The Establishment Tale
In the 8th year of the reign of King Kyoung Duk (AD749), the 35th king of the Shilla Dynasty, a stone ship appeared off the coast of Sajapo, the southern tip of Korea. People heard beautiful sounds from the boat, but when they approached the ship to investigate, it receded from the shore. When they gave up and turned their backs to leave, it would come closer again. This process repeated for several days.
The ship finally anchored at the port after the great master Euijo Hwasang, along with two monks and one hundred residents, purified themselves and offered prayers. Once aboard the stone ship, there were the Lotus Sutra, and a Buddhist wall painting. There were also statues of Birojana Bul (Vairocana, the Cosmic Buddha), Munsu Bosal (Manjushri, the Boddhisattva of wisdom), Bohyeon Bosal (Samantabhadra, the Boddhisattva of Practice), Forty sages, fifty-three great enlightened masters, and sixty nahan (arahants, enlightened disciples of the Buddha).
After opening the golden box, they broke open the black rock. A tiny black cow emerged from the rock and suddenly grew into a huge cow. That night, Euijo Hwasang had a dream in which he saw a man in golden robes who said "I am the king of Wujeon Guk (India). The shape of the mountains in this area is auspicious and suitable for a shrine to ten thousand Buddhas. Please place the sutras and statues on the back of the cow and establish a temple where it lays down."The next day Master Euijo did as he had been told in the dream. The cow fell down when it was crossing Dharma Mountain, but stood back up and kept going. He continued for quite some time before finally falling down again with a loud crash. This time the cow did not stand back up. Therefore, Tonggyosa was established at the place where the cow fell down the first time, and Mihwangsa where it fell down the second time.
The temple is named Mi (beautiful) after the unusually pleasing, strangely musical bellow of the cow, and Hwang (yellow/gold) after the golden robes of the man in Master Euijo's dream.
Daewoongbojeon (The Main Hall : National Treasure No.947)
There are three wooden Buddha Statues at the main hall: the central Buddha is Seokgamuni Bul (Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha), flanked on either side by Amita Bul (Amitabha, the Buddha ofthe Western Pure Land), and Yaksa Yeorae Bul (Bhaisajyaguru, the Buddha of Healing and medicine, who presides in the East). The canopy in the hall is extremely magnificent as befits the house of Buddha. The hall also contains a small bell, a Dharma drum, and gwaebul. (tanka)
There are Sanskrit letters and one thousand Buddhas painted on the ceilingand the cross beams-This is considered one of the most outstanding works in Korea. If you bow three times at the main hall of this temple, one of your wishes can be realized. Think about it; There are one thousand Buddhas on the ceiling. Three times one thousand equals three thousand.
Myeongbujeon (Jijang Bosal Hall)
This is the hall of Jijang Bosal (Ksitigarhbha Bodhisattva) who made a great vow to postpone his own enlightenment until he had liberated every sentient being in the hells. A person who doesn't understand the law of cause and effect risks being reborn in one of the hells. When a dead person arrives in the afterlife, he/she must stand before Yeomna Dae Wang (Yama, the king of the netherworld). Yeomna has a mirror, which reflects his/her entire life; even seemingly insignificant details appear in the mirror one by one. A secretary writes down all the sins on a scroll-the scroll which becomes heavier as the sins are transcribed. Jijahng Bosal stands next to the mirror and defends the dead person, making the sins lighter; this is why he is sometimes called a "lawyer for the dead." Afterwards, the scroll is weighed to determine whether the deceased will go to hell or not. This is all portrayed on the Buddhist wall painting.
The Ten Judges were sculpted by Yun Duseo, who is especially famous for a self-portraitthat has been designated a national treasure. After carving the Ten Judges from the junco trees around the temple, Yun Duseo had ten sons. He had made a mistake while carving the forth judges, and one eye had turned out larger than the other--It is said that his forth son was likewise born with disproportionate eyes.
(Buddhist Scroll Painting : National Treasure No.1342)
The gwaebul was made in the late Chosun Dynasty but also incorporates characteristics of the Koryo Dynasty. The painting is 12 meters tall and 5 meters across; it is so big that it takes thirty people to hang it outside the main hall. It is used for a number of rituals andoccasions, such as outdoor Dhrama assemblies. The gawebul was traditionally hung during an outdoor ceremony for the ancestors. Afterwards, a fire would be kindled on top of Dharma Mountain in a ceremony to bring rain. Therefore, the local residents come to the temple to request a rain-making ritual during droughts. In 1992, after one such ritual was performed, Dharma Mountain was suddenly enveloped in dark clouds and a heavy rain began to pour.
Budojeon (Sarira Stupas)
Budo contain relics of great masters who were respected by monks in Daedunsa and Mihwangsa in the late period of the Chosun Dynasty. From these Budo, we can estimate how big Mihwangsa was, and how deep the practice level of monks was.
Mihwangsa Monument (Tombstone)
On the way down from budo, there is a tombstone measuring 1.3 meters by 2.9 meters on the right side of the road. This is the "Mihwangsa monument". We assume that Tonggyosa (which was mentioned in the establishment tale) was located near the monument. In the reign of King Sook Jong in 1962, Min Arm, who was once Byeong-Jo-Pan-Seo (the commander of the military), wrote the inscriptions on the monument, including the story of the founding Mihwangsa.
Ungjindang (The Disciple's Hall : National Treasure No.1183)
It was built in 1751 year, the same year as the main hall. Ungjin Dang, National Treasure , is the hall for the nahan (Arahnts, the awakened followers for the Buddha). The Buddha's chief disciples, Kasyapa and Ananda, are depicted on the left and right of the main Buddha statue itself.
Sahmsungak (Three Sages Hall)
San shin (the Mountain Spirit), Chil Seong (the Seven Stars or the Big Dipper), and Dok Sung (the Hermit-saint) are enshrined together in this hall of Mihwangsa. There are Buddhist wall paintings for each spirit.
These three spirits are our traditional native gods and folk figures that were absorbed into Buddhism when it was first introduced.