Jirimsa Temple – 지림사 (Bonghwa, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

The “Rock-carved Seated Buddha in Bukji-ri, Bonghwa” at Jirimsa Temple in Bonghwa, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Temple History

Jirimsa Temple is located to the east of Mt. Hogolsan (283.4 m) in northern Bonghwa, Gyeongsangbuk-do. Historic records indicate that there was once a great temple called “Hanjeol” in Bukji-ri, Bonghwa during the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. – 935 A.D.). Purportedly, the main temple was surrounded by 27 smaller temples, where about 500 monks lived.

There’s also a temple legend surrounding the founding of neighbouring Chukseosa Temple and Jirimsa Temple. According to this legend, the head monk at Jirimsa Temple saw an auspicious light emanating from the side of the mountain. The head monk then told Uisang-daesa (625-702 A.D.) who was visiting Jirimsa Temple at the time. When Uisang-daesa climbed the mountain, he found an image of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy), which was shining. Afterwards, Uisang-daesa built a temple where he found the statue of Birojana-bul, and he enshrined the statue of Birojana-bul at this new temple. This would be Chukseosa Temple, which was founded in 673 A.D.

Eventually, and during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Jirimsa Temple would be destroyed by fire. It was finally around 1949 that the monk Gwon Bohun built a small shrine hall and called it Suwolam Hermitage. Eventually, the temple would grow to include a couple of shrine halls, monks’ dorms, and a pavilion for the temple’s National Treasure.

The National Treasure, which is National Treasure #201, is the “Rock-carved Seated Buddha in Bukji-ri, Bonghwa.”

Temple Layout

From the temple parking lot, you’ll notice the Daeungbo-jeon Hall straight ahead you. The exterior walls are adorned in Buddhist related murals. And at the base of the front doors to the Daeungbo-jeon Hall, you’ll find colourful Gwimyeon (Monster Masks) staring in every direction. Stepping inside the Daeungbo-jeon Hall, you’ll find a triad of statues underneath a large, golden datjib (canopy). In the centre of this triad is an image dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And joining this central image on the main altar are Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and Yaksayeorae-bul (The Medicine Buddha, and the Buddha of the Eastern Paradise). Hanging on the far right wall is a large, modern Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).

To the right of the Daeungbo-jeon Hall are the monks’ dorms and the administrative office. To the left of the main hall, on the other hand, you’ll find the Geukrak-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are filled with images of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom, Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), and the death of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Stepping inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall, you’ll find a central image of Amita-bul. Rather uniquely, this image of the Buddha of the Western Paradise is all-white. To the right of this central image is a red-accented mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And to the left of the all-white image of Amita-bul, you’ll find a mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Sanshin rests on a large mountain ridge. As he rests, he sits on a green mat with an image of a stout tiger at the Mountain Spirit’s side.

To the left of the Geukrak-jeon Hall, and under a newly built wooden pavilion, you’ll find the “Rock-carved Seated Buddha in Bukji-ri, Bonghwa.” This 4.3 metre tall image dates back to the late seventh century. The image was carved inside a hole dug into a large rock. The central image has a big, round face. And it displays a gentle smile on its realistic face. The robe covers both of its shoulders, and it has U-shaped folds on its chest that comes down to the pedestal. The right hand is raised to its chest, while the left hand lies on its lap. There’s a nimbus that surrounds its head. The nimbus is covered in lotus flower patterns that are quite elaborate in design. Joining this large central image are four additional images. However, because of the wear caused by the centuries of erosion, it’s impossible to discern who these images may be, whether they’re Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. However, one thing that can be discerned is that large nimbuses surround each of the four seated smaller images.

How To Get There

The easiest way to get to Jirimsa Temple from the Bonghwa Bus Terminal is to simply take a taxi. The taxi ride should take about 10 minutes, or 6 km, and cost you 9,000 won (one way). So if you’re travelling in a group, this might be the best option.

However, if this isn’t an option, for whatever reason, you can also take a bus to get to Jirimsa Temple from the Bonghwa Bus Terminal. You’ll need to take Bus #21 for eight stops. You’ll need to get off at the “Bukji – Sutgol Bus Stop – 북지숫골 하차.” From this bus stop, you’ll need to walk about 7 minutes, or 500 metres, to the west across the stream. In total, the bus ride and walk should take about 25 minutes.

Overall Rating: 6/10

Jirimsa Temple has undergone a lot of recent renovations and rebuilds. Both the Daeungbo-jeon Hall and the Geukrak-jeon Hall are around ten years old. They are stunning, both inside and out, especially the artwork housed inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall and the dancheong that adorns the exterior of the Daeungbo-jeon Hall. But with all that being said, it’s the stunning “Rock-carved Seated Buddha in Bukji-ri, Bonghwa” that’s the main highlight to the temple.

The Daeungbo-jeon Hall at Jirimsa Temple.
And a look towards the Geukrak-jeon Hall (right) and the pavilion (left) that houses the “Rock-carved Seated Buddha in Bukji-ri, Bonghwa.”
The stunning dancheong that adorns the Daeungbo-jeon Hall.
One of the Gwimyeon (Monster Masks) that adorns the main hall.
A look inside the Daeungbo-jeon Hall at the main altar.
A look towards the Geukrak-jeon Hall at Jirimsa Temple.
The Dragon Ship of Wisdom that adorns one of the exterior walls of the Geukrak-jeon Hall.
The main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall of an all-white image of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).
Joined by this image of Chilseong (The Seven Stars).
As well as this image of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall.
The pavilion that houses the “Rock-carved Seated Buddha in Bukji-ri, Bonghwa.”
And the stunning 4.3 metre tall image of the “Rock-carved Seated Buddha in Bukji-ri, Bonghwa.”

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