Taebaek-san  Buseok-sa's
famous holy shrine for Master Uisang and others
The Six Wall Paintings from the Josa-dang Hall of Buseok-sa are designated as National Treasure #46.
They were originally painted on the plaster of the rear (north) interior wall in 1377, but were removed for
better preservation when the temple was refurbished in the 1970s; they were individually framed and
then kept in a large glass case in the
Muryangsu-jeon Main Hall for three decades, and then moved to
Buseok-sa's Monastic-Treasures Museum when that was built in the 2000s.

They comprise two paintings on plain green backgrounds of Bodhisattvas (probably Munsu / Wisdom
and Bohyeon / Benevolent Action) styled after elegant Goryeo noble-women, and four images of the
Sa-cheon-wang [Four Heavenly Guardian Kings] appearing fierce while they trample bad-fortune
demons under their feet.   They are quite worn and damaged after six centuries, with most of their
details lost, but still their dynamic yet graceful lines exemplifies the dignity and intricate skill of the
Goryeo Buddhist paintings.  They are the only surviving wall-paintings from the Goryeo Dynasty in
South Korea, and so are highly treasured as heritage items and for research on Korea's painting history.
Josa-dang [祖師殿] means a shrine to commemorate the Patriarch or founder of a religious school
or a temple;  and may also enshrine portraits of other great masters who lived and taught there,
including major disciples and Dharma-descendants of the Josa, and monks who led a reconstruction
of the temple or a revival of the school; generally, everyone thus enshrined is already deceased.
Many large monasteries have one, but this one here may be the most famous one in Korea;  it is
also the nation's second-oldest wooden building, having last been completely reconstructed in 1377,
and refurbished & painted with dancheong in 1490-93 (its plaster walls were redone in the 2000s).

This shrine was built to venerate Great Master Uisang [or Euisang-daesa], one of the most important
monks of early Korean Buddhism, leading it through the end of the Three Kingdoms era into the Unified
Shilla Dynasty.   He was the founder of the Korean
Hwaeom-jong  [華嚴宗, Huayan, Flower-Garland or
Avatamsaka School, a major scholastic type of Buddhism that originated in China in the 7th Century] --
and Buseok-sa is one of the main temples he established to propagate it -see
Hwaeom Shipchal.
old wooden statue of Uisang in a glass case, backed by a painting
of him serving as a great Hwaeom master in a palace-like setting
to the right, a formal ritual-painting of Master Uisang
on the left side, portraits of two other great masters who served at Buseok-sa
the simple Shinjung-taenghwa in there (west wall), without any Sanshin or Yong-wang (now quite rare)
portrait of Uisang's former-girlfriend-turned-protector Seonmyo, on the east wall
On the porch in front of the Josa-dang is a metal cage containing the famous Seonbi-hwa Tree.
The cage makes it difficult to see the sacred multi-stemmed bush, of
Caragana sinica species,
but is considered necessary to keep Korean pilgrims from pulling off branches and leaves as
souvenirs, and to prevent anyone from watering it.  An old legend says that Uisang's old
master's staff had been kept in this hall as a relic, but was set outside after the hall's re-
construction in 1377, and it sprouted roots into the stone porch and foundation, growing into this
tree -- which has then survived for more than six centuries despite receiving no rain or dew
waters because of being under the eves and having only granite beneath it.  It is therefore
regarded as a holy miracle, and living manifestation of Uisang's immortal spirit and legacy.

The great Neo-Confucian philosopher
"Torgye" Yi Hwang visited here in about 1560,
and wrote an evocative poem about this tree while siting next to it.
the best bodhisattva image
my visit guiding the Yonsei CIEE students in August 2013
Master Ui-sang  [의상, 義湘, 625-702]  was one of the most eminent Shilla Kingdom scholar-monks,
the younger doban (道伴, dharma-friend) of Great Master Wonhyo.  Uisang was the founder of
Korea’s Hwaeom-jong (華嚴宗, Avatamsaka, Huayan or Flower Garland School) and an influential
thinker throughout Northeast Asia.
 He was born into the gentry class, and in 644 he was ordained
as a monk at Hwangbok-sa Temple (皇福寺) in Gyeongju City (慶州市).  After renunciation of worldly
, he studied the Seop-daeseongnon (攝大乘論, Compendium of the Great Vehicle) and the
Mind Only School (唯識宗).  After failing in his first to get to China with the intention of learning the
new Buddhist philosophies being taught there with his friend Wonhyo, he studied the theory of the
Buddha Nature and other disciplines under Master Bodeok (普德) for a few years.

He successfully traveled to China in 661,
leaving Wonhyo behind, studying at Mt. Zhongnan-shan
(終南山) as a student of the influential Master Zhiyan (智儼, Second Huayan Patriarch) and became
a senior colleague of his primary disciple Master Fazang (法藏, Third Huayan Patriarch). Most well-
known among his writings is the Beopgye-do (法界圖, Dharmadhātu Diagram), whose full name is
the Hwaeom Ilseung Beopgye-do (華嚴一乘法界圖, Avatamsaka One-Vehicle Dharmadhātu Mandala),
which he presented to Zhiyan as summary of his understanding of the teachings; the Master
was greatly impressed certified him as enlightened in his sect after reading it.
In 670 Uisang returned to Korea to warn King Munmu (文武王) about an impending invasion of
Silla by Tang military forces. He was received with great honors by the palace and granted plenty
of resources under royal decree with which to establish new monasteries and propagate his
new Hwaeom school.  In 676 he constructed Buseok-sa, which became his main center for the
propagation of Hwaeom Buddhism, although he and his disciples also founded or reconstructed
nine other major monasteries scattered around the nation for this purpose, including Hwaeom-sa,
Beomeo-sa and Haein-sa; these are known as the Hwa-eom Sipchal (華嚴十刹, Ten Monasteries
of the Avatamsaka or Flower Garland Sect).   He purportedly gathered more than 3000 disciples to
study in these grand temples, and is still known today as Uisang-josa (義湘祖師, that most
honorific suffix meaning “School-founding Master”).

His erudition and unimpeachable reputation became well-known both inside and outside of Korea.

Fazang continued to correspond with, asking him to correct his manuscripts.   During the
subsequent Goryeo Dynasty (高麗), National Master Bojo Ji-nul (普照知訥 國師, 1158–1210)
copiously cited Uisang’s works and King Sukjong (肅宗) conferred upon him a posthumous title.
Hwaeom Philosophy remains very important in the unified Korean Buddhism, with Uisang’s and
Wonhyo’s viewpoints considered to be the philosophical roots, and his Hwaeom Ilseung
Beopgye-do is still often recited in modern Yebul (禮佛, Main Hall worship ceremonies).

About 70 extant temples and hermitages, including a half-dozen of Korea’s greatest monasteries,

claim that Master Uisang was their founder; however, these claims can be firmly verified in only
around half of the cases.