Pagyesa Temple – 파계사 (Dong-gu, Daegu)

The Historic Wontong-jeon Hall at Pagyesa Temple in Dong-gu, Daegu.

Temple History

Pagyesa Temple is located on the famed Mt. Palgongsan (1192.3 m) in northern Daegu. In fact, Pagyesa Temple is situated to the north-west of Donghwasa Temple. Pagyesa Temple was first established in 804 A.D. by the monk Simji. The name of the temple is in reference to Pungsu-jiri, or a Korean form of geomancy. So the word “Pagye” means to stop the energy of the Earth from flowing away through the stream that run down the valley on either side of Pagyesa Temple.

Pagyesa Temple was destroyed in 1595 during the Imjin War (1592-1598). The temple was rebuilt in 1605 by the monk Gyegwan, which culminated in the construction of the Wontong-jeon Hall in 1606.

Pagyesa Temple was rebuilt for a third time in 1695 by the monk Hyeoneung. It’s said that King Sukjong of Joseon (r. 1674-1720) asked the monk Hyeoneung to pray for the birth of a Crown Prince to succeed King Sukjong. These prayers resulted in the birth of King Yeongjo of Joseon (r. 1724-1776). As a sign of appreciation, King Sukjong built the Giyeong-gak Hall. “Gi” meaning “to pray” while “yeong” stands for Yeongjo, the future king of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The hall was not only built for Yeongjo, but it was also built for Yeongjo’s predecessors: King Seonjo of Joseon (r.1567-1608), Sukjong of Joseon, and Deokjong of Goryeo (r.1031-1034).

In total, there are three Korean Treasures at Pagyesa Temple in Dong-gu, Daegu.

Temple Layout

You first approach Pagyesa Temple up a long winding road that’s surrounded on all sides by beautiful, lush forests. You’ll know that you’re getting closer to Pagyesa Temple when you see a pond to your left. Just a little bit further, and you’ll come to the temple parking lot.

Straight in front of you is the two-story Jindong-ru Pavilion. You’ll need to pass through the first floor of the pavilion to gain entry to the main temple courtyard. The second story of the pavilion is used for larger Buddhist ceremonies. The Jindong-ru Pavilion was first constructed in 1715, and it was also built to help suppress bad energy. To the right of the Jingdong-ru Pavilion is the Jong-ru (Bell Pavilion). The first floor of this two-story structure is used as the temple’s gift shop. The second story of the Jong-ru Pavilion houses the four traditional Buddhist percussion instruments, which includes a rather long, blue Mokeo (Wooden Fish Drum) and a rather large Beopgo (Dharma Drum).

Having passed under the Jindong-ru Pavilion and entered the main temple courtyard, you’ll immediately be greeted by the Wontong-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to the Wontong-jeon Hall, which is Korean Treasure #1850, are filled with various Buddhist motif murals, and the overall colour of the main hall is painted in a beautiful pale blue. Resting all alone on the main altar is a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This statue, which is officially known as the Dry-lacquered Seated Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and Excavated Relics of Pagyesa Temple, was first made in 1447. Standing 108.1 c.m. in height, the statue is also Korean Treasure #992. Gwanseeum-bosal wears a triple high crown with floral patterns on it. The crown looks quite heavy. To the right of the main altar is a mural dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And to the left of the main altar is a Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).

The Wontong-jeon Hall is book-ended on either side by two buildings. The building to the right is the Jeongmuk-dang Hall, which was first built in 1602. This hall is presently used for the monks. The temple hall on the left, on the other hand, is the Seolseon-dang Hall. This hall is presently used as a restaurant and a place for training. It was formerly used as an lecture hall for monks.

To the left rear of the Wontong-jeon Hall are two smaller sized temple shrine halls. The first is the Sallyeong-gak Hall, which is also known as a Sanshin-gak Hall. Housed inside this shaman shrine hall is a beautiful old mural dedicated to The Mountain Spirit. And the exterior walls are adorned with a unique set of tiger paintings. And to the left of the Sallyeong-gak Hall is the aforementioned Giyeong-gak Hall, which now functions as a Chilseong/Dokseong-gak Hall. There are seven individual red paintings dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And on the far right wall hangs a simplistic mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). And to the right rear of the Wontong-jeon Hall stands the Eungjin-jeon Hall, which is dedicated to the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). Backing the main altar statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) is a stunning wooden relief of a Reclining Buddha.

The other two shrine halls that visitors can explore at Pagyesa Temple lie to the left of the main temple courtyard and past the temple’s bathroom. Here you’ll first find the Jijang-jeon Hall. Housed inside the Jijang-jeon Hall is a statue of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife, Jijang-bosal, on the main altar. This statue has a beautiful gold halo surrounding its head. The other temple structure that visitors can explore is the Geukrak-jeon Hall, which is home to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Just a little warning, there’s a rather ripe smell emitting from the bathroom on your way to the Jijang-jeon Hall and the Geukrak-jeon Hall during summer months.

How To Get There

To get to Pagyesa Temple, you’ll first need to ride the Daegu subway system and get off at the Ayanggyo stop, stop #137, on the first line. After going out exit #2, and making your way to the neighbouring bus stop, you can catch Bus #101, #101-1, or Express Bus #1. All of these buses will bring you to the entry of Palgongsan Provincial Park. From this stop, it’s a rather steep 1.1 kilometre hike to get to Pagyesa Temple.

Overall Rating: 7/10

Pagyesa Temple is beautifully surrounded by the natural beauty of Mt. Palgongsan. Adding to this natural beauty are the Wontong-jeon Hall and the statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside it (both of which are Korean Treasures). Also adding to the architectural beauty at Pagyesa Temple is the Sallyeong-gak Hall and the highly original Giyeong-gak Hall. Best of all, Pagyesa Temple is in close proximity to the famed Donghwasa Temple and Buinsa Temple, which can make for quite a nice day trip to northern Daegu.

Roses at Pagyesa Temple.
The Jindong-ru Pavilion at the entry of the main temple grounds.
The main altar inside the Wontong-jeon Hall. The statue of Gwanseeum-bosal is Korean Treasure #992.
One of the exterior wall paintings of the Sallyeong-gak Hall.
The beautiful older mural of the Mountain Spirit inside the Sallyeong-gak Hall.
The historic Giyeong-gak Hall.
A look inside the Giyeong-gak Hall.
The Jijang-jeon Hall at Paygesa Temple.
And the Geukrak-jeon Hall
The main altar of the Geukrak-jeon Hall with Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) front and centre.

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