Yangsan, Tongdosa | 통도사 (通度寺)

I am lucky to be able to visit Tongdosa in Yangsan-si, which is almost an hour or more journey from Busan to Yangsan. It rain all the way when we visited Tongdosa. So the photos taken in Tongdosa were all gloomy. 

Tongdosa is Korea's largest temple located in southern part of Chiseo-san and famous as "the temple without a Buddha" for no having outdoor statues of the Buddha. This is because the real shrines of the Buddha are preserved here - the Buddha’s presence in the temple is represented by the relics of Buddha that Master Jajang (the founder) brought back from China.  

Tongdosa is also one of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea called the Sambosachal 삼보사찰, the other two are Haeinsa in Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do and Songgwangsa in Suncheon, Jeollanam-do. Founded in 646 C.E. by Jajang-yulsa, Tongdosa is not only a temple, but a museum holding 19 provincial treasures and 794 culture assets designated by South Gyeongsang Province.

After park our vehicle, we first cross this three arch bridge named Samseongbanwol also known as One Mind Bridge before approaching the entrance. SamSeongBanWol meaning three stars (sam seong) and a half moon (ban wol) from Chinese character 三星伴月.

The stream that flow thru next to Tongdosa.

Iljumun (일주문; hanja: 一柱門)
After Three Arch Bridge, we cross the first gate called Iljumun to the temple. Iljumun meaning One-Pillar Gate because the gate is supported by a single pillar from both side. 

Traditional ancient wall that divided the temple buildings and entrance. Do take time to stop by and look around the surrounding,

Cheonwangmun  (천왕문; hanja:天王門)
Walk along beside the walls, we then approach the second gate - Cheonwangmun which is the Gate of the Four Heavenly Kings or Gate of the Guardians of the Four Directions 

After we enter the gate, we saw the Four Heavenly Kings two by two stood on both side inside the gate. In Buddhism, the Four Heavenly Kings are four gods, each of whom watches over one cardinal direction of the world. They protects the world from evil spirits and each of them able to command a legion of supernatural creatures to protect the Dharma (Buddhist teachings). 

Beomjonggak Bell Tower 
After cross Cheonwangmun, the building we came across is this Beomjonggak Bell Tower. Many of Tongdosa’s buildings were destroyed in the Seven Years War and later reconstructed. There are 35 buildings in total including Pagoda and 14 small temples in Tongdosa. The main building itself is designated as National Treasure No.290.

Geungnakbojeon 극락보선 (極樂殿) 
Next to bell tower is Geungnakbojeon. Geungnakbojeon is designated South Gyeongsang Provincial Tangible Cultural Property #194. Don't miss out the painted guardians at the walls of Gueknakbojeon. It was originally constructed in 1369 (end of Goryeo Dynasty) to house the Amitabha Buddha. Geungnakbojeon is positioned to the west so worshippers would face that direction. 

Samjeongseoktap 감층석탐
Samjeongseoktap - the 3 tier stone pagoda located in front of the Geungnakbojeon. Designated South Gyeongsang Provincial Tangible Cultural Property #18. This 3 tier stone pagoda constructed with a base and pedestal with carved designs in the base from the late Silla period.

Geungnakbojeon 극락보선 (極樂殿) front entrance. 

Opposite Geungnakbojeon and the 3 tier stone pagoda is Yaksajeon (약사전; hanja: 藥師殿) on the right and the last gate to Tongdosa - Purimun 불이문 which is on left, behind Yaksajeon.

Purimun  (불이문; Hanja: 不二门) 
The third gate which is also the final gate to Tongdosa. Purimun - the Gate of Non-Duality - symbolizes the non-duality and equality of all things in the universe. Designated South Gyeongsang Provincial Tangible Cultural Property #252. This gate has been rebuilt many times and current structure was restored in the late Chosun Dynasty and was built in a straight line with Iljumun, Cheonwangmun, and Daeungjeon 

While I cross over Purimun, I was facinated when I noticed the Lotus symbol engraved tiles inside the Gate of Purimun.  

From Purimun, looking back at Cheonwangmun (second gate) direction. On my right hand side is Manseru (만세루; hanja: 萬歲樓) which is a Buddhist souvenir shop and bookshop. We make a pit stop by the shop before Purimun, and my husband bought a booklet at 3000 won where I able to get some information of what to see in Tongdosa later.

From Purimun, I continue walk towards to Tongdosa's main hall - Daeungjeon.

A 5 tier stone Pagoda and Stone lanterns on the way up to Daeungjeon again draw everyone's attention and stop by take a closer look. 

Closer look of  5 tiers stone pagoda which named Ocheungseoktap in front of Daeungjeon. The cloudy weather makes everything looks so gloomy and feels like I am back to the past at late Silla period.  

Gwaneumjeon 관음전
Next to the Ocheungseoktap and stone latern is Gwaneumjeon, which was said is the most popular temple in Tongdosa. Don't miss out the Bongbaltap 봉발탑 - a stone bowl at the back of the Gwaneum-jeon. 

Next to Gwaneunjeon is Sejeonbigak 세존비각 on left and Gaesanjodang 개산조당 on right. 

Sejeonbigak (세존비각; hanja: 世尊碑閣)
Sejeonbigak is the Gravestone shrine of Shakyamuni Buddha. It is written about the journey of Buddha's sariras on the front side, Buddha's journey and the contents of his speech at each area in the back of gravestone.

Daeungjeon (대웅전; hanja: 大雄殿)
Rebuilt in 1601 during the reign of King Sonjo. National Treasure #290. Daeungjeon - main hall of Tongdosa is famous with  "The temple without a Buddha", for there is not a single outdoor statue of Buddha on grounds. This is because the "real shrines of the Sakyamuni Buddha" (relics) are preserved at Tongdosa.

View from Daeungjeon look at Purimun direction - the stupas (pagodas) that house the Buddha's relics are arrayed around the temple's courtyards.  

Feels like back to the past in the Jeseon period.

Guryongji 九龍池
The temple is also famous for Guryongji which have interesting legends. According to legend, Tongdosa was once a big lake where there were nine evil dragons lived. Jajangyulsa (the founder of the temple) ask the dragons to leave by reciting a magic Buddhist scripture but the dragons refuse. Jajangyulsa then inscribed the Chinese character for FIRE fire and made the lake water began to boil. The dragons could not tolerate the heat and flew off from the pond to escape. 

Three of them colliding into a cliff named Yonghyeol-am means Dragon Blood Rock due to the stain of their blood is retains. Another five dragons fled into a southwest into a  valley which now called Oryonggok (Five Dragon Valley). While the last dragon went blind due to the heat, made a vowed to Jajangyulsa to spare his life and he would guard the temple forever, his request is granted and allowed to stay in pond which is now called Guryongji.

Samseonggak 삼성각
A Portraits of the three Great Masters in Korean Buddhism: Moo-hak, Jigong and Naong is placed in this shrine. They have been held in great respect by many buddhists even in these days.

Beside the ancient temples, I am more attract by the 100 years old pines trees that surrounds the Tongdosa. Amazingly beautiful. 

Geumgang Gyedan 
Geumgang Gyedan also known as diamond stairs, is located near to which Master Jajang is said to have buried part of Buddha’s relics. I did not take any photo of the diamond stairs as I thought phone is not allowed which also including my iphone (I am taking photo using my iphone).  

Due to heavy downpour, we only walk thru the temples in Tongdosa and not pay a visit inside. Instead we just look into the temple from outside. For more about Tongdosa - click HERE to visit their Official Website in English version for more details.  

Overview map of Tongdosa
I've mark down the temples name from the Courtyard Plan of Tongdosa that I get from this link based on the map inside the booklet that my husband bought. Hope this map will be useful.


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