Naesosa Temple [내소사 - (來蘇寺)] in Buan, Byeonsanbando National Park, is so far the most beautiful temple (ground) I have ever explored in South Korea.
If I were not already a religious person, I would have joined the monks (or at least live here ^^) in this temple. The temple area is just perfect!
The temple is great: spacious grounds, green surroundings, streams, tall trees, towering rocky mountains in the background. It has everything.
Naesosa has an old temple (built around 1633), a 1000-year old tree, and all relevant Buddhist religious facilities within its grounds, including its gigantic bells.
For you to have some ideas about this page, let me summarize them below as subtitles. Feel free to scan further if you get interested to find out some more…
Now, let me start with…
Naesosa Temple serves as a Buddhism religious site. Buddhist pilgrims travel here believing that this holy place has special features that help them achieve their wishes.
However, being in a strategic and beautiful environment, aside from historical sites, Naesosa became a tourist destination. It is now both a religious and attraction.
It entices thousands of visitors all year round. More so during the spring season when the flowers of cherry blossom trees decorate with their soothing whitish and pinkish colors the path leading towards the temple.
Visitors also love to see the temple during the winter season when everything is covered with white snow.
During summertime, people come to experience the lush green surroundings. They come down after hiking the mountain tops.
Alternatively, they start from here then hike the mountains of Byeonsanbando National Park and come out towards the panoramic seaside of the West Coast.
Coming up from the main entrance of the temple grounds…
Temple Entrance Gate
Even before entering the temple area, you will already be greeted by the intricate art of the entrance gate. Don’t miss to check out the two old trees (around 700 years old each) located right before you enter the gate.
Tall Fir Trees
After passing through that beautiful gate, you will be welcomed by the tall fir trees. They seem to look like bowing towards you walking along the path leading to the temple.
Cherry Blossom Trees
Then after passing over a small granite bridge (see the pond on your left), you will notice the shorter trees: Cherry Blossom Trees. You will certainly recognize them as such when you come during the spring season (blooming period: mid-March to early April).
Thousands of visitors flock Naesosa Temple especially during the spring season to enjoy the Cherry Blossom flowers while at the same time visiting the temple either to appreciate its beauty and history or to meditate and pray.
Four Gods Gate
At the last cherry blossom tree, you will be passing through another gate. This is not an ordinary gate. Just like most Buddhist temples, this gate is being ‘guarded by four gods.’ They look scary to children (hope they're not too scary for you! They are look scary to me!).
1000-year-old Tree (Dangsan Tree)
This tree is the oldest in the temple area and believed to be where prayers by the monks were mostly offered.
The tree is over a 1000 years old and is the living witness of everything that is happening in the area. It is about 20 meters tall and around 7.5 meters in diameter. The tree was designated as nationally protected treasure since 1982.
Naesosa Temple monks are religiously taking care of this tree. You would agree with me that monks are the best protectors of all living things, right? I know that they respect every living creatures on Earth!
‘Jonggak’ means a bell tower in the Korean language. By the way, there are two houses that protect the two bells. The most historical one (Goryeo Bronze Bell) has the descriptions:
Treasure No. 277
This bell which was made in 1222 originally had been placed at Cheongnim Temple of Naebyeonsan but was moved here in 1850. This 103cm high, 67cm wide and 420kg weigh bell contains the typical style of the bell during the end of the Goryeo Period. The ring hanging a (the) bell has a carved dragon, and triad Buddha statue is engraved on the center. While the principal Buddha on the center is seated on a lotus flower, two Bodhisattvas on either side are standing. On the upper and lower part of the bell, magnificent plant shape is inscribed. The pointed lotus flower pattern like a sunflower is where people strike the bell. Not only does the delicately and realistically described bell follow the type of the Tongil-Silla period, but it also bears a marked resemblance to that of the Goryeo dynasty bell.
It is the temple where you are supposed to ‘get rid of your worries.’ It is a temple of solace especially when you only listen to the rustling sounds of the bamboo trees nearby. Great place for meditation, if you prefer.
The temple does not only welcome Buddhism believers but also those who are interested in learning more about Buddhism’s practices and philosophy. Most of those who take the ‘temple stay’ experience are foreigners.
Most of the programs of Korean temples offer practical lessons about Buddhism including meditation, tea-making, background of Buddhism philosophy, etc.
You would need this refreshing water after your hike especially during summertime. I tried it, and I was feeling not only refreshed but also spiritually touched.
You will find this place somewhere in the middle of the temple area. Such blocks are used for offering prayers among believers. You may write on the block your wishes or prayers and pay some amounts to the temple.
Same goes with the candle. However, the candles are offered (I think) inside the main hall (the oldest temple).
3-Storey Stone Pagoda
This stone pagoda is not very strikingly attention-grabbing but very historical. According to the descriptions, this pagoda was made during the Goryeo Dynasty but seems to have adopted the Silla Kingdom's style for making pagodas.
Here’s the description posted at the foot of this structure…
Property No. 124
This 346cm high pagoda which was built during the Goryeo dynasty shows the style of the Silla Kingdom. Its support was (is) made of one stone. On every floor of the central portion, one stone was used, and pillars are carved on each side. The higher it is, the more drastically it diminishes. Because the slope of its roof is steep, this pagoda gives a sharp impression.
It is designated as Jeollabuk-do tangible cultural property.
Now, last but not least. It is the most important and highly-treasured property in the temple ground of Naesosa, so you should not miss to spot this treasure!
Daeungbojeon (Main Hall)
This is the center of attraction. It is also the center building of the temple. This main hall called “Daeungbojeon” is an art masterpiece decorated with intricate designs and amazing colors.
The doors of Daeungbojeon features lotus and chrysanthemum flowers which enhanced the beautiful element to the whole structure.
Right below the temple (left-hand side), you can read the following descriptions:
This is the main sanctum where Sakyamuni Buddha on center with Samantabhadra on the right and Majusri on the left is enshrined. It was built of only wood without nails at the end of the Joseon dynasty. The rips of the lattice door, which are embroidered with lotus flowers and chrysanthemum flowers, remind one of a splendid flower garden. However, the only shadows or diamond-shaped rips are seen from the inside of the sanctum. It portrays a splendid feeling without seeming gaudy, and seems compassionate rather than grand. The Merciful Goddess pai(n)ted behind the statue, is the largest of its kind in Korea.
In the temple, any visitor can explore most of the structures, except for some private areas.
Washrooms are also available inside the temple grounds.
Parking area. It is available outside the temple area. This facility is being managed by the local authorities, and parking fees will be collected per hour and total time you used space for your vehicle.
Also, the rate depends on the size or kind of vehicle you are parking.
Restaurants, Shops, Cafés
Before entering the temple gate, you will find yourself among a busy pathway. Along the sides of this pathway or street, shops, restaurants, cafés are available. Local, traditional, and some fusion food and drinks are available.
Most mountain hikers stop by at any of these places to relax, replenish or spend time with friends or family.
Yes, some buses ferry visitors to this area. This is where I left (above photo) for Buan Bus Terminal.
You can also start your hike from here and cross over the mountain and go down and hike towards Byeonsan where you can catch another bus for Buan-gun (county) where you can take a bus for other cities (Dong Seoul Bus Terminal) and provinces.
It would take between 4-5 hours to hike from Naesosa are to Byeonsan, but it will be very rewarding - nature, sights - you name it! Byeonsanbando National Park is the only one with both the land and sea areas combined, while the remaining Korea's national parks are mountain areas.
It seems that I have satisfactorily described the major features of Naesosa Temple. Since you are already in the area, you might also want to explore more tourist attractions. See below:
Please, check out the sights below which I have explored before getting to Naesosa Temple. You can hike over the mountain and reach these places, while some of them can be reached by taking a buses from Naesosa.
Useful Links and Contact Details:
Website: www.naesosa.org (Korean only), www.english.knps.or.kr
Temple Stay Programme:
Phone: 1330 Travel Hotline: +82-2-1330
Parking facilities : Cars: 155 parking spaces
Bus: 24 parking spaces
Winter season: 08:30-17:30
Summer season: 08:00-18:00
Interpretation Services Offered
To make a reservation, refer to website or contact +82-63-583-3035 (Korean, English)
243, Naesosa-ro, Jinseo-myeon, Buan-gun, Jeollabuk-do
Thanks for reading until this part. Hope this is helpful to your search and travels.
Enjoy the temple when you do!