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Sunday, 18 October 2015

Namo Palbeon Daebosal, Part XXVII: Sangwonsa, Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province

Sangwonsa Temple (상원사/上院寺) is located 8km north of Woljeongsa Temple (Specific Location: 1211-14 Mount Odae Road/Odaesanno, Dongsan-ri 308-5 beonji, Jinbu-myeon, Pyeongchang County, Gangwon Province). Stories are told that Sangwonsa Temple was built by Buddhist monk Jajang (590~658) in 643, in the 12th year of Silla Queen Seondeok, and others say that it was built by Bocheon and Hyomyeong, the sons of King Sinmun (reign 681~692), the 31st king of the Silla Kingdom. It was rebuilt in 705 during the 4th year of King Seongdeok the Great's reign (702∼737). 

However, in 1946 it was burnt down in a fire, but later restored once again in 1947. Only a Bell Pavillon remained during this period until the building was rebuilt after Korea’s Independence Day. The oldest relic left today is Dongjong (National Treasure No.36), Munsu Child Figure, and the Jungchang, the promotion of virtue in rebuilding Sangwonsa Temple, written by the 7th king of the Joseon Dynasty, King Sejo (reign 1455∼1468). 

At the entrance is a site called Gwandaegeori, named after the story about how King Sejo would hang his royal garments here when he took baths. Also, there is the Munsu Child Figure where the story of King Sejo and monk Munsu comes from. As National Treasure No.221, the official name is Sangwonsa Munsu Wooden Seated Child Figure. At Sangwonsa Temple, there are other pieces other than the Munsu Child figure. 

The 91cm diameter Sangwonsa Dongjong was established in 725, in the 24th year of Silla King Seongdeok the Great. It is famous for its beautiful bell sound and the delicately carved Juakbicheon figure but nowadays it sits silent in order to preserve the bell. 

Sangwonsa Temple is located at Jungdaeam on the way to Jeokmyeolbogung in the Mt.Odae Birobong Peak direction. At the 2km southwest point is a hermitage where Utongsu Stream, the origin of the Han river, flows. Jeokmyeolbogung is a reliquary which possesses the bonesetting relics of Buddha, which was brought by monk Jajang from Chinese-Tang Dynasty.

36th Korean Republic National Treasure: The Bell of Sangwonsa
The Bell of Sangwonsa (상원사 동종/上院寺銅鐘) is a bronze bell of Sangwonsa Temple, alongside Mount Odae, was cast during the reign of King Seongdeok the Great of Silla (725). It is the oldest bronze bell in Korea, 46 years before the Divine Bell of King Seongdeok the Great a.k.a the Emile Bell was built

It is 1.67 meters (5.47 feet) tall and 0.91 meters in rim diameter. On the top, the hook of the bell is carved in the shape of a dragon with a large head and strong claws, and beside it, the hollow tube for controlling the tone is decorated with the patterns of lotus flowers and vines. It has wide bands around the rim and shoulder, and below the shoulder band there are four panels, each containing nipple-like lotus flowers in high relief. 

The bands and frames of the panels are bordered with pearl patterns and decorated with vine patterns and several figures playing music. Sets of two apsaras (heavenly maidens), kneeling on clouds and playing musical instruments, are carved around the center. Between the apsaras, dangjwa (the striking point) is decorated with pearl and lotus flower patterns.

During the reign of King Taejong Yi Bang-won - the third King of Joseon Dynasty, Buddhist was greatly persecuted. So, the bell was taken to Andong, Northern Gyeongsang Province for a while and then it was brought back to the original site. In order to move the bell, they have to pass the Jungnyeong Mountain Pass (죽령고개). On its journey across there, it suddenly stopped moving.

So, a monk was passing by and said that it didn't want to leave Andong. By looking onto the 4 sets of 9 knobs across the bell, only a knob missing because it was broken. The broken knob was removed and sent to Andong. At the particular time, the bell started to budge and moved back to the foot of Mount Odae where the bell is situated.

In order to preserve the 36th National Treasure, there is a replica next to the original bell. So, when the biggest festivities occur in the particular time, the bell replica is used to ring it.  

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