Ilchulam Hermitage – 일출암 (Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at Ilchulam Hermitage in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just east of the airport and south of Mt. Unbongsan in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do is the diminutive Ilchulam Hermitage (Sunrise Hermitage). Next to a flowing stream, you’ll need to head down a country road to find this little known hermitage.

Upon arriving at the hermitage grounds, you’ll need to climb a set of stairs with rails next to it. The rails are used to bring items up to the hermitage. After summiting the stairs, you’ll be greeted by the main hall straight ahead of you. While a bit boxy in design, the main hall is adorned with masterful Ox-Herding murals all around its exterior walls. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll first notice a triad of statues resting on the main altar. In the centre sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To his right, he’s joined by a long-haired statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Hanging on the right wall is an older looking guardian mural that’s joined by a beautiful Koi and hummingbird mural. And to the left of the main altar is the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural.

To the right of the main hall is the monks dorms. But it’s to the rear of the main hall, and up a set of stairs that’s joined by the sheer face of the neighbouring mountain, that you’ll come across the second shrine hall that visitors can explore at Ilchulam Hermitage: the Dokseong/Sanshin-gak. While the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) mural is rather plain in composition, it’s the Sanshin mural that’s pretty unique. Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) is holding the tiger’s tail, while the tiger smiles in its folk like design.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Pohang Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take Bus #200. After 26 stops, or 50 minutes, get off at the “Sangjeong Geomunso Stop.” Walk about 700 metres, or 10 minutes, to get to Ilchulam Hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While rather underwhelming for the amount of buildings you can explore at Ilchulam Hermitage, it’s the murals like the Sanshin mural and the Ox-Herding murals that make the hermitage worth a visit. In addition, the main altar statues inside the main hall and the guardian mural add to the hermitage’s overall artistic beauty.

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The grounds as you first approach Ilchulam Hermitage.

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The main hall at the hermitage.

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One of the beautiful Ox-Herding murals that adorns the main hall.

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A look around the interior of the main hall.

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The guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

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A hummingbird and Koi mural to the left of the guardian mural.

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The unique Chilseong mural to the left of the main altar.

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It’s joined by this mural inside the main hall, as well.

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The rock walls that surround the hermitage grounds on all sides.

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A statue that a devotee left behind at Ilchulam Hermitage.

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The Dokseong/Sanshin-gak at the hermitage.

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A rather ordinary painting of Dokseong.

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Who is joined by the tiger-tail holding Sanshin.

Manseongam Hermitage – 만성암 (Beomeosa, Busan)

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Podae-hwasang at the entry of Manseongam Hermitage near Beomeosa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Mansenogam Hermitage is located south of Beomeosa Temple in Busan, and it’s directly associated with the famed temple. Manseongam Hermitage means “Great Teacher Hermitage,” in English.

As you first approach the hermitage down a long gravel road, you’ll first be greeted by a large-sized Podae-hwasang statue. The Podae-hwasang statue is one of the nicer statues of him that I’ve seen in Korea. Crawling all over Podae-hwasang are six little baby devotees that are all beautifully sculpted.

As you enter the hermitage grounds, you’ll pass through an iron entrance gate. A little further along, and you’ll arrive in the hermitage courtyard. Here, you’ll see the well-attended visitors’ centre, kitchen, and monks’ dorms. To the left of the monks’ dorms, and under the main hall, is a beautiful enclave with numerous stone statues as well as a serene Koi pond. Surrounding the serene Koi pond are numerous monk statues. To the left of this pond is a little cave watering hole. Surrounding this watering hole, up on the cliffs, are various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Donald Duck (yes, you heard me right, Donald Duck). To the far right is a stately rendering of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and to his left is a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Under the trees, and to the left, are two more statues: one of a seated Podae-hwasang and another of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). To the right and left of the main entrance to the cave watering hole is an elephant and Donald Duck (perhaps Donald Duck-bosal?!).

As you make your way towards the main hall, you’ll pass by some beautiful baby blue hydrangeas. Up the hill, you’ll see the modern looking two storied main hall. On the lower level is some non-descript altar pieces. However, on the second floor is a majestic multi-armed and eyed Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) as the central altar piece. On the far left wall is a beautiful guardian painting with a regal looking Dongjin-bosal (The Protector of the Buddha’s Teachings) at its centre.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Manseongam Hermitage in one of two ways. In both scenarios you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to  Beomeosa  Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of  Beomeosa  Temple. Instead of walking towards Beomeosa Temple, continue to walk left down the paved hill. You’ll see a big sign to the right that highlights the three hermitages to the far left of Beomeosa Temple. For Manseongam Hermitage, look for the sign that reads 만성암.The hermitage is 500 metres ahead down twisting and disorienting side roads and past Sajaam Hermitage. Just follow the road that never comes to a dead-end, and continue to head left down the side streets. There will be a sign reading 만성암 to say that you’ve arrived at the right hermitage entrance.

OVERALL RATING: 3.5/10. The main highlight of this temple is the beautiful enclave of statues of various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, monks, and Donald Duck. This serene enclave has a beautiful Koi pond with a waterwheel, as well as a nice little cave watering hole if you’re thirsty. The other highlights to this hermitage are the baby blue hydrangea flowers and the majestically rendered statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that sits as the centre piece on the second floor of the main hall.

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Podae-hwasang at the entry to Manseongam Hermitage.

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One of the six children crawling all over the jovial statue of Podae-hwasang.

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The view as you first enter the temple parking lot.

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And the view as you first enter the hermitage’s courtyard.

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The Koi pond and statue enclave at the hermitage.

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A look up at the stately Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

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Statues of Podae-hwasang and Sanshin together

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An unfinished statue of Gwanseeum-bosal with a dongja assistant to her side.

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One more enclave at the hermitage before heading up to the modern main hall.

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An up close of one of the beautiful blue hydrangea flowers.

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The two story main hall.

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A look out towards the hermitage grounds.

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The main altar statue of Gwanseeum-bosal at Manseongam Hermitage.

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And the intricate guardian mural to the left.

Baekryeonam Hermitage – 백련암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The monks’ dorms at Baekryeonam Hermitage near Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located southwest of Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, and in a cluster of hermitages directly associated with the famed temple, is Baekryeonam Hermitage. Alongside Samyeongam Hermitage, Okryeonam Hermitage, and Seounam Hermitage, these hermitages make for a really nice day around the picturesque grounds of Tongdosa Temple.

Down a forested road, you’ll eventually come to the outskirts of the hermitage grounds when you arrive at the hermitage parking lot. Past a stone marker that reads “Namu Amita-bul” in deference to the Buddha of the Western Paradise, as well as along a tall traditional stone wall, this wall helps guide you towards Baekryeonam Hermitage’s main courtyard.

With your feet firmly planted in the hermitage courtyard, you’ll have an unadorned visitors centre to your back with the monks’ dorms to both your right and left. It’s the long main hall in front of you that will most definitely grab your attention first. Stepping over the stepping stones that stand like mini islands in the centre of a gravel courtyard, you’ll be welcomed to the main hall by a long wooden corridor. Decorating the doorknobs to the main hall are brown wooden turtles. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a lone Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) on the main altar. To the far left of the spacious interior is a highly skilled guardian mural.

Between the main hall and the turtle-spouted water fountain at Baekryeonam Hermitage is a set of stairs that lead up to the second shrine hall at the hermitage. This elevated shrine hall is called the “Bright Light Hall” in English, or the Gwangmyeong-jeon in Korean. Adorning the exterior walls of this hall are various murals like Wonhyo-daesa’s enlightenment, as well as a mural dedicated to the monk Ichadon who helped bring Buddhism to the Silla Kingdom. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Completing the artwork in this hall are four more paintings of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Lonely Saint), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and the guardian mural. All are done by the same artist and all are beautiful.

It’s from the heights of this hall that you get an amazing view of the valley down below. Also, the walk down the stairs are accompanied by well-manicured grounds and a towering cedar tree.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Baekryeonam Hermitage, you’ll first have to get to Tongdosa Temple. And to get to Tongdosa Temple you can take an intercity bus from Busan, Eonyang or Ulsan. Once you arrive in Yangsan, and facing the very small bus terminal, you should walk left and then turn right at the first corner. The temple entrance is past the numerous restaurants and shops. Walk up a 1.5 km path, sprinkled with ancient graffiti, and you will eventually arrive at the outskirts of the temple grounds. Once you get to the parking lot for Tongdosa Temple, keep walking up the road for cars to the left.  Follow this road for about a kilometre. The road will fork to the right or go straight. Follow the road that leads straight. Continue up this road for another two kilometres and follow the signs as you go because there is more than one hermitage back there.

Admission to Baekryeonam Hermitage is free; however, to get into the grounds, you’ll have to pay 3,000 won at the Tongdosa Temple entrance gate.

OVERALL RATING: 4.5/10. Baekryeonam Hermitage is placed amongst some beautiful gardens and mature trees. Also, the artwork inside the Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall are some beautiful examples of some masterful Buddhist artwork.

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The traditional Korean wall that guides your way towards the main hermitage courtyard.

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A stone prayer to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) with the hermitage grounds behind it.

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The main hall at Baekryeonam Hermitage.

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The visitors’ centre that the main hall looks out towards.

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The watering hole at the hermitage with a turtle spout.

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The corridor out in front of the main hall’s entrance.

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A turtle door knob that adorns one of the main hall’s doors.

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A look inside the main hall at Amita-bul that sits all alone on the altar.

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On the far left wall is this stunning guardian mural.

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The main hall view of the beautifully kept grounds at Baekryeonam Hermitage.

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The view as you make your way towards the hermitage’s Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall.

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A beautiful pink flower along the way.

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The Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall coming into focus.

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The Wonhyo-daesa enlightenment painting that adorns an exterior wall to the Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall.

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The Ichadon mural that adorns the Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall, as well.

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The main altar inside the Gwangmyeong-jeon with Seokgamoni-bul in the centre. He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal.

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The mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit)

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As well as this up-close with Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

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The view from where Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall is housed.

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A look out towards the neighbouring mountains and the rest of the hermitage.

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The entry and exit to Baekryeonam Hermitage.

Daeilam Hermitage – 대일암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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Dongjin-bosal from the guardian mural at Daeilam Hermitage in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on the northern side of the rather diminutive Mt. Jeungsan (133m) in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do is Daeilam Hermitage (a hermitage after my own heart). While small in size, the hermitage more than makes up for this with its beautiful Buddhist artwork.

You make your way towards Daeilam Hermitage down a country road and up the hermitage’s twisting driveway. When you do finally arrive on the outskirts of the hermitage, you’ll be greeted by a modern home that also acts as the monks’ dorms. It’s beyond this that you’ll see a pair of shrine halls. Out in front of the monks’ dorms is a slender five-tier stone pagoda. It’s next to this pagoda, and through the shrubs, that you’ll find one of the scariest embodiments of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) in Korea.

The first of the two hermitage shrine halls is the Wontong-jeon main hall at Daeilam Hermitage. Adorning the exterior walls to this hall are ten exquisite renderings of the Ox-Herding murals. Stepping inside the main hall, and sitting all alone on the main altar, is Gwanseeum-bosal. She sits comfortably on a plush red pillow. On the far left wall, and painted directly on the wall, is a masterful Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) mural. This mural is then joined on the left side by an intricate guardian mural. To the right of the main altar is an equally elaborate mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This mural is then joined by a mural painted on the main hall’s wall of an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal.

To the right of the Wontong-jeon main hall is the temple’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. And the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Daeilam Hermitage has a bit of a twist. Joining the beautiful murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) are a pair of murals on the far left wall dedicated to King Suro and his wife, Queen Heo.

HOW TO GET THERE: After exiting Jeungsan Subway Station (stop #240) through exit #1, head straight down the main road. Head in this direction for about 500 to 600 metres until you meet the first road to your left. Head down this road for about 400 metres until you see the sign for Daeilam Hermitage to your right. Follow the signs the rest of the way up to the hillside hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While this hermitage has seen better days, there are numerous paintings at Daeilam Hermitage to keep a temple adventurer interested. Such paintings as the main hall guardian mural and the murals of King Suro and Queen Heo in the Samseong-gak are something to keep an eye out for when visiting this little known hermitage. Besides the paintings, what’s not to love about the name of this hermitage?!?

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The slender five-tier pagoda that greets you at Daeilam Hermitage.

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The not so medicinal looking hermitage water with a mural of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) backing the spring.

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One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the exterior walls to the Wontong-jeon Hall.

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The main altar inside the Wontong-jeon hall with Gwanseeum-bosal front and centre.

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A mural of Munsu-bosal that adorns the far left interior wall.

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Directly to the left of the main altar is this amazing guardian mural.

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The Jijang-bosal mural to the right of the main altar.

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And the all-white Gwanseeum-bosal that adorns the far right interior wall to the main hall.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Daeilam Hermitage.

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The mural of Sanshin that hangs inside the Samseong-gak.

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The mural of King Suro that hangs on the far left wall.

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King Suro is joined by his wife, Queen Heo.

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One of the scariest Gwanseeum-bosal statues I’ve seen in Korea.

Myeongjeokam Hermitage – 명적암 (Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The view from the main hall at Myeongjeokam Hermitage near Jikjisa Temple in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Myeongjeokam Hermitage is directly associated with the famed Jikjisa Temple in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. In fact, the hermitage is situated just west of the famed Jikjisa Temple by about 400 metres.

To get to Myeongjeokam Hermitage, you’ll follow one of several hermitage roads until it breaks off. Finally, you’ll find a path that is shaded by rows of mature trees. And eventually, a crowning two story pavilion will appear. This is the first indication that you’re nearing the hermitage.

Up a set of a few dozen stairs, and under the pavilion that also acts as the hermitage’s entry gate, you’ll finally find yourself squarely in the centre of Myeongjeokam Hermitage’s main courtyard. Straight ahead is a squat three tier stone pagoda. It almost looks as though someone took a giant hand and pressed down on the top of it. Out in front of this pagoda is a Bodhisattva, reminiscent of the one at Woljeongsa Temple, that is praying to the pagoda with a flower in hand. And rounding out this set, on the west end, are two additional stone lanterns.

The only building that a visitor can explore at Myeongjeokam Hermitage is the main hall, which lies just beyond the beautiful stone Bodhisattva. Entering the rather long main hall, you’ll notice a main altar that’s comprised of five statues. In the centre sits Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy).

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Myeongjeokam Hermitage, you’ll first need to get to Jikjisa Temple. And to get to Jikjisa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Gimcheon train station. When you arrive at the Gimcheon train station, you can catch local buses #11, #111, or #112 from the intercity bus terminal that is right next to the train station parking lot. The bus ride is 1,300 won and lasts about 10 to 20 minutes. You can also take a taxi from just out in front of the train station, as well. If you’re travelling in a group, this may be an easier way to go, as the ride costs about 7,000 to 10,000 won. The bus will drop you off at the bus stop which is a nice 15 minute walk to Jikjisa Temple. From Jikjisa Temple, you’ll need to continue west. The hermitage signs along the way should do the rest.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. Myeongjeokam Hermitage has a beautiful view of the valley down below where Jikjisa Temple is situated. Also, the stone Bodhisattva that prays next to the stout pagoda is another highlight to this little hermitage west of the famed Jikjisa Temple.

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The long walk up towards the hermitage grounds.

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The two story pavilion that welcomes you to Myeongjeokam Hermitage.

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The pavilion also acts as an entry gate.

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The view from the hermitage’s pavilion.

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The compact pagoda with a stone Bodhisattva praying out in front of it.

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A closer look at the flower holding Bodhisattva.

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One last look at the pagoda with the pavilion in the background.

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Myeongjeokam Hermitage’s courtyard.

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The main hall at Myeongjeokam Hermitage.

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The entry to the hermitage’s main hall.

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The main altar inside the main hall.

Gulamsa Temple – 굴암사 (Eonyang, Ulsan)

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The view out onto Eonyang in Ulsan from Gulamsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On the southern side of Mt. Neungsan lies the unique Gulamsa Temple in northern Eonyang-eup, Ulsan. In fact, as you make your way towards the temple, and around Mt. Neungsan, you’ll notice that the mountain has been damaged by fire in its recent past. But it’s also from the same heights that you get beautiful views of Eonyang down below.

After summiting the mountain, and making a partial decent down the south side of the mountain, you’ll first notice the modern looking visitors centre at Gulamsa Temple. It’s just past this that you round the corner and get some more amazing views of the city down below from the observation deck at Gulamsa Temple.

But it’s to your back that you’ll find the entry to the highly unique main hall at Gulamsa Temple. Up a set of stairs and past some beautifully manicured shrubs, you’ll notice the entrance to the main hall, which also just so happens to be housed inside a cave. This mid-sized cave houses a solitary granite statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) on the main altar. Book-ending the main altar statue of Seokgamoni-bul are two stunning jade pagodas that stand about four feet in height. To the right of the main altar are two more stone statues. The first, on the left, is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And she’s joined to the right by Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

Outside the cave shrine hall, and to the far left, is a stone relief of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), carved into the face of the mountain. And littered throughout the cracks and crevices of the mountain are various statuettes of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas left behind by temple devotees.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Gulamsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Eonyang Intercity Bus Terminal. From here, you’ll need to take a taxi to the temple. The taxi ride will cost around 5,000 won and take 15 minutes. From where the taxi drops you off, you’ll need to walk an additional 300 metres to Gulamsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. This is another hard temple to rate. While Gulamsa Temple has one of the more unique main halls, as well as some pretty amazing views, the temple only consists of a cave shrine hall.

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The view from the scenic mountain.

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Part of the fire scorched mountain where Gulamsa Temple is located.

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The trail that leads towards the temple.

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A look down upon Eonyang and Gulamsa Temple.

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The entry to the cave that houses most of what Gulamsa Temple has to offer.

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An inscription on the mountain’s rock face.

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Some of the icons left behind by devotees.

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To the left of the cave entry is this beautiful stone carving.

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The entry to the cave main hall at Gulamsa Temple.

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A look inside the cave shrine hall with a stone statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) front and centre.

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To the right of the main hall are these statues of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit)

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One last look down at Eonyang from Gulamsa Temple.

Yangdeoksa Temple – 양덕사 (Eonyang, Ulsan)

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A look inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall at Yangdeoksa Temple in Eonyang, Ulsan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yangdeoksa Temple is located next to the turn off from Highway 1 that heads towards Ulsan along Highway 16. This newer temple that belongs to the smaller Cheontae Order lies just east of Eonyang-eup in Ulsan.

After making your way through a few highway underpasses and next to several rice fields, you’ll finally stumble across Yangdeoksa Temple next to a part of the Eonyang River. The first building to greet you is the two storied main hall. On the first floor rests the temple’s visitors’ centre and kitchen. It’s up a flight of stairs to the left that you’ll see the signs pointing you towards the second story Beopdang (or main hall). Wrapped around the exterior walls to this hall are various Buddhist motif murals. But it’s stepping inside this hall that you get to be greeted by a rare occurrence. Resting on the main altar is a fiery framed picture of Sangwol Wongak (the founder of the re-established Cheontae Order). Outside of having Buddhas or Bodhisattva on the main altar, excluding Tongdosa Temple with the window that looks out onto a stone lotus bud that actually houses the partial remains of the Historical Buddha, I’ve never seen this before. To the right of this main altar picture is a guardian mural, as well as a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the left of the main altar picture is the scepter symbol, in painted form, that embodies Cheontae Buddhism in Korea.

Stepping outside the main hall, and making your way to the left of the two storied main hall, you’ll notice ceramic pots. Inside these pots are soy bean products that the temple sells. But it’s to the left of the main hall, and the newly constructed Gwaneum-jeon Hall that’ll draw your attention. Housed inside this pagoda like shrine hall is a regally adorned statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). She’s joined to the left by a statue of Sangwol Wongak, once more. The entire interior to this hall is lined with murals of the 33 incarnations of Gwanseeum-bosal, and they’re really quite striking.

HOW TO GET THERE:

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Yangdeoksa Temple has a couple of really unique features that largely centre around Sangwol Wongak, the founder of the re-established Cheontae Order. I’ve never seen a picture of a non-Buddha or Bodhisattva on the main altar of a main hall. And yet, Yangdeoksa Temple has just that. Added to this uniqueness is the beautiful new Gwaneum-jeon Hall at Yangdeoksa Temple.

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A look up at the main hall at Yangdeoksa Temple.

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A few rice pots in preparation for Buddha’s birthday.

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The stairs that lead up to the Beopdang main hall.

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Some of the beautiful lanterns at this Cheontae Order Buddhist temple.

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A look towards the newly constructed Gwaneum-jeon Hall from the temple’s main hall.

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Some of the soy pots at Yangdeoksa Temple.

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Inside the very unique Beopdang main hall.

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The main altar inside the Beopdang with a picture of the revered Sangwol Wongak front and centre.

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The large guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

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It’s joined by an equally large mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

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The painting to the left of the main altar that lets you know that the temple is part of the Cheontae Order.

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Lining the interior of the main hall were some murals, like this one, of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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The view from the rear of the main hall towards the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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One of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall’s murals that adorns the exterior walls with Munsu-bosal making a presence in the top right.

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The view as you make your way towards the Gwaneum-jeon from the main hall.

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Under a canopy of paper lanterns in preparation for Buddha’s birthday.

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A look up towards the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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A grassy dongja with some dangling paper lanterns above him.

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A look inside the Gwaneum-jeon with Gwanseeum-bosal sitting in the centre of the main altar. He’s joined by Sangwol Wongak to the left.

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The tall guardian mural inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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As well as another mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

Seongbulsa Temple – 성불사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The Baenaegol Valley where Seongbulsa Temple is located in northern Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seongbulsa Temple is located at the base of Mt. Hyangrosan, and next to the flowing Lake Miryang. It’s beautifully situated in the very scenic Baenaegol Valley. Seongbulsa Temple is on the very outskirts of the Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do city limits. Just to the north and west lie the cities of Ulsan and Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

In an elbow of the lake, and past a few pensions, you’ll make your way towards Seongbulsa Temple up a country road. The first thing to greet you is an elevated golden statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). In front of this elevated statue are three smaller stone statues of the Buddha enacting the hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil motif, as well as a stone statue of Podae-hwasang.

To the left of this elevated statue is the Gwaneum-jeon. Housed inside a cave, the Gwaneum-jeon Hall houses a maroon clothed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the main altar. She’s joined to the left by a statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King). Painted on the rock face to the right is a mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal and Yongwang. And to the left of the main altar are rows of jade-like statues of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

To the right of the golden statue of Mireuk-bul, and under the temple’s Iljumun Gate, is a set of cement stairs. These stairs lead up towards the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Seongbulsa Temple. The entrance to the left reveals rows of bronzed coloured Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on the exterior walls. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll be welcomed by a rather spacious interior for devotees. Resting on the main altar is a uniquely clothed statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) sitting in the centre of a triad of statues. He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the left of this main altar is a darkened mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), as well as a guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

Stepping outside the Geukrakbo-jeon and past the graffiti written on the walls of the main temple courtyard (yes, a first), you’ll notice a tall stone statue dedicated once more to Gwanseeum-bosal. Somewhat camouflaged by the neighbouring folds of the mountain, Gwanseeum-bosal is cradling a baby in her hands.

It’s to the left of this statue that you’ll find the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are three rather plain murals dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

And it’s to the left of this shaman shrine hall, and up an overgrown forested pathway, that you’ll find a mountainside shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). If not for the blue sign pointing me in this direction, I would have missed the emaciated statue of the Buddha.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a taxi out to Seongbulsa Temple because there is no public transportation out to this remote area. The taxi ride should last 40 minutes and cost 22,000 won one way.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Seongbulsa Temple is a bit of a tough one to rate. While it’s beautifully situated next to Lake Miryang in Baenaegol Valley, the temple itself almost seems abandoned. In fact, I thought it might have been abandoned all but for the monk that greeted me as I was leaving. As for the temple itself, the Gwaneum-jeon cave hall, as well as the beautiful granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal to the rear of the temple grounds are a couple highlights at Seongbulsa Temple.

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The entry to Seongbulsa Temple.

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A stone statue of Podae-hwasang in the foreground with Mireuk-bul in the background.

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A closer look at Podae-hwasang.

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And a closer look at the golden Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

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The view that Mireuk-bul gets to enjoy.

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The Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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A painting of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the side of the main hall.

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The main altar inside the Geukrakbo-jeon

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The view of the valley from the temple’s main hall.

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The granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal with the Geukrakbo-jeon Hall.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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The painting of Dokseong that adorns the exterior wall to the Samseong-gak.

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A look inside at Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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Who is joined by this close-up of Dokseong.

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A shrine to the left rear of the Samseong-gak.

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The shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul that’s up an overgrown pathway.

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The Gwaneum-jeon cave hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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A look inside reveals a haunting atmosphere.

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The main altar inside the Gwaneum-jeon cave hall.

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One more amazing view of the Baenaegol Valley where Seongbulsa Temple is located.

Daewonam Hermitage – 대원암 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The view from Daewonam Hermitage near Pyochungsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Daewonam Hermitage is located to the west of the famed Pyochungsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do. When you first approach the compact courtyard to Daewonam Hermitage, you’ll notice a uniquely designed entrance gate. There are two fading murals of a dragon to the left on the exterior walls of the gate. The interior has some fiercely painted guardians on either side of the gate as you first enter it. And as you pass into the courtyard, you’ll notice, what seems to be, two of the ten Ox-Herding murals.

Having passed through the uniquely illustrated gate, you’ll notice the kitchen complex to the left and the nuns’ dorms to the right. Strangely, the main hall appears more like a dorm than it does like a main hall. Stepping up onto the hallway that rests just outside the entrance of the main hall, you’ll be able to see the older-looking guardian painting tucked away in the corner on the far left. I slid the doors open nervously, not knowing if I was opening a nuns’ dorm or the main hall. Fortunately, I was opening the door to the main hall. Resting on the walls next to the main altar are a pair of stars: one pink and one gold. This is combined with a ceiling full of pink paper lotus flowers.  And sitting on the main altar is a centralized Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s flanked by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right. Other than this, there’s an altar on the far right wall for the deceased and nothing else inside the main hall.

Passing by the kitchen to your left, on the way up to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine, you’ll notice a door opening to your right. This opening is attached to the main hall, and looks to be a storage area. Resting on the wall, above a make-shift altar, is a painting of Jowang (The Fireplace King Spirit).

Continuing, you’ll walk up an uneven set of stone stairs on your way towards the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The paintings of the three shaman deities inside this hall are beautiful. Both the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), as well as the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) paintings are newer looking, while the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting in the centre is definitely older in appearance. The exterior of this hall is painted with murals that are related to these three shaman deities.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Pyochungsa Temple, take an intercity bus to the Miryang bus terminal.  From there, you can catch a bus to Pyochungsa Temple which runs from 7:35 a.m. to 8:20 p.m. every 40 minutes.  The ride will take you between 40 to 50 minutes. Instead of heading straight towards the Iljumun Gate, head right at a road that heads towards the hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. This hermitage will certainly not blow you away with its splendour. With that being said, there are a few highlights to Daewonam Hermitage. One highlight is the fierce looking guardians inside the entrance gate. Another is the decorative main hall and the Jowang mural in the adjacent storage area. Finally, the older looking Chilseong painting inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is another highlight that shouldn’t be overlooked at this hermitage. In combination with Pyochungsa Temple, it can make for a nice little outing in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam.

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The gate that welcomes you to Daewonam Hermitage.

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A dragon mural that adorns the outer walls of the entry gate.

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A look through the entry gate towards the main hall at the hermitage.

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One of the guardian murals that adorns the entry gate.

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As well as another guardian mural.

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One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the inner portion of the entry gate.

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The diminutive main hall at Daewonam Hermitage.

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The view of the neighbouring mountains from the main hall.

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The guardian mural that hangs just outside the main hall entrance.

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The colourful main hall interior.

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The extremely rare kitchen guardian, Jowang, at Daewonam Hermitage.

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The fierce tiger that adorns the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The older and elaborate Chilseong mural inside the shaman shrine hall.

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As well as the accompanying Dokseong mural.

Chukseoam Hermitage – 축서암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A look at the hermitage courtyard at Chukseoam Hermitage with the Chiseosan Mountains towering above.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Chukseoam Hermitage is one of nineteen hermitages directly associated with the famed Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

You first approach Chukseoam Hermitage down some country back roads. Finally, the road will start climbing, when you finally arrive at the outskirts of the hermitage. The hermitage is spread out over two courtyards. The lower courtyard wasn’t all that well maintained. The lower courtyard houses the monks’ dorms.

Walking through the staircase that divides the lower courtyard residences, you’ll arrive in the upper courtyard, where all of the significant buildings at the hermitage reside. To the left is an older looking building that acts as the residence for the monks. And to the right is the hermitage kitchen and visitors’ centre. Straight ahead is a rather non-descript main hall. The exterior is unadorned. All that adorns this bare exterior are the earthen dancheong colour tones that adorn all temples and hermitages in Korea. Inside, you’ll see a rather sparsely decorated main hall. On the main altar sits a unique triad of statues with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre. The reason I say unique is that the statues seem to be rather squat in appearance and cube-like in the face. On the far left wall is the smaller sized guardian mural.

To the left rear of the main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The shaman shrine hall is unadorned on the exterior, but it’s backed by a beautiful pine tree forest and the heights of Mt. Chiseosan. Inside the shrine hall, as you walk upon the rickety floor boards, you’ll see a set of gorgeous shaman deities. Unfortunately, the paintings are covered by glass, which takes away from getting a good picture of them; however, Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) are beautifully rendered.

HOW TO GET THERE: Chukseoam Hermitage is tricky to find. With your back to the main gate at Tongdosa Temple, head straight for about 200 metres. Turn left at the first major road. This road will head straight, beside the Tongdosa Temple parking lot, for about 300 metres. As the road forks, head left around a curved road for about 200 metres. You’ll then see a handful of taller apartments. Head straight once more for about 400 metres with Tondo-Fantasia (an amusement park) to your right. Again, you’ll come to a fork in the road at a farmer’s field. Take the road that heads left. Follow this road for about a kilometer. During this one kilometer hike, you’ll be able to see signs that guide your way. Follow these signs until you arrive at the hermitage behind a few larger sized houses.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. Chukseoam Hermitage certainly won’t blow you away. Much like Sudoam Hermitage, also associated with Tongdosa Temple, there is very little to see at the hermitage; however, with that being said, there are a couple of things that are unique to Chukseoam Hermitage. One is the gorgeous vista of the Mt. Chiseosan range behind the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, as well as the intertwining pine tree forest. Also, the gorgeous paintings of the shaman deities inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall certainly are the handful of highlights at the hermitage. But unless you have an easy way to get to Chukseoam Hermitage, the trip may not be worth it.

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The entrance that leads up to the hermitage courtyard.

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A look at a couple of the halls at Chukseoam Hermitage and the surrounding beauty.

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The compact main hall at Chukseoam Hermitage.

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A look inside the compact main hall.

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Both the main hall and Samseong-gak together.

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A better look at the beautifully located Samseong-gak.

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The beautifully manicured grounds that surround the shaman shrine hall.

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The modern Sanshin mural inside the Samseong-gak.

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A look up at the peak of Mt. Chiseosan.

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The view from the Samseong-gak.