Gyeongsangbuk-do

Oeosa Temple – 오어사 (Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

The Sanshin-gak Hall at Oeosa Temple in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Temple History

Oeosa Temple is located in southern Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do to the east of Mt. Unjesan (479.5 m). Oeosa Temple was first founded during the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. to 935 A.D.) during the reign of King Jinpyeong of Silla (r. 579 – 632 A.D.). At first, the temple was named Hangsasa Temple. The temple gained its current name through a rather interesting tale about the monks Hyegong and Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.). One day, while attempting to revive two fish that had been swimming in the neighbouring lake, one of these two fish came back to life. Both claimed that they were the one to revive the fish, so from that day on the temple came to be known as Oeosa Temple, which means “My Fish Temple” in English.

Since the temple’s creation, very little is known about its history. However, what is known is that four monks, Jajang-yulsa (590-658 A.D.), Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.), Hyegong, and Uisang-daesa (625-702 A.D.) had a relationship with Oeosa Temple. This is made evident by the hermitages that surround Oeosa Temple like Jajangam Hermitage and Hyegongam Herimtage to the north, Wonhyoam Hermitage to the south, and Uisangam Hermitage to the west.

In total, Oeosa Temple is home to one Korean Treasure. This is the Bronze Bell of Oeosa Temple, which is Korean Treasure #1280.

Temple Layout

You first approach Oeosa Temple up a long winding road that’s surrounded by the neighbouring mountains and a water reservoir. On your way, you’re likely to see some local mountain hikers out enjoying the picturesque landscape. Immediately upon entering the temple grounds, you’ll be greeted by an open Jong-ru (Bell Pavilion). There’s a large Brahma Bell housed inside it, and it’s adorned with beautiful Bicheon (Flying Heavenly Deities). In addition to the central Brahma Bell, you’ll find an old, gnarled wooden fish gong, as well.

To the immediate right of the bell pavilion is the temple’s fountain that has a baby stone monk at the head of the fountain. To the right of this cute fountain, you’ll find the Nahan-jeon Hall. Up the stairs, and entering the Nahan-jeon Hall, you’ll find a golden collection of Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) inside. These sixteen statues are joined by a main altar triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).

Next to the Nahan-jeon Hall is the simplistic Samseong-gak Hall. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with beautiful landscape paintings. Inside, you’ll find three shaman murals. In the centre is a rather long Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. To the right is a simplistic painting dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). And to the left, you’ll find a stunning Yongwang (The Dragon King) mural. If you look close enough at the Yongwang mural, you’ll actually see that the golden scales of the swirling dragons are bubbled to give the dragon scales texture. Keeping the Samseong-gak Hall company, and slightly to the left and under a beautiful cherry blossom tree, is the Sanshin-gak Hall. Housed inside the other shaman shrine hall at Oeosa Temple is a simplistic mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Sanshin is joined in this mural by his trusty side-kick, a ferocious tiger.

Uniquely, or rather strangely, the Daeung-jeon Hall at Oeosa Temple sits in the centre of the temple courtyard and not at the back of the temple grounds. The Daeung-jeon Hall dates back to 1741, and its exterior walls are adorned with a beautiful collection of Shimu-do (Ox-Herding Murals). Stepping inside the rather compact main hall, especially for a temple of such size and prominence, you’ll find a triad of statues resting on the main altar. In the centre sits an image of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the right of the main altar is an older painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

After looking around the temple grounds, you can walk out the main temple gates and past two fierce-looking Narayeon Geumgang and Miljeok Geumgang (Heng and Ha) that adorn the temple entry gate. Down the stairs, you’ll come to a beautiful river that flows tranquilly out in front of Oeosa Temple. The view is both peaceful and calm.

Before you leave Oeosa Temple, and if you have time, you should visit the temple’s museum, which is free. The museum houses the purported hat of Wonhyo-daesa, and it’s also where you’ll find the Bronze Bell of Oeosa Temple, which is a Korean Treasure. In November, 1995, during construction on the reservoir in front of Oeosa Temple, the Bronze Bell of Oeosa Temple was discovered. The bronze bell was first cast in 1216. Suseong-daesa, from Donghwasa Temple in Daegu, was in charge of the casting of this specific bronze bell. On the surface of the bell, you’ll find Bicheon (Flying Heavenly Deities) flying. You’ll also find two Bodhisattva images on the surface of the bell. Each is kneeling on a flower cushion, and their hands are clasped together. Amazingly, the bell weighs 180 kg.

How To Get There

From the Pohang Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to make your way over to the Ocheon Transfer Station. To get there, you can either take Bus #175 for thirty minutes, or you can take a taxi that’ll last seventeen minutes. The taxi ride will cost about 10,000 won. From the Ocheon Transfer Station, you’ll then need to board the bus that says “Ocheonjiseon (Oeosa) – 오천지선 (오어사)” on it. This bus ride will last about twenty minutes, or eleven stops. From where the bus lets you off, you’ll need to walk the remaining kilometre to Oeosa Temple.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

Oeosa Temple is one of the most beautifully located temples in all of Korea with its meandering river and the towering mountains. Adding to this natural beauty is the Bronze Bell of Oeosa Temple inside the temple museum, the historic Daeung-jeon Hall with its Shimu-do (Ox-Herding Murals) that adorn its exterior walls, and the handful of other temple shrine halls that visitors can explore. Oeosa Temple makes for a nice little weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The reservoir in front of Oeosa Temple.
The view leading up to the temple grounds.
Passing through the side entrance to Oeosa Temple.
The Jong-ru (Bell Pavilion) at Oeosa Temple.
A look inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.
The Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural housed inside the Sanshin-gak Hall.
The twisting golden dragon in the Yongwang (Dragon King) mural inside the Samseong-gak Hall.
The historic Daeung-jeon Hall.
One of the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding Murals) that adorns the Daeung-jeon Hall.
A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
The Bronze Bell of Oeosa Temple inside the temple museum at Oeosa Temple.
The main entry gate at Oeosa Temple.

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