One of Korea's Greatest Monasteries
|Bangdeung Gyedan (Master-Lantern Ordination-Altar), designated as Treasure #26;
see the main one at Tongdo-sa to understand its significance.
This is also called, using Sanskrit, the Vaipulya Gyedan (Universal Pervasive Dharma Precepts-Altar)
|The Main Courtyard, featuring the Daejang-jeon Sakyamuni Hall, Treasure #827, and precious stone artworks,
This view is from the Gyedan on the SE corner of the courtyard, looking NW.
Geumsan-sa [금산사, 金山寺, Golden-Mountain Temple] is one of the most important, holy
and famous temples in southwestern Korea (former territory of the Baekje Kingdom); and it is
regarded as one of the primary sites of Korean Buddhism's Mireuk-bul (彌勒佛, Maitreya the Future
Buddha) worship-traditions, as well as being an ancient Jeokmyeol-Bogung temple (although not
associated with Master Jajang).
It is located on the western slope of Mt. Moak-san, quite renowned for its mystical spiritual qualities in
Korean culture; a western orientation is very rare in Korean temples. It was founded in 600 CE by
Baekje King Mu (武王, r. 600-641) with the aim of encouraging people not to harm other sentient
beings and to live together in peace. It was abandoned after that kingdom’s defeat, and then grandly
reconstructed by Master Jinpyo (眞表, 742-780) during the Unified Silla Dynasty in 766, featuring its
famous Mireuk-bul statue-triad and Hall, and became Korea's main center of the Mireuk faith, the
central tenet of which was belief in the advent of the future Buddha (see next page). According to
recorded legend, Master Jinpyo (眞表, 8th century) built the Jinpyo built the gigantic Mireuk-jeon
with its three standing bronze statues, and also created the “Vaipulya” Bangdeung Gyedan
(precepts-altar) there with a stupa to enshrine the sacred relics of Sakyamuni Buddha given to him
by a manifestation of Mireuk. Contrary to this legend, however, religious archaeologists believe
that the stone gyedan monument was built during the early period of the Goryeo Dynasty due to
its refined structure and the exuberant carvings decorating all its sides and its “stone bell” stupa.
In 1592 the Joseon Dynasty government set up the Regulatory Body for the sixteen Doctrinal and
Seon schools to oversee all temples by region, and Geumsan-sa became the headquarters mon-
astery responsible for Jeolla-do. Later that same year, however, all its buildings and more than forty
surrounding hermitages were destroyed during the 1592-98 Imjin Japanese Invasion, after an army
of monks led by Master Noemuk Cheoyeong gathered there to oppose the Japanese invaders. It is
therefore a temple of the hoguk-bulgyo (護國佛敎, nation-protecting Buddhism) tradition. All of the
present buildings were reconstructed in 1635, and refurbished several times since then.
Geumsan-sa now serves as the gyogu-bonsa (敎區本寺, district headquarters temple) of the 17th
District of the Jogye Order, and is one of Korea's most popular destinations for pilgrims and tourists.
Besides those mentioned above, it contains many state-designated cultural assets such as the Noju
Stone Monument (Treasure #22), the Monument for Master Hyedeog-wangsa (Treasure #24), the
Five Story Stone Pagoda (Treasure #25), the Hexagonal Multi-storied Stone Pagoda (Treasure #27),
the Stone Flagpole-supports (Treasure #28), the Goryeo Stone Lantern (Treasure #828) and more.
|The gigantic Daegwang-Bojeon Main Hall
|Huge statues of the Five Great Buddhas flanked by six Bodhisattvas sit on the Main Altar
|The Ocheung Seoktap 5-story Stone Pagoda, Treasure #25,
accompanying the Gyedan, both just east of the Mireuk-jeon.
|Seokdeung Stone Lantern, Treasure #828
The Yukgak Tachung Seoktap or Hexagonal Multi-storied Stone-Pagoda is designated as Treasure
#27, and is very unusual in design, made of black clay-slate, the main ingredient of ink-stones. It is
a 2.2 metre high hexagonal stupa, unique in Korea and the world. From the engraving methods
used on the main body and the roof stone it is now estimated to have been built in the 10th or 11th
centuries, early in the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392); it was moved here from the nearby Bongcheon-
won Hermitage, to sit near the middle of the Main Courtyard, but closer to the Mireuk-jeon; probably
intended to be associated with it. A lotus-flower pattern is engraved on the stylobate. The roof
stones slope gently on its outer edges, but curves sharply at the corners. Due to the disappearance
of the original capstone, a decorated granite finial was added later. Clearly, there are other missing
pieces -- it was originally 11 or 13 storeys, and there probably were hexagonal-box bodies between
all the roofs, so that it was much taller than now.
|The mysterious "Noju" monument, just a base, pedestal, lotus-base and finial-section, is Treasure #22
|The Seok-yeondae or Stone Lotus Base is Treasure #23; also from early Goryeo
|Cherry-blossoms bloom every April
|A gyedan [계단, 戒壇, precepts-altar or ordination platform] is the site at or upon which the Gujokgye
[具足戒, Monastic Ordination Ceremony] is performed, when the full set of Buddhist precepts are
vowed by the novice, transforming him or her into a monk or nun; also called the ordination platform.
In Korea they are usually a square granite platform with a second raised square level in the center.
On this sits a bell-shaped budo [浮屠, memorial stupa; funerary reliquary] purported to contain sari
[sarira, crystal post-cremation relics] of Sakyamuni Buddha; and these platforms are therefore
considered to be Jeokmyeol-bogung sites. Other members of the Seungga [僧伽, Sangha,
temple community] may renew their various vows at them. By swearing their vows in front of the
budo containing relics of Sakyamuni, the adepts are symbolically vowing directly to Buddha himself,
as well as the Buddha-natures within themselves. The artistic decorations of these monuments are
said by experts to suggest a connection with the Mireuk-bul (彌勒佛, Maitreya the future Buddha)
sects and the Jeongto-jong (淨土宗, Pure Land School). Besides the primary Geumgang-gyedan at
Tongdo-sa Temple established by Master Jajang in 643, which became the first official one, the only
other extant historic gyedan are this one, another at Mt. Biseul-san Yongyeon-sa, and possibly one
at Bulil-sa Temple (佛日寺) in what is now the DPRK (North Korea),
|Standing at the Daejang-jeon (see below), looking south across the Main Courtyard towards the Mireuk-jeon.
|Nine Dragons, an ancient Buddhist guardian-motif, encircle the first finial.