Deungunsa Temple – 등운사 (Yanggu, Gangwon-do)
Deungunsa Temple is located in southern Yanggu, Gangwon-do on the eastern arm of Mt. Samyeongsan (1,198 m). Deungunsa Temple is a modern temple some 21 km from the DMZ. The temple is run by a very friendly nun that did her training at Naewonsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. The temple is also home to an equally friendly dog named Gwaneum (named after the Bodhisattva of Compassion).
From the temple parking lot, you’ll make your way up a set of uneven stairs to the right of the nuns’ dorms. You’ll need to pass to the right of the unpainted Yosachae to gain entry to the main temple courtyard at Deungunsa Temple.
As you enter the main temple courtyard at Deungunsa Temple, you’ll notice a long administrative office to your right. Straight ahead of you is the large Geukrakbo-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are adorned with various Buddhist related motif murals including a mural of the Bodhidharma and an image of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) looking into a pond at a reflection of herself. Stepping inside the Geukrakbo-jeon Hall, you’ll find a large, solitary image of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) on the main altar. The main altar image of Amita-bul is surrounded by a fiery mandorla. To the left of the main altar is a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), as well as a well-populated mural dedicated to Amita-bul. To the right of the main altar, on the other hand, is a thousand-armed image dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal. You’ll also find a Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) to the right of the main altar, as well.
To the right of the Geukrakbo-jeon Hall, and up a set of stairs, is the Samseong-gak Hall. Interestingly, and if you look close enough, you’ll find a Korean folk art Smoking Tiger mural. Both the Chilseong (Seven Stars) and Dokseong (Lonely Saint) mural housed inside the Samseong-gak Hall are beautiful, but it’s the Bodhisattva-like pose of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that will draw most of your attention. Also, and if you look up at the beams of the shaman shrine hall, you’ll find two intricate dragon murals adorning their surfaces.
The final structure to be enjoyed at Deungunsa Temple, and probably the real reason you’ve made your way to the temple, is the seven-story wood pagoda up the hillside to the southwest of the main hall. If you’re lucky, the pagoda will be open. I was fortunate enough to have the head nun open up the wood pagoda to me so that I could explore. While the pagoda is still unpainted and absent its traditional dancheong colours, its design is simply stunning. While newer, it commands a stunning view of the north and the city of Yanggu off in the distance. You should be able to get some amazing pictures from the narrow heights of the seventh floor of both nature and the main temple grounds below.
How To Get There
The only way to get to Deungunsa Temple is by taxi from the Yanggu Intercity Bus Terminal. The taxi ride will take 7 minutes over 3.5 km, and it’ll cost you 6,000 won (one way).
Overall Rating: 7/10
The obvious main highlight is the unpainted seven-story wood pagoda at Deungunsa Temple. Both inside and out, it’s stunning. And the views that it commands are just as spectacular. In addition to the wood pagoda, you can also enjoy the artwork around the Samseong-gak Hall, especially the Smoking Tiger mural and the Bodhisattva-like rendering of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). While Deungunsa Temple is newer in age, it definitely makes up for its lack of a long history both with its architectural and artistic features.