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Sunday, 16 February 2014

Namo Palbeon Daebosal, Part XIV: BaegYangsa, Jangseong, Southern Jeolla


BaegYangsa (Hanja: 白羊寺), is a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. It is situated in 1239 BaegYang Avenue/BaegYang-ro, Yaksu-ri 26-beonji, Bukha-myeon, Jangseong County, Southern Jeolla Province. Built in 632 during the reign of King Mu of Baekje kingdom, it lies on the slopes of Mount Baegam in Mount Naejang National Park.

The temple was originally named Baegamsa, presumably after the nearby mountain. In the 11th century the temple was called Jeongtosa, and in 1574 it became Baekyangsa. According to legend, a white sheep appeared to a Buddhist preacher in a dream and said that, though he was transformed into a sheep as punishment for a crime, he would soon be reborn and go to heaven. The next day the carcass of a white sheep was found at the spot of the priest's teachings, hence the name "백양" or "white sheep". The temple has had a long history of name-switching, destruction, and restoration. In 1950 (during Korean War), most of the structures in this temple was destroyed by fire. In the 1980s and 1990s, several buildings were restored, and a few new buildings were erected. Construction continues today on new structures.

There is a string of Korean restaurants lining the long driveway to the temple grounds. Once visitors arrive at the BaegYangsa parking lot, they walk along a short path that leads past a pond to the temple site and structures. Beyond the temples is a winding hiking trail that passes several stuctures---both new and overgrown---and ends at a stone staircase leading to a small temple atop one of the peaks. A short distance from this upper temple is a staircase that leads downhill to a shrine, a cave, and a 약수터 (Yaksuteo/natural spring). The trail then continues up Mount Baegam, 730 meters high. Several trails run throughout the grounds, including a long 10-kilometer course that connects to Naejangsa.

The combination of the mountain and valleys on both sides creates beautiful scenery. Nature reveals its beauty throughout all seasons here especially the red maple leaves during the fall. Daeungjeon, Geungnakbojeon and Sacheonwangmun have been designated as cultural assets. Pass the wood path of lined-up white oaks and maple trees, through the entrance of Baekyangsa Temple, and you will first spot Ssanggyeru. You will appreciate the breathtaking view of Ssangyeru shimmering in the pond.