Ondal Cave, Ondal Fortress and Guinsa Temple

Ondal Cave is 760 meters long, 5-10 meters high and about 5 meters wide and contains an abundance of beautiful stalagmites and stalactites.  The average temperature remains 14-16º Celsius (~58-60º F) year-round.

Situated on top of the mountain peak to the left of the cave is Ondalsanseong Fortress.  The fortress, 972m long and 3m high, has been preserved in its original form throughout some 1,400 years and shows the advanced building skills of Goguryeo Era (37 BC-668 AD).

Guinsa Temple, located on Mt. Sobaeksan, is the main temple of Korean Buddhist Cheontae Order.  The temple serves as a religious center for 2 millions of Cheontae Buddhists who follow the Grand Patriarch Sangwol-Wongak.


A statue, presumably of General Ondal.  (I couldn’t find any sort of marker or other reference.)

Part of the Ondal Open Film Set, scene of many popular Korean dramas.

Entrance to the cave
Because of the lighting in the cave, it was sometimes hard to get good pictures.  However, here's some of the best.

Even in the cave, you can't get away from graffiti!

A view of Seongsan mountain.  On the right, about 2/3s of the way up, is a small pavilion.  The fortress is on the top of the mountain on the left (above the roof).
To get there, you have to climb 772 steps (I didn't count, but someone else on the tour did)!

A close-up of most of the fortress.  It's mainly a large wall around an open area.

Here's the view from the fortress.  It's pretty obvious why they picked this location...

Here's a view of the tourist site from next to the pavilion.  (I took the picture of the mountain from the center of the circle in the upper left.)

Even the ancient Koreans had incompetent contractors!
(Or maybe budget cuts, or bad planning...)

Here’s that rock-stacking thing again!

More of the film set

I love Asia--there’s dragons on everything!

Part of the stairs leading up to the royal throne

A statue of General Ondal
Legend has that he was originally a commoner, and reportedly not very handsome.  The king would tell his daughter, Princess Pyeonggang, that if she didn't stop crying, he would make her marry Ondal.  Finally, when she was old enough to marry, she told him, "You keep telling me you will make me marry Ondal, so I will."  Ondal went on to win many battles in the wars between the Three Kingdoms.  After he was killed in battle, his coffin could not be moved until the princess came to the field and wept on it.

Even when the water is frozen over, people still throw money!

The Non-duality (first) Gate of Guinsa Temple.  Non-duality signifies that the Buddha's realm of ultimate truth and the ordinary world of sentient beings are, in fact not two but one.
[Ed. note: Much of the info on the temple comes from the temple.cheontae.org website.]

Part of the gate's decoration.  (Did I mention I really like dragons?)

I've seen a lot of these faces at various temples, but never a leopard one!

The Gate of the Four Heavenly Kings.  These four kings protect the righteous Dharma of the Buddha and expel evil influences (that's why they look so rough).  They signify the protection of all devotees who enter the temple.

King Damun (He who Hears Much) is in the north.  He is holding a pipa.  He hears everything.
King Jiguk (Protector of the Nation) is in the east.  He is holding a sword.

King Jeungjang (Great and Tall) is in the south.  This king is holding a dragon.  He is known as the one who fosters growth.
King Gwangmok (Wide-vision) who holds a pagoda is in the west.  He is opening his large eyes and glaring at wicked people.  He scares them and urges them to awaken and be good again.  He sees all.

Our tour guide, one of the temple monks.  She was very enthusiastic and personable,
and explained a lot about the Buddhist traditions, beliefs, and rituals.
I now know the correct way to pray at a Buddhist altar!

Jinsin, a three-story Stone Pagoda of Reliquary.  This Pagoda, situated in front of
the Five-story Main Sanctuary, houses the sarira of the Buddha that were brought
from India by the 2nd Grand Master Nam Daechung.  The elephants supporting the
structure are a very unique feature which cannot be found in any other temples in Korea.

Around the pagoda are animals representing the signs of the zodiac.
This one is the tiger (although it looks like Lucky when I
try to move him out of my chair!).

The dragon (me).  The coins are placed by people making a wish.

The snake (Kim and David).  [Ed. note: I always miss
Andrew's sign, mostly because I can't remember which one is his!)

Several signs around the temple have sayings from the temple's founder.
I particularly like this one.

The Beomjong Bell (The Great Bronze Bell)

The Dharma Drum, Wooden Fish, and Cloud Sheet, hung on the 2nd floor
of the House of Beomjong Bell, are the objects belonging to the 4 objects of Buddhism.
The Dharma Drum (above) is hit for the sake of all beings which live on land,
whereas Wooden Fish is struck in order to save all beings living under the water.

The Cloud Sheet--whose name is originated from its cloud-like
shape--is used to save all beings which live in the air.

This face is outside the Five-story Main Dharma Hall

Still a long way up!

I liked this combination of the dragon on the roof, blue face
on the end of the eave, and the blue dragon above the stairs.

The entrance to one of the lesser Halls

The Hall of Grand Patriarch Sangwol-Wongak is the place which contains the noble image of Grand Patriarch Sangwol-Wongak, who reestablished the Buddhist Cheontae Order and built Guinsa Temple.

This looks like a maze, but isn't.  There are two ways in/out
(see the previous picture) with a single path from one to the other.
I guess the idea is to follow the path while contemplating, as the monk here is doing.

This bridge is in a little park down by where the bus had to park.
Can you tell it's winter?!?

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Last updated 20 February 2013