Great Buddhist Temple named after Go-un Choi Chi-won
in northernmost Uiseong-gun County, South of Andong City
Go-un-sa is home to one of Korea's most cherished pieces of classical architecture, the
Ga-un-ru [“Pavilion Floating over the Clouds”]. This elegant little hall, ideal for leisure,
study or holding classes, straddles a thin stream running out from the temple, propped-up
by wooden columns that rest on foundation stones. Poets have found it a metaphor of
dignified nature, writing that it looks as if a sacred white crane placed its feet in the water
while standing on long legs. Beside it stands the lesser, plainer companion Uhwa-ru 羽化樓.
Go-un-sa 고운사 孤雲寺 [Solitary/Lonely Cloud Temple] is an important monastery located
at the foot of Deungun-san (騰雲山, Riding on Cloud Mountain) in Uiseong-gun (義城郡) County
of North Gyeongsang Province. It was founded 13 years after the beginning of the Unified Shilla
Dynasty, in 681 at the beginning of the reign of King Sinmun (神文王: r. 681–692), by the great
Master Uisang, who named it “High Cloud Temple” (高雲寺) which has the same pronunciation
as the present ‘Go-un-sa’ but a different meaning. Great Confucian / Daoist scholar of the end
of the Shilla period Choi Chi-won (崔致遠, 857-?) had the pen-name of Go-un (孤雲, Solitary or
Lonely Cloud), and he stayed in this temple for awhile, designing for it two unique pavilions
named Gaun-ru (駕雲樓) and Uhwa-ru (羽化樓); therefore the entire temple was eventually
renamed after Choi's pen-name.
This temple was rebuilt and repaired several times during the years afterward, and it served as
a base of resistance to the Japanese invaders during the Imjin Waeran (壬辰倭亂, 1592-98
Japanese Invasion) under Master Sa-myeong, and so it is known as one of the temples of the
hoguk-bulgyo (護國佛敎, nation-protecting Buddhism) tradition. It is one of few such temples that
was not burned by the enemy at that time. In particular, the large-scale reconstruction project that
began in 1695 helped to raise the temple's overall status, which continued until the 18th century.
In the 19th century, Goun-sa suffered serious damage as fires broke out in 1803 and 1835, and
it had to be rebuilt again. Recently, in 1980 the temple was entirely refurbished, and a grand new
Beopdang (Main Dharma Hall) was completed in 2010. Being quite isolated from urban areas, it
is famous for its Seon-jeon [Zen Hall] named Gogeum-dang where Seon Masters Goam (古庵,
1899–1988) and Jeon-gang (田岡, 1898–1975) engaged in fierce practice. It enshrines a Seated
Buddha Stone Statue called the Seokjo Seokga-yeorae Jwasang (石造釋迦如來坐像) designated
as National Treasure #246 -- and several other Buddhist cultural heritages such as a Shilla-era
3-story stone pagoda and the unique Yeonsu-jeon Hall of Neo-Confucian architecture, built to
store the Eocheop (genealogical records of the royal family) collection in 1774 by King Yeongjo.
Go-un-sa is now the Headquarters Temple of the 16th District of the Jogye Order (managing all
temples in Uiseong, Andong, Yeongju, Bonghwa, and Yeongyang counties), and a moderately popular
destination for Buddhist pilgrims and local tourists. It's a great place to visit, and not too far
from the famous Hahoe Aristocratic Village --- but it's not easy to get there!
|The Gaun-ru 駕雲樓 Pavilion
of unique architectural design by late-Shilla Sage Go-un Choi Chi-won