Daesan is the closest “town” to Samgilpo, our fishing village. It has some restaurants and coffee shops, a pharmacy, a post office, schools, a proper grocery store, and a small Buddhist temple on the hill. We just had to check it out one morning after a trip to the post office. There is little information on this temple in English online, so I just found the Buddhist symbol in the GPS and followed the directions it gave. The location is shown on the map below. There is a lower parking lot with restrooms and a map, but we opted to drive up further because of time constraints and the kiddos. At a certain point, the road ends and there is a big gate blocking the way, but it is only a short walk up the hill from that point to the temple.
Mangilsa temple was first established in 1010 A.D. and is a Goryo dynasty-era temple of the Choge sect of Buddhism. It was rebuilt in 1628, and up at the temple was a sign detailing an interesting legend associated with this temple. I will attempt to re-tell it.
Barbarians often invaded the area along the West Sea of Korea looting and taking the people’s rice. They decided to pray to Buddha at Mangilsa temple for protection. One particularly well-built warrior prayed long and hard to Buddha that he could defeat the Barbarians. At Mangilsa temple was a small iron horse in the yard. One night, after the young man had been at the temple praying for a long time, the horse came to life and told him that Buddha had heard his prayers and that he would help him defeat the Barbarians. He told him to make an iron weapon and defend the village. The next time the Barbarians came, the horse came to life and the young man rode the horse flailing his weapon. The Barbarians all ran away because they were scared, and they didn’t come back to plunder any more! I love Korean legends!
The peace of our visit was interrupted by a large-scale construction project taking place on the grounds. It seemed like they were building a bigger road up to the temple, and changing up the landscaping in front of the temple. I was afraid we were going to get ran over at times, and we had to wait for the man to move the digging arm of the excavator before we could head back down the mountain to our car. The temple decoration was beautiful, as always, but it was a very small temple with one main building, one outbuilding and a pavilion. The views were incredible down into the valley below!
Another reason we visited this temple was to get some 4-year-old pictures of Landon at a uniquely Korean landmark. I didn’t really do that last year for his 3rd birthday in China and regretted it. So, we did a mini photo shoot on the mountain.
When I told Landon to smile, this grimace is what happened to his face. In order to get him to actually smile, I resorted to telling him really corny dinosaur jokes from the back of one of his dinosaur books. It totally worked!
Mangilsa Buddhist temple was a great morning diversion for us, but I would recommend it more for locals to Seosan who are coming to Daesan anyway and looking for something to do. It would make a nice picnic spot, or very short hike. For a better, prettier, bigger Buddhist temple experience in the Seosan area, I would recommend Buseoksa Buddhist Temple or Gaesimsa Buddhist Temple. Gaesimsa is prettier, but involves a longer hike to reach the temple. It is closer to Dangjin. Buseoksa is older and has a very cool legend about its beginnings. It is closer to Taean.