Jeongsusa Temple is located in southern Wanju, Jeollabuk-do. The beautiful peaks of Mt. Mandeoksan (765.5 m) are located to the east of the temple grounds. Jeongsusa Temple was first founded in 889 A.D. by Doseon-guksa (826-898 A.D.). Originally, and according to historical texts from the late 18th century, Jeongsusa Temple was first called Jungam Hermitage. It was only later that the temple changed its name to Jeongsusa Temple because of the beauty and clean mountains and water that surround the temple. Jeongsusa Temple remained as a temple through the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). At some point, the temple fell into disrepair during the early part of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The temple was rebuilt in 1581 by the monk Jinmuk, but the temple was destroyed shortly after by fire when it was destroyed by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-1598).
It’s unclear as to when Jeongsusa Temple was rebuilt, once more, after its destruction, but it does appear in a couple historical texts in the mid-18th century. This indicates that the temple was built some time either in the 17th or 18th century (probably the 17th century). More recently, the Yosachae (monks dorms) were built on the temple grounds in 1923. This was then followed when the abbot at Jeongsusa Temple rebuilt parts of the temple in 1971. Then in 1987, a new brick Yosachae was built at the temple, followed by the construction of the large Geukrak-jeon Hall in 1992. There were two additions to the temple starting in 1996 with the construction of the present Yosachae; and in 2002, the Samseong-gak Hall was added to Jeongsusa Temple.
Jeongsusa Temple is home to one Korean Treasure, the Wooden Seated Amitabha Buddha Triad of Jeongsusa Temple, which is Korean Treasure #1853.
You first approach Jeongusa Temple up a long, winding country road past the Sanggwanjeo-suji Reservoir, which acts as a water source for neighbouring Jeonju. When you finally do get to the temple grounds, you’ll be greeted by a two-story pavilion. To the right of this pavilion, and past the monks’ dorms to the right, you’ll enter into the main temple courtyard at Jeongsusa Temple.
Straight ahead of you is the Geukrak-jeon Hall. This large main hall is adorned with simple Shimu-do (Ox-Herding Murals) and guardian paintings near the entries to the Geukrak-jeon Hall. Stepping inside the main hall, and with the temple’s administrative office to your front left, you’ll find the Wooden Seated Amitabha Buddha Triad of Jeongsusa Temple. This is Korean Treasure #1853. Originally, this triad was housed at Wibongsa Temple in Jeonju, but the triad was moved in the 1910’s to Jeongsusa Temple. It’s unclear, however, where the triad was originally enshrined. As a result, this has led to some disagreement, especially since the only remaining record of the triad is a prayer written at the time of the Wooden Seated Amitabha Buddha Triad of Jeongsusa Temple production. This record, besides clearly stating that it was made in Jeonju, Jeollanam-do, also states that the statues were first made in 1652 by the monk-sculptor Muyeom and his six assistants. The statues are quite large in size with the central image of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) standing 142 cm in height, while the accompanying Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) stands 140 cm in height and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul) stands 136 cm in height. This triad was declared a Korean Treasure in March, 2015. The beautiful triad rests under a large red datjib (canopy) and a swirling pair of protective dragons on the underside of the canopy. To the right of the main altar is a white image of Gwanseeum-bosal that’s joined by an older image dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And to the left of the main altar is an older Sinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).
Parallel to the Geukrak-jeon Hall, and to the left, is the temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to the Myeongbu-jeon Hall are largely unadorned all but for the images of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas up near the eaves of the shrine hall. Stepping inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, you’ll find a solitary image of a golden capped Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This large image of Jijang-bosal rests over top of the smaller images of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife almost like an island. To the left of the main altar is a newer, and very elaborate, Sinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural). To the right of the main altar is a blue haired painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal, once more.
The final temple shrine hall that visitors can explore at Jeongsusa Temple is the Samseong-gak Hall to the rear of the Geukrak-jeon Hall and the Myeongbu-jeon Hall up a set of uneven stone stairs. This larger shaman shrine hall is painted simply around its exterior walls in traditional dancheong colours. Stepping inside the Samseong-gak Hall, you’ll find a central image dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Of note in this painting are the beautiful crowns that Ilwang-bosal (The Sunlight Bodhisattva) and Wolgwang-bosal (The Moonlight Bodhisattva) wear. To the left and right of the central painting dedicated to Chilseong are murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). Sanshin is joined by a ferocious tiger, and the painting of Dokseong takes up nearly the entire surface with the central image of the Lonely Saint surrounded by a golden halo.
How To Get There
Jeongsusa Temple is one of the more remote temples to get to. As a result, there isn’t all that much public transportation that goes out there. So from the Jeonju Train Station, you’ll need to catch a taxi to get out to Jeongsusa Temple. The taxi ride will take 30 minutes over 16.5 km, and it’ll cost you about 16,500 won (one way).
Overall Rating: 7/10
Rather obviously, the main highlight to the lesser known Jeongsusa Temple is the sublime Wooden Seated Amitabha Buddha Triad of Jeongsusa Temple. These mid-Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) statues are simply stunning in both scope and size. In addition to this Geukrak-jeon Hall main altar triad, have a look for the Sinjung Taenghwas (Guardian Murals), the shaman murals inside the Samseong-gak Hall, and the beauty that surrounds Jeongsusa Temple.