Daewonsa - Pohang's Dragon Temple

Tucked into a hillside overlooking a road I've ridden down dozens of times on my way to the beach, sits an unassuming temple like dozens of others here in Korea.  The common colors, the green, red, and blue, the ordinary rectangle shape with wings of black tile flipping up from either side, something I've seen and thought, cool, a tiny, regular, normal temple.  Yesterday, on a tip from Sherri Lantinga's great blog, my 10 month pregnant wife, her mother, and I took a short country road up a steep hill and ended up at Daewonsa, another in the collection of Pohang's awesome temples.  

The unassuming main temple visible from the road hides an incredibly uncommon, one-of-a-kind attraction like nothing I've seen in Korea or anywhere else in the world.  A concrete dragon curls its way through the temple grounds, it's head and mouth adorned with flaming eyebrows, pushed back ears, and cardboard teeth.  Painted and decorated, it's an impressive site all on its own.  But of course, this bad-boy isn't done with the surprises.  The mouth of the dragon is a door, a gateway, into the belly of the temple.  Walk past the red, hanging uvula, through the dragon's throat, take off your shoes and pass through an old steel door and enter the main shrine, the belly of the dragon and the heart of the temple, a room adorned with close to a thousand six-inch buddhas arranged in perfect rows.  Keep walking up a few dozen stairs through a dark hallway lit intermittently by automatic lights, Buddhas sitting on your right, the concrete of the dragon's body closing in around you, all the way to the tail, where another shrine sits.  Crouch down into the tiny cubby and offer your prayers, letting the quiet work it's way around you, and ask yourself, "Should I be here?"

We spent something like an hour on the grounds and didn't see a single person.  No one came to tell us what to do or what not to do, so we wandered aimlessly, snapping pictures and leaving money in the boxes placed throughout the temple complexes.  If you're at all into the temples in Korea, this is one I can't recommend enough.  Weird, whimsical, and without peer here in Pohang.

In order to find this hidden little spot, if you're coming from Pohang, follow the coastal road (the 20) north past Chilpo beach, up the hill, and down into the tiny town that follows.  Right after you pass the three old ladies who are always sitting on the bridge, and just after you cross the concrete bridge, turn left.  Follow the road along the river for a few hundred feet and you'll see the temple on your right.  
As always, here's 10 pictures and some foolish comments.

A fierce looking dragon.  It took us about twenty minutes to get up the courage to walk into the mouth of the dragon, but you should just push on in, I guess.

Great colors at this temple, really rich reds and greens and blues.  

I took this from a couple hundred feet down the hill.  It looks like a normal, run-of-the-mill deal, nothing special.  Got to get close to see the dragon.
Hundreds, maybe thousands, of Buddhas decorate the grounds, including this big one.
In front of the dragon mouth is a little pond, in which lived a group of frogs and tadpoles and other cute little things.

If you go to this temple, you will take this picture and it will look almost exactly like this.
Rows and rows of these little buddhas.  Very beautiful.
In order to get into the tail, you have to crouch down and sit really low.  If you're not into melting, I wouldn't recommend this temple during one of the hot summer days, as the concrete just seems to trap the heat and create an indoor sauna with three flights of stairs.  Really beautiful, but really hot.
My favorite shot of the day.  There were probably half-a-dozen of these Buddhas lining the stomach of the dragon, each with a pair of oil lamps on either side.  I imagine that if they're ever lit, this would be a magical place.

That's it!  A great temple and a great end to a fantastic day.  I'm on vacation and living with my camera in my hand.  I've already taken two thousand photos in August.  Also, I started a Facebook page, so if you're interested in keeping up with this blog, like it on the side.  Thanks!

1 Here's another one of my favorites in Pohang: 왕룡사


  1. I love that you include the three ladies in your directions. ;)

    We're planning on visiting Korea next fall with our two kids, and I was thinking about visiting another temple called Daewonsa (at Jirisan), but when my husband was looking up photos he found this one. As it happens we were planning to go to Pohang anyway (I have a friend who lives there), and our daughter loves dragons, so we'll definitely have to go see this one.