Eunsusa Temple, which means “Silver Water Temple” in English, is located in Maisan Provincial Park on the ridge above Tapsa Temple in Jinan, Jeollabuk-do. The temple was first called Sangwonsa Temple during the early part of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Sangwonsa Temple would fall into disrepair and a hermitage was built on the temple’s former grounds. This hermitage would be named Jeongmyeongam Hermitage. The current name of the temple, Eunsusa Temple, and according to legend, was made when King Taejo of Joseon (r. 1392-1398) visited the temple. After he made the comment that the water flowing nearby was as clean and smooth as pure silver, the temple would eventually be changed to its current name of Eunsusa Temple.
In 1920, and after Jeongmyeongam Hermitage fell into disrepair, Eunsusa Temple was built by a man named Lee Ju bu. It was at this time that the temple was renamed Eunsusa Temple. And in 1982, the largest wooden drum in Korea was produced and is housed at Eunsusa Temple. Interestingly, and more recently, a stone statue of Samshin was found at the temple from the early Joseon Dynasty. Originally, and in 1970, Eunsusa Temple was registered as a Jogye-jong Order temple. In 1985, the temple would change to the Taego-jong Order.
Eunsusa Temple is home to Natural Monument #386, which is the Chinese Pear Tree of Eunsusa Temple. In Korean, it is known as a “Cheongsilbae – 청실배.” This species of pear tree is extremely rare, and it’s only known to grow in Korea at Eunsusa Temple. It’s believed that the tree is about 650 years old. It stands about 18 metres in height and 2.8 metres around. The pears on these trees start off as green or brown, but they change to yellow as they ripen during the fall. According to a temple legend, this Chinese pear tree was planted as a seed by King Taejo of Joseon (r. 1392-1398). It was planted as a token of appreciation by King Taejo of Joseon after praying at the temple.
Admission to the temple, by way of Tapsa Temple, is 3,000 won. However, if you pay 3,000 won, you can see three temples at Maisan Provincial Park: Tapsa Temple, Geumdangsa Temple, and Eunsusa Temple.
You first approach Eunsusa Temple up a short, paved pathway to the right of Tapsa Temple. Eunsusa Temple is located under Sutmaibong, or “Elephant Peak” in English. You’ll finally come to a clearing, where you’ll find the monks’ dorms to your right. Just behind the monks’ dorms is a shrine hall dedicated to the Dangun, who was the legendary founder of Gojoseon (unknown – 108 B.C.). Gojoseon was the first Korean kingdom. The exterior walls to this hexagonal shrine hall are adorned with various paintings like the “Irwol-do – 일월도,” or the “Sun and the Moon Painting” in English. The sun and the moon are meant to symbolize the king and queen, while the five peaks are meant to symbolize a mythical place. However, in this painting that adorns the shrine hall dedicated to Dangun, there are only four mountains in the painting, and there are three red pines in the foreground. Also, there is only one fast flowing stream pouring out from the mountain below the sun, instead of the traditional fast flowing two streams. Stepping inside this temple shrine hall, and adorning the ceiling of the structure, is a swirling kaleidoscope colours. Below this ceiling, and on the main altar, is a painting dedicated to Dangun. On the left wall, you’ll find a mounted image dedicated to the hierarchy of shaman deities. And to the right is an all-white image of Sanshin-dosa, who is the spirit of mountain passes. It should be noted that in this painting dedicated to Sanshin-dosa, there also appears another figure. This is Yi Seong-gye (1335-1408), who would become King Taejo of Joseon (r. 1392-1398), the first ruler of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). In this image, Sanshin-dosa can be seen handing Yi Seong-gye a sacred sword. This was done after Yi Seong-gye completed a one hundred day Sanshin-gido prayer session; after which, Sanshin-dosa appeared and gave Yi Seong-gye the sacred sword that would help defeat his enemies and overthrow the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). This would be vital to the creation of the new Joseon Dynasty. According to Prof. David Mason, this is one of three such sites to have a legend associated with it claiming that Yi Seong-gye prayed there for powers to established a new Korean dynasty.
Just up the neighbouring embankment, and straight ahead of you, you’ll find the collection of the Chinese pear trees that are Natural Monument #386. Close to these ultra rare pear trees is the Jong-ru Pavilion. Housed inside this bell pavilion is the largest wooden drum in Korea.
Just behind the trees and the Jong-ru Pavilion are a collection of temple shrine halls. The first to the far left is the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall. As you enter the main hall, you’ll notice a triad of smaller statues on the main altar. In the centre rests an image of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). This central statue is joined on either side by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Body Buddha). In the far left corner is a collection of statues which include the Nahan (The Historical Disiciples of the Buddha). And on the far right wall is the Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural). There’s also an older mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) in this area, as well.
Next to the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall is the Geukrak-jeon Hall. Housed inside this temple shrine hall, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This image is joined on either side Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). And in the far left corner of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is an altar dedicated to Jijang-bosal. This altar is joined by a large Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).
The final temple shrine hall that visitors can explore at Eunsusa Temple is the Samseong-gak Hall. Careful with your head when entering this shaman shrine hall, because the entryway is rather low. As you enter, you’ll find an older Shinjung Taenghwa to your left. On the main altar is a statue dedicated to the all-white Sanshin-dosa, as well as a statue and painting dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). The image of Sanshin is dressed in a red robe pulled up near his ears. And to the right of Sanshin are seven statues that depict Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And these seven statues are backed by one of the larger murals dedicated to Chilseong that I’ve seen in Korea.
To the right of the Samseong-gak Hall, and down a little, you’ll find a large bronze statue dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). And joining this statue is a granite fountain with some silvery smooth mountain water flowing into it.
How To Get There
From the Jinan Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a bus bound for Maisan Provincial Park. These buses leave every 40 minutes, and the first bus to leave the station leaves at 7:30 a.m. and runs until 6 p.m. Once you’re dropped off at the entry to Maisan Provincial Park, you’ll need to walk up the 1.5 km long pathway that leads you to Tapsa Temple. Once at Tapsa Temple, you’ll need to head up a steep set of stairs to the right of Tapsa Temple. Hike up this trail for 300 metres, and you’ll finally be at Eunsusa Temple.
Overall Rating: 6/10
Besides the amazing scenery that surrounds Eunsusa Temple, which is stunning, the main highlight to the temple is the temple shrine hall dedicated to Dangun. There are other highlights, as well, like the Sanshin painting inside the Samseong-gak Hall, the Chinese pear trees, and the golden Nahan statues inside the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall. So the next time you’re visiting the neighbouring Tapsa Temple, take a little time to see Eunsusa Temple, as well.