Yongjusa Temple is located on the west side of Mt. Cheonseongsan (920.1 m) in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. Yongjusa Temple is a modern temple being completed in June, 1972. The temple was named Yongjusa Temple after the founder of the temple had a dream where a dragon flew up into the sky holding a wisdom pearl in its mouth as it flew. In 1983, after the death of the founder of the temple, the monk Jijin took over the position of head of the temple at this time. In 2009, with the passing of Jijin, the monk Seongnam took over the position of head monk at the temple. From this time, the temple has undergone several reconstructions like the Daeung-jeon Hall being built. Added to the main hall is a Muryangsu-jeon Hall and the Yongwang-dang Hall. And more recently, an artificial cave as been built on the grounds, as well.
You first approach Yongjusa Temple up a narrow valley next to a stream. The first building to greet you at the temple is a two-story entry gate with the first floor being dedicated to a Geumgangmun Gate and the second story used as a Jong-ru Pavilion (Bell Pavilion). The first story of the structure has a pair of statues dedicated to Narayeon Geumgang and Miljeok Geumgang (The Twin Guardians of Korean Temples). And housed on the second story of the entry gate structure are the four traditional Buddhist percussion instruments including a large Brahma Bell.
Past the two-story entry gate, and now heading down towards the main temple grounds, you’ll find a row of the Sibiji-shin (The Twelve Zodiac Generals) to your left. These one metre and a half tall statues of the Sibiji-shin back a modern budo (stupa). Continuing along in this direction, but still on the north side of the stream, you’ll find a rather long, rectangular shrine hall. The front wall to the newer Myeongbu-jeon Hall is adorned with a large mural dedicated to a reclining Buddha. There is also an outdoor shrine near the entry to this Myeongbu-jeon Hall with a stone statue dedicated to a reclining Buddha, as well. And the top of the shrine hall is adorned with a pair of large, wooden dragons holding wisdom pearls. Stepping inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, and at the far end of the narrow shrine hall, you’ll find a black haired image dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the main altar.
Now crossing over a bridge that spans the stream, so that you’re now standing on the south side of the waterway, you’ll now be standing in the main temple courtyard with various shrines and shrine halls at Yongjusa Temple. The most prominent, and the first of the collection of structures, is the rather obvious large, golden outdoor shrine dedicated to a seated Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) statue near the monks’ dorms and administrative office.
Continuing along the pathway leading up to the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find a row of stone statues dedicated to the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). These highly descriptive statues are also joined by a jovial stone statue of Podae-hwasang (The Hempen Bag).
Beyond these outdoor shrines dedicated to the Nahan and Podae-hwasang is the Daeung-jeon Hall at Yongjusa Temple. The exterior walls to the Daeung-jeon Hall are adorned with beautiful, modern Palsang-do (The Eight Scenes from the Buddha’s Life). Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll find a triad of statues resting on the main altar. In the centre of the triad is that of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who is joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the left of the main altar is a shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The all-white stone statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion is backed by a multi-armed mural of Gwanseeum-bosal, as well. To the right of the main altar, on the other hand, is a Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).
To the rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall is an outdoor shrine dedicated to a five metre tall statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. Around the base of this stone statue is a lotus pond and a pair of dragons twisting around the statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Tucked away to the left side of this statue, and past the diminutive three-story pagoda, is the Yongwang-dang Hall at Yongjusa Temple. Housed inside this shaman shrine hall is a stone statue of a seated Yongwang (The Dragon King) holding a red wisdom pearl.
To the left of the Yongwang-dang Hall is a two-story shrine hall. The first story of this structure is the older Myeongbu-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with some of the most beautiful (and disturbing) murals dedicated to the Siwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld) in all of Korea, which is remarkable for such a small temple. Stepping inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, you’ll find a green haired statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And on either side of the main altar are row-upon-row of diminutive statues dedicated to Jijang-bosal, as well.
Climbing the stairs to the second story of the structure, you’ll find the Muryangsu-jeon Hall. The exterior walls of this shrine hall are adorned with the different cycles to ones life from birth to death and the filial piety in between. The main altar of the Muryangsu-jeon Hall are occupied by a triad centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), who is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). And rounding out the rest of the interior, and much like the first story of the older Myeongbu-jeon Hall, you’ll find diminutive statues dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal and Amita-bul this time around.
Backtracking a bit, and perched above the artificial cave-system at Yongjusa Temple, you’ll find the Samseong-gak Hall. The cave-system has recently been constructed, so there’s nothing occupying the labyrinth of tunnels other than candles. It should be noted that you get a great view of the massive outdoor shrine statue of Seokgamoni-bul, uniquely designed rows of seokdeung (stone lanterns), and the beautiful mountains off in the distance from this cave system. But while the caves are unoccupied but for the burning candles, the Samseong-gak Hall has a collection of three modern paintings dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars) in the centre. This central image is joined on either side by Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) to the left and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) to the right.
How To Get There
Yongjusa Temple is a little complicated to get to. First, take Bus #12. You can easily catch this bus from the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal. From the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you should take this bus until you get to Hanseong Apartments, which is the 12th stop. After you’re dropped off, travel north up the road for about 5 minutes. Finally you’ll be able to find a brown city sign with the name of the temple “Yongjusa Temple – 용주사” on it. Turn right at this sign and follow the twisting road as it heads under the highway bridge. You’ll finally arrive at the temple after five minutes.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Yongjusa Temple has undergone numerous renovations and reconstructions as of late: some good and some not so good. The addition of the outdoor shrine dedicated to both Seokgamoni-bul and Gwanseeum-bosal are nice little additions, while the artificial cave-system I’m undecided on because it’s yet to be completed status. However, the long rectangular Myeongbu-jeon Hall at the entry simply seems out of place. In addition to these new additions, the artwork surrounding the Daeung-jeon Hall and the older Myeongbu-jeon Hall are simply stunning. So while the new additions are a bit of a mixed bag, the overall aesthetic to Yongjusa Temple makes for a beautiful little visit to a lesser known temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.