Golgulsa (literally "Stone Buddha Temple") is located 20 km east of the ancient Silla Dynasty capital city of Gyeongju in Southeastern Korea. In the Golgulsa temple area can be found the oldest historical Buddhist ruins on Mt. Hamwol and the only cave temple in Korea.

Golgulsa Temple in South Korea
AffiliationJogye Order of Korean Buddhism
Location101-5 Gimrim-ro Yangbuk-myeon Gyeongju-city North Gyeongsang Province (Korean: 경상북도 경주시 양북면 기림로 101-5)
CountrySouth Korea
Golgulsa is located in South Korea
Shown within South Korea
Geographic coordinates35°48′11″N 129°24′20″E / 35.80306°N 129.40556°ECoordinates: 35°48′11″N 129°24′20″E / 35.80306°N 129.40556°E


Golgulsa Temple (Korean: 골굴사, Chinese: 骨窟寺, Pronounced “Gol-gul-sa”) was established on Mt. Hamwolsan, along with Girimsa, by Master Gwangyu and his retinue who came to Korea from India about 1,500 years ago. Golgulsa Temple is the oldest grotto temple in Korea, emulating those in India.

According to a painting of Jeong Seon (pen name; Gyeomjae) during the mid-Joseon era, Golgulsa Temple was established by constructing a wooden antechapel in front of several stone grottoes and covering it with tiles. The temple was left in ruins after it was burnt down in the mid to late Joseon era. Then about 70 years ago, the Bak clan of Gyeongju moved there and began reconstruction. The temple was sold to an individual in 1989, but Ven. Seol Jeogun, then head of Girimsa, eventually purchased it. Currently Golgulsa is registered as a branch temple of Bulguksa, the head temple of the 11th religious district, Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

The seated rock-carved Buddha (Treasure No. 581), the main Buddha of Golgulsa Temple, faces the underwater tomb of King Munmu, and around the Buddha are many grotto Dharma halls, such as Avalokitesvara Grotto, Ksitigarbha Grotto, Medicine Buddha Grotto, Arhat Grotto and Guardian Deities Hall. There are also relics of traditional folk religions such as rocks carved into phalluses and vaginas.

Recently ex-Master Monk of Kirimsa (Kirim Temple), Seol Jeog-un constructed a road while simultaneously renovating the Golgulsa Temple.

Cultural properties

Statues of a Deva king-Golgulsa-Gyeongju-Korea-01
Statues of a Deva king

The seated rock-carved Buddha of Golgulsa Temple was carved into the limestone cliff in the 9th century during the United Silla Dynasty; it is the main Buddha of the temple. The statue gazes toward the East Sea with a gentle smile and beautiful nimbus in which luxurious lotuses and flames are carved.

Nearer the ocean, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Golgulsa Temple, are the Gameunsa Temple ruins and the underwater tomb of King Munmu. Located southeast of the seated rock-carved Buddha, the ruins of Gameunsa Temple consist of two Three-Story Stone Pagodas (National Treasure No. 112). Standing 13.4 meters (44 feet) high, the two pagodas are aesthetically pleasing and well balanced; they are regarded as the standard of Korean stone pagodas.

Southeast of the ruins lies a small rocky island rising from the ocean; this is the underwater tomb of King Munmu and it is a symbol of King Munmu's will to fend off the invading Japanese even in death. The tomb was established on this rock which is about 200 meters (656 feet) in circumference. Two waterways form a cross shape that divides the island, one running east to west and the other north to south. In a sunken area in the center is a small pool: that is his tomb.

The Breath of Seon

Sunmudo training is composed of: “still training,” which includes “chwason,” or sitting meditation, yoga-like exercises as well as “active training,” which includes gymnastics and martial arts. There is usually “still training” in the morning and “active training” in the evening.

Golgulsa Temple occupies half a mountain and actually contains several temples, administrative building, training hall, several dormitories, dining hall, and so on.

Sunmudo Martial Art

M Golgulsa - Monk named Chul-An practices a Poomse in Sunmudo Training Hall1
Golgulsa monk practicing Sunmudo

In recent years Golgulsa Temple has established the Seonmudo Practice Center to teach this traditional Buddhist martial art.[1]

The formal name of Sunmudo is Bulgyo Geumgang Yeong Gwon. It is a training method taught at Golgulsa Temple designed to extinguish worldly pains and attain enlightenment. The goal of this training is harmonization of mind and body united with breathing.

Golgulsa temple has run Sunmudo training programs since 1992 for those who would like to experience the traditions of Korean Seon (Zen) Buddhism including Sonmudo.


It also offers temple stay programs where visitors can experience Buddhist culture.[2]


  1. ^ "Temple Stay: A Journey of Self-Discovery".
  2. ^ Golgulsa Temple stay program Archived 2016-01-29 at the Wayback Machine

External links

Korean Buddhist temples

Buddhist temples are an important part of the Korean landscape. This article gives a brief overview of Korean Buddhism, then describes some of the more important temples in Korea. Most Korean temples have names ending in -sa (사, 寺), which means "temple" in Sino-Korean.

Many temples, like Sudeoksa, offer visitors a Temple Stay program.


Sunmudo (선무도/禅武道, literally the way of war of the Seon) is a Korean Buddhist martial art based on Seon (also spelled Sun or Zen), which was revived during the 1970s and 1980s. The formal name of Sunmudo is Bulgyo Geumgang Yeong Gwan (Hangul: 불교금강영관 Hanja: 佛敎金剛靈觀). The name Sunmudo was given to this martial art in 1984 by the Buddhist monk Jeog Un (적운 스님).In earlier times Korean Buddhist monks were encouraged to practice Zen martial arts as a way of dynamic meditation. In the 16th century, Korean monks used swords, knives, spears and throwing stars to help repel a Japanese invasion. However, the temple of the Korean monks was burned by retreating troops in revenge. In the 1930s and 1940s, a rebuilt Beomeosa temple became center for the monks' underground resistance to Japanese occupation. However, the martial art of Sunmudo had been neglected since the 19th century. At Beomeosa temple located in Busan, Monk Yang-ik revived the art by systematizing the techniques. Monk Jeogun worked on its popularization during the 1970s. These days training is offered to non-Buddhists and laypersons at Golgulsa temple in Korea, and other places around the world as well.


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