Nestled in the Dosolsan Mountain, Samin-ri, Asan-myeon, Gochang-gun, Jeollabuk-do, Seonunsa Temple is the 24th parish main temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.
Also known as Mt. Seonunsan, Dosolsan Mountain was said to have 89 temples and 189 temple dormitories in every valley during the late Joseon Dynasty, when Seonunsa Temple was created as the center of an impressive buddha land. As one of the two main temples in Jeollabuk-do, along with Geumsansa Temple in Gimje, Seonunsa Temple is located in the northern foot of Dosolsan Mountain. Its long history, beautiful landscape, and priceless Buddhist cultural assets attract lots of visitors year-round. Red camellia flowers blossoming in the middle of the snowy winter and their elegant appearances receive poetic and artistic admiration and are much loved.
There are two theories about the temple's foundation. One theory is that it was established by King Jinheung during the Shilla Dynasty and the other believes it was established by Geomdanseonsa, an old monk in the 24th year of the King Wideok’s reign of the Baekje Dynasty (577). In the first theory, King Jinheung of the Shilla Dynasty spent a night in a cave in Dosolsan Mountain after abdication (reigned from 540-576). The King had a dream of the Maitreya Buddha Triad coming out of a rock, leading him to establish Jungaesa Temple, the origin of Seonunsa Temple. However, the area was fiercely fought over during battles the Baekje Dynasty against Shilla. The theory of the King of the Shilla Dynasty establishing a temple has a scarce possibility. Therefore, the theory of Geomdanseonsa monk has been received well, considering the time and geography.
Many stories have been told about the monk Geomdan theory. A big pond was on the location of Seonunsa Temple, but monk Geomdan expelled a dragon and filled the pond with stones while a serious eye disease had broken out in the nearby town. If the villagers poured a bag of charcoal in the pond they could get their eyes cured. Surprised villagers came and brought stones and charcoal, filling the pond. A temple was built on the spot, which was Seonunsa Temple. "Staying in clouds, the boundary of profound and mysterious wisdom” and reaching a high level of Zen meditation motivated the temple name Seonun.
Many war refugees lived in the area and monk Geomdan enlightened them through Buddhism and taught how to bake salt. They brought salt to the temple every spring and fall to return the monk's favor, which was called Boeunyeom (Gratitute) Salt. The village was called Geomdan-ri. Seonunsa Temple is not far from the shore and people produced salt there until recently. People made money from the salt industry, also supporting the monk Geomdan theory.