Nawonsa Temple – 나원사 (Gyeongju)

The Five-Story Stone Pagoda in Nawon-ri at Nawonsa Temple in Gyeongju.

Temple History

Nawonsa Temple is located in the northern part of Gyeongju in Nawon-ri. Nawonsa Temple is a restored temple that was recently rebuilt in 1975. The temple was named after its location in Nawon-ri. Before it was rebuilt, the temple was known as the Nawon-ri Temple Site. The temple site was also known as the Nanwonsa Temple Site. Additionally, the temple was once known as Daegakam Hermitage in recognition of the founder of the temple.

But Nawonsa Temple is most famous for the Five-Story Stone Pagoda in Nawon-ri, which is National Treasure #39. The historic pagoda dates back to the 8th century and is located out in front of the newly built Nawonsa Temple. At the entrance of Nawonsa Temple, there was stone pagoda material, earthenware, and tiles from Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.) and the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) discovered around the temple site.

Temple Layout

Down a few country roads and past the scenic Hyeongsan Rivers is the well hidden Nawonsa Temple. When you first approach the temple grounds, you’ll pass by the temple parking lot, which is located just outside the former temple site. Passing through a clearing, you’ll notice an elevated pagoda to the rear of this clearing. This is the Five-story Stone Pagoda in Nawon-ri. Next to the East and West Three-Story Stone Pagodas at the Gameunsa Temple Site in eastern Gyeongju, which is National Treasure #112, the Five-Story Stone Pagoda in Nawon-ri is the largest extant stone pagoda in Gyeongju. Remarkably, the pagoda at Nawonsa Temple has retained most of its white colour, which has earned it the nickname of “Nawon Baektap.” In English, this means “White Pagoda of Nawon-ri.” This historic pagoda dates back to the 8th century, and it stands an impressive ten metres in height. The body of the pagoda consists of one solid stone and five-stories. The five-stories are well-proportioned and sit atop a two-story platform. Sadly, only the broken pole that sits atop the pagoda and its base are all that remain of the crowning finial. Overall, the pagoda has a beautiful sense of harmony.

Past the Five-Story Stone Pagoda in Nawon-ri, and in a bend in the road to the left of this historic pagoda, is Nawonsa Temple. The newly built temple is located at the base of a small mountain. Straight ahead, and past a collection of temple facilities, is the diminutive concrete Daeung-jeon Hall. The exterior of the main hall is unpainted all but for the dancheong colours. There are a pair of stone lanterns out in front of the elevated Daeung-jeon Hall. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll notice a collection of white statues on the main altar. Sitting in the centre of these seven statues is an image of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Hanging on the far left wall is the temple’s Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural), as well as a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

The only other temple shrine hall at Nawonsa Temple is the Samseong-gak Hall. The shaman shrine hall is located to the left rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall and up a set of innumerable stairs. Housed inside the unadorned exterior of the Samseong-gak Hall are three shaman murals. In the centre hangs a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Star). To its left is a mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). And the final mural housed inside the Samseong-gak Hall is dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

How To Get There

From the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take Bus #232. After 21 stop, or 30 minutes, you’ll need to get off at the Nawonsa Temple entrance stop (나원사 입구) then walk towards the temple.

Overall Rating: 5/10

Rather obviously, the main highlight to Nawonsa Temple is the Five-Story Stone Pagoda in Nawon-ri. Both its age and graceful lines make it a beautiful site to see. Additionally, the murals inside the Daeung-jeon Hall are another thing to keep an eye out for when visiting this lesser known Gyeongju temple.

The Five-Story Stone Pagoda in Nawon-ri at the entry of Nawonsa Temple.
A closer look at the historic pagoda.
The bend in the road leading towards the newly built Nawonsa Temple.
One final look at the Five-Story Stone Pagoda in Nawon-ri.
The Daeung-jeon Hall at Nawonsa Temple.
A Banya Yongseon-do (Dragon Ship of Wisdom) outside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
The Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) on the left and the mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the right.
The long stairs leading up to the Samseong-gak Hall.
The understated Samseong-gak Hall.
The mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) inside the Samseong-gak Hall.
As well as this mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).
And Yongwang (The Dragon King).

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