Daejosa Temple is located in southern Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do in the southern foothills of Mt. Seongheungsan (260.1 m). According to one source, the temple is believed to have first been founded in 527 A.D. by the monk Damhye. And according to the Buyeo Eupji, or Buyeo Township Annals in English, the temple was first founded by the monk Gyeomik. It’s unclear as to why the two records differ; but either way, the temple seems to have firmly been established in the early part of the 6th century. Daejosa Temple was reconstructed by the monk Jinjeon during the reign of King Wonjong of Goryeo (r. 1235-1259). And since then, it has been reconstructed and renovated numerous times.
More recently, the temple has been expanded including the addition of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall in 1989, the Jong-gak Pavilion in 1993, and the Mireukbo-jeon Hall in 1994. Additionally, and as of 1963, the Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva of Daejosa Temple became Korean Treasure #217.
There’s a rather fascinating legend associated with the founding of Daejosa Temple. Both the Buyeo Eupji, or Buyeo Township Annals in English, and the Daejosa Mireuksilgi, or the True Record of Maitreya Bodhisattva of Daejosa Temple in English contain records about the founding legend. In this legend, the Buddhist monk Gyeomik of Baekje traveled to India in 526 A.D., where he translated and brought the Buddhist law records, the trepitaka vedatta, which are called yulmun in Korean, to the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C to 660 A.D). When he returned to the Baekje Kingdom, Gyeomik kept the translation at Heungnyunsa Temple.
One day, the monk Gyeomik fell asleep and dreamed about Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), who was holding a shining bead in the dream. After praising the monk for the excellence of his translation, Gwanseeum-bosal turned into a large bird and disappeared somewhere near Garimsan-seong Fortress. The monk awoke from his dream, and he searched around the fortress for the Bodhisattva. Eventually Gyeomik found a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal instead of the great bird. As a result, Gyeomik decided to erect a stone standing statue of Gwanseeum-bosal at this site behind Daejosa Temple, which was built a few years later. As a result, the name of the temple means “Great Bird Temple” in English.
You make your way up to the temple grounds up a long, winding stairway. When you do finally arrive at the top of the stairs, you’ll be met by the monks’ dorms to your right and a rather typical three-story pagoda. The pagoda is believed to date back to the start of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). Originally, only the base and the three roof stones to the body existed. However in 1975, the body stones to the pagoda were discovered nearby. Once this discovery was made, the pagoda was reassembled. The only non-original part to the pagoda is the finial, which adorns the top of the historic pagoda. The pagoda, which is officially known as the Stone Pagoda of Daejosa Temple, is a Chungcheongnam-do Cultural Material.
To the rear of this historic pagoda is the Wontongbo-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to this shrine hall are newly painted with stunning Shimu-do (Ox-Herding Murals), as well as images of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), which makes sense because that’s to whom the main hall is dedicated to. Stepping inside the Wontongbo-jeon Hall, you’ll find a solitary image resting under a beautiful golden canopy. This solitary image is the aforementioned Gwanseeum-bosal. It’s believed that this statue of Gwanseeum-bosal dates back to 17th century based upon the style of the statue. The statue of Gwanseeum-bosal has broad shoulders and a comparatively smaller face. The face of Gwanseeum-bosal has smaller lips that form a serene smile. Her eyes are half closed, and Gwanseeum-bosal wears a wonderfully ornate crown. The statue, which is officially known as the Wooden Seated Bodhisattva of Daejosa Temple in Buyeo, is Tangible Cultural Heritage of Chungcheongnam-do #205. Joining this statue inside the Wontongbo-jeon Hall, and to the right, is a Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) and a modern mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). And to the left of the main altar is an older mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars).
To the front left of both the pagoda and the main hall is the Jong-gak Pavilion (Bell Pavilion). And to the immediately left, and almost parallel with the Wontongbo-jeon Hall, is a small pavilion with a stone turtle and spout that pours out fresh spring water. And it’s to the left of this little pavilion that you’ll find the rather plain exterior of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. However, the rather plain exterior hides a beautiful collection of individual Siwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld) paintings, as well as a golden image of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the main altar.
Backtracking a bit, and walking up the stairs situated between the Wontongbo-jeon Hall and the monks’ dorms, you’ll find the stunning highlight to Daejosa Temple: the Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva of Daejosa Temple. As you first approach the historic statue of Mireuk-bosal (The Future Buddha), you’ll first find the Mireukbo-jeon Hall. Similar to a Jeokmyeol-bogung that looks out onto the sari (crystallized remains) of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historic Buddha), this shrine hall also has a window. However, instead of looking out onto an area that houses the Historic Buddha’s remains, this window looks out onto the Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva of Daejosa Temple. The exterior walls to this Mireukbo-jeon Hall are adorned with murals dedicated to the Sinseon (Taoist Immortals).
It’s to the right of this shrine hall that you’ll find a pathway that leads directly up to the Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva of Daejosa Temple. This massive statue, which stands 8.64 metres in height and has a maximum width of 4.2 metres is similar to the National Treasure at Gwanchoksa Temple, the Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva of Gwanchoksa Temple. It’s unclear when exactly this statue of Mireuk-bosal (The Future Buddha) was first built at Daejosa Temple; however, because of its size and similarity in design to the one at Gwanchoksa Temple, it’s believed to have first been built between 950 to 970 A.D. The Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva of Daejosa Temple is made from coarse granite. Mireuk-bosal wears a square crown with a doubled canopy. Small bells are hanging from the four corners of the canopy crown. And short hair is hanging down from the bottom of the crown. Interestingly, the Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva of Gwanchoksa Temple also has the same tufts of hair protruding out from under its crown, as well. The face of Mireuk-bosal at Daejosa Temple is square and flat. The ears and eyes are large, but the nose and mouth are rather small. The statue has both shoulders covered by a robe which appears to be very thick and heavy. Because of this thickness, the outlines of the arms are barely noticeable. The right hand of the statue holds the top of a lotus flower stem near its chest, while the left hand holds the base of the stem. The statue also has an elaborate necklace dangling down towards the chest and around its neck. In front of the statue is a rock that’s placed there for food offerings. Together with the statue of Mireuk-bosal at Gwanchoksa Temple, the one at Daejosa Temple makes a wonderful pairing of regional design. Overall, the statue exudes a stable sense of serenity for which the statue was originally designed: to give comfort during tumultuous times. The Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva of Daejosa Temple is Korean Treasure #217.
The final temple shrine hall that visitors can explore at Daejosa Temple is to the rear of the Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva of Daejosa Temple through a forested pathway. This temple shrine hall is the Sanshin-gak Hall. The exterior walls to this shaman shrine hall are plainly adorned in traditional dancheong colours, while the interior houses a solitary, modern image dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).
How To Get There
From the Buyeo Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to catch Bus #302 to get to Daejosa Temple. The bus ride will take 45 minutes, or 24 stops, and you’ll need to get off at the “Imcheon – 임천” stop. From where the bus drops you off near the Hana-ro Mart, you’ll need to head east along country roads for an additional 1.2 km. The signs along the way should lead you to the temple grounds. In total, this walk should take about 20 to 25 minutes.
And if public transportation isn’t your thing, you can simply take a taxi from the Buyeo Intercity Bus Terminal. The taxi ride should last about 21 minutes over 17 km. And the taxi fee should be around 20,000 won (one way).
Overall Rating: 8/10
The obvious highlight to this rather secluded temple is the Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva of Daejosa Temple. This mid to late 10th century statue is stunning in every sense of the word. While not as abstract and imposing as its fellow Mireuk-bosal statue at Gwanchoksa Temple, this statue of Mireuk-bosal at Daejosa Temple makes a lasting impression in its own right with its serene eyes and noble constitution. In addition to the Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva of Daejosa Temple, have a look for the modern shaman paintings dedicated to both Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), as well as the statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal inside the Wontongbo-jeon Hall. The overall atmosphere to Daejosa Temple is tranquil and sublime.