Guinsa Temple: A Unique Mountain Temple in Korea

Located in a valley in the Sobaek Mountains, Guinsa Temple is one of the most unique temples in South Korea. The temple is the administrative center for hundreds of sub-temples in the country that belong to the Cheontae sect. Cheontae continues the teachings of the Tiantai school which arrived in Korea in the 11th century.

guinsa temple on the mountain

Guinsa Temple is unique in many ways because of its location. It is a mountain temple located in a valley which leaves very narrow space to operate. Therefore, the temple has many stories and rises vertically in contrast to the other Korean temples with one or two stories.

the temple buildings

Guinsa Temple is also a fairly recent temple as it was built in 1945. Building the temple in the mountains was the idea of a head monk. The monk interpreted the Lotus Sutra, a highly sacred text for Buddhists, and realized that the text spoke about a valley squeezed between mountains on all sides.

the buildings surrounded by forest

Guinsa temple has orange-glazed tiles instead of black tiles which are common in Korean temples. Moreover, the temple exterior resembles the temples in Beijing and Lhasa. There are also many paintings, golden plates, statues, and sculptures that greet the visitors.

guinsa temple

Only a decade after its construction, the temple suffered huge damage in the Korean War. Another decade later, renovations began, and Guinsa Temple returned to its former state. However, the renovations did not stop and the temple turned into a complex with many buildings and structures.

guinsa temple close up

Today, the temple can support up to 10,000 monks and has a giant kitchen that can feed two times more than the number the temple can accommodate. The kitchen also serves visitors from all races and religions and suggests that everybody finish the food they got in order not to have bad karma.

guinsa temple and statues
Michelle Janssens

Guinsa Temple complex consists of 5 major buildings ranging from a kitchen to a teachers’ hall. The temple is also in the program of Templestay. This program allows temples to receive visitors and give them the experience of life as a monk.

guinsa temple dragon statue
Cuadernos de Viaje

Although a newer addition to the Korean temples, Guinsa Temple is very unique and important in its own way. It is in a very serene location and while this location is narrow, the temple is home to thousands of people and welcomes many more every year.

the town during winter