Guinsa is the headquarters of the Cheontae school of Buddhism located just outside of Danyang, South Korea. Cheontae is the Korean version of China’s Tiantai teachings which were brought to Korea and firmly established during the time of Uicheon, a Korean Buddhist monk who was the son of Emperor Munjong of Goryeo, between 1055 and 1101. It had a major impact on Goryeo Buddhism, but then lost popularity and disappeared for some time in Korea before being re-established in 1945 by Sangwol Wongak and has about two million followers in Korea.
The original buildings built in 1945 were burnt down during the Korean war and were rebuilt in 1966. It has been expanding ever since. Being so new this temple complex is bright and shiny and really quite large. There are over 50 buildings to walk around. The buildings stand quite tall at 3 and 4 stories, unlike other older temple buildings in Korea that are only 1 or 2 stories tall.
The only way to get to Guinsa is by bus or a private car from Danyang taking about 30 minutes. You’ll be dropped off at the bottom of a mountain, which is quite a hike up to see everything, but well worth it. The first building to go through is the Four Heavenly Kings Gate.
Once inside there are impressively decorated buildings all over the place. There is the Storehouse Hall, 5-Story Law Hall, Cafeteria Hall and the Great Teacher Hall a memorial to Sangwol Wongak, among many more. The cafeteria offers up three free meals a day with lunch starting at 11:30 and ending at 1:30. The simple meal is made up of rice, kimchi and soup and visitors are welcome to help in the upkeep of the temple by washing dishes, hoeing rice fields or preparing kimchi, as many of the women were doing the day we were there. Unfortunately they aren’t set up for English visitors very well, so it would be best to take a Korean friend if you wish to volunteer.
The Cheontae Doctrine holds the Lotus Sutra of Buddhists teachings in highest esteem. They believe that all things are empty and without essential reality, that all things have a provisional reality, and that all things are absolutely unreal and provisionally real both at once.
To get to Danyang two train lines are available from Cheongnyangni station. There are the mugunghwa services which run every hour or two and take about 3 hours and 15 minutes and two saemaeul expresses daily that shave off thirty minutes and take 2 hours and 45 minutes. There are also buses available from Express Bus Terminal or Dong Seoul Bus Terminal. While in Danyang another site to see would be the Gosu Caves if there’s time.