Gukcheongsa Temple – 국청사 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)

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The three tier pagoda at Gukcheongsa Temple in Geumjeong-gu, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gukcheongsa Temple is located on the southern portion of Mt. Geumjeongsan in Busan. Gukcheongsa Temple is also just south of the Geumjeongsan Fortress walls. Gukcheongsa Temple was first constructed by the famed monk Uisang-daesa (625-702) during the Silla Dynasty. The temple was also used as a strategic military command post for the Buddhist warrior monks against the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Later, in 1982, a three tier pagoda that sits out in front of the main temple grounds, and in a pond, was constructed to console the spirits of Buddhist monks that gave up their lives to defend Gukcheongsa Temple.

You approach Gukcheongsa Temple up one of the roads that connects it to the mountainside Sanseong community. The first thing to greet you is a stout two pillar Iljumun Gate that is colourfully painted. A little further up the temple road and to the right, you’ll notice the beautiful temple pond with the three tier pagoda in the centre of it. Surrounding the overgrown pond are various stone statues that include Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

A little further along, and past the temple parking lot, are the main temple buildings at Gukcheongsa Temple. But before you enter the main temple courtyard, you’ll notice an old monks’ residence that is no longer used. Have a look at its unique stone exterior.

Finally facing the Daeung-jeon main hall at Gukcheongsa Temple, you’ll notice two buildings book-ending the main hall. These are the new monks’ dorms and the visitors’ centre. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with masterful Ox-Herding murals, as well as the Bodhidharma and the myth behind the wooden moktak. As for inside the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful triad of statues that rest on the main altar. Sitting in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the left of the main altar triad is an older Shinjung Taenghwa guardian mural. And to the right is a newer mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

The only other shrine hall to visit at Gukcheongsa Temple is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are adorned with a majestic tiger mural, as well as a mural dedicated to the myth of the golden well on top of Mt. Geumjeongsan. As for inside this shaman shrine hall, there are three rather plain murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Gukcheongsa Temple, you’ll first have to travel to Hwamyeong subway station on the second line (#235). From here, you’ll have to catch a Busan city bus from the Deokcheon Rotary. Take the Busan city bus identified as “Sanseong – 산성”. Ride this bus until you get to the centre of the mountain community of Sanseong, which will probably take 15 to 20 minutes. Nearing the outskirts of this community, get off near a large bathroom complex (yes, you heard me correctly). Facing this community bathroom, head in the direction that your back faces. You’ll see a small brown marker sign that directs you towards the northern gate (북문) of the Busan Mountain Fortress (Geumjeongsanseong). Follow this road for one kilometres. Along the way, you’ll come across Gukcheongsa Temple to your right. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the sort of out of place Iljumun Gate for the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Gukcheongsa Temple is beautifully located on the southern slopes of the towering Mt. Geumjeongsan. Adding to its natural beauty is the three tier pagoda that sits in the temple’s pond, as well as the triad of statues that sits on the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The entry stone at Gukcheongsa Temple.

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The stout Iljumun Gate at the temple entrance.

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The temple pond and the three tier pagoda that sits in its centre.

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A better look at the overgrown pond and pagoda.

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The stone statue that stands near the temple pagoda and pond.

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The temple grounds at Gukcheongsa Temple as you first approach it.

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The old monks’ dorms at the temple.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall at Gukcheongsa Temple.

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

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As well as this moktak mural.

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And this Bodhidharma mural.

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The elaborate main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The older guardian mural that takes up residence to the left of the main altar.

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

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left rear of the main hall.

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The relaxing tiger that adorns one of the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak.

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As well as this winged golden fish that helps depict the golden well associated with Mt. Geumjeongsan.

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The paintings inside the Samseong-gak.

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And the view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

Daeheungsa Temple – 대흥사 (Gyeongju)

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The main temple courtyard at Daeheungsa Temple in northern Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Daeheungsa Temple is located in the northern part of Gyeongju and just south east of the towering Mt. Jioksan (569m). You first approach Daeheungsa Temple past several farmers’ fields. The temple in fact seems out of place surrounded by agriculture on all sides.

Standing in the centre of the temple parking lot, you face a large retaining wall, past which lays the temple grounds. Climbing the large set of stairs, you’ll finally pass through the Cheonwangmun Gate at Daeheungsa Temple to enter the lower temple courtyard. Housed inside the Cheonwangmun Gate are four rather underwhelming statues of the Four Heavenly Kings.

Finally standing inside the lower courtyard, you’ll first notice the ornateness of the temple. To your immediate left is a statue of Podae-hwasang. And a little further left is the temple’s bell pavilion which houses a beautiful bronze bell. Straight ahead, on the other hand, is a large granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), who stands in a shallow flowing pond. To the left rear of this pond is an elevated altar that houses a statue of the Eight Spoke Buddhist Wheel, and it’s backed by a seated stone image of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). While to the right rear of the pond is another elevated altar. This time, the altar is fronted by a large metal Geumgang-jeo (Diamond Pounder) and backed by another stone image of Seokgamoni-bul.

Climbing a flight of stairs directly to the rear of the pond and Gwanseeum-bosal, you’ll come to the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas. Just outside this hall are large paintings of the sixteen Nahan, as well as smaller stone statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. As for inside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas, and resting on the main altar, is triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And this triad is surrounded on all sides, as you might have guessed it, by one thousand smaller images of Amita-bul.

Up another flight of stairs, and passing through the beautiful dragon adorned entry gate, you’ll be welcomed by a large concrete main hall. While the exterior of the hall is all but unadorned except for the traditional dancheong colours, you’ll notice a large triad resting on the main altar. Again, Amita-bul is front and centre in this triad. And 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 the main hall, besides the monks’ dorms and a training centre for the monks, is a large statue to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). But it’s to the right of the main hall which probably draws most of your attention. The all white shrine hall, which looks to be Indian-inspired, houses sari (crystallized remains) inside. But before stepping inside this elevated hall, you’ll first have to pass by two intimidating stone Vajra warrior statues. Once you step inside the circular hall, you’ll notice that the wall’s to the hall are painted with the Palsang-do murals that recreate Seokgamoni-bul’s life. And resting on the main altar is a sari.

Just behind the white circular shrine hall, and to the right of the main hall, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hidden hall are three rather common paintings of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Yongwang (The Dragon King), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, take Bus #203 for 45 stops., which will last one hour and twenty minutes. Get off at Oksan 2-ri and walk 850 metres towards Daeheungsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. While a bit out of the way from the usual tourist trappings of Gyeongju, Daeheungsa Temple is well worth the visit to the northern part of the ancient city. With all its stone statues and altars, the trip is worth it alone. But when you add into the mix the white circular sari hall, as well as the massive main hall that’s ornately adorned inside, and you’ll have to find a way to get to the newer Daeheungsa Temple.

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The entrance to Daeheungsa Temple.

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Rather uniquely designed stupas at the base of the temple entrance.

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A walk towards the beautiful Daeheungsa Temple.

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One of the Four Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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The lower courtyard at Daeheungsa Temple.

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The Podae-hwasang statue at the entry of the temple.

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The bell pavilion to the left of the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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The Eight Spoke Buddhist Wheel platform at Daeheungsa Temple.

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And to the right is another platform backed by Seokgamoni-bul and fronted by a large metal Geumgang-jeo (Diamond Pounder).

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The stairs leading up to the main hall at Daeheungsa Temple.

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Inside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas.

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One of the Nahan paintings outside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas.

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The entry gate to the upper courtyard.

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One of the ornamental dragons that hangs from the upper courtyard gate.

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The unique hall that houses sari inside.

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One of the stone guardians that protects the entry to the sari hall.

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The main altar inside the sari hall.

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A closer look at the main altar with the sari in the centre.

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A look back at the entry.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Daeheungsa Temple.

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The Sanshin mural inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The large concrete main hall at Daeheungsa Temple.

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The main altar inside the main hall at Daeheungsa Temple with Amita-bul front and centre.

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The Mireuk-bul statue to the left of the main hall.

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The view from the upper courtyard down towards the lower courtyard.

Cheongryeonam Hermitage – 청련암 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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Cheongryeonam Hermitage to the east of Namjijangsa Temple in southern Daegu.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Cheongryeonam Hermitage is located east of its affiliated Namjijangsa Temple. Both are located in southern Daegu on the south side of Mt. Choijeongsan (905m). Like Namjijangsa Temple, Cheongryeonam Hermitage was first constructed in 684 A.D. by a monk named Yanggae. Both were constructed on the behest of the Silla king, King Sinmun (r. 681-692). Like Namjijangsa Temple, Cheongryeonam Hermitage was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-1598). Cheongryeonam Hermitage, during the Imjin War, was used as a training centre for warrior monks. The hermitage was rebuilt several times from 1653 to 1714. Once more, the hermitage was destroyed by fire in 1806. The current hermitage structures date back to 1808.

Cheongryeonam Hermitage is situated just 200 metres to the east of Namjijangsa Temple through a beautiful lush forest. Past a hillside full of picnic benches, and along the dirt trail, you’ll finally come to the outskirts of the hermitage grounds.

The first thing to greet you, as you make your way towards the eastside entry gate, is a tall traditional stone fence. Upon entering the squeaky three door gate, you’ll be welcomed by an “L” shaped main hall, which also acts as the monks’ dorms.

To the right of the main hall is a storage shed, which is joined by a biseok statue. As to the left of the main hall, there is the hermitage’s garden from which the monks draw sustenance. It’s also joined by another storage shed.

To the rear of the main hall, and the real highlight to this temple, is the unpainted Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The shaman shrine hall is surrounded on all sides by dense shrubs and hydrangeas. On the front side of the Samseong-gak are four fading paintings of guardians. As you step inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, you’ll be welcomed by a collection of paintings dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). These paintings are joined on the far right wall by an older, yet beautiful, guardian mural. Also, have a look at the low-lying beams inside this shaman shrine hall. In particular, look for the vibrant murals of the blue dragons.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Daegu train station, walk about 15 minutes (930 metres), to get to Chilseong market (where the NH Bank is located) bus stop. Take the bus that reads “Gachang2” on it. After 50 stops, or one hour, get off at the “Urokri” (last stop) and walk about 2.7 km, or 41 minutes, to get to the temple. When at Namjijangsa Temple, head right while travelling through the temple parking lot. Head up a dirt road for about 200 metres until you come to Cheongryeonam Hermitage.

You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Daegu train station. The ride takes about 50 minutes and costs 23,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. Cheongryeonam Hermitage is beautifully located on the southern side of Mt. Choijeongsan. The trail leading up to the hermitage is one of the more beautiful you’ll find in this area. But without a doubt, the real highlight to this temple is the unpainted Samseong-gak; and rather strangely, the tall stone wall that acts as a barrier between the outside world and Cheongryeonam Hermitage is a highlight, as well.

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The dirt road that leads up to the hermitage.

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The beautiful vista along the way.

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The dirt road and forest as you near Cheongryeonam Hermitage.

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The entry gate to the diminutive hermitage.

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The main hall and monks’ living quarters at Cheongryeonam Hermitage.

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The hermitage’s garden and storage shed.

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The path that leads up to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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A look up at the camouflaged Samseong-gak shaman shrine.

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Rather uniquely, the Samseong-gak is unpainted all but for the four guardians at the entries.

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One of the decorative guardians.

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As well as another.

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The Sanshin mural housed inside the Samseong-gak.

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The older guardian mural housed inside the Samseong-gak, as well.

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This blue decorative dragon adorns one of the Samseong-gak’s roof beams.

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And the view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

Namjijangsa Temple – 남지장사 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The view from the Samseong-gak at Namjijangsa Temple in southern Daegu.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Situated south of the Daegu city centre, and south of the towering Mt. Choijeongsan (905m), is Namjijangsa Temple. The name of the temple means “South Bodhisattva of the Afterlife,” which shouldn’t be confused with Bukjijangsa Temple to the north of the Daegu city centre.

Namjijangsa Temple was first established in 684 A.D. by the monk Yanggae. Eventually, Namjijangsa Temple would grow to eight shrine halls, as well as a bell pavilion and the Cheonwangmun Gate. However, in 1592, like much of Korea, the temple was completely destroyed by the Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Afterwards, from 1652 to 1769, the temple underwent an extensive rebuild. Historically, the famed warrior monk Samyeong-daesa used Namjijangsa Temple as the staging site for battles against the Japanese during the Imjin War. The temple functioned as a headquarters for the Yeongnam region. Also, it was home, at one point in his life, to the monk Muhak, who would help advise the Goryeo Dynasty founding king, King Taejo.

You first approach Namjijangsa Temple down some country roads, until you eventually arrive at the temple parking lot. It’s next to a beautiful large water fountain that you’ll climb a set of stone stairs on your way through the temple entry gate. The entry gate, rather uniquely, houses the temple bell. At some temples, the temple bell is housed on the second floor, but not at Namjijangsa Temple. As you pass through the entry gate, you’ll see the bell to your right through wooden slats.

Finally entering the main temple courtyard, you’ll notice the monks’ quarters to your left and the visitors’ centre to your right. Straight ahead rests the Daeung-jeon Hall. In front of the main hall stands a five tier stone pagoda that’s adorned with various trinkets that visitors have left behind as a sign of devotion. Adorning the exterior walls to the main hall is a beautiful set of Palsang-do murals, which depict the eight scenes from the Buddha’s life. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on both sides by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). Rounding out the interior of the main hall is a massive guardian mural hanging on the far right wall.

To the right rear of the main hall is the temple’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Both the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) murals are of a red hue, but it’s the angry tiger tail holding Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that is the main highlight to this shaman shrine hall.

To the left of the main hall sits the newly constructed Geukrak-jeon Hall. As you enter the hall have a look at the amazing dragon doors. At the base of these doors are some amazing Nathwi (Monster Masks). As for the interior, and resting on the packed main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul).

And just left of the Geukrak-jeon Hall, in an open pavilion under a canopy, is a shrine for Yongwang (The Dragon King). The large painting dedicated to Yongwang is joined by a spring.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Daegu train station, walk about 15 minutes (930 metres), to get to Chilseong market (where the NH Bank is located) bus stop. Take the bus that reads “Gachang2” on it. After 50 stops, or one hour, get off at the “Urokri” (last stop) and walk about 2.7 km, or 41 minutes, to get to the temple.

You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Daegu train station. The ride takes about 50 minutes and costs 23,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Without a doubt, the biggest highlight to this temple is the curmudgeonly Sanshin painting in the Samseong-gak. Adding to the temple’s overall appeal is the large guardian mural inside the main hall, the Yongwang mural, as well as the temple’s beautiful location.

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The entry to Namjijangsa Temple.

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The temple bell that’s housed inside the entry gate.

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The slender five-tier pagoda with the Daeung-jeon Hall behind it.

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One of the Palsang-do murals that depicts the Buddha’s life.

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The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall with Seokgamoni-bul front and centre.

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The view from the Daeung-jeon Hall out towards the main temple courtyard.

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The visitors’ centre at Namjijangsa Temple.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at the temple.

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An all-red Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) mural.

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Joined by this angry looking Sanshin inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The beautiful view at Namjijangsa Temple.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall to the left of the main hall.

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This amazing Nathwi adorns one of the Geukrak-jeon Hall’s doors.

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The main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall with Amita-bul sitting in the centre.

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And to the left of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is this shrine for Yongwang (The Dragon King).

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An up close of the Yongwang mural.

Geumsuam Hermitage – 금수암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The entry to Geumsuam Hermitage on the Tongdosa Temple grounds in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Geumsuam Hermitage, which is located on the north-western portion of the Tongdosa Temple grounds in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, means “Golden Water Hermitage,” in English.  Geumsuam Hermitage is a hermitage meant for the daily worship practices of the Buddhist monks. With that in mind, Geumsuam Hermitage is a place to be on your best behavior.

When you first approach Geumsuam Hermitage up a winding road that twists and turns through the Korean countryside, you’ll finally arrive at a car bridge at the base of the hermitage. There is a newer looking white building as you approach. The road will lead to the right, which circumnavigates around the large garden that supports the monk population at the hermitage.  At the entrance is a cute looking younger dog that can be a bit rabid at times, so try not to pet it (just in case you were thinking of petting it).

As you approach the hermitage, you’ll see a beautiful gate that is usually closed to the public for the purpose of maintaining peace and quiet for the monks. Fortunately, it was open when we visited.  As you pass through the hermitage gate, you’ll see a beautiful metal dragon crest holding the ringed door knob. Decoratively, the gate is adorned with paintings of monster masks. The Korean name for these masks are “nathwi”. “Nat” means face, while “hwi”, in Chinese characters, means multi-coloured. These monster masks are placed on Korean Buddhist structures as guardian spirits. And depending on their gaze, that is the direction they are protecting.

After passing through the gate, you’ll enter into the simple and compact courtyard at the hermitage. There are only two hermitage structures in the courtyard at Geumsuam Hermitage. To the right, is the main hall, and to the left is a meditation pavilion. The highlight of the hermitage is a tranquil Koi pond in front of the meditation pavilion. There are two smaller sized pagodas on either side of the meditation pavilion. There are also numerous atypical statues of Bodhisattvas in the courtyard.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Yangsan; and more specifically, Tongdosa Temple. To get to Tongdosa Temple, you can take an intercity bus from Busan, Eonyang or Ulsan. Specifically from Busan, you can take a bus or subway to Nopo-dong intercity bus terminal. There, you can get a ticket for Tongdosa Temple. It leaves every 20 minutes. 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.  Admission for adults is 3,000 won. From Tongdosa Temple, you’ll have to continue up the main road for another 700 metres until you come to a fork in the road.  Instead of heading straight, turn right and continue heading in that direction for one kilometre.  There are a cluster of hermitages. Follow the signs the rest of the way to Geumsuam Hermitage.

OVERALL RATING:  2.5/10. Because Geumsuam Hermitage really isn’t meant for the public to visit, like Jajangam Hermitage or Biroam Hermitage, there is very little to actually see and enjoy at Geumsuam Hermitage. While there are a couple highlights, like the compact Koi pond, the meditative pavilion, and the atypical Buddhist statues, this hermitage should be saved for all but the greatest of Korean temple adventurers.

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As you first approach the hermitage grounds.

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The fields at Geumsuam Hermitage used by the monks for sustenance.

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As you approach the hermitage entry gate.

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The guard dog that welcomes you to the hermitage.

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The view through the hermitage gate.

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The ornamental door knocker at Geumsuam Hermitage.

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A decorative Nathwi painting that adorns the entry gate at the hermitage.

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The main hall at Geumsuam Hermitage.

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A statue of Yaksayore-bul outside the main hall.

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And the tiger riding Munsu-bosal in statue form.

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A fish designed wind chime that hangs from the main hall.

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The hermitage’s beautiful meditative pavilion.

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Colourful Koi swim in the pond.

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Protective guardians at the entry of the pavilion.

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One of the twelve Zodiac Generals.

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A slender statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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.