Ansimsa Temple is located in Wanju, Jeollabuk-do on the southwestern foothills of Mt. Daedunsan (878.9 m). It was first established in 638 A.D. by the famed monk Jajang-yulsa (590-658 A.D.). It was later reconstructed by Doseon-guksa (826-898 A.D.) in 875 A.D. And it was reconstructed, once more, by the monk Jo Go in the late Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). Later, and in 1601 and 1710, the temple was expanded. In 1759, a stele was erected with the history of Ansimsa Temple on it. It was also at this time that the temple’s Ordination Platform of Ansimsa Temple was constructed. In Korea, this type of ordination platform is known as a Jeokmyeol-bogung, which is a temple established by Jajang-yulsa (590-658 A.D.) to house the sari (crystallized remains) of the Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This Jeokmyeol-bogung was constructed to house the purported tooth of Seokgamoni-bul that the temple had long since possessed. The Ordination Platform of Ansimsa Temple was built over a five month period. In total, and as of 1759, there were some 30 buildings at Ansimsa Temple.
However, Ansimsa Temple was completely destroyed during the Korean War (1950-53). It was only in 1991, and with the rebuilding of the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall and the monks’ dorms, that the temple was finally rebuilt some 40 years after its initial destruction. Since 1991, the temple has continued to grow into the modest sized temple visitors see today.
Ansimsa Temple is home to one Korean Treasure, the Ordination Platform of Ansimsa Temple, which is Korean Treasure #1434 as of June, 2005.
You first approach Ansimsa Temple up a country road and past the stately Iljumun Gate framing the beautiful peaks of Mt. Daedunsan off in the distance. The vibrant Iljumun Gate was first constructed in 1995. Eventually, you’ll arrive at the temple parking lot with the temple shrine halls up an uneven set of stairs. Straight ahead of you is the rather large two-story Daeungbo-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to the main hall are adorned with large panel paintings of the Palsang-do (The Eight Scenes from the Buddha’s Life). Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll find a large triad of statues on the main altar. In the centre rests an image dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This central image is joined on either side by Yaksayeorae-bul (The Buddha of Medicine, and the Buddha of the Eastern Paradise) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). On the right wall hangs a large Sinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) and to the left hangs a beautiful Gamno-do (Sweet Dew Mural).
To the right of the Daeungbo-jeon Hall is the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall are plainly painted in traditional dancheong colours. Stepping inside this hall, you’ll find a main altar triad centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). To the left of the main altar is a shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the right of the main altar is a beautiful black Sinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).
To the right of the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall are the monks’ dorms and administrative office. To the rear of the Daeungbo-jeon Hall, on the other hand, and past a hillside entry gate, is the Sanshin-gak Hall. Stepping inside the Sanshin-gak Hall, you’ll find a vibrant wood relief dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).
And to the left of the Daeungbo-jeon Hall is the Ordination Platform of Ansimsa Temple, which is Korean Treasure #1434. An ordination platform is traditionally constructed for Buddhist monks to take their precepts. This ordination platform dates back to at least 1759. However, it’s been claimed by some scholars to have been built around the same time at the Ordination Platform of Yongyeonsa Temple, which was first constructed in 1613. The ordination platform was constructed over a five month period by the monks Ungoeng and Hyechang. Housed inside the stone lotus bud-like stupa at the centre of the ordination platform is a tooth, which had long been held at the temple. As a result, the ordination platform and the Buddha’s relic is considered a Jeokmyeol-bogung, which means “Silent Nirvana Treasure Palace” in English. Remember, a Jeokmyeol-bogung is a temple established by Jajang-yulsa (590-658 A.D.) to house the sari (crystallized remains) of the Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The reason that the ordination platform was installed at Ansimsa Temple was to demonstrate the elevated exemption status that the temple enjoyed during the reign of King Sejo of Joseon (r. 1455-1468). Also housed inside the lotus bud-like stupa, besides the purported tooth of the Buddha, are ten pieces of cloth from a robe, as well.
What’s interesting about this ordination platform in comparison to others like the ones at Tongdosa Temple and Yongyeonsa Temple is that the ordination platform at Ansimsa Temple is rather simple and modest. The Ordination Platform of Ansimsa Temple is located at the foot of a small hill in the corner of the temple grounds removed from the other temple shrine halls. The slanted ground is leveled-off by the stacking of stones at the front of the platform. The ordination platform’s boundary is marked by several pieces of long stone slabs. And on the surface of these slabs are reliefs of lotus flowers and eye patterns, as well. Within the boundaries of the ordination platform itself, and at its centre, stands a stone lotus bud-like stupa, which stands 176 cm in height on an octagonal pedestal. At the four corners of the ordination platform are four stone guardians dressed in armour and helmets. These guardians are known as “Sinjang” in Korean, and they range in height from 110 to 133 centimetres in height. It’s unclear as to which ordination platform the one at Ansimsa Temple is modeled after, whether it’s the famous one at Tongdosa Temple or the much closer one at Geumsansa Temple. However, the simplicity in its design makes it seems as though it might have been modeled after the ordination platform at Geumsansa Temple.
And to the far left of the Ordination Platform of Ansimsa Temple is the temple’s Samseong-gak Hall, which is perched alongside a mountain stream. Adorning the exterior walls are paintings of white cranes and deer. Stepping inside the shaman shrine hall, you’ll find a triad of paintings centred by Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And to the left and right of this central image are murals dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Yongwang (The Dragon King).
How To Get There
Ansimsa Temple in Wanju, Jeollabuk-do is another remote temple with very limited public transportation. As a result, you’ll need to catch a taxi from the Jeonju Intercity Bus Terminal – 전주고속버스 터미널. The taxi ride will take one hour over 41.6 km, and it’ll cost you 45,000 won (one way).
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Ansimsa Temple is beautifully located in the foothills of Mt. Daedunsan. While much smaller than it formerly was, Ansimsa Temple has some beautiful highlights like the rather obvious Ordination Platform of Ansimsa Temple. In addition to the ordination platform is the architecture of the Daeungbo-jeon Hall and the main altar statues housed inside it. While lesser known and a bit remote, Ansimsa Temple is definitely worth a visit, especially if you want to see an ordination platform outside the famed ones at Tongdosa Temple and Geumsansa Temple.