• Daegu

    Namjijangsa Temple – 남지장사 (Dalseong-gun, Daegu)

    Temple History Namjijangsa Temple is located in the southern part of Daegu in Dalseong-gun. More specifically, the temple is located to the south-east of the towering Mt. Choijeongsan (905 m). As for the name of the temple, Namjijangsa Temple means “South Jijang Temple” in English, which is in reference to the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife: Jijang-bosal. And the temple is a counterpart to Bukjijangsa Temple in neighbouring Dong-gu, Daegu. Namjijangsa Temple was first established in 684 A.D. by the monk Yanggae. Eventually, the temple would grow to include eight shrine halls, a Jong-ru (Bell Pavilion) and Cheonwangmun Gate. Namjijangsa Temple is also believed to have once been the home to…

  • Daegu

    Bukjijangsa Temple – 북지장사 (Dong-gu, Daegu)

    Temple History Bukjijangsa Temple is located on the south-eastern part of Mt. Palgongsan (1192.3 m) in northern Daegu. Bukjijangsa Temple was first constructed in 465 A.D. by the monk Geukdal-hwasang. The name of the temple, Bukjijangsa Temple, means “North Jijang Temple” in English. The temple is named after the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife, Jijang-bosal. The temple is a counterpart to Namjijangsa Temple in neighbouring Dalseong-gun, Daegu. Namjijangsa Temple, which means “South Jijang Temple” in English, was first established in 684 A.D. Some foundation stones from the original construction of the temple, which precede the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), still exist on the temple site. The original temple was much larger in…

  • Artwork

    Gwaebul – Large Buddhist Banner Painting: 괘불

    Introduction In yet another post about Korean Buddhist temple artwork, I thought I would discuss the Gwaebul, which is a “Large Buddhist Banner Painting” in English. So where can you find this rarely seen piece of temple artwork? What does it look like? And why do you find it at a Korean Buddhist temple? The Gwaebul A “Gwaebul – 괘불” is a large hanging mural that can be over fifteen metres in height and ten metres in width. Gwaebul are rarely seen, as they are typically only put on display once a year during Buddha’s Birthday festivities. At some temples, a Gwaebul is only put on display once every ten…

  • Ulsan

    Jeongtosa Temple – 정토사 (Nam-gu, Ulsan)

    Temple History Jeongtosa Temple is located in Nam-gu in the southern part of Ulsan past the Taehwa River. And it’s situated just to the east of the diminutive Mt. Samhosan (125.7 m). Jeongtosa Temple is named after “Jeongto,” which is the Korean word for “Pure Land” in English. Jeongto is a pure heavenly realm that’s occupied by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who have shed all of their afflictions. This is the ultimate goal of the popular Jeongto form of Korean Buddhism, which is known as the “Pure Land School” in English. Specifically, Jeongto is referring to a heaven in the Western Paradise inhabited by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).…

  • Artwork,  Korean Temple Artwork

    Agwi – Hungry Ghosts: 아귀

    Introduction If you’ve ever looked close enough, especially around the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, perhaps you were lucky enough to see the image of an “Agwi – 아귀,” or “Hungry Ghost/Spirit” in English. Or more likely, you’ve probably seen this demon-like creature, but you weren’t sure what it was. So what exactly is an Agwi? Where can you find them? And what are they supposed to represent? Physical Description of an Agwi An Agwi, or “Hungry Ghost” in English, was formerly a human who is now suffering in the afterlife from hunger and thirst as a part of their karma for their bad deeds. These deeds can include killing, stealing, sexual misconduct,…

  • Ulsan

    Baekyangsa Temple – 백양사 (Jung-gu, Ulsan)

    Temple History Baekyangsa Temple at the foot of Mt. Hamwolsan (200.6 m) in Jung-gu, Ulsan, which shouldn’t be confused with the one in Jeollanam-do, was first founded in 932 A.D. by the monk Baekyang-seonsa. In fact, the temple is named after this founding monk. The temple was destroyed by fire during the Imjin War (1592-1598). However, Baekyangsa Temple was later rebuilt in 1678 by the monk Yeonbu-seonsa. Baekyangsa Temple would later fall into disrepair. And in the 1920’s, the temple would be resurrected under the watchful eye of the Bhikuni (nun) Bohyeon. More recently, and in 1992 with the development of Jung-gu, which is where Baekyangsa Temple is located, this…

  • Artwork

    Gareungbinga and Gongmyeongjo – Kalavinka and Jivamjivaka: 가릉빈가 & 공명조

    Introduction Two of the more obscure figures you’ll find at a Korean Buddhist temple or hermitage is Gareungbinga or “Kalavinka” in Sanskrit, and Gongmyeongjo or “Jivamjivaka” in Sanskrit. While these human-bird-like creatures were once far more prominent at temples, they are now much harder to find. So what do they look like? Where can you find them? And what do they symbolize? Gareungbinga – Kalavinka The first of these two mysterious human-bird-like creatures is the Gareungbinga – 가릉빈가 in Korean, or Kalavinka in Sanskrit. What physically distinguishes this mythological creature from its Gongmyeongjo counterpart are the amount of heads. Both have bird bodies, while the upper portion is human. But…

  • Artwork

    Ggotsalmun – Flower Latticework Door: 꽃살문

    Introduction Throughout Korea, and at the various Buddhist temples and hermitages that dot the Korean peninsula, you’ll find a countless amount of beautiful latticework adorning the entryways to temple shrine halls. This latticework is typically floral or geometric in design. And while these designs are usually rather stunning in appearance, the exact meaning behind them may be less clear. So what does this latticework look like? Where can you find it? And what does it all mean? Location of the Latticework The traditional place to find this latticework, which is known as “Ggotsalmun – 꽃살문” or “Flower Latticework Door” in English, is on the front side entryways of a temple…

  • Gyeongju

    Sacheonwangsa-ji Temple Site – 사천왕사지 (Gyeongju)

    Temple Site History This is the former site of Sacheonwangsa Temple, which was built in 679 A.D. during Later Silla (668-935 A.D.). It was the first temple to be built by the Silla Kingdom after the unification of the Three Kingdoms (Silla, Baekje, and Goguryeo). The Sacheonwangsa-ji Temple Site is located near the royal tombs of King Sinmun of Silla (r. 681-692 A.D.) and Queen Seondeok (r. 632-647 A.D.) at the foot of Mt. Nangsan (99.5 m) in Gyeongju. The foundation of the temple is rooted in the protection and safety of the Korean peninsula through the protection of the Buddha. It can be said that Sacheonwangsa Temple was built…

  • Artwork

    Jowang-shin – The Fireplace King Spirit: 조왕신

    Introduction One of the more uncommon figures you’ll find at a Korean Buddhist temple is Jowang-shin, or “The Fireplace King Spirit” in English. I have yet to see a shrine hall dedicated to this shaman deity; instead, where you’ll find Jowang-shin is in the kitchen area of a temple or hermitage. And even then, it’s very uncommon to see this shaman deity. In all of my travels, which includes nearly five hundred Korean Buddhist temples and hermitages, I’ve only come across three Jowang-shin murals. So who exactly is this figure? What’s it supposed to represent? And what do they look like? The History of Jowang-shin Traditionally, Jowang-shin was thought of…