Guin-sa

Top choice buddhist site in Sobaeksan National Park

Image by JEONGHYEON NOH Shutterstock

This stately (though largely modern) complex’s 30-odd buildings are wedged beautifully into a valley, between steep, forested slopes. Erected on a considerable incline, the temple halls are connected with elevated walkways; you may hear monks chanting as you climb towards the opulent three-storey hall (대조사전) at the top, dedicated to the temple's founder. It's worth the short hike just for the views of the temples and mountains vanishing into the horizon. The name means 'Protect Benevolence Temple'.

The clamber up to Guin-sa itself from the bus stop is heavy going. The temple is the headquarters of the Cheontae order of Korean Buddhism, which was reestablished by Sangwol Wongak in 1945. The presiding deity here is the Goddess of Mercy, who is worshipped in her namesake hall where she manifests herself in a figure of carved, pale green stone. From the main hall, it’s a further steep climb up stone and concrete steps through the trees for 30 minutes to the founder's tomb atop the hill, where you will also find the One Mind/Heart Pine Tree (一心松); be quiet and respectful if hiking up here as many monks and nuns make the climb on a regular basis. Continue along the dirt path – watching out for the tree roots – to come upon a magnificent view of the hills and valleys beyond.

The communal kitchen serves free vegetarian meals (6am to 7.30am, 11.30am to 1.30pm and 6.30pm to 9.30pm). Leave a donation if you wish, to show your gratitude: it will be well received. There is a popular templestay here if you'd like to immerse yourself in quietude and the mysteries of the Buddhist way.

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