Gakwonsa Temple in Cheonan: A Spring Fairytale Location

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Visiting a temple is one of my favorite things to do in Korea – there are so many around! Gakwonsa temple in Cheonan has become one of my favorite temples in Korea, especially during cherry blossom season. The whole temple complex is filled with a variety of different blossoms, making it an ultimate spring destination to visit in Korea.

How To Get to Gakwonsa Temple

You can easily reach Gakwonsa temple either by train, bus, or car.

By train: First, head to Cheonan station. From there, take bus no. 24 at Cheonan Station Dongbu Plaza and get off at Gakwonsa Temple station. From the bus stop, walk 10 minutes until you reach the entrance of the temple.

By bus: Take bus no. 24 at Cheonan Station Dongbu Plaza and get off at Gakwonsa Temple station. From the bus stop, walk 10 minutes until you reach the entrance of the temple.

By car: There is a large visitor’s parking lot right in front of Gakwonsa Temple. However, be sure to arrive early. It’s a very popular destination, especially during the cherry blossom season.

Address: 245 Gagwonsa-gil, Anseo-dong, Dongnam-gu, Cheonan-si, Chungcheongnam-do

Basic Information

Gakwonsa Temple is located around midway to the peak of Taejosan Mountain in Cheonan, Chungnam Province. The temple was enshrined in 1977 to appeal for the reunification of North and South Korea.

The most notable feature of the temple complex is the 15-meter high bronze statue of Buddha, which has 175-centimeter-long ears, 30-centimeter-long nails, and weighs around 60 tons in total.

Gakwonsa is also the largest temple in Korea after Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju and it attracts numerous Buddhist followers per year.

Hours: Sunrise – Sunset

Admission: free

Gakwonsa Temple Layout

If you are looking for an impressive entrance, you can climb the two hundred and three stairs to the top. There’s also a parking lot right in front of the main entrance for those who want to skip the stairs.

Gakwonsa almost seems like a newly built temple because it has undergone several renovations throughout the years, especially more recently.

The most impressive feature of the temple is the massive bronze statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). The statue was enshrined for the reunification of the Korean peninsula in 1977 and was the largest Buddha statue in Korea until The Future Buddha at Beopjusa Temple was completed in 1988.

The Gakwonsa Buddha statue weighs an impressive sixty tons and is 15 meters in height. The base of the statue is a lotus blossom base that the Buddha calmly sits on. He looks out onto the city and the valley below.

This Buddha statue is certainly one of the most beautiful statues of its kind in Korea.

Another interesting feature of the temple layout is that all of the temple halls are just as massively built as the Buddha statue. They have very high walls and ceilings.

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Walk down a couple of stairs from the area where the Buddha statue sits and the first hall you’ll encounter is called Chilseong-gak Hall. The inside of this particular hall is decorated with floral patterns and a painting of The Seven Stars on the main altar.

Right across from the Chilseong-gak Hall sits the massive main hall: the Daeungbo-jeon Hall, the largest of its kind in Korea.

The main hall at Gakwonsa Temple houses a large-sized triad of Buddha statues, while the exterior walls are decorated with beautiful floral latticework and a collection of monster mask reliefs.

To the right of the main hall, there is a collection of smaller shrine halls. The first one is the Sanshin-gak Hall dedicated to the mountain spirit Sanshin.

The interior of the particular hall features a stunning painted mural of the Mountain Spirit, while the exterior has a powerful mural of a tiger, the sidekick of the mountain spirit.

Next to that hall, we have Cheonbul-jeon Hall, featuring the Palsang-do murals (The Eight Scenes from the Buddha’s Life) on the outside walls.

The remaining temple grounds house dorms and study halls for the local monks, as well as the temple’s bell pavilion, where daily ceremonies are held in the morning and evening.

Cherry Blossoms at Gakwonsa Temple

While Gakwonsa Temple is a great destination all year-round, it is certainly the most beautiful in spring during the cherry blossom season.

Actually, you will find a great variety of different cherry blossoms at Gakwonsa temple that you can’t find in many other places around Korea.

Besides the common white cherry blossom trees, Gakwonsa is also home to the so-called Hongpung (홍풍) blossom trees. This kind of cherry blossom is very rare in Korea. Its petals are very pink in color but what’s most notable is the willow-like array of downward layered blossom growth.

Other cherry blossom varieties you can find at Gakwonsa include various kinds of King Cherry Blossoms, Japanese Cherry trees, and other cherry blossoms.

The best time to see the cherry blossoms at Gakwonsa Temple varies every year, but it’s usually around one week after the cherry blossoms bloom in Seoul, in early April.

Where to stay in Cheonan

Best Cheonan Hotels

If you are planning to stay overnight in Cheonan, there are a couple of great options to choose from.

Recommended Travel Guides for Korea

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Lonely Planet Korea

You really can’t go wrong with a lonely planet guide in your hand luggage! I’m a huge fan of Lonely Planet and own this guide myself. What I love is the brand-new pull-out, passport-size ‘Just Landed’ card with wi-fi, ATM and transport info – all you need for a smooth journey from airport to hotel! Buy this book.

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Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

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