Ibike Korea People-to-People Program


Photo essay: Seonunsa

Points of Interest: Seonunsa, Chenwangum, Sangdolsalam

stream, Seonun-sa (temple), Korea Seonun-sa (temple), in the Seonunsan (mountains) was established in 577 AD. This is back in the period of medieval Europe and Mayan civilization. In was during the Baekje period in Korea. Much of its history before 1354 is unknown, but since then it has had many restorations, expansions, been burnt down and rebuilt.   It is said that the name means, "the place where an ascetic devotee is practicing zen meditation with the evening cloud which dwells in the blazing red ofthe setting sun."One pillar gate, Seonun-sa (temple), KoreaOne pillar gate, Seonun-sa (temple), KoreaOne pillar gate, Seonun-sa (temple), Korea

In the classical style, a purifying stream passes by the temple and the entrance path is marked by a one pillar gate.

Chenwangum gate honors the four Devas, Seonunsa, Korea Chenwangum gate honors the four Devas, Seonunsa, Korea Chenwangum gate honors the four Devas, Seonunsa, Korea Chenwangum gate honors the four Devas, Seonunsa, Korea Chenwangum gate honors the four Devas, Seonunsa, Korea

The Chenwangum gate honors the four Devas. Though of Hindu origins, as devotees of Buddha, these figures guard Buddhist cannons and are the protective deities over monks and the faithful.  The Jiguk Deva (lute) rules over the east, the Gwangmok Deva (dragon) over the west, the Jeungjang Deva (sword) over the south and the Damun Deva (pagoda) over the north.  At the center of the four quarters is Sumisan.  Sumisan is where Buddha lives -- a temple is symbolic of Sumisan, therefore, if one passes this gate he or she is likely to enter the world of Buddha.

  Main courtyard, Seonunsa, Korea Buildings and hills, Seonunsa (temple), Korea Daeung-jeon, Main Hall, Seonunsa (temple), Korea Tree and buildings, Seonunsa (temple), Korea Main courtyard, Seonunsa, Korea
  Lanterns, Main courtyard, Seonunsa, KoreaStrolling the ground of a temple is always engaging. There might be a few parallel lines and plains, but there usually is a lot more asymmetry, converging and diverging lines and plains, a variety of textures and colors and a mixture of highly ornate and purposefully plain.
Residence, Seonunsa (temple), Korea Interior with low table, Mansye-ru pavilion, Seonunsa, KoreaLow table, Mansye-ru pavilion, Seonunsa, KoreaSleeping quarters for the monks (left) are general austere and have none of the color and celebrations of the shrines.

In Mansye-ru pavilion low table are set for study and tea (right) the building is very large and bold, while the tables and settings are very simple.

Teaching Buddha / DharmaChakra Buddha, Daeung-jeon, Seonunsa, Korea 1.Teaching Buddha / DharmaChakra Buddha, Daeung-jeon, Seonunsa, Korea 2.Buddha, Ultarabodhi Mudra of supreme enlightenment, Daeung-jeon, Seonunsa, Korea 3.Buddha, Daeung-jeon main hall, Seonunsa, Korea  Buddha, Daeung-jeon main hall, Seonunsa, Korea
Bodhisattva of Compassion, Gwaneeum-jeon, Seonunsa, Korea Bodhisattva of Compassion, Gwaneeum-jeon, Seonunsa, KoreaThe multi-media interior of the shrines and sanctuaries demonstrate a dedication to detail and a mastery of craft -- many crafts. Note that the seated Buddha's and the Bodhisattva (to the sides) all show different hand positions indicated that they are demonstrating different aspects.

The Bodhisattva is Gwanseeum-bosal (the Bodhisattva of Compassion) from Gwaneeum-jeon (hall). It wears a multi-headed crown and is identified by its many hands.

The three Buddha from the main Temple (row above) are:

1) Teaching Buddha / DharmaChakra Buddha (“putting the cosmic law of righteousness in order”)
2) Buddha of Supreme Enlightenment or Perfection
3) Buddha of (?)

QR codes on temple, Seonunsa, KoreaSeonunsa (temple) offers temple-stays which provide an opportunity to experience a bit of temple life, including simple dressing in temple clothes.  The program also includes a tour of the temple to learn about the symbolism, philosophy, ritual and routine of the temple, meals, and in the evening a question and answer session, often with the Sunim (head monk) if he is available, at which he also makes and serves tea.

To further help outsiders understand the temple and its contents QR codes have been posted on some of the buildings (right).

Temple stay tour, Seonunsa, Korea Temple stay tour, Seonunsa, Korea Sunim serving tea, Seonunsa, Korea Tea with the Sunim, Seonunsa, Korea
Stone lantern, Seonunsa, Korea Stone pagoda, Seonunsa (temple), Korea Stone lantern, Seonunsa, KoreaA stone lantern and stone pagoda are present in the courtyard of almost every Korea Buddhist temple. The lantern were made to figuratively and literally remove the darkness within temples where Buddha rested -- to shed light and knowledge on those who come there.. Because lanterns are connected to the offering of lanterns for Buddha, they are usually located in front of the main sanctuary.  They are often seen in tandem with stone pagodas representing Buddha.
Sanshin, the Mountain Spirit, Seonunsa, Korea Sanshin, the Mountain Spirit, Seonunsa, Korea


In what is a fusion of Buddhism and local traditional religion, Sanshin-gak, the highest temple in the compound houses, the altar for Sanshin, the Mountain Spirit who manages the mountain and Guksa, the great god guarding a Buddhist temple. It can usually be identified by the tiger in the imagary.

Camilia forest, Seonunsa (temple), Korea Camilia forest, Seonunsa (temple), Korea

Behind the temple is it famous hillside forest of red camellia trees. They bloom in the early March. The trees are believed to be between 500-600 years old.  These flowers frequently appear in literature amd are designated as Natural Monuments. Seonunsa temple is also known for its beautiful surroundings throughout the year: In the spring there are also cherry blossoms; in the summer sangsa flowers decorate the road to the Dosoram area; fall leaves and winter sceneries are beautiful as well.

Stream, Seonunsa (temple), Korea Stream, Seonunsa (temple), KoreaBridge and Stream, Seonunsa (temple), KoreaStacked stones, Seonunsa (temple), KoreaBecause of its beauty thousands of people come to walk along Dosol streams and in the mountains behind the temple. There are dozens of kilometers of trails that provide a calm environment for meditative walks, or strenuous hikes, as might be desired.
Carved seating Buddha, Seonunsa (temple), Korea Stupa, Seonunsa (temple), KoreaCarved seating Buddha, Seonunsa (temple), KoreaScattered in the hills are shrines, art works, stupa,  memorials, meditation retreat centers and historic locations. The impact of the pieces is the combination of the craftsmanship itself and the setting. Generally specific information on specific pieces is hard to come by.
Jangsasong, 600 year old pine tree, Seonunsa, Korea Seonunsa Jinheunggul caveThe Jinheunggul (cave) (left) is famous for being a location where Shilla King Jinheung (r. 540-575) received some spiritual training, and its role in contemporary historic television dramas. King Jinheung is remembered for expanding his kingdom and being the greatest king of Shilla. In 551, he allied with King Seong of Baekje to take the Han River Valley from the Goguryeo. The spoils were then dividing it equally. In 553, King Jinheung turned and attacked the exhausted army of the Baekje and claimed the entire valley for themselves.

Jinjeunggul is deep in Baekje territory, and so far we have found no date for when he spent time here.

Jangsasong, the pine tree (right) next to Jinjeunggul, is significant for being an old tree -- estimates are 600 years old.

Tea service, Dosol-am, Seonunsa, Korea Tea service, Dosol-am, Seonunsa, Korea Tea service, Dosol-am, Seonunsa, Korea Tea service, Dosol-am, Seonunsa, Korea Tea service, Dosol-am, Seonunsa, Korea

During a meditative walk, a monk at Dosol-am invited us in for tea. Besides his graciousness, he insisted that we each take a turn serving tea. As we each took our place, without language, he patiently, but firmly conveyed the proper posture and ritual for serving tea.

Arahanjeon, Dosolam, Seonunsa, Korea

Shrine, Seonunsa, KoreaArahanjeon, Dosolam, Seonunsa, KoreaArahanjeon houses the statue of Arahan, a saint who has the highest position of monks of Hinayana Buddhism.  According to legend, a giant snake in Yongmun cave at Dosol-am was terrorizing the villagers. In an attempt to protect themselves, the villagers brought a Arahan stature from India and placed it here.  The snake disappeared. The villagers  then built this shrine to make certain that the snake did not reappear.  The present building was built near the end of the Joseon dynasty.

Giant seated Buddha carved into cliff, Seonun Temple, Korea

Giant seated Buddha carved into cliff, Seonun Temple, KoreaJijang Bodjisattva (Ksitigarbha), Sangdolsalam, Seonunsa, KoreaLooming over the trail is Dolsalam (stone man) cliff with a giant Maaebul, rock carving of Buddha (photos to the left). It is  believed to be Maitreya and dates to the Goryeo dynasty. The giant seated Buddha is 3.3m above the ground, and is 15.6m tall and 8.5m wide.Sangdolsalam, Seonunsa, Korea

A long stairway to the right of the giant Buddha lead up to a small and popular shrine at the top of the rock. This is one of the most important shrines of Seonunsa.

Sangdolsalam, Seonunsa, Korea Jijang Bodjisattva (Ksitigarbha), Sangdolsalam, Seonunsa, KoreaSangdolsalam shrine, Seonunsa, KoreaThe shrine is called Sangdolsalam (top of stone man). It contains Jijang Bodhisattva (Ksitigarbha) who is said to rescue people from suffering. Unlike the typical Jijang Bodhisattva, it wears a hood, which was in vogue during the Goryeo dynasty. The shines significance is reflect in a steady stream of believers who come here and climb the mountain to pay their respects. Though the shrine is said to have existed since the Tongil-Silla period, the present building was rebuilt at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty and has been repaired several times. In 2015, the statue of the golden Bodhisattva (right) was removed, revealing a tapestry of the same saint.
Shine to the traditional Korean mountain god, behind Sangdolsalam, Seonunsa, KoreaBehind Sangdolsalam is a shine to the traditional Korean mountain god. These often fairly easy to identify because of their high position and the presence of two shaman and a tiger.

There is also a great view from Sangdolsalam (photos below) and some cute chipmunks packing their cheeks for winter.

View from Dosol, Seonunsa (temple), Korea View from Dosol, Seonunsa (temple), Korea View from Dosol, Seonunsa (temple), Korea View from Dosol, Seonunsa (temple), Korea cute chipmunk packing his cheeks for winter, Seonunsa, Korea.
Convenience store, Seonunsa, Korea Buying comfort food at a convenience store, Korea.


For those who find the rigors and austerity of temple life too sever, within a hundred meters of the entrance is a convenience story that sells coffee and all varieties of junk-, or perhaps it is comfort- food.


Hampyeong to Buan Buan to Gunsan

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