Shinhenugsa Temple

The Shinhenugsa Temple is located in the Seoraksan National Park near Sokho, Gangwon, South Korea.

Seoraksan National Park

Seoraksan National Park is a mountanous reserve 163.2 sq kms in area. It has many peaks over 1200m. At 1708 metres the highest is Daecheongbong. Popular in winter for sking, it is the the red of gold of autumn that attracts most visitors.

 Seorakan National Park
Seorakan National Park in Autumn.

Several hiking trials of various degrees of difficulty are laid out within the park. Many people are present dressed in trekking attire complete with walking poles.

Though I might return one day and go on a trek or two, today the plan is to visit the Shinheungsa Temple easily reached by walking along a short path.

Shinheungsa Temple

Shinhenugsa Temple, originally built around 650AD, is the head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Destroyed and rebuilt many times it is believed to be the oldest Zen temple in the world.

Tongil Daebul

Near the path to the temple is a giant gilt-bronze Buddha called Tongil Daebul. Mounted on a granite terrace it weighs 108 tonnes and is 14.6 meters high. Sitting cross-legged in meditation upon a 4.3 meter high lotus pedestal, its hands are postioned in the mudra, symbolising an "enlightened one".

Giant Buddha named Tongil Daebul
Tongil Daebul

Sixteen panels are engraved on the pedestal. Amber stones with a single piece of jade in centre adorn Buddha's forehead. Flowing robes revealing the right shoulder drape Buddha's torso.

Continuing, I cross a small bridge, called Hyeonsugyo, over a ravine and enter the temple by the Cheonwangmun Gate.

Hyeonsurge Bridge over a ravine
Cheonwangmun Gate the main gate into Shinhenugsa Temple
Cheonwangmun Gate

Inside the gate are four heavenly Kings (Cheonwang), two on either side. They are Damun with a lute; Jiguk with a sword; Gwangmok with a tower; and Jeungjang with a dragon.

Damun and Jiguk are two of four heavenly kings
Damun and Jiguk

The cable car seen in the courtyard background runs to the top of Seorak Mountain. I wanted to ride in it, but alas by the time I got to it had shut down because of windy conditions.

Court Yard of Shinhenugsa Temple

Inside the main hall at the main altar, are three statues. The central one is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He is flanked on either side by two crowned Bodhisattvas, Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul).

Main Alter with Buddha and two crowned Bodisattvas
Main Alter

Visiting the Shinhenugsa Temple is an easy day trip using Sokcho, on the Korean east coast, as a base. Take the Sokcho CIty Bus, Number 7 or 7-1 to the entrance of the Seoraksan National Park.