Daedunsa Temple is located on the northeastern side of Mt. Bokusan (508 m) in northern Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do. Daedunsa Temple is one of the earliest temples to have been established in Korea that’s still in existence. The temple was founded in 446 A.D. by the monk Ado, who may or may not be the same Ado that founded Jikjisa Temple.
In 1231, Daedunsa Temple was completely destroyed by fire by the invading Mongols during the Mongol Invasions of Korea (1231-1270). The temple would be rebuilt during the reign of King Chungnyeol of Goryeo (r. 1274-1308). In fact, the temple was rebuilt by Wangsogun, who was the eldest son of King Chungnyeol of Goryeo. Wangsogun became a monk in 1276 and took the Dharma name of Pungtan. After this, and the reconstruction of Daedunsa Temple, there are no records of Wangsogun in his later life.
After the Japanese invasion of the Korean Peninsula during the Imjin War (1592-1598), the warrior monk, Samyeong-daesa (1544-1610), helped to enlarge Daedunsa Temple. In the process of enlarging the temple, Samyeong-daesa included ten additional residential buildings to help house an additional ten thousand warrior monks, if a war should happen, once more, with the Japanese. While no longer as large as it once was, Daedunsa Temple gives us insight into just how important the temple was to the history of Korea and Korean Buddhism.
In total, Daedunsa Temple is home to two Korean Treasures. They are the Dry-lacquered Seated Amitabha Buddha of Daedunsa Temple, which is Korean Treasure #1633; and the Daeungjeon Hall of Daedunsa Temple, which is Korean Treasure #1945. Daedunsa Temple is also home to one Natural Monument, which are the Natural Habitat of Yoshino Cherries in Daedunsan Mountain.
You first approach Daedunsa temple up a steep mountainous incline. From the temple parking lot, and to the right of a large, stone retaining wall, you’ll make your way up a set of stairs towards the main temple courtyard at Daedunsa Temple.
Straight ahead of you stands the Daeung-jeon Hall. The main hall dates back to the late 1600s. The exterior walls to the Daeung-jeon Hall are adorned with various guardian murals. Stepping inside, and rather uniquely for a Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find a solitary image of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) on the main altar under a large, red canopy. Typically, an image of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) takes up residence inside a Daeung-jeon Hall. But perhaps because the statue is a Korean Treasure, and it’s so important, it resides inside the main hall at Daedunsa Temple. Dry-lacquered Seated Amitabha Buddha of Daedunsa Temple, which is Korean Treasure #1633, dates back to the late Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The statue stands 105.5 cm in height. The head and body of the statue are made of dry lacquer, while the hands are made of wood. The statue is a wonderful example of artistry found during the transition made between the Goryeo Dynasty and the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) in Korean Buddhist artwork. As for the rest of the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find a Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) to the right of the main altar. And between both the main altar and the Shinjung Taenghwa is a mural dedicated to Amita-bul. This mural dates back to 1714. As for the Daeung-jeon Hall, it’s Korean Treasure #1945.
To the left of the Daeung-jeon Hall, and slightly up an embankment past an old, gnarled tree, is the Samseong-gak Hall. It’s inside this shaman shrine hall that you get to look at a beautiful set of older shaman murals. Of note are the intimidating eyes of the leopard-looking tiger inside the Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural. Another interesting feature is the white spider crawling into the right ear of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). And the Chilseong (Seven Stars) mural that completes the set of the three shaman murals is an older composition, as well.
Directly to the right of the Daeung-jeon Hall, on the other hand, is the temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Surrounding the exterior walls of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall are the twelve zodiac generals, the Sibiji-shin. Housed inside this dimly lit temple shrine hall, and resting on the main altar, is a golden statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Jijang-bosal is backed by a beautiful wooden relief of himself, as well as the Siwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld). Other statues inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall are ten seated images dedicated to the Siwang, as well as two fierce statues of the Geumgang-yeoksa (Vajra Warriors) at both entries to the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Adorning the rest of the interior of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall are murals dedicated to the Siwang and the ten regions they rule over in the Underworld. There’s also a Banya Yongseon-do (Dragon Ship of Wisdom Mural) inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, as well.
And perched on the far right, and past a vegetable garden, is the Nahan-jeon Hall at Daedunsa Temple. While the exterior walls are largely unadorned all but for their dancheong colours, the interior more than makes up for the exterior’s simplicity. Resting on the main altar is an unusual-looking triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And this unusual-looking triad is joined inside the Nahan-jeon Hall on both sides by rather large wooden statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha).
How To Get There
From the Gumi Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a bus bound for the Angye Bus Terminal. The trip between bus terminals should last about an hour, and it’ll cost you about 7,000 won. From the Angye Bus Terminal, you’ll next need to take a taxi to Daedunsa Temple. The ride should take about 40 minutes, and it’ll cost you about 20,000 won (one way).
Overall Rating: 7/10
The main highlight to Daedunsa Temple is the Daeung-jeon Hall and the historic image of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) that resides inside the main hall. Other beautiful features at Daedunsa Temple is the early 18th century painting dedicated to Amita-bul inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, the murals of the three shaman deities inside the Samseong-gak Hall, and the main altar statues inside the Nahan-jeon Hall. In addition to all of this artistic beauty, Daedunsa Temple is beautifully situated in northern Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.