Naksan-sa, The Temple of Compassion, nestles into the side of Naksan Mountain not far from Sokcho, a small city on the east coast of Korea. It was founded in 671 CE by the Buddhist monk Ui-sang Daesa. Seorak-san (mountain) dominates the sea and the sea joins the land. Naksan-sa (temple) is made of cozy mud walls and can be found in Obong-san, near Naksan Beach.


Naksan-sa was founded by Great Master (Daesa) Uisang in the Silla Dynasty, holding at least 1,300 years of history. It is a representative temple of Eastern Gangwon-do Province, and the most prominent holy place for Gwanseum Bosal (Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva) in Korea. In the ancient times, the Korean Silla and the Chinese Tang Dynasties went to war with each other, which put the Korean nation in misery. When praying hard for his country and his people, Great Master Uisang came to meet Gwanseum Bosal during practice, and then founded this temple.

What to see

Ilju-mun is the name of the gate at the entrance to Naksan-sa. The letters "OhBongSan NakSanSa" are carved on the gate. After passing through the gate, many old pine trees line the path.

Through the Gate of the Four Devas, you can see the temple bell tower on the left side. It is the tower for the big bell of the temple, including a wood fish, a whunpan for signalling meal times, and a small drum for worship. These are the principal ceremonial instruments. The wood fish is very colorful and its head is a dragon, with the body of a fish biting a ball.


In front of the Hall of Complete Penetration (Wontongbojeon) stands a stone pagoda from the Joseon Dynasty, which is registered as Treasure No. 499. This pagoda was erected when Naksansa was expanded during the reign of King Sejo (reigning 1455~1468).

It has sustained damage on some parts, but on the whole, still maintains a very complete structure up to the top level. It is also a valuable material for research on Joseon pagodas. This pagoda was damaged during the Korean War, but General Lee Hyeonggeun rebuilt it while expanding the temple in April 1953. The height of the current pagoda is 620 cm. Great Master Uisang initially built the pagoda to three stories during the Silla Dynasty.

Then under the royal order of King Sejo in Joseon, a monk named Hagyeol reconstructed it to nine stories and enshrined crystal mala beads and a cintamani (magic pearl) inside. Originally the top level of the pagoda was decorated with dark copper, but it disappeared during a Korean War battle in January 1951. The current decoration was added later. 

After the small temple, there is the path to Buta-jeon, which has black pine trees on both sides. You can see it after 5 minutes of walking. This is the largest in the temple and it was built in 1993. It has the tree statues (ChilGanUomSang, ChunSueGan, ChunOhBakGanOumSang), and Naksan-sa is the only temple to have so many statues.

Two large modern buildings are the memorial museums for WheeSang and DaReHun. They look like twin buildings and were built it in memory of WheeSang on May 1, 2001. The illumination of him is an eight-leaved folding screen of his life with Buddhist pictures. The ten-leaved folding screen has the books WhauUomIlSoungBubGaDo and BakWhauDoLeeRangBalWonMoon written by him.

Hongrean-am was built as a special small temple into which a bird had entered. It holds a secret in the floor. There is a cap on the floor- open it for an unimaginable sight. You can see the waves of the sea striking against the blue cliff again and again. The sound of waves crashing goes up into the temple to refresh people and the fresh sea air also fills the temple.

A large fire on April 5, 2005, in the Yangyang area burned most of the buildings of Naksan-sa including Daeungjeon. Restoration has started, with completion expected in 4~5 years.



Tel: 033-672-2448

From Yangyang
Take the bus headed for Sokcho from Yangyang, and get off at the Naksansa stop. The cost is 750 Won.

From Sokcho
Take the bus headed for Yangyang, and get off at Naksansa. The first bus leaves from downtown Sokcho at 5:30 a.m. They run every 8 minutes, and the cost is 950 Won.