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Seonamsa Temple
Seonamsa Temple: Living with Nature
Seonamsa Temple is a clear example of the beauty of antiquity. The faded colors on the buildings' surfaces are barely discernible. Weeds sprout from between the roof tiles and the edges of the stone steps are worn. Such ancient elements blend in perfect harmony with the temple's natural surroundings.
A Brief Description of Seonamsa
Seonamsa Temple is located in Jogyesan Mountain, Suncheon City, Jeollanam-do Province. While the builder and date of construction are unknown, scholars are divided as far as its history. It is thought to have been built either by a well-known priest of the Unified Silla Period (676-935) or by Buddhist Priest Ado of the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BC-AD 676). The name Seonam (Heavenly Rock) derives from the legend that a heavenly being once played the game of Go at that spot. Aesthetically, Seonamsa is considered to be quite feminine, while Songgwangsa Temple, also located in Mt. Jogyesan, is thought to be masculine.
≪ Beautiful Tourist Spots of Seonamsa ≫
Many sites around Seonamsa are worth visiting, and they all have their own distinctive beauty. Most importantly, Seonamsa should be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. The following sites are some of the most popular.
Iljumun (One-column Portal)

Iljumun, the first gate to the temple, is so named for its two pillars in perfect alignment. As one passes through the gate, all earthly impurities fall away, and the worshipper can walk toward Buddha with a pure mind. Seonamsa's Iljumun, whose colored ornamentations have faded with time, harmonizes with the neighboring forest, radiating a soft elegance. Walls extend from both sides of the door and stone steps are laid out in the front. Its elaborate woodwork makes it uniquely magnificent.
Daeungjeon (Main Hall)

The centerpiece of the temple, Daeungjeon consists of three frontal sections and three side sections. Inside, the god Sakyamuni (the main statue of Buddha) is enshrined. Colored ornamentation on the outer woodwork has faded revealing the patina of the wood, while the interior ceilings have retained their distinct pigments. In the front courtyard of Daeungjeon, a pair of three-storied stone pagodas of nearly the same size and design, stand on the east and west sides. They have been designated as National Treasure No. 395.

Wontongjeon Seonamsa's Wontongjeon is dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, with the name 'Wontong' signifying 'Juwon-yungtong,' ("The truth is omnipresent and passes through everything.") It was built in 1660, during the first year of King Hyeonjong’s reign (Joseon Dynasty). The structure is quite unlike other Buddhist temples. With three sections each in the front and on the side, it was constructed in the shape of a T; and its wooden surfaces shimmer with ancient, time-honored richness. Inside Wontongjeon, there is a tablet reading 'Daebokjeon' (Building of Great Luck), which was written personally by King Jeongjo (1752-1800). The King had asked the High Priest Nuram of Seonamsa to offer a prayer for 100 days. The prayer was answered with the birth of the King’s heir, Sunjo (1790-1834). As a token of his gratitude, the King granted the temple his own handwriting.


The outhouse is a rectangular building with an entrance that makes it T-shaped. Built mainly of wood, it gives a strong feeling of antiquity. On its door, there is a tablet reading ‘’ showing that the spelling at the time of its construction differed from what is used today. There is no literature indicating the history of Seonamsa's outhouse, but it is thought to have existed since before the Jeongyujaeran War in 1597, when Japan invaded during the Joseon Dynasty. The reputation of the outhouse is due to the fact that although it is a conventional outdoor toilet, it is well kept and devoid of the usual odor, and has therefore been designated as a cultural asset, the first time a toilet has been recognized. This wooden structure has ventilation lattices set high in its walls and was built on elevated ground. Inside a conventional outhouse toilet, the excrement below can be seen through the opening, but this one is kept as clean as a flush toilet. At the entrance of the outhouse, there is a stone basin for washing the hands.
Wild Tea Field

In the wild tea field, which extends over an 18-square-kilometer area, are tea plants as old as 300 to 400 years old. Unlike ordinary, man-made tea fields, the wild field has never been polluted by fertilizers or chemicals; it has been maintained in its natural state throughout the years. Hand-picked by monks beginning in April, the harvest is quite modest. Because of the rich, sweet fragrance of the leaves, however, the tea commands a high price. It is said that long ago, mothers who sent their daughters away to be married gave them a packet of tea seeds as a perfume.

Stone Basins

Seonamsa's stone basins, which supply water to the temple, consist of four basins: a square one and three circular ones linked by bamboo conduits. The four basins have different uses based on the order of the water flow: the first one is for water to be offered up to Buddha; the second one supplies water to clean food for Buddha; the third is for humans; and the fourth is for sundry uses. The kitchen of the temple through which the stone basins must pass is not open to the public, because there is the sacred water to be presented to Buddha. However, by extending a polite request to the temple a few days in advance, it may be possible to see it. The stone basins have become quite well known since being used in the filming of Dongseung (A Little Monk).
Seungseon-gyo Bridge

Constructed of stone in the shape of a rainbow, Seungseon-gyo is numbered among the most beautiful bridge in Korea. It is a semi-circular granite bridge, 14 meters long and 3.5-meters wide. The protruding sculpture of a dragon's head below the midsection of the bridge is of particular interest. The semi -circular bridge casts a charming reflection in the stream with the image of Gangseon-ru building peeking under the bridge. Because of these charms, it has been used often as a site for TV dramas and movies. Treasure No. 400.
1. The Best Season for Visiting Seonamsa
Seonamsa prides itself on its year-round beauty. In summer, the dense forests of Jogyesan Mountain and sounds of gurgling streams provide a lovely view. In autumn, it boasts a display of colorful leaves. In winter, one can appreciate the impressive scene of the temple laden with snow. Although it is lovely in every season, most people choose to visit Seonamsa in springtime. When spring comes, pink and white apricot blossoms, rhododendrons, camellias, royal azaleas among many other flowers are bounteous, bathing the temple in sublime fragrance.
2. Seonamsa in Film
Seonamsa has frequently been the background for movies, dramas and TV commercials. In the movie A Little Monk , Seonamsa's Seungseon-gyo and its stone basins served as the background and, in the movies like Chihwaseon and Aje Aje Bara Aje the temple itself was used as a setting.
3.The Best Way to Visit Seonamsa Temple
The city of Suncheon operates free City Tour buses to the sightseeing areas, and on reaching the sites, one pays admission. As other public transportation is not readily available in Suncheon, the free city tour service is a must for seeing all of the well-known tourist destinations. Inquire about details at Tourist Information (+82-61-749-3328. Information is available in Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese).
• More Information
Operating hours 4:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Category 20+ 14-19 13-
Individuals 1,500 won 1,000 won 600 won
Groups 1,300 won 800 won 500 won
* Groups of 30 persons or more.
Inquiries : +82-61-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese),
....................Seonamsa Temple; +82-61-754-5247 (Korean)
            (Korean only)
▪ How to get there: At Suncheon Station, take local bus No. 1 and get off at Seonamsa. It takes about 40 to 45 minutes. By taxi, it takes 25 minutes.
Date 08/02/2004

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