stands on Kumjong-san, a mountain at the end of the T'aebaek Range which forms
the backbone of the Korean peninsula. The mountain is carefully described in
a Choson Dynasty geography book as having a huge rock at the summit on top of
which there is a golden well which never, ever dries up.
Legend tells that the water of this well has very special magical properties.
One day a golden fish came from heaven and has lived there ever since. Thus
the name of the temple came to be ＂Heavenly Fish.＂ Elsewhere it is said that
the fish came from Nirvana, the Buddhist state of non-suffering. So the temples
name became ＂Where fish from Nirvana Play.＂
It is recorded that Pomo-sa Temple was established by Master Uisang (625-702)
in 678 during the reign of King Munmu (r. 661-681), one of the greatest Shilla
kings, the first to unite the peninsula in 668. During one of the Japanese invasions
of the peninsula, the king had a dream in which he was told to get Master Uisang
to chant for seven days and then establish a temple on Kumjong-san Mountain.
So the king organized the meeting and, at the end, the earth opened up and all
the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas appeared and helped to drive away the Japanese.
Destroyed during the Hideyoshi Invasion, Pomo-sa Temple was reconstructed
in 1602 and renovated in 1613. However, Shilla pagodas and lanterns still remain.
is very famous for its gates. The temple is laid out in an unusual manner. The
compound, composed of three levels, is clearly divided. The upper level is around
the Main Hall. The second level is around the Poje-ru, the ＂Save all Beings＂
Hall and the lower part includes the three gates. The first gate is called the
One-pillar Gate. It was built in 1614 and is Provincial Treasure No. 12. One
reason for the strange name is that, when you look from one side, the two pillars
appear as one! Another is that all who enter are urged to search for the truth
of the oneness of mind. The second gate is the Four Guardians' Gate where the
four awesome protectors of the temple greet you. The Four Guardians all bear
a fierce countenance and trample the opponents of Buddhism under their feet.
Of Hindu origin these protectors are said to have helped Siddhartha Gautama,
the Buddha-to-be, to leave his father's house on the night of his renunciation
by each taking hold of one hoof of Siddhartha's horse and lifting him over the
The third gate, Gate of Non-duality represents the fact that, though the
visitor is passing from the secular world into the spiritual world of the temple,
these two worlds are not different from one another, they are not-two, non-dual.
The third level of the compound centers around the very beautiful Main Hall.
It is Treasure No. 434 and was rebuilt by Master Myojun in 1614. The interior
wooden carvings show a very refined level of Choson Dynasty craftsmanship. On
the ceiling, there are many flowers which have been carved because of the legend
that, whenever the Buddha teaches, flowers always fall from the heavens.