages are Bicheon. These angelic figures can pretty much appear on any and all surfaces at a Korean Buddhist temple like a Brahma Bell, a pagoda, and in and around temple shrine halls. So what do these popular figures represent? And why do they appear at Korean Buddhist temples and hermitages?

A beautiful Bicheon painting at Anyangam Hermitage on the Tongdosa Temple grounds in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

History of Bicheon

These angelic figures first appeared in India. And they are known as Apsaras. In Sanskrit, the word “Apsaras” means “going in the waters” or “between the waters of the clouds.” Apsaras are feminine shape-shifting spirits of the waters or clouds. They were first water nymphs that were born from of the churning of the ocean water. Apsaras can be found in Hindu, Buddhist, and Asian myth. Apsaras are often married to Gandharvas, who are heavenly beings found in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Traditionally, Apsaras are known to seduce both men and gods alike. And they are known to dance in the halls of the gods. Apsaras are thought to be symbols of good fortune, and they are also associated with fertility. Originally, they were created to pleasure heroes and the gods.

There are two kinds of Apsaras. There is the worldly kind known as Laukika; and there are the divine kind, which are known as Daivika. In total, there are ten total Daivika, while there are thirty-four Laukika. It is also believed that if a warrior died that an elephant would use its tusks to throw the warrior up and into the arms of an awaiting Apsara in heaven.

Apsaras first originated in India. They were originally beastly in appearance. However, with the migration of Buddhism eastwards first towards China, the beastly appearance of Apsaras changed into something far more celestial and graceful in nature. And with the migration of Apsaras even further east, and into the Korean peninsula, Apsaras became known as Bicheon (Flying Heavenly Deities).

A Bicheon inside the Daeungbo-jeon Hall at Jikjisa Temple in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.
A Bicheon inside the historic Bogwangmyeong-jeon Hall at Wibongsa Temple in Wanju, Jeollabuk-do.

Bicheon’s Appearance

Bicheon are easy to identify, as they have long streamers. These long streamers are known as “Floating/Whirling Sashes” in English. These streamers flutter about in the air in suspended animation. These streamers also assist the Bicheon. They allow the Bicheon to ride the wind with the streamers that help propel them through the air. The streamers start at the head and create a circular shape around the head of the Bicheon. The streamers that they hold in their hands flow in opposite directions of each other. And there are two types of Bicheon. There is the one that is the performing type that plays musical instruments, and there is a second that is the offering type, who sprinkles flowers or offers fruit.

Purpose of the Bicheon

In Korean Buddhism, Bicheon are celestial creatures that praise the Buddha, while flying around in the air of the Buddha’s heavens. As they fly around in the heavens, they sprinkle flowers, play music, or offer fruit. The specific meaning behind Bicheon, as they pertain to Korean Buddhism, is that Bicheon don’t actually make noise or or fly in the decorative artwork, whether it be in a painting or as a relief. However, if you look closely and long enough, it almost seems as though the Bicheon are actually flying. As a result, the conditioned world of the senses slowly recedes. In its place, and with the senses receding, the true world beyond the perceived world appears.

Bicheon Examples

As you can imagine, there are a countless amount of wonderful examples of Bicheon spread throughout the Korean peninsula at Buddhist temples and hermitages. One great example of a Bicheon can be found at Anyangam Hermitage at Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. This beautiful painted Bicheon adorns the left exterior wall to the main hall. This Bicheon is offering up fruit as it floats through the sky. The Bicheon is joined by a beautiful sunset landscape and seven white cranes. And there is another wonderful example to be found inside the Jong-ru (Bell Pavilion), up in the eaves of the musical structure, at Heungnyunsa Temple in Gyeongju. This supernatural Bicheon is offering up a sprinkle of rainbow dust.

The amazing Bell of King Seongdeok at the Gyeongju National Museum. You can plainly see the beautiful Bicheon relief that adorns the side of the Emile Bell.

The greatest, and most famous, bell relief of a Bicheon can be found around the body of the Bell of King Seongdeok, which is also known as the Emile Bell. The twin Bicheon that appear on the side of this national treasure, which is located at the Gyeongju National Museum, are praying on their knees making an offering to the Buddha. The Bicheon appear in a fluttering plume of streamers and lotus flowers. The Emile Bell dates back to 771 A.D.

Another place that you can find Bicheon are around the main altar canopy inside temple shrine halls, especially Daeung-jeon Halls and Gwaneum-jeon Halls. A great example of these Bicheon floating around the main triad canopy can be found at Sinheungsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. This example is the most direct connection between Bicheon praising Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that you’ll find at a Korean Buddhist temple or hermitage. They are in the direct orbit of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that they are meant to rejoice and celebrate.

A pair of Bicheon above the image of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Aftelife) upon the main altar of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall at Sinheungsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.
A pair of copper Bicheon praising Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) at Cheongryeonam Hermitage in Geumjeong-gu, Busan.

And one more place you can find Bicheon is as statues like at Cheongryeonam Hermitage on the Beomeosa Temple grounds in Geumjeong-gu, Busan. There are a dozen of these copper statues that have oxidized. They lift up their green arms and direct their praise in the direction of the beautifully seated copper image of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This outdoor shrine dedicated to the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife is the most beautiful of its kind in Korea; thanks, in large part, to the amazing Bicheon statues that front this beautiful shrine.


So the next time you’re at a Korean Buddhist temple or hermitage, take a look around for the Bicheon. They are literally everywhere including the interior and/or exterior walls of a temple shrine hall, above the main altar canopy inside a temple shrine hall, Brahma bells, statues, and reliefs. You’ll now know that these angelic figures known as Bicheon are paying homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas by playing their musical instruments or making them offerings.

A Bicheon floating above the entry to Heungbuam Hermitage in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Using 를/을 있어요 is Wrong | Korean FAQ

This is a super common Korean mistake, and I've seen everyone from brand new beginners to high level beginners make this mistake.

Don't use the Object Marker (을/를) with the verb 있다 ("to exist"). Although it's not quite this simple, otherwise so many people wouldn't be making this mistake. There's a reason why this mistake exists in the first place, and it has to do with 있다 being used to mean "to have."

The post Using 를/을 있어요 is Wrong | Korean FAQ appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

Cheonggoksa Temple – 청곡사 (Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The Unique Wooden Seated Indra and Brahma of Cheonggoksa Temple are Korean Treasure #1232 in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do.

This posts contains affiliate links. I receive a percentage of sales, if you purchase the item after clicking on an advertising link at no expense to you. This will help keep the website running. Thanks, as always, for your support!

Temple History

Cheonggoksa Temple is located in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do on the southern slopes of Mt. Wolasan (468.9 m). Cheonggoksa Temple was first built in 879 A.D. by the famed monk Doseon-guksa (826-898 A.D.). Doseon-guksa is perhaps best known for his geomancy methods, or “Pungsu-jiri” in Korean. And the location of Cheonggoksa Temple was chosen according to Pungsu-jiri. After watching a blue crane fly from the banks of the Nam River and land on the present temple location of Cheonggoksa Temple, Doseon-guksa knew that the location had divine energy because of the topography’s numerous auspicious signs. So Doseon-guksa decided to build a temple on the location where the blue crane had landed. In fact, the bridge at the entry to the temple is called “Banghak-gyo,” which reminds visitors about the creation myth surrounding the temple’s name. In English, “Banghak-gyo” means “Visiting Crane Bridge.”

The temple was later reconstructed in 1380 by the monk Silsang-daesa. Like so many other temples on the Korean peninsula during the Imjin War (1592-1598), Cheonggoksa Temple was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese in 1592. Cheonggoksa Temple was later rebuilt in 1612. And Cheonggoksa Temple was later renovated and expanded at the end of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) by the monk Pou-daesa.

In total, Cheonggoksa Temple is home to one National Treasure and three additional Korean Treasures, as well as an incense burner known as the Bronze Incense Burner with Silver Inlay from Cheonggoksa Temple that’s housed at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul. It’s typical in Buddhist ceremonies to have special implements to conduct these ceremonies with. One of the most important is the incense burner. There are a variety of incense burners that are used during Buddhist ceremonies, but the one from Cheonggoksa Temple that’s housed at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul is called a wide-rimmed bowl with a flared base, or a “hyangwan” in Korean. The inscription on the incense burner indicates that it’s from Cheonggoksa Temple. This incense burner was dedicated to Queen Sindeok (1356-1396), who was the second wife of King Taejo of Joseon (r. 1392-1398), who was the first ruler of the Joseon Dynasty. Queen Sindeok died in 1396, with this incense burner being made in 1397 as an offering for her. This incense burner is made from bronze, but the inlaid patterns that adorn it are made from silver. And the patterns that adorn this incense burner are lotus vines and the Chinese character for “Beom,” which is meant to represent inclusiveness of the Buddhist sutras.

The Bronze Incense Burner with Silver Inlay from Cheonggoksa Temple (Picture Courtesy of the National Museum of Korea in Seoul).

Temple Layout

You first approach Cheonggoksa Temple past the temple parking lot to the right. It’s up this wooded trail that you’ll come across a pond to your left. It’s from this vantage point that you get a great view of the temple beautifully framed by the surrounding mountains. A little further up the trail, and you’ll pass under the broad Iljumun Gate.

A little further along, and you’ll come across the temple’s Budowon. In total, there are eight different stupas, or “budo” in Korean, taking up residence inside this Buddhist cemetery. These stupas are joined by a darkened three-story pagoda with Manja around its base. There’s also a stone lantern near the entrance of the Budowon.

Climbing the side-winding stairs, you’ll pass through the uninhabited Cheonwangmun Gate and then under the Hwanhak-ru Pavilion to gain entry to the main temple courtyard at Cheonggoksa Temple. Straight ahead of you is the Daeung-jeon Hall. The Daeung-jeon Hall dates back to 1612, and it’s Gyeongsangnam-do Tangible Cultural Property #51. The exterior walls are adorned with the basic dancheong colours and a fading Manja crowning the roof of the main hall. Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find three large statues taking up residence on the main altar. Seated in the centre is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This statue is joined to the right and left by statues of Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). This triad is believed to date back to around 1615, which is based on a later inscription that was added in 1750. There are no inscriptions identifying the makers of the three statues; however, they do appear similar to the statues found at Gwanryongsa Temple in Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do by the monk sculptor Hyeonjin that were later made in 1629. The middle statue of Seokgamoni-bul stands 170 cm in height, and the triad is Korean Treasure #1688.

To the rear of the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find a smaller mural dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul. But it’s to the left of the main altar that you’ll find the greatest surprise inside the Daeung-jeon Hall. Here you’ll find a pair of statues. The wooden statue to the left is Jaeseok-cheonwang (The Heavenly King Deity, or Indra). And the wooden statue to the right is Daebeom-cheonwang (The Great Dharma Heavenly King, or Brahma). Both Indra and Brahma were originally deities in Hinduism. After the creation of Mahayana Buddhism, both Indra and Brahma were absorbed into Buddhism as guardians. That’s why these two deities have such importance in Buddhist art. According to the Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms), these two deities are painted and not sculpted in Korea. And it was common to find both Indra (Jaeseok-cheonwang) and Brahma (Daebeom-cheonwang) in Buddhist paintings during the Joseon Dynasty. That’s why the statues of both Indra and Brahma are so important at Cheonggoksa Temple. They are the only historic statues of these two deities in all of Korea. The technique of the statues date them to the late Joseon Dynasty. There is also a painting of the two backing the statues. Both Indra and Brahma are the two central figures, and the expressions on their faces are more merciful like a Bodhisattva; unlike the accompanying images of the Four Heavenly Kings (Sacheonwang) in the painting that have more fearful expressions on their faces. The Wooden Seated Indra and Brahma of Cheonggoksa Temple is Korean Treasure #1232.

To the immediate right of the Daeung-jeon Hall stands the uniquely named Eopgyeong-jeon Hall, which is more commonly known as either the Myeongbu-jeon Hall or the Jijang-jeon Hall. The “Eopgyeong” reference refers to a mythical mirror that’s held up to the dead in the afterlife by the Siwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld). In this mirror, all the good and evil actions that were performed by the deceased are reflected back at the spirit when they stand in front of the Eopgyeong-dae (Karma Mirror). Housed inside this newly refurbished shrine hall, which dates back to 1612 and is Gyeongsangnam-do Cultural Material #139, it houses a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the main altar. This central statue is joined inside the Eopgyeong-jeon Hall by the Ten Kings of the Underworld. Together they are Korean Treasure #1689, and they date back to 1657. In total, there are twenty-three historic statues housed inside this temple shrine hall, and they were carved by a team of monk sculptors including Inyeong, Tanjun, Jibyeon, Hakyeom, Seomyeong, Beopyul, Jongtan, and Seonu.

And to the right rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find two additional shrine halls: The Nahan-jeon Hall and the Chilseong-gak Hall. Together they are joined by a historic three-story pagoda to the right. Housed inside the Nahan-jeon Hall, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of white statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. This triad is then joined by sixteen accompanying wooden sculptures of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). And to the left of the Nahan-jeon Hall is the Chilseong-gak Hall that houses older elaborate murals dedicated to each of the Seven Stars (Chilseong).

To the left rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall is a shrine hall that’s separated into three sections similar to the structure found at Beomeosa Temple in Geumjeong-gu, Busan. The first of these divided sections to the right houses a replica of a much older mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). Dokseong has long, curly, white eyebrows and a set of three birds that rest on a red pine tree branch above the Lonely Saint’s head. The shrine to the left is dedicated to prominent monks that once called Cheonggoksa Temple home. In fact, a mural of Doseon-guksa hangs in the centre of the half-a-dozen murals housed inside the Josa-jeon Hall. As for the central section of this peculiar shrine hall, you’ll find a pair of murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). The image to the left is a female Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Both the statue and painting dedicated to the female Sanshin have strong, determined features. And the male Sanshin, who doesn’t have an accompanying statue to the mural, has an almost snickering facial expression like he knows something we don’t.

Also, and something that shouldn’t be overlooked, which is housed inside the temple’s museum, is the Hanging Painting of Cheonggoksa Temple (The Vulture Peak Assembly). This large Gwaebul mural is National Treasure #302. Standing 10.4 metres in height and 6.4 metres wide, the large mural dates back to 1722. The central image in the mural is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who is joined on either side by Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom).

How To Get There

From the Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to board Bus #261 to get to Cheonggoksa Temple. After twenty-seven stops, or thirty-four minutes, you’ll need to get off at the Shingi-maeul stop. From this stop, you’ll need to walk 1.5 kilometres to get to Cheonggoksa Temple.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Cheonggoksa Temple is packed with rarities, which can make for quite the experience for the temple adventurer. From the female Sanshin (Mountain Spirit), to the pair of seated statues of Indra (Jaeseok-cheonwang) and Brahma (Daebeom-cheonwang), and onto the 18th century large Gwaebul that depicts the Vulture Peak Assembly, Cheonggoksa Temple has a long list of beauty and rarities for the temple adventurer to enjoy. While Cheonggoksa Temple is lesser known, it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.

The mountainside entry and Iljumun Gate at Cheonggoksa Temple.
The Budowon with the temple in the background.
The front facade to Cheonggoksa Temple.
The historic Daeung-jeon Hall that dates back to 1612.
The historic triad inside the Daeung-jeon Hall. The triad dates back to 1615, and they’re Korean Treasure #1688.
A closer look at the Wooden Seated Indra and Brahma of Cheonggoksa Temple, which are Korean Treasure #1232.
A look inside the Eopgyeong-jeon Hall at the main altar. The wooden statues of Jijang-bosal and the Siwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld) are Korean Treasure #1689.
The uniquely designed three-in-one shrine hall to the left rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall.
The right section is dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).
The left section is the Josa-jeon Hall, which is dedicated to monks that once called Cheonggoksa Temple home including Doseon-guksa.
And the central section to the three-in-one temple shrine hall is dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Interestingly, there are two Sanshin murals: one female and one male.

Free Korean Typing Game – Hangul Attack (NEW UPDATE 2021)

Back in 2017 I released a free Korean typing game called "Hangul Attack." You can find the original post here. Here's the trailer for the new update.

It's the year 3021 and the Hangul Aliens have invaded the planet. Fortunately for us, they have a weakness - a standard Korean keyboard. Can you save earth from disaster?

How to play:

Type the letters or words as they fall down from the sky. If you miss one, a meteor will drop. You can shoot down meteors using your turret, which you can control using the arrow keys and the space bar. Try to shoot down any meteors before they touch the ground.

You can press Escape at any time to pause the game and practice the keyboard. Remember that some letters also require the Shift key to type.

If you'd like to practice before trying a real round, check out the Tutorial on the main menu.

There are 5 game modes, which can be chosen from the Options menu.

  • Consonants Only: This mode is for practicing only the consonants. The round ends after the timer finishes.
  • Vowels Only: This mode is for practicing only the vowels. The round ends after the timer finishes.
  • All Letters: This mode is for practicing both vowels and consonants. The round ends after the timer finishes.
  • Master Mode: Letters will continue to fall more frequently and faster over time, making it more difficult the longer you play. There is no timer, so try to score as high as you can.
  • Words: This mode is for practicing full words. Typing the wrong letter in a word will not cause a meteor to drop, but letting a word hit the ground will.

There are also a variety of falling items that you can find while playing.

  • Health Packs: These heal your health, but not completely.
  • Comets: For a short time, the screen will freeze and everything slows down to a crawl.
  • Nuclear Bombs: All letters, words, and meteors are instantly removed from the screen.
  • Bonus Powerup: For a short time, you can earn double the points for any letter or word.
  • Turret Powerup: There are 3 power levels, and each increases the size and speed of your turret's fire.

Download the game here:

Click here to download for Windows.

Click here to download for OSX (Mac).*

Click here to download for Linux.

*Note that OSX by default blocks any and all programs from outside sources (including this game). In order to play this game, you may need to temporarily allow this game to run in your system.

This new update (April 2021) brings a variety of new game improvements, some large and others small. For a complete list of changes, see below.

Updated 4/29/2021:

  • Added an additional 4 music tracks, for more variety. You can listen to the OST here.
  • Added Credits, which can be accessed by clicking "GO! Billy Korean" on the main menu.
  • Word mode now includes nearly 1,200 common vocabulary words.
  • Word mode starts off 25% slower than previously, for an easier transition.
  • Meteors now cause the ground to shake upon impact.
  • The ground will start burning as your health becomes lower.
  • The Options menu can now be exited using the Escape key.
  • Added a Quit button when the game is paused to exit the round immediately.
  • Added buttons to disable all music and/or sound effects from the Options menu.
  • The turret's power levels are now easier to distinguish by appearance.
  • Adjusted the spawn rate of power-ups to be more consistent and fair.
  • The game mode is displayed on the Game Over and Victory screens.
  • Bug fix: The game mode is now remembered between rounds.
  • Bug fix: The game window now correctly shows "Hangul Attack."
  • Bug fix: Fixed a bug where it could become impossible to exit the Options menu without starting the game.
  • Bug fix: Fixed an issue where the turret's fire could randomly disappear in full screen mode.
  • Bug fix: Fixed an issue where a blank word could randomly fall, causing the game to crash.
  • Bug fix: Longer words no longer spawn toward the edges of the screen.
  • Bug fix: Words' health bars now properly reset after completing a word.
  • New feature: Added a Tournament Mode, which removes the ability to pause the game. This can be activated by typing "bangtanacademy" on the Main Menu.

The post Free Korean Typing Game – Hangul Attack (NEW UPDATE 2021) appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

Hanja – All about Chinese characters & their meanings

In this lesson, you’ll be learning everything you need to know about Hanja.

The Korean language is an incredibly old one. Even the 한글 (hangeul) alphabetic system we are learning and Koreans are actively using today is centuries old. With that said, before King Sejong created 한글, a different writing system was used for written Korean: hanja. And in this lesson, we will explain to you exactly what hanja is, how important it used to be for Korean history and its status in modern Korean society.


What is hanja?

Hanja is what Koreans call their traditional writing system. The word itself translates to “Chinese character.” It comprises, for the most part of Chinese characters. Although the characters themselves derive from the Chinese language, they each have a Korean pronunciation in hanja, using a similar structure as 한글-based pronunciation does. Koreans began using hanja during the Gojoseon period, so 400 BCE already.

Is Hanja the same as China’s Hanzi?

Hanzi is used to refer to Chinese characters. Although there are some differences in stroke orders, for the most part, the hanja letters are identical to the original traditional Chinese characters, even today.

Interestingly, the characters currently in use in mainland China, as well as Japan (where they are called kanji), have been simplified. This means they no longer look exactly like the traditional characters, unlike hanja.

Do Hanja and China’s Hanzi have similar pronunciations?

Hanja characters are read and pronounced differently from the Chinese characters, Hanzi. They may have a similar meaning or representation, but they have different pronunciations.

Can Chinese read Hanja?

Hanja uses a different set of Chinese characters so the Chinese can’t read Hanja. If they do, they’ll only be able to identify the characters but may have a different meaning for them.

What is Hanja-eo?

Another term used often when talking about hanja is hanja-eo. It refers to Korean words that can be written using Hanja or Chinese Characters.

Hanja-eo is the term used to talk about Sino-Korean vocabulary. That means both words that were directly borrowed from Chinese as well as words that are fully Korean but were created from Chinese characters.

A Student Reading A Book

How many Hanja characters are there?

According to 한한대사전 Han-Han Dae Sajeon, which refers to the Korean Hanja to Hangul dictionary, there are around 53,667 Hanja characters.

How many Hanja characters do I need to learn?

There’s no exact number of Hanja characters you must learn. However, if you want to recognize Sino-Korean words, 2000 Hanja characters will be a good amount of Hanja.

How are Hanja and Kanji the same?

Just like the term hanja means hàn (the Chinese word for Chinese characters), so does the Japanese term kanji. If you wrote any of them as a traditional Chinese character, they would all look like 漢字. In other words, hanja and kanji both mean the Chinese character writing system, with hanja in use in Korea and kanji in Japan.

Why did Korea stop using Hanja?

Actually, Korea has not stopped using hanja entirely. However, it has been largely replaced by 한글 for everyday writing. Also, despite 한글 being created in the early 15th century, it did not become widespread to use until between the 19th and 20th centuries. Until then, hanja was the primary system used for the written word.

Is Hanja still taught?

Hanja is still taught today in high schools. They are taught in a separate class from a regular Korean language class.

Happy female student with backpack and stack of books

Do I need to learn Hanja?

Although it is not mandatory for you to learn hanja to manage a visit and life in Korea, as well as to speak the Korean language, learning some hanja characters will help you tremendously. You see, even today approximately 60% of the Korean language is made up of words of Chinese origin. Therefore you will see hanja all around you when you’re in Korea!

For example, you may see some hanja characters every single day you spend in Korea. We will explain this in a little more detail below.

How important is it to learn Hanja?

Learning hanja may aid you in understanding the Korean language more deeply and even help you widen your vocabulary. In fact, you’ll find hanja a lot in Korean dictionaries, although each Korean word is first and foremost written in 한글. Yes, even words of Sino-Korean origin. Hanja is mostly present in a dictionary to explain a word’s origin. But if you are truly interested in learning hanja for yourself, a Korean dictionary is a great place to start memorizing them! Learning hanja now will also give you an excellent advantage in case you ever take up Chinese or Japanese as a language to learn.

Otherwise, you may be encouraged to learn hanja if you want to be able to understand old idioms, academic texts, and legal documents in full. Also, you will not be able to read old scholarly texts without having a handle on hanja characters first! And of course, for much traditional art and culture, such as calligraphy, hanja is essential.

As far as modern books and magazines go, hanja is rarely used. Its purpose there is only to explain a word that may otherwise be ambiguous in its meaning. However, hanja is more commonly seen in newspaper headlines! This is exactly to squash any ambiguity of a headline.

Do note that hanja’s status is more prevalent in modern South Korean society than it is in North Korea. Their hanja no longer exists even in academic settings.

Where can I see Hanja used in Korea?

For starters, you may see hanja in as simple of places as a restaurant menu, typically to indicate the size of the dish. You may come across the same characters in a supermarket. It is also not surprising to see hanja characters depicted in public bathroom doors, for women and for men.

Also, it is important for you to note that, though not widely used anymore, Korean personal names are typically based in hanja. Though the use of native Korean words when naming children is becoming more common now, this is still the primary way to name a person. Therefore in official documents, even today, each person’s names continue to be recorded in hanja.

Additionally, you may see hanja characters sprinkled into brochures, restaurant signs, branding and logos, advertising, legal documents, academic texts, and so on, even if the text is otherwise written in 한글. A lot of street and place signs also incorporate hanja.

3 students writing on a paper while sitting down

What is some basic hanja I could learn today?

Based on the above information, we wanted to share with you some of the basic hanja characters you may come across daily in Korea.

small소 (so)
medium중 (jung)
large대 (dae)
person인 (in)
man남 (nam
female여 (yeo)
mountain산 (san)
door문 (mun)
month달 (dal)
day일 (il)

And there you have it, your small and compact information package on hanja! How interested in learning more about hanja characters did this article make you? And do you have previous experience in learning Chinese characters or Japanese kanji?

The post Hanja – All about Chinese characters & their meanings appeared first on 90 Day Korean®.

Geumdangsa Temple – 금당사 (Jinan, Jeollabuk-do)

The Golden Roof of the Daeung-jeon Hall at Geumdangsa Temple in Jinan, Jeollabuk-do.

This posts contains affiliate links. I receive a percentage of sales, if you purchase the item after clicking on an advertising link at no expense to you. This will help keep the website running. Thanks, as always, for your support!

Temple History

Geumdangsa Temple is located in Jinan, Jeollabuk-do near the entrance of Maisan Provincial Park. In fact, just a little up the paved pathway about six hundred metres past Geumdangsa Temple, you’ll come to the famed Tapsa Temple. Both temples are housed within the park grounds of Maisan Provincial Park. Geumdangsa Temple means “Golden Hall Temple” in English, and it has two differing stories as to when it was first established.

According to one story, Geumdangsa Temple was first established in 814 A.D. by the Chinese monk Hyegam. Another story relates how in 650 A.D. the monk Muri came to the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C. – 660 A.D.) from the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.). Of the two, and the one that the temple promotes, it’s the date of 814 A.D., so perhaps this is the more plausible of the two temple creation dates. At the time of the temple’s original construction, it was some 1.5 kilometres away from its present location. Geumdangsa Temple was moved to its present location in 1675. This was done after it was destroyed during the Imjin War (1592-1598) in 1592 during the first wave of the Japanese invasion of the war.

Geumdangsa Temple was also a place where the Goryeo (918-1392) monk Naong Hyegeun (1320-1376) practiced Buddhism. In fact, if you look closely up at the neighbouring mountainside to the west, you’ll find Naongam Hermitage, which is a secluded grotto where Naong Hyegeun once meditated. More recently, in 1894, General Jeon Bongjun’s daughter sought refuge at the temple after her father led the Peasant Revolution in 1894 against high taxation and extortion. Ultimately, this would lead to the anti-foreign campaign, mainly against the Japanese, which resulted in the execution of General Jeon Bongjun. Geumdangsa Temple also acted as a base for Korean guerrilla force in the Jinan area in opposition to Japanese Colonial rule (1910-1945).

More recently, Geumdangsa Temple has undergone expansion with the inclusion of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall in 1978, the Samseong-gak Hall in 1987, and the Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1990.

Geumdangsa Temple is home to Korean Treasure #1266: a late 17th century Gwaebul (A Large Buddhist Banner Painting). It’s also home to a late Goryeo Dynasty/early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) stone pagoda, which is designated Jeollabuk-do Cultural Heritage Material #122.

Admission to Geumdangsa Temple is 2,000 won because of the provincial park entry fee to Maisan Provincial Park.

Temple Layout

When you first approach the temple grounds, you’ll be greeted by the visitors centre at Geumdangsa Temple to your right. Just a little further past this administrative building, and you’ll see a pair of mythical Haetae stone statues staring in on each other. To the far left is a golden statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) to the rear of a beautiful artificial pond. Just before you reach this pond, you’ll notice a large collection of stacked stones that travelers have left behind for good luck and a safe journey.

To the right of the pond is an all-new shrine hall that houses a replica of the historic Gwaebul (A Large Buddhist Banner Painting). The original, which is Korean Treasure #1266, dates all the way back to 1692. This Gwaebul was completed by four artists. The original stands 8.7 metres in height and 4.74 metres in width. The large mural depicts Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The face of Gwanseeum-bosal is disproportionately large compared to the rest of her body. The Bodhisattva of Compassion holds a lotus in her hands, and she is adorned in a striking gown and regal crown. Surrounding the central image are twenty additional images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in a multi-coloured fiery nimbus. In the past, this Gwaebul was brought out into the main temple courtyard and prayed to for rain. Alongside the Gwaebuls at Tongdosa Temple and Muryangsa Temple, it’s purportedly one of the most masterful paintings of its kind in Korea.

Next to this temple shrine hall, and to the right, is the Geukrak-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to this shrine hall are painted with Palsang-do (The Eight Scenes from the Buddha’s Life). As for the interior, you’ll find a triad of murals on the main altar. The one in the centre is dedicated to Amita-bul, while the accompanying two murals are dedicated to the infant incarnations of Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) riding a white elephant and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) riding a blue tiger.

Just up the embankment, and past the Geukrak-jeon Hall to the right, is the Samseong-gak Hall. Inside, you’ll find two newer paintings dedicated to the shaman deities Yongwang (The Dragon King) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). These two vibrant paintings flank an older mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Uniquely, and between the main hall and the Samseong-gak Hall, you’ll find a stone monument with a large golden tiger crawling across the top of it.

The most unique hall at Geumdangsa Temple is the Daeung-jeon Hall. This main hall was built some three hundred years ago, and it’s been topped, rather fittingly, with a fresh coat of gold paint in and around the roof. The exterior walls of the Daeung-jeon Hall are adorned with some rather simplistic Palsang-do (The Eight Scenes from the Buddha’s Life). Inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find a main altar triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul and joined on either side by Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). On the far right wall, you’ll find a collection of natural wood Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) statues, as well as a Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).

The final shrine hall visitors can explore at Geumdangsa Temple is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Inside this simplistically designed exterior, you’ll find a stately statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the main altar. This statue green haired statue is joined on either side by some yellow accented murals of the Siwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld). The one in the collection of yellow accented murals to the far left depicts the Dragon Ship of Wisdom, while the mural to the far right is dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

In front of the Daeung-jeon Hall, there are a pair of pagodas. The first, which is the newer of the two and the one closer to the main hall, is a nine-story structure with smaller sized three-story pagodas surrounding it. And to the front of this newer pagoda is the Goryeo-era pagoda that stands five stories in height.

How To Get There

From the Jinan Bus Terminal you’ll need to take a bus bound for Maisan Provincial Park. These buses leave every forty minutes and first depart the terminal at 7:30 a.m. in the morning and run until 6 p.m. at night. Once you’re dropped off at the entry to Maisan Provincial Park, you’ll need to walk up the path that leads you towards Tapsa Temple. A couple hundred metres up the path, and just beyond the restaurants and stores, you’ll see Geumdangsa Temple to your left. It only takes about five minutes from where the bus lets you off to get to Geumdangsa Temple.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

Surprisingly, especially for a smaller temple, there’s a fair bit to see at Geumdangsa Temple. The two main attractions are the large sized replica of the historic Gwaebul, as well as the five-story historic pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty. Other highlights are the extremely unique murals inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, the vibrant shaman murals housed inside the Samseong-gak Hall, the tiger crawling the stone monument, and the golden roofed Daeung-jeon Hall. It’s a nice little stop along the way, as you make your way up towards the better known Tapsa Temple.

A look up towards Naongam Hermitage as you near Geumdangsa Temple.
The main temple courtyard at Geumdangsa Temple with the Goryeo-era pagoda in the foreground and the golden Daeung-jeon Hall in the background.
The artificial pond at Geumdangsa Temple with a golden Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) backing the pond.
An up-close of the replica of the historic Gwaebul, which is Korean Treasure #1266.
The stone monument next to the Daeung-jeon Hall with a golden tiger on top of it. In the background is the Samseong-gak Hall.
One of the murals housed inside the Samseong-gak Hall. This is a vibrant mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).
A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at Geumdangsa Temple.
And the main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.


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