Wonhyodae Temple – 원효대 (Gijang-gun, Busan)

The Samseong-gak Hall at Wonhyodae Temple in Gijang-gun, Busan.

Temple History

Wonhyodae Temple is located in Gijang-gun in eastern Busan. Wonhyodae Temple is located up a long valley just to the south-east of Mt. Daleumsan (588.1 m). Wonhyodae Temple is named after the famous monk Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.), who lived and taught in this part of Busan during the 7th century. In fact, it’s believed that Wonhyodae Temple is located near what was a Silla-era temple named Chwijeongsa Temple, which no longer exists, but was founded by Wonhyo-daesa. And just to the east lies the much smaller Daedosa Temple.

The temple site for Wonhyodae Temple is quite large at nearly 8,000 m2. It was first founded in October, 1898. And it was officially registered as a temple with Gyeongsangnam-do in 1923. The temple is home to half a dozen temple shrine halls, a bell pavilion, and a triad of entry gates.

Temple Layout

You first approach Wonhyodae Temple alongside an offshoot of the neighbouring Ilgwang-cheon River. At the end of this watery offshoot, and down a country road, you’ll find Wonhyodae Temple. Hanging a left towards the temple sign that reads “Wonhyodae – 원효대,” you’ll arrive at the temple parking lot. The first thing to greet you at the temple grounds are a collection of three Podae-hwasang (The Hempen Bag) statues. The bronze coloured statues are joined to the right by a smaller sized collection of statues. The statues are headed by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who is teaching the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha).

Straight ahead, and up a flight of stairs, you’ll next encounter the Cheonwangmun Gate. Inside this temple entry gate are four crudely sculpted statues dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings. Next, passing through the slender Haetalmun Gate, you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard at Wonhyodae Temple.

Straight ahead of you stands the rather boxy Daeung-jeon Hall. While understated around its exterior, as soon as you step inside the main hall at Wonhyodae Temple, you’ll be greeted by a row of some nine large statues on the main altar. The three central statues are that of Seokgamoni-bul in the middle, who is joined on either side by Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). This triad is then joined to the right by another triad. This triad is centred by Yaksayeorae-bul (The Medicine Buddha, and the Buddha of the Eastern Paradise). This central image is then joined to the right and left by Ilgwang-bosal (The Sun Bodhisattva) and Wolgwang-bosal (The Moon Bodhisattva). And to the left of the main triad is yet another triad. This triad of statues is centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). These nine statues on the main altar are joined in the left corner by a shrine dedicated solely to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And hanging on the far right wall is a large Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).

To the left of the Daeung-jeon Hall are two additional temple shrine halls. The first, which can only be entered through a side entrance to the right, is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Resting on the main altar is one of the most elaborate one thousand armed and eleven headed statues of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) in all of Korea. To the right hangs a collection of murals dedicated to prominent monks like Wonhyo-daesa. And to the left of the main altar statue of Gwanseeum-bosal rests a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This triad is then joined on the left wall by a black Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).

The other shrine hall in this area is the temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Stepping inside this temple shrine hall, you’ll notice a black haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) sitting on the main altar. This statue is joined on either side by the Siwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld). The interior of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall is beautifully adorned with dancheong colours. And hanging on the left wall of the hall is a beautiful, modern Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural.

Between the Gwaneum-jeon Hall and the Daeung-jeon Hall is a glass enclosure that also acts as an outdoor shrine. This glass enclosure acts as both the Yongwang-dang Hall, which is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). This enclosure also has a shrine dedicated to an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal. The Yongwang shrine has a seated image of Yongwang, as well as one of the largest murals of the Dragon King. To the right of Yongwang stands a large image of Gwanseeum-bosal. Both are joined by mountain water that flows in and out of the glass outdoor shrine.

The final shrine hall that visitors can explore at Wonhyodae Temple is the Samseong-gak Hall. Located between the Gwaneum-jeon Hall and the Yongwang-dang Hall, and up a bit of a wooded trail, is the location of the shaman shrine hall. The golden lettering above the entry to the Samseong-gak Hall really stands out and penetrates the eyes. Stepping inside the Samseong-gak Hall, you’ll find multiple images of the three most popular shaman deities in Korean Buddhism. Hanging on the far right wall is an older painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left, and now on the main altar, you’ll find another older image. This time, this smaller painting is dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). This older mural is fronted by a statue of the same shaman deity, Dokseong. To the left of this mural and statue of Dokseong is another mural dedicated to Chilseong. The large mural in the centre, which is fronted by a triad of statues, is another image dedicated to Chilseong. To the left of this third image of Chilseong is a large statue dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), who holds a large golden ginseng root in his hands. Sanshin is also wearing a large emperor’s crown. On the far left wall, you’ll see another older mural dedicated to Sanshin. This painting of the Mountain Spirit is joined by a Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) that’s fronted by a statue of Sanshin.

How To Get There

From the Jwacheon Train Station in Gijang-gun, you’ll need to take a taxi to get to Wonhyodae Tepmle. The taxi ride should take about fifteen minutes, and it’ll cost you around 10,000 won (one way).

Overall Rating: 7/10

There are several key features to Wonhyodae Temple like the loaded Samseong-gak Hall with the ginseng holding Sanshin. Other beautiful features to the temple is the Yongwang-dang outdoor shrine, the elaborate Gwanseeum-bosal statue, and the Daeung-jeon Hall’s main altar that’s filled with images of both Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. While this temple certainly has a more modern feel to it, and it’s also a bit harder to get to, it’s definitely worth a visit for the true temple adventurer.

A collection of Nahan statues listening to the teachings of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).
A look through the Cheonwangmun Gate at Wonhyodae Temple.
One of the Four Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.
The Daeung-jeon Hall at Wonhyodae Temple.
A look across the well-populated main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
The shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
The outdoor shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
The mural and statue dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).
And the statue of an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal.
A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
And the ornate statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.
A look inside the well-populated Samseong-gak Hall at Wonhyodae Temple.
And the ginseng-holding statue of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) inside the Samseong-gak Hall.

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