Chonju Temple, Pride of the Nation

 2024.2.12.

Chonju Temple is one of the eight scenic spots of Kwanso area (the Northwestern part of the Korean Peninsula) situated on the southeastern hillside of Yaksan-dong area in Nyongbyon County, North Phyongan Province, which is famous for its beautiful scenery and red azalea blossoms in particular.

The temple was first built in 1684 during the period of the Feudal Joson Dynasty, and renovated in 1722.

The monument to the Construction of Impregnable Fortress reads it was built in 1684 to have 80-odd rooms while an old castle was being remodelled.

Today, there only remains Pogwang Hall which is the central building, Chonju Pavilion opposite it, and some other auxiliary buildings on either side of the courtyard.

On October 16, Juche 38(1949), President Kim Il Sung visited Yaksan-dong area and had a talk "Let us develop Yaksandongdae into a Cultural Resort of the People" with the the senior officials in Nyongbyon County, North Phyongan Province and the students from the then Nyongbyon Secondary School. The President instructed them to preserve the temple well.

President Kim Il Sung said:

"We should preserve well the precious cultural assets created by our ancestors. The Buddhist temples in Yaksan fully show the high level of their architectural, sculptural and painting skills."

That day, the President said that Pogwang Hall at Chnonju Temple and Taeung Hall at Soun Temple are peculiar for the high level of their wooden sculpture decorations and splendid golden paintings. He continued to say that we should well preserve scenic spots such as Yaksan-dong area, Mt. Myohyang, Tongryong Cave and historic remains there to hand them down to posterity forever.

Chonju Temple was built on the mountain slope with necessary embankments in layers. Between the front courtyard and Chonju Pavilion is a two-layer embankment 3.4m high and between Chonju Pavilion and Pogwang Hall is a 3-layer embankment 3.9m high. Thus, it is a 7.3m high, 5-layer embankment from the front courtyard to Pogwang Hall.

Pogwang Hall is a double-eaves gable with a facade of three compartments (10.28m) and a profile of two compartments (6.95m). On the top of the slightly paunchy round columns are supporting decorations outside and eleven inside. The front doors are splendid with geometric chrysanthemum patterns of carvings. The inside ceiling is coffered one while the building is painted golden, which matches well with the surrounding scenery. Inside is an altar with Buddhas on top of it.

Pogwang Hall
Photo 1. Pogwang Hall

The pavilion is a peculiar attic. With the middle attic at a center, the corridor extends its both sides. And at the end of the corridor, the protruded attics look like a wings with the east one called "Hyangilhon" and the west one "Mangwoldae." Behind these attics are the auxiliary buildings, which makes the whole look as if they were old government buildings.

We can see many colorful paintings in this temple. Among them are the scenes of boating, rest, fighting, picnic, hunting, ornamental patterns (patterns on the girder of Chonju Pavilion). And some of them depict the decadent lives of monks and noblemen who lived in a luxurious and dissipated manner by exploiting people. This temple was once a command post for monk soldiers north of Chongchon River, playing an important military role.

Chonju Pavilion
Photo 2. Chonju Pavilion

Chonju Temple is not only a national pride but also a precious cultural asset showing the distinguished architectural and artistic ability and high patriotism of our ancestors, so that it is of great significance in the study of architectural history in our country.