Hwaeomsa Temple Ssanggyesa Temple Cheoneunsa Temple
The meaning of the name 'Jiri' in Jirisan roughly means: "a fool can become a wise man if he stays there long enough." Maybe that's why there were many men of foresight in Jirisan Mountain when compared to other regions. Some of the leading figures of the Joseon Dynasty, such as Kim Jong-jik, Jeong Yeo-chang, and Jo Sik, are from one of the villages at the foot of Jirisan Mountain. There were also a number of great artists too, such as Song Man-gap and Kim Cho-wol. It wouldn't be too far off to say that just about every historical figures of Korea has lived, or at least spent some part of their lives, in or around the mountain. The mountain is also home to Cheonghakdong, a mountain village where people believed mountain deities lived. If those who sought out an ideal form of life went to live in Cheonghakdong, those who preferred to live in the worldly world turned to religion – more specifically, Buddhism – to find peace in their everyday lives. In this aspect, it's no wonder there are many renowned Buddhist temples in Jirisan Mountain. There are Hwaeomsa, Cheoneunsa, and Ssanggyesa Temples to the west, while there are Silsangsa, Daewonsa, and Beopgyesa Temples to the east. Among them, Hwaeomsa, Cheoneunsa, and Ssanggyesa are the most well-known temples in Jirisan Mountain. The three temples are not far from each other. They're located so close to each other that you can visit all the three temples in just one day. While it's possible to see all the temples in one day, it's recommended to take enough time to see and experience each of the three temples. Many would agree that staying at the temple for a few days and getting to know the nature wouldn't be a waste of time.
Hwaeomsa Temple It's not hard to reach Hwaeomsa Temple. All you have to do is arrive at Gurye or Namwon. It's because there are many buses from Gurye and Namwon. The bus runs every 30 minutes from Gurye, and there are frequent buses from the City of Namwon to Hwaeomsa Temple (buses departing from Namwon also stops at Gurye on the way). Thanks to the public transportation, Hwaeomsa Temple is one of the easiest places to visit. But as you can see, it's much easier to get to the temple if you start from Gurye. If you have taken a bus to the temple, get off at Jirisan Nambu Management Office and walk up the path for about 20 minutes. Participants of the templestay program don't have to pay the admission fee at the ticket booth. If you're participating in the templestay program, go past the One Pillar Gate and climb up the stairs on the opposite side of a large monument (it reads: "Memorial Stele for Seon Master Byeogam"). At the top of the staircase, you'll see a building for templestay participants.

The templestay program of Hwaeomsa is quite famous, both among local Koreans and foreign visitors. Although it's called a 'templestay program' for the sake of the readers, it's not really a program. It's because participants get to choose what they will do while staying at the temple. However, every participant is required to participate at the "pay homage" to Buddha at 03:00 and 18:00. One of the unique features of the temple schedule is the drum playing, which is not practiced in smaller Buddhist temples. Many find the sound of the drum soothing to the mind. In addition, those staying at the temple get a chance to ask anything to the Buddhist monks. One of the foreign visitors chose to become a Buddhist monk after seeing that the monks find and tell just the right answer for the person who asked the question.
Being such a celebrated place, the temple offers much to see. The unique scenery of the temple grounds is created by the exquisite layout of buildings surrounding Daeungjeon and Gakhwangjeon Halls, with the view of Nogodan Peak behind them. Among the many things people come to this temple for, there are three that you don't want to miss. The first is the three-story stone pagoda at the top of the 108 stairs behind Gakhwangjeon. It's one of the most outstanding features of the temple. It frequently appears in Korean school textbooks. It's in the shape of Monk Yeongi, the founder of Hwaeomsa Temple, offering a cup of tea to his mother. It's widely regarded as the origin of the Korean concept of filial piety. The next place you don't want to miss is the Gucheungam Hermitage located at the end of the narrow path behind Daeungjeon. Some of the outstanding characteristics of the hermitage include the wooden columns made of the whole trunk of a quince tree that was used as a wooden material after it died in the front yard of the main temple. However, the real treasure of this hermitage is wild tea plants. The tea plants growing among bamboos at the foot of the mountain right behind the temple are called "jungnocha", which is regarded as the most delicious tea of all in the country. The third thing you want to see is the Cherry Tree of Jijangam Hermitage on the opposite side of the One Pillar Gate.
It is said that the tree was planted by a Buddhist monk Byeogam when he founded Hwaeomsa soon after the Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592. He planted the trees not to appreciate the beautiful flowers they bear, but to use the wood to make bows and swords for the nation's military strength after going through the Japanese Invasion and Second Manchu Invasion of Korea. It's the last of the trees planted for the purpose.
  • Travel Tip
  • To participate in the Hwaeomsa Templestay
  • Fee: KRW 40,000 for two days and one night; KRW 70,000 for three days and two nights; KRW 100,000 for four days and three nights. Open Till: 16:00

    Inquiries: +82-61-782-7600
    * Templestay is not available on Wednesday.
Ssanggyesa TempleAll the buses running between Gurye and Hadong make a stop at Hwagae. There are many buses that make their final stop at Ssanggyesa Temple or one of the villages deeper into the mountain. This means that if you're taking a bus to the temple from Gurye or Namwon, you only need to transfer once at Hwagae. It's only about a 10-minute ride from Hwagae to the Ssanggyesa Temple. The ride can be quite pleasing in itself, because the bus passes through the 4-km long stretch of cherry blossom on either side of the road and the wild tea plantation next to a valley. At the end of the road, there is a small town called Uisin Village. It's where Yi Hyeon-sang, the Commander in Chief of the Communist Partisans, fought his last battle. Many of those visiting the temple for the first time get surprised when they get off at the Ssanggyesa Bus Stop. It's because the place doesn't look like a remote mountain village at all. It's more like a downtown area of a suburban town. The temple is about a 10-minute walk from this busy district. Take the main street to the temple. Many who have visited Ssanggyesa say that you can't get tired of the beauty of the temple. When you reach the entrance, take a good look at the area before entering the temple grounds. There are two bridges over an S-shaped stream that lead to the two temple gates called One Pillar Gate and Cheonwangmun. Because of this, the area can look like a small island. They chose to build the entrance this way instead of laying a road along the stream, which would have been much easier. They did this as a way of telling the visitors that if they want to find inner peace, they should forget all their mistakes and greed while crossing the stream.

Ssanggyesa Temple is the birthplace of three important things: The first is beompae, one of the three genres of Korean classical music. The second is the Korean style tea-drinking ceremony. On the way to the temple, you'll see the place where tea trees were planted for the first time in Korea. The third is the 'Donoseon', or the meditation and enlightenment style of Monk Hyeneung. It was introduced by a Buddhist monk named Jingam, and this temple is where such teachings were taught for the first time in Korea during the Silla Dynasty. Thus the name Donomun Gate was chosen for the gate at the top of the narrow staircase on the left side just past Beomjonggak in front of Daeungjeon Hall. Go through the gate and walk a little further, and you'll see a building that houses statues of Buddha. It's where the skull bones of Monk Hyeneung are enshrined after the bones were brought from China to teach Seon Buddhism to Koreans. The building is closed from November to March while the Buddhist monks are in winter meditation retreat and from July to August while the monks are in summer meditation retreat.
Ssanggyesa Temple is also the starting point of the trail that leads to Buril Falls, which is one of the Ten Scenic Views of Jirisan Mountain. It's where Cheonghakdong, the most ideal place on earth as Korean ancestors believed, used to be. It's worth a visit.
  • Travel Tip
  • To participate in the Ssanggyesa Templestay
  • Fee: KRW 50,000 for two days and on night.
    Open Till: 15:00

    Inquiries: +82-55-883-1901
Cheoneunsa Temple Cheoneunsa Temple is located on the way to Nogodan Peak. It's also the starting point of the Jirisan Circular Road in Gurye. The road starts from Gurye and passes through Namwon and Hamyang. There are many buses that depart from Gurye Bus Terminal and make their final stop at Cheoneunsa Temple, and all the buses bound for Seongsamjae Pass make a stop at the temple as well. One of the most beautiful features of Cheoneunsa is the pine grove. In the 1960s, local people living around the temple sold wood from the grove and used the money to put their children through college. So the locals jokingly call it the "Cheoneun University". It's a wonder how the mountain still has many beautiful forests and groves as this when it suffered so much logging in the past. There are two things you don't want to miss at Cheoneunsa Temple: The bo tree and gamnocha (sweet dew tea). There is a large bo tree in between the temple buildings called Seolseondang and Myeongbujeon, in addition to a number of bo trees growing all over the temple grounds. In Korea, Buddhist rosaries made of bo fruits are regarded as the best. Right behind the temple, you'll see a hill that's turned into a tea garden. The short, green tea plants create quite a scenery to behold. They say tea made of the tea leaves and natural fountain water at Cheoneunsa is exceptionally good, particularly in early spring. For many years, tea lovers regarded it as an honor to have the chance to have a cup of tea at the temple. Such tea is now called Gamnocha of Cheoneunsa Temple". It's one of the main reasons why people choose to stay at this temple over night or for a few days. But the most outstanding beauty is the location itself. The buildings designated for those staying at the temple for a few days are located in a quiet, secluded place. In the past, monks used to study there. The place is so serene and quiet that many visitors feel as though they're in a different world. Go get to the place, go past a building called Myeongbujeon in front of the main temple building called Geungnakbojeon. Once there, you'll see a small gate with a sign saying, "No Trespassing" near the valley. Enter through the gate.
  • Travel Tip
  • To participate in the Cheoneunsa Templestay:
  • Fee: KRW 40,000 for two days and one night; KRW 70,000 for three days and two nights.
    Open Till: 14:00

    Inquiries: +82-61-781-4800