Naejangsa Temple, which means “Storing Inside Temple,” in English, is located in Naejangsan National Park in Jeongeup, Jeollabuk-do. Naejangsa Temple was first built in 636 A.D. by the monk Yeongeun-josa. At this time, it was large in size, with fifty halls and pavilions. Originally, Naejangsa Temple was called Yeongeunsa Temple. In 660 A.D., after being destroyed by fire, Naejangsa Temple was rebuilt by the monk Hwanhae.
Naejangsa Temple was an important temple during Later Silla (668-935 A.D.) and through to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). During this time, it was rebuilt and renovated several times. It would become, in time, one of the leading Seon temples. During King Jeongjong of Joseon’s reign, which was from 1506-1544, Naejangsa Temple was used as the headquarters by monks that were in rebellion against the king. As a result, King Jeongjong of Joseon had the temple destroyed in 1539.
Later, in 1557, the temple was rebuilt by the monk Huimuk, and it was renamed Naejangsa Temple. Sadly, the temple was destroyed, once again, by fire, during the Imjin War (1592-1598). And in 1639, Naejangsa Temple was rebuilt, once again; this time, by the monk Buyeong. At this time, Buyeong installed a gold-plated Buddha inside the main hall at Naejangsa Temple.
During the 20th century, the temple was moved to the nearby site of Byeoknyeonam Hermitage by Hakmyeong-seonsa in 1925. Tragically, Naejangsa Temple was destroyed during the Korean War (1950-1953) on January 2nd, 1951. The latest rebuild of Naejangsa Temple started in 1957, and it continued up into the 1970’s.
Up until this point, Naejangsa Temple had been destroyed by fire four times in its long history. And it would be destroyed a fifth time on October 31st, 2012, when an accidental fire broke out in the main hall after midnight. A statue, a dharma bell (beomjong), and three historic altar murals (bulhwa) were destroyed in this fire. Fortunately, no one was injured, and reconstruction of the temple was completed in 2014.
You first approach the Naejangsa Temple grounds by passing through the Iljumun Gate that was reconstructed in 1973. After passing through this entry gate, you’ll walk one kilometre along a beautiful path lined with mature maple trees. These trees are especially beautiful during the fall months. About halfway up this path, you’ll find a stupa field, or “budo-won,” in Korean. There are a couple dozen steles and stupas of monks that once called Naejangsa Temple home.
You’ll finally arrive at the outskirts of the main temple grounds, when you’re greeted by the Cheonwangmun Gate. Inside this second entry gate are four simple statues of the Four Heavenly Kings. Beyond this gate is the Jeonghye-ru Pavilion. Before passing under this pavilion, and entering the main temple courtyard, there’s a pond that’s usually frozen in the winter months, with a dongja (attendant) in the middle of it.
As you step inside the main temple courtyard, you’ll notice the large, new Daeung-jeon Hall that was rebuilt in 2014. There are fierce dragons near the signboard of the shrine hall. Inside this shrine hall, and resting on the main altar, is a large triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the left of the Daeung-jeon Hall is a three-story stone pagoda that was first built in 1997. Inside this pagoda are the purported sari (crystallized remains) of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The verification of these sari was conducted by the British Archaeological Survey. They were then transported from India directly to Naejangsa Temple and the three-story pagoda.
Just to the left of the Daeung-jeon Hall, and past the three-story stone pagoda, is the newly built Samseong-gak Hall. Housed inside this shaman shrine hall are a triad of paintings. There used to be a newer painting dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and two older paintings dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). However, it seems within the past couple of years this set has been replaced by three new paintings and altar statues of these shaman deities.
Joining the Samseong-gak Hall to the left of the Daeung-jeon Hall is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. This rather long Judgment Hall is populated with seated statues of the Shiwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld). And in the centre of these kings, on the main altar, is a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And the final structure to the left of the Daeung-jeon Hall is the Jong-gak Pavilion, the temple’s bell pavilion. The Jong-gak Pavilion is occupied by the four traditional percussion instruments. And the highlight of these four is the red Wooden Fish Gong, or Mokeo, in Korean.
To the right of Daeung-jeon Hall are a collection of buildings for the monks. Also in this area is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Housed inside this hall is mutli-armed and headed statue of Gwaneeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This ornate statue is matched and backed by an equally ornate mural of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. To the left of the main altar is a large Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural). And to the right of the main altar is a small bronze bell that dates back to the late Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).
To the right of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall, and the final shrine hall that visitors can explore at Naejangsa Temple, is the Geukrak-jeon Hall. Seated all alone on the arched main altar is a large statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Alone, this statue is joined by a ceiling full of paper lotus flowers.
Admission to the temple and park are 3,000 won.
How To Get There
From the Jeongeup Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to board Bus #171. This bus goes directly to Naejangsan National Park, which is where Naejangsa Temple is located. From the entry of Naejangsan National Park, simply follow the signs pointing you in the direction of Naejangsa Temple.
Overall Rating: 7/10
The history of Naejangsa Temple reads like a bad comedy; despite this, Naejangsa Temple is filled with beautiful shrine halls like the newly built Daeung-jeon Hall and the Samseong-gak Hall. The statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall, and the three-story pagoda that houses the sari (crystallized remains) of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), are something to keep an eye out for. In addition to all this architecture and artistry is the natural beauty of Naejangsan National Park that surrounds Naejangsa Temple, especially during the fall.