Sa-sung temple is located on the summit of Mt. Oh (513m) in Jukma-ri, Moonchuck-myun, Gurye-gun, Jeonnam. At the peak, you can see the picturesque view of Seomjin River winding around the mountains, the wide fields of Gurye, the ridgeline linking to Mt. Mudung, and a peak of Mt. Jiri.
The temple was built by a Buddhist priest in 544 in the era of King Seong of the Baekje Dynasty. It was originally named Mt. Oh temple, but later was changed to its current name Sa-sung, which means four masters, because four great priestUi-sang, Won-hyo, Do-son, Jin-kakstayed there to live ascetic lives.
After an hour and a half of walking from the entrance of Mt. Oh in Gurye, the trim temple hangs onto the peak with the rocks behind. It seems that the temple is lodged into the rocks. There are six units in clusters, but none expose their bare body, like a shy rural girl.
Unlike regular temples, the Sa-sung temple does not have a spacious garden. Instead, the steep stony stairs are stretched. On both sides of the narrow stairs stand waist-high stone walls. On the walls, tiles are piled up on which people write their names, praying for their wishes to come true.
On the wall of the rocks around the temple, a standing statue of Buddha is carved. Only part of the statue can be seen on the outside of Yaksa hall, but inside, the entire Buddha with a merciful smile comes into view.
Next to the main hall sits a rock, which is involved in a tragic folk tale of a wife and a husband. She died from longing for her husband who went to Hadong to sell rafts, and when he came back, he also died of sorrow from losing his wife. If you step on the rock at sunset, you can enjoy the beautiful glow with the setting sun above the mountains and the river. You can experience life in the temple with a reservation. The fare is 10,000 won per person per night. The phone number of the temple is 061-781-5463.
Ilji Temple on the Mt. Duryun in Hanam: Scent of Choi Priest and Green Tea-
To get to Ilji Temple, you have to pass through Dae-hung Temple in Mt. Duryun.
Founded in 544 in the era of King Jinhung of Shilla Dynasty in Gurim-ri, Samsan-myon, Haenam, Chonnma, the Dae-hung temple is famous for the numerous scholars, poets, artists, and calligraphers who stayed there and associated with one another. Inside the precincts, various halls stand such as Dae-woongbo, Chonbul, Yonghwa, Bonghyang, and Mooryangsu. The tablets of each hall remind the visitors of an exhibition of calligraphy.
The road from the parking space to the temple is covered with tall trees. As you nearly exit the tunnel of trees, a traditional Korean house catches the eyes of the visitors. It is Yuson Inn, which is the only inn left after the others moved below the parking space. It is such a beautiful building that movies including "Seopyonje" and "The Son of the General" were shot there.
Along the valley from the temple, there are plenty of small temples. Among them, Ilji temple is well-known as a place where the priest Choi, who restored the Korean tea ceremony, and Kim Jong-hee, a famous calligrapher and writer, formed a friendship. The distance from the main hall of Dae-hung temple to Ilji temple is 700m. After half an hour of walking along the narrow path from Dae-hung temple, the straw-thatched Ilji temple appears. Choi spent his late years here, and the temple became a sacred ground of Korean tea culture.
Behind the temple, there is Yuchon, a spring whose water Choi used to make tea. Yuchon means a milky fountain, and the water is tinted with a milky hue. The water tastes sweet. If the Buddhist monk stays there when you`re visiting, you can taste the tea made with the water from the spring. Without drinking some tea, however, it feels that all the earthly thoughts fade away merely by sitting on the wooden floor of the temple and looking at the ridges of the folded mountains. This place is good in fine weather, but it`s even better in the misty days after a rain or on snowy days. The phone number of Ilju temple is 061-533-4964.
Written by Cho Mi-sun, a travel planner. email@example.com
Photographed by Shin Seok-gyo, a free-lancer photographer. firstname.lastname@example.org