|Nonsan City's Gwanchok-sa
Temple featuring the odd Eunjin-Mireuk Statue
in SW South Chungcheong Province
This is a small temple in a nondescript area, but famous
for containing the “Eunjin Mireuk” Standing Stone
Mireuk-bul Statue. It is located on Banya-san [Wisdom
Mountain] of Eunjin-myeon District, Nonsan City, South
Chungcheong Province. It was founded by Master
Hyeomyeong in 968 near the beginning of the Goryeo
Dynasty; he began constructing the 18.2m-tall granite
Mireuk-bul (Maitreya manifested as the Future Buddha)
statue and the Seokdeung stone lantern in front of it in
970 and completed them in 1006.
The Main Buddha Hall was constructed in 1386, and
restored by Master Baekji in 1581. The statue and
stone lantern are both designated as Treasures by
the national government.
It is a distinctive and unique artwork, with over-sized face, thick features and very tall
pagoda-hat whose platforms are made of bronze. It is a good example of early Goryeo
sculpture demonstrating the rise of regional styles and the abandoning of a strict standard
iconography of Buddhist images. Some scholars claim that these huge pieces of stone were
originally dolmen used for Shamanistic practices and later subsumed into a Buddhist image;
others that the statue was originally intended to be of Gwanse-eum-bosal the Bodhisattva
of Compassion due to the unusual mudra performed by its hands.
According to a legend, a woman was gathering vegetables on Banya-san when she heard a
baby crying and approached the sound but found nothing there. Suddenly an immense rock
emerged from the Earth at the site, like a spirit manifesting into this world towards Heaven.
The royal court, after hearing the news, decided to carve a statue of Buddha out of the rock
and committed the task to Hyemyeong. Upon completing the huge statue, the heavens
washed it with rain, auspicious spirits appeared for 21 days, and its jeweled eyebrow sent
forth a ray of light illuminating all worlds. A senior Chinese monk named Chih Yen followed
the light all the way from China to the temple and worshipped the Eunjin Mireuk statue.
He then renamed the temple “Gwanchok-sa” (Candlelight Temple) as he thought that the
light-emitting statue resembled a holy lit candle.