Bogaksa Temple – 보각사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The view of the city of Yangsan down below as you exit the main hall at Bogaksa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Perched on Mt. Obongsan in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, where the buildings give way to the forested mountain, is Bogaksa Temple. To get to the elevated Bogaksa Temple grounds, you’ll first need to trek your way up the narrow side-streets as you make your way to the all-new temple. In fact, from the base of the mountain, up to the temple grounds, you’ll need to climb 150 metres in altitude.

When you finally do arrive at Bogaksa Temple, you’ll be met by the front façade retaining wall and a standoffish Iljumun Gate. The two pillared Iljumun Gate is adorned with two fiercely painted guardians on both doors. Also, the ceiling of the gate is painted with decorative Biseon.

Climbing the side-winding set of stone stairs, you’ll pass by a masterful relief of a crowned Bodhisattva. It’s finally when summiting the stone stairs that you stand in Bogaksa Temple’s main temple courtyard. There are relaxing seats to enjoy the view, as well as some purple and pink water lilies. They are joined by the nuns’ dorms and a visitors centre. But it’s the newly constructed main hall that stands out above all the other structures at the temple.

First constructed in the spring of 2015, the main hall’s exterior walls are masterfully adorned with Shimu-do and Palsang-do murals. The Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals rest on the bottom of the two sets in a circular style of painting; while the Palsang-do murals rest above them and are much larger in size. Additionally, the colourful wooden lattices and Nathwi that adorn the front doors of the main hall are something to keep an eye out for, as well. Stepping in the side door of the main hall, you’ll first notice the solitary statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) sitting on the main altar. To the right of the seated statue of the Buddha hang three paintings. The furthest is the large sized guardian mural. It’s joined by a vibrantly painted Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural, as well as an intricately painted mural of an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the left of the main altar hangs two more paintings. The one closest to the main altar is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s joined by an equally animated mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

Stepping out from the main hall, you’ll notice some amazing views of the city of Yangsan down below from the elevated foundation of the main hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Busan University Yangsan Campus subway stop, stop #241 on the second line, you’ll need to go out exit #3 and board a taxi bound for Bogaksa Temple. The ride should last about 10 minutes and cost about 4,000 to 5,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While not all that large in size, and not that old in age, Bogaksa Temple certainly has a few highlights to this modern temple. One is the views of Yangsan from the heights of the temple. Another are all the paintings housed inside and outside the main hall. And if you come during late summer and early fall, you’ll be able to see some beautiful water lilies in full bloom.


The two pillared Iljumun Gate at Bogaksa Temple.


One of the fierce decorative guardians painted on the doors to the Iljumun Gate.


The view as you look through the Iljumun Gate.


The crowned stone Bodhisattva relief as you climb the stone stairs.


A look through the front door of the main hall at Bogaksa Temple.


Some of the main hall’s floral latticework.


The final painting in the Palsang-do set.


Just one of the masterful circular Ox-Herding murals that adorns the main hall.


A look around the interior of the main hall.


The guardian mural that hangs in the main hall.


As well as a vibrant Sanshin mural.


An intricate Gwanseeum-bosal mural.


A seated Jijang-bosal mural.


And a Chilseong mural.


The view in through the out door.


Some of the neighbouring temple buildings.


The amazing view from the main hall.


A pink water lily in full bloom at the temple.


As well as a vibrant purple water lily.

Yonggungsa Temple – 용궁사 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The temple courtyard at Yonggungsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just south of the more prominent Cheongyeongsa Temple, as well as the Miryang River, is the hillside Yonggungsa Temple, which means Dragon Palace Temple, in English. While certainly not as famous as its namesake in Busan, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, the Yonggungsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do has a unique charm of its own.

When you first approach the temple up a small country backstreet, you’ll be greeted by the temple’s main gate. Adorning the gate doors are a pair of peeling guardian murals. They’ve peeled so much that only their heads now appear. Inside the gate are a pair of statues that appear to be Dongjin-bosal (Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings). Not only have I never seen Dongjin-bosal housed inside an entry gate, but there are two of him. And both of them have one of their wings broken off from their helmet. It might be that while placing the temple’s lawn chairs inside this gate, which is also used for storage, that they snapped off.

Finally entering the temple grounds, one of the first things you’ll notice, which is unique to most Korean Buddhist temples, is that the temple courtyard has grass. Up on a knoll is where all of the temple shrine halls are located. Straight ahead is the main hall. Wrapped around its exterior walls are the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Uniquely, this set only has seven of the potential ten paintings. As for inside, and sitting 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). Hanging on the left wall is a set of murals. The first is the rather plain guardian mural. It’s joined by a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal, as well as the Dragon Ship of Wisdom. Additionally, the ceiling of the main hall is beautifully adorned with large paper lotus lanterns.

To the right of the main hall is a dharma-looking stone statue. However, this isn’t the dharma; instead, it’s Podae-hwasang.

To the left of the main hall is a peculiar shrine hall. Sitting on the main altar, and in the centre, is a stone statue dedicated to a Buddha (presumably Mireuk-bul). To the left of this statue is an older looking painting of Yongwang (The Dragon King). And to the right of the statue stand small statues of the twelve Zodiac Generals.

Between both the peculiar shrine hall and the main hall, and up a flight of granite stairs, is the rather large Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. While all the murals inside this hall are large in size, they are pretty ordinary in composition. However, the tiger painted inside the Sanshin mural does look possessed.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways you can get to Yonggungsa Temple. The first is from the Miryang train station. You can take either Bus #1-2, #7 or the “Gagok” bus. After 3 stops, you’ll need to get off at the KT&G stop. From there, follow the signs that lead you towards Yonggungsa Temple and Cheongyeongsa Temple. The walk should take about 10 minutes over 800 metres.

Or you could simply take a taxi from the Miryang train station. The ride should only take 6 minutes and cost you 2,800 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. While not as spectacular as the neighbouring Cheongyeongsa Temple, Yonggungsa Temple has a charm all its own. From its grassy temple courtyard to both of its spacious main hall and Samseong-gak, the lesser known Miryang Yonggungsa Temple has a fair bit to offer a visitor. In addition, the peculiar shrine hall and the Podae-hwasang stone statue are something to enjoy, as well.


The view from the hillside next to Yonggungsa Temple.


The front gate at the temple.


The guardian mural that is slowly peeling away.


The lawn chairs and Dongjin-bosal statue together in the entry gate at Yonggungsa Temple.


The main hall at Yonggungsa Temple.


The stone statue of Podae-hwasang to the right of the main hall.


Strangely, only one of seven Ox-Herding murals adorning the main hall.


The main altar inside the main hall.


The guardian mural inside the main hall.


As well as the Dragon Ship of Wisdom.


The highly elaborate ceiling to the main hall.


The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.


Inside is this mural and statue of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).


To the left of the Samseong-gak is this unusual shrine hall.


Inside is housed this statue of the Buddha (perhaps the Future Buddha, Mireuk-bul).


The older looking Yongwang mural dedicated to the Dragon King.


Four little figurines that a devotee left behind.


As well as this lily pond.

Podae-hwasang – 포대화상


Podae-hwasang at Jeongamsa Temple in Gohan, Gangwon-do

Hello Again Everyone!!

Until recently, I had no idea that Podae-hwasang even existed in Buddhism. It was only after researching him a bit more that I found out who the easily misidentified jovial figure was. Sometimes, he can be confused for the Buddha, but he’s in fact Podae-hwasang.

Podae-hwasang, who is better known as Budai or Pu-Tai in Chinese, is a disguised monk. Podae-hwasang is believed to be an incarnation of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). The name Budai, in Chinese, means “hempen sack” (more on that later).


A very golden Podae-hwasang at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.


The tarnished belly of another Podae-hwasang at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Supposedly, if you rub the belly while pregnant, the statue will grant you a boy.

Podae-hwasang first appeared in 10th century Chinese folktales. It’s believed that Podae-hwasang was a monk from Huyang, China. He was born in Myeongju, Bonghwa in China (or Ch’i-t’zu, from Fenghua, in what is now Zhejiang province in Chinese). His name, at his birth, was Gyecha. At this time, there was a form of Buddhism in China called Mani, and his Buddhist name was Cha, even though he was also called Seodal. And his home temple was Akrimsa Temple.

Physically, Podae-hwasang appears to be chubby and has a belly like a balloon. He’s bald and wears a monk’s robe. Also, he’s always depicted as either smiling or laughing. He was known to wander around the countryside with a cane. It was from his cane that he hung a sack. The sack had a variety of things in it, so if people needed or wanted something, he could always offer things to them. Additionally, the sack carried sweets for children, so he’s often depicted in the presence of children.


Babies crawling all over Podae-hwasang at Songgwangsa Temple in Wanju, Jeollabuk-do.


The jovial Podae-hwasang at Manseongam Hermitage just outside Beomeosa Temple in Busan.


And another baby-motif statue of Podae-hwasang at Yongmunsa Temple in Yecheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Not only could Podae-hwasang predict the weather, but he could also predict good and back luck. Amazingly, he was never wrong. In addition to his ability to predict things, he represents happiness and generosity. He also protects children, the poor, and the weak. It’s believed that by rubbing his belly that it brings wealth, good luck, and prosperity.

At his death in 916 A.D., Podae-hwasang entered nirvana. He left behind four poems/songs as he entered nirvana on a rock. It was at his death that he recited:

Maitreya [Mireuk-bul], true Maitreya
Reborn innumerable times
From time to time manifested among men
The men of the age do not recognize him.


It’s from these words that he revealed himself to be Mireuk-bul. So it’s from these final words that Podae-hwasang came to be associated with the Future Buddha.

At a Korean Buddhist temple, you can typically find Podae-hwasang either in painted or statue form. If he’s a statue, he’s usually rendered as plump, jovial and surrounded by children. He can be holding either prayer beads or a fan, and he has the iconic hempen sack nearby. Podae-hwasang also appears like this in paintings if he’s on his own; however, he can sometimes be seen in the final painting of the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals in the form of the master returning to a village or marketplace.


A painting of Podae-hwasang at Unmunsa Temple in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do.


Another painting of Podae-hwasang; this time, from Seoknamsa Temple in Eonyang.


The wooden carving of Podae-hwasang at Yongjusa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

You can find Podae-hwasang at such prominent temples as Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Gijang, Busan or Unmunsa Temple in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do; and at lesser known temples as Sudasa Temple in Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Yongmunsa Temple in Yecheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do, and Yongjusa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

So the next time you’re out at a Korean Buddhist temple, you might be lucky enough to find this chubby figure. And if you rub his belly or pray to him, you might be rewarded with wealth, good luck, and/or prosperity.


The chubby stone statue of Podae-hwasang at the famed Golgulsa Temple in Gyeongju.


The largest statue I’ve seen of Podae-hwasang at Sudasa Temple in Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.


And a masterful rendering of Podae-hwasang at Cheontaesa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Cheongyeongsa Temple – 천경사 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The beautiful cave shrine at Cheongyeongsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on the southern banks of the Miryang River in the heart of Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do is the scenic Cheongyeongsa Temple. The temple is located on a hill that overlooks some neighbouring farms and is surrounded by numerous temples on the hill like Yonggungsa Temple and Sudosa Temple.

You first approach the temple through a forested trail from the south. Along the entire way, the Miryang River will be to your right. When you finally do arrive at the temple, the first thing to greet you, just out in front of the temple’s gate, is a five tier stone pagoda. The etchings on the pagoda are fading. Having stepped through the gate, and to your left, is one of the more unique pagodas you’ll find in Korea. The five tier concrete pagoda is crowned by a large stone statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Each wide tier is adorned with tiny jade statues of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife.

A little further along, and the pagodas give way to a network of subterranean buildings and corridors. On top of these buildings, like the monks’ dorms, kitchen, and visitors’ centre, are the temple’s shrine halls. It’s also from this part of the temple, standing on top of the subterranean buildings, that you get a great view of the Miryang River to the right. Rectangular paper lanterns line the hand-rail that runs the entire length of the temple look-out. To the left is the temple’s diminutive pond and a set of bronze coloured statues that over-look the pond on the neighbouring ledge. In the centre of these statues, and the largest of the set, is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). She’s joined to the left by a smaller golden statue of herself and to the right by Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

To the rear of the temple grounds is the temple’s main hall. Making up the back wall of the temple is the pock-marked stone face of the neighbouring hill. Sitting in the centre of the main hall is a statue of Amita-bul who is backed by a fiery nimbus. Standing on either side of Amita-bul, and housed inside their own hallowed out shrines, are Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul). Hanging on the right wall of the main hall is a uniquely designed guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall, and slightly elevated up the embankment, is the Samseong-gak. The shrine hall houses three rather ordinary shaman murals; but to the left of the main hall, and painted on the exterior wall, is a large, multi-stripped tiger.

But it’s down from this shaman shrine hall, and through a network of corridors, that you’ll find the temple’s true claim to fame: the cave shrine hall. To the left of a large meeting hall is the first shrine in the cave. Just outside the entry to the cave is an altar dedicated to Jijang-bosal. He is joined by a beautiful mural of Gwanseeum-bosal.

It’s to the left of the Gwanseeum-bosal mural where the mouth of the cave is located. The walls of the cave are beautifully lined with paper lotus lanterns that light up the darkness. These flowers are also joined by tiny white lights that line the entire length of the cave. Finally emerging on the other side, you’ll come to a cave with a radius of ten metres. The cave is lined with bronze metal plates. There are two altars inside the cave. The first of the two is centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Next to it, and standing squarely inside the rounded cave, is a triad, once more, centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal. The interior of the walls are lined by sixteen statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha).

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways you can get to Cheongyeongsa Temple. The first is from the Miryang train station. You can take either Bus #1-2, #7 or the “Gagok” bus. After 3 stops, you’ll need to get off at the KT&G stop. From there, follow the signs that lead you towards Cheongyeongsa Temple. The walk should take about 10 minutes over 800 metres.

Or you could simply take a taxi from the Miryang train station. The ride should only take 6 minutes and cost you 2,800 won.The distance is a mere 1.7 km in length.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. The second of two cave temples I’ve visited in Miryang, alongside Yeoyeojeongsa Temple to the south, Cheongyeongsa Temple certainly doesn’t disappoint. The cave shrine is beautifully lined with well-lit lotus lanterns. Adding to the temple’s overall beauty is the view and the shrines inside the main temple courtyard. While the grounds are a bit run down, there is more than enough, especially underground, for people to enjoy.


The temple entrance at Cheongyeongsa Temple.


The older pagoda and entry gate at the temple.


The extremely unique five tier concrete pagoda with jade statues on each level.


A look at the temple grounds.


The triad of statues that stand in the main temple courtyard.


The view with the unique rectangular lanterns hanging from the look-out platform.


The above ground temple shrine halls at Cheongyeongsa Temple.


The main hall’s main altar with Amita-bul front and centre.


To the left stands Daesaeji-bul in his own cavernous shrine.


The smaller sized guardian mural inside the main hall.


A look inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left of the main hall. To the left sits Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and to the right sits Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).


The fierce mountain tiger that adorns the exterior wall to the Samseong-gak.


The pathway that leads down to the subterranean shrines.


The first shrine is dedicated to Jijang-bosal.


These beautiful paper lanterns line the pathway that leads up to the large cave shrine.


A better look at the beautiful pathway lined with colourful paper lanterns.


The view from inside the cave shrine with the second shrine to the right and a Nahan to the left.


And the third shrine.


A look at some of the Nahan statues that line the cave.


And a couple more of these masterful stone statues.

Bogwangsa Temple – 보광사 (Ulsan)


The temple courtyard and main gate at Bogwangsa Temple in Ulsan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

In the very southwestern part of Ulsan, and next to Tongdosa Temple under Mt. Yeongchuksan, is Bogwangsa Temple. Located in and amongst the small factories and one rooms is this assuming temple.

First approaching from a rural road, you’ll be welcomed to the temple by a beautifully adorned front gate. This gate is elaborately painted with two Biseon adorning the front gates. Both Biseon (Flying Angels) are making offerings.

Once you’ve entered the compact temple grounds, you’ll notice a small garden to your right and the first story of the main hall to your left. The first floor to the main hall is occupied with a visitors’ centre and the temple kitchen. It’s only up a set of stairs to the far right of the first floor that you’ll in fact find the main hall on the second floor of the two story structure.

Around the exterior walls to the main hall are a collection of beautiful murals. The first set, which is the largest, is the Palsang-do set which depict the eight scenes from the Buddha’s life. Above this set, and up near the eaves rather uniquely, are the much smaller Shimu-do, Ox-herding, murals. And spaced between these sets, and decorating the hall’s pillars, are the Four Heavenly Kings, as well as various guardians. Buttressing both ends of paintings are two elaborate paintings dedicated to an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). One other unique feature to the outside paintings are a pair of side-ward leaning Nathwi. Typically, the eyes to these Monster Mask murals are pointed sideways and not the entire mask.

Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll first notice a large, golden canopy that spans the entire length of the main altar. The triad sitting on the main altar is centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). To the left of the main altar is a large mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). While to the right hangs a beautiful mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). If you look closely, you’ll notice a dongja (attendant) offering Sanshin an immortal peach. The only other mural in this hall is a large guardian mural, which is somewhat unique in its composition.

HOW TO GET THERE: From Tongdosa Temple, you can catch a taxi to get to Bogwangsa Temple. It should take about 10 minutes, or 3.9 km, and cost you 4,500 won.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. The murals and paintings spread throughout the main hall, both inside and out, are what distinguish Bogwangsa Temple. From the Sanshin mural inside the main hall to the sideways Nathwi, the Four Heavenly Kings that are on pillars, and the sets of Palsang-do and Shimu-do murals, the intricacy and beauty of all these murals will be enough to keep you busy for some time. So take your time and enjoy their mastery.


A look at both the entry gate and main hall at Bogwangsa Temple.


The elaborately painted gate at the temple.


One of the Biseon that adorns one of the entry gate’s doors.


The garden at the temple.


The dual exterior wall paintings on the main hall. The larger Palsang-do murals are on the bottom, while the much smaller Shimu-do murals are up near the eaves.


A painting of Gwanseeum-bosal that adorns the exterior wall of the main hall.


The uniquely painted dual masks of the Nathwi on the main hall.


On each of the major pillars of the main hall are the Four Heavenly Kings.


The elaborate and extensive golden canopy that hovers over top of the main altar of the main hall.


The decorative mural of Bohyun-bosal that’s painted above the entry at the main hall.


The large guardian mural housed inside the main hall.


The beautiful Sanshin mural.


And a better look across the main altar at Bogwangsa Temple.

Haeeunsa Temple – 해은사 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The neighbouring Bunsanseong Fortress near Haeeunsa Temple.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on top of Mt. Bunseongsan, which is just south of the Gimhae Gaya Park, is Haeeunsa Temple. Uniquely, the temple is perched on the peak of Mt. Bunseongsan, which measures a respectable 326.8 metres in height.

As you make your way up the mountain, and towards the temple, you’ll pass by one of the eastern walls of Bunsanseong Fortress. This fortress was first constructed in 1377 to guard against the Japanese. From the fortress walls you get some beautiful views of Gimhae down below. A little further up the trail and you’ll come to a clearing where Haeeunsa Temple is located.

To the left, and up a gravel trail that skirts a wall that obscures the temple courtyard from view, you’ll find an artificial pond with Yongwang (The Dragon King) in its midst. This stone image of the Dragon King sits in the centre of a lotus pond. And joining this shamanic deity to the left is a jolly stone image of Podae-hwasang.

Through the slender Iljumun Gate, you’ll finally enter the compact temple courtyard. Straight ahead is one of the more unique temple halls that you’ll find at any temple throughout the Korean peninsula. Housed inside this unadorned, and newly built, hall are two murals. One is dedicated to the famed Gaya king, King Suro (?-199). He’s joined to the right by an equally beautiful mural dedicated to his Indian wife, Queen Heo.

To the left of this shrine hall is the temple’s main hall. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with Palsang-do murals. As you first step inside the main hall, you’ll be welcomed by an elaborate guardian mural. Next to this mural, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues. In the centre of the triad sits a statue of 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). To the left sits a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).

To the right of the shrine hall dedicated to both King Suro and Queen Heo is a pathway that leads past an old tree. At the top of these stairs is the Sanshin-gak in a clearing. Housed inside this shaman shrine hall are two rather plain looking images: one of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and one of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left of this hall, and up on an elevated stone platform, is a stone altar with a stone stupa in the centre. This stupa is adorned with wildly elaborate images that are reminiscent of South-East Asia.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gimhae City Hall subway stop, you should catch a taxi to get to Haeeunsa Temple. The trip should last about 15 minutes and cost about 6,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. Haeeunsa Temple was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting anything more than the beautiful paintings of King Suro and Queen Heo, but there was so much more to this temple than these two foundational murals. Adding to the overall feel of this temple is the neighbouring Bunsanseong Fortress as well as the highly elaborate stupa at the summit of Mt. Bunseongsan.


The mountainside trail that leads up to Haeeunsa Temple.


The outskirts to the temple grounds.


Yongwang in all his glory.


Who is joined by Podae-hwasang to the left.


The slender Iljumun Gate at Haeeunsa Temple.


The shrine hall that houses the murals of King Suro and Queen Heo.


A better look at King Suro.


And his wife, Queen Heo.


A look towards the main hall at Haeeunsa Temple.


A look inside the main hall at the temple.


The altar dedicated to Amita-bul.


One of the Palsang-do murals adorning the main hall.


The view from the temple courtyard.


The trail that leads up to the upper courtyard at the temple.


The view from the upper courtyard down towards Gimhae.


The Sanshin-gak shaman shrine hall at Haeeunsa Temple.


With Sanshin to the left and Chilseong to the right.


The elaborate stupa at Haeeunsa Temple.

Bongrimsa Temple – 봉림사 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The main hall and Boje-ru Pavilion that welcomes you at Bongrimsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Bongrimsa Temple in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do is known as “Phoenix Forest Temple” in English. Bongrimsa Temple is one of the Nine Mountain Zen-Gate temples in Korea, or the Gusan Seonmun in Korean. They were the original homes of Seon Buddhism in Korea. The original locations of the nine temples were spread throughout the Silla Kingdom away from Gyeongju, the capital of the kingdom. This radical form of Buddhism, at least at that time, first spread from Tang Dynasty China and made its way to the Korean peninsula during the 8th and 9th century. The reason that these temples were built on remote mountains throughout the kingdom was to avoid the governmental authority in Gyeongju that supported scholastic (Gyo) and devotional Buddhism. Unfortunately, after heavy shelling during the Korean War, there is only one relic that remains from the temple’s past: a three story Silla pagoda that is now housed on a local university campus.

Besides some foundation stones, Bongrimsa-ji Temple is no more. Instead, a brand new Bongrimsa Temple, which has undergone some new construction as of late, stands in its place 1,500 metres from its former home on Mt. Bongrimsan.

When you first approach the temple up a long, and somewhat steep, road, you’ll first be met by a building for devotees and monks. This modern building is joined by a large gravel parking lot and the yet unpainted Boje-ru Pavilion. To the far right, and just beyond the temple’s washroom, is the trail head that leads up to the former temple grounds of Bongrimsa-ji. Besides an older looking stone marker and a clearing once you arrive at the site, there really isn’t that much to see.

However, if you climbed the set of stairs that leads up through the plainly adorned Boje-ru Pavilion, you’ll be met by a large sized, and newly constructed, main hall. The main hall is painted with various Buddhist motif style murals of such luminaries as Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa. As for inside this massive main hall, there is a large seated statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).

Next to the main hall, and to the right, is the temple’s rather dour looking visitors’ centre. There are future plans to construct a Sanshin-gak to the right rear of the main hall, as well as a Geukrak-jeon to the left, but these have yet to materialize. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, both of these halls will be built to bring Bongrimsa Temple’s past glory into the present.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take a taxi to Bongrimsa Temple. The ride should last 12 minutes and cost 8,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. Besides the main hall and the stately Boje-ru Pavilion that first greets you at Bongrimsa Temple, there really isn’t all that much to see. But being a bit of a temple fanatic, Bongrimsa Temple is well worth a visit to take a stroll down its famed past. For this, and this alone, Bongrimsa Temple gets the rating it does.


The new building for monks and devotees.


The old Bongrimsa Temple sign that marks the trail that leads up to Bongrimsa-ji.


Part of the trail that leads up to the historic temple.


The plainly coloured Boje-ru that first welcomes you to the temple grounds.


The stairs that lead up to the temple courtyard.


The bell housed inside the Boje-ru.


The large sized main hall with a statue of Seokgamoni-bul inside.


Uisang-daesa reaching enlightenment.


And Wonhyo-daesa gaining enlightenment in the most peculiar of ways.


Some of the paper lanterns that lead to the Boje-ru from the main hall.

Seongbulsa Temple – 성불사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

DSC_0561 A first look inside the beautiful and modern main hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Up a side-winding road that hugs a dry riverbed is Seongbulsa Temple. This small temple to the south of Tongdosa Temple lacks in size, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in originality.

When you first arrive, other than being greeted by a barking dog that wanders, you’ll be greeted by a pond with a Buddha statue in the centre of a stone lotus pedestal. This statue is surrounded by all twelve of the zodiac generals. To the left of this rustic pond is a stone marker with red painting in both Korean and Chinese characters with the temple name written on it. To the right is the temple’s visitors’ centre.

To the right of the visitors’ centre is the modern looking main hall. In front of the main hall is an expansive deck that looks out onto the dry riverbed. Around the exterior of the main hall are rather amateurish looking paintings of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). However, this amateurishness quickly fades away as soon as you enter the main hall. Sitting on the main altar, and in the centre of the triad, is a beautifully robed statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). On the left wall is a beautifully ornate black-backed guardian painting. To the left and right of the main altar are dozens of tiny Buddha and Bodhisattva statues. On the right wall, on the right hand side, is a beautiful statue and painting of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s joined by a row of miniature statues of himself (green hair and all). To the left of Jijang-bosal is one of the more originally painted murals of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom.

To the right of the main hall is really the hidden treasure to the entire temple. On the outside it appears to be nothing more than a Sanshin-gak shaman shrine hall; however, it’s really so much more. The Sanshin-gak is decorated with some amateurish murals that symbolize Sanshin. On the right is a painting of a monk with a tiger, and on the left is a fiercely rendered painting of just a tiger. Inside this hall, you’ll be greeted by a pair of paintings. The one on the right is Sanshin. Not only is there a big and beautiful painting of Sanshin, but there’s an even more impressive statue of Sanshin in front of the painting. To the left of Sanshin is a painting that is somewhat hidden by a couple of artificial bouquets. The painting is a rendering of Dangun Wanggeom. Dangun was the legendary founder of Gojoseon, which was the first Korean kingdom. He founded this kingdom in 2333 B.C. around Liaoning, Northeast China, and the Korean Peninsula. It is extremely rare to see Dangun inside a Buddhist temple. However, much like the neighbouring Sinbulsa Temple in south-western Ulsan, this painting seems to have been painted by the same artist.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yangsan Subway Station walk to Emart. From there, you’ll find a bus stop where you’ll find Bus #10. This bus doesn’t come all that often, but when you do finally board it, ride it for 12 stops or 23 minutes. Get off at the Daewoo Marina Gamgyel maeul stop. Walk for about 10 minutes, or 675 metres, towards Seongbulsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 4.5/10. This temple is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It’s neither too close to Tongdosa Temple, nor is it too close to downtown Yangsan. As a result, this temple is a bit difficult to get to. But if you’re willing to spend the time to get to Seongbulsa Temple, you won’t be disappointed by some of the temple artwork. The highlight of this temple, by far, is the Dangun Wanggeom painting in the Sanshin-gak. It’s rare to find a painting of this founding Korean king; but when you do, it’s definitely a nice surprise. Added to this highlight is the beautifully robed statue of Amita-bul, the painting of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom, as well as the pond at the temple.


The temple grounds as you approach from the parking lot.


A artificial pond at Seongbulsa Temple.


The atypical-looking main hall at the temple.


A look inside the main hall at the main altar


The shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal.


Next to it hangs this beautiful Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural.


An up-close with the guardian mural.


The temple courtyard. And yes, that’s a picnic table!


A dried up creek bed next to the temple.


The odd-looking Sanshin-gak at Seongbulsa Temple.


A very unique tiger mural that adorns the exterior wall to the Sanshin-gak.


A painting that adorns the main hall at Seongbulsa Temple.


The Mountain spirit inside the Sanshin-gak.


And he shares it with this unique pairing: Dangun Wanggeom.

Wonmyeongsa Temple – 원명사 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)


A view of the peaceful Wonmyeongsa Temple grounds.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Wonmyeongsa Temple is located up a side street that winds its way through older looking houses in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do. It eventually connects to a forested road that leads past a set of stupas. Past these stupas, and slightly up an embankment, is Wonmyeongsa Temple.

The first thing to greet you at the temple is a beautiful new bell pavilion. This bell pavilion, uniquely, is situated a fair distance from the temple’s courtyard. Housed inside of this bell pavilion are newly crafted percussion instruments. Both the Brahman Bell and the Cloud Gong still have the fresh bronze look to them. And the colourful Fish Gong is second-to-none in both its design and bright colours.

A bit further up the embankment is the uninviting front facade to the temple. You’ll have to pass by a family of guard dogs that are unchained. Interestingly, the visitors’ centre and kitchen are the face to this temple. Up a set of cement stairs, you’ll first enter the grassy temple courtyard. On the far right side of the temple courtyard are the monks’ dorms.

Straight ahead is the larger sized main hall at Wonmyeongsa Temple. Out in front of the main hall, and an overriding theme at this temple, is an eloquently designed statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Surrounding the exterior walls of this main hall is the set of Shimu-do murals. While simple in design, the Ox-Herding murals are masterfully painted.

As for the interior of the main hall, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). This main altar is flanked by another triad to the left. In the centre of this triad is a seated Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). He’s flanked by Ilgwang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Sun) and Wolgwang (The Bodhisattva of the Moon) on either side. And yet another triad sits to the right of the main altar. In the centre of this triad is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To the left is Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). All of these triads are surrounded by towering red canopies. Also, the base of the altar is comprised of the Palsang-do motif. On the far right wall is the temple’s guardian painting that has several dozen Bodhisattvas and shaman deities. And on the far left wall is a green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal and a large sized mural of the Bodhisattva, as well. Flanking both of these murals, the one of Jijang-bosal and the guardian painting, are dozens of tiny Buddha and Bodhisattva statues.

The other building that you can visit at the temple is the newly constructed Jijang-jeon dedicated to Jijang-bosal. While this hall is still unpainted, the interior has a set of seven Jijang-bosal statues centred by a larger sized seated Jijang-bosal statue. And to the left of this hall is a stoically standing granite statue of Jijang-bosal. In his right hand rests a golden staff and in his left rests a cupped pearl.

HOW TO GET THERE: Using the Busan subway system, you’ll need to get off at Gupo Subway Station (line 3). From there, exit the subway station and find the Gupo bus stop. Take Bus #125 for 16 stops, or 22 minutes, and get off at the Chojeong bus stop. From there, walk about 850 metres, or 12 minutes, to Wonmyeongsa Temple. Along the way, you’ll see a brown sign with the temple name on it leading you towards the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. There are definitely a couple of highlights to this temple that houses so much Jijang-bosal iconography. One is all the artwork and statues that sit upon the altar inside the main hall. Another is the base of the altar itself with the colourful depictions of the Palsang-do motif. And finally, the large granite statue of Jijang-bosal, and the neighbouring bronze statue of this Bodhisattva, which round out the highlights to this peaceful temple.


The uniquely located bell pavilion at Wonmyeongsa Temple.


The colourful fish gong inside the bell pavilion.


The rather uninviting yellow front facade at Wonmyeongsa Temple.


The large main hall at the temple.


A look inside the main hall at the main altar. Seokgamoni-bul is joined by Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal.


To the left of the main altar is this shrine dedicated to Amita-bul in the centre. He’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal.


And to the right sits Yaksayore-bul in the centre of his own shrine.


Some of the intricate main altar wood work. This panel depicts Maya, Buddha’s mother, having a dream of her son’s impending birth.


From birth to death, this is the final panel in the collection of Palsang-do etchings.


The large guardian mural inside the main hall at Wonmyeongsa Temple.


A uniquely designed Nathwi adorning one of the exterior doors to the main hall.


One of the simplistic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals.


To the left of the main hall is the Jijang-jeon.


A look at the main altar inside the Jijang-jeon at Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).


The view across the Jijang-jeon at the main hall.


And a beautiful look up at the unpainted Jijang-jeon.


And last, and to the left of the Jijang-jeon, is this beautiful granite statue of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife.

Temple Stay: Hwaunsa Temple (Gyeonggi-do)


(Courtesy of the Hwaunsa Temple Facebook Page)

Hello Again Everyone!!

Introduction to the Temple:

Hwaunsa Temple, which means “Shining Cloud Temple,” in English, was established as a training centre for Buddhist nuns in 1962. The temple was originally constructed in 1938 by Jaeyun Cha, a Buddhist devotee. He constructed the temple at the foot of Mt. Myeokjosan as a small Buddhist sanctuary. Then, in 1962, the Venerable Biguni Ji Myeong came from Sudeoksa Temple to become the abbot at Hwaunsa Temple. It was under her direction that the temple became a Sangha College for Korean Buddhist nuns. Under her tutelage, over 500 nuns graduated directly under her guidance. In fact, Ven. Ji Myeong was a revered national Seon Master. It was under her that her disciple, Ven. Seonil, the abbot at the temple now, studied.


(Courtesy of the Hwaunsa Temple Facebook Page)


From Seoul:

From Seoul, you’ll first need to get to Jogyesa Temple. From the temple, you’ll need to find the Templestay Information Center, which is directly in front of Jogyesa Temple. From the Templestay Information Center, you’ll see the bus stop for the Red Bus #5000 about 50 metres to your right.

The Red Bus #5000 runs Monday to Sunday from 6:30 to 24:00. The bus runs every 10 minutes, and the bus ride to Hwaunsa Temple takes an hour and thirty-eight minutes.

You can take the Red Bus #5000 from Jogyesa Temple, or you can catch Red Bus #5003 directly at Gangnam Station. From Gangnam Station, the bus ride lasts anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.

Which ever bus you decide to take, you’ll need to follow the signs where they drop you off out in front of Hwaunsa Temple. The walk is a mere 600 metres to the temple.


General Schedule: Hwaunsa Temple conducts two different types of programs. The first is the “Korean Buddhist Educational/Cultural Tour.” And the second program is the “Sunim’s Space: Experience Monastic Life Just as Sunims in Korea Live It!” The first is a one day program, while the other is a two day program.


A: Korean Buddhist Educational/Cultural Tour:

Day 1:

14:00 – 15:00: Arrival at Hwaunsa Temple. Introduction to temple etiquette, history, and culture.

15:00 – 16:00: Tour of Hwaunsa Temple (Main Buddha Hall, Healing Center, Meditation Hall, etc.)

16:00 – 17:00: Tea Time with Venerable Biguni Seonil, PhD

17:00 – 18:00: Dinner

18:00: Departure from Hwaunsa Temple


(Courtesy of the Hwaunsa Temple Facebook Page)


B: Sunim’s Space: Experience Monastic Life Just as Sunims in Korea Live It!:

Day 1:

15:00 – 16:00: Arrival at Hwaunsa Temple. Introduction to temple etiquette, history, and culture.

16:00 – 17:00: Tour of Hwaunsa Temple (Main Buddha Hall, Healing Center, Meditation Hall, etc.)

17:00 – 18:00: Dinner

18:00 – 19:00: Evening Prayer in the Main Buddha Hall

19:00 – 20:00: Salt Mandela Making

20:00 – 21:00: Shower

21:00: Bedtime

Day 2:

04:00 – 05:00: Wake Up

05:00 – 06:00: Early morning prayer (Begins at 4:45)

06:00 – 07:00: Breakfast

07:00 – 08:00: Walking Meditation through the Mountain

08:00 – 09:00: Meditation/Sutra Study (On Your Own)

09:00 – 10:00: Communal Temple Work (Yurak)/Free Time

10:00 – 11:00: Mid-Morning Prayer

11:00 – 12:00: Tea Time with Venerable Biguni Seonil, PhD, Abbott of Hwaunsa Temple

12:00 – 13:00: Lunch

13:00: Departure from Hwaunsa


Hwaunsa Temple Information:

Address: Hwaunsa Int’l Templestay & Training Center 111-14 Dongbaekjukjeon-daero (Samga dong) Cheoin-gu, Yongin-so, Gyeonggido, Korea 449-060

Tel : 031-337-2576/Fax : 031-335-0465



Facebook Page:



To get more information on the two different temple stay programs, you’ll need to contact the temple directly.



Reservations for the Korean Buddhist Educational/Cultural Tour

Reservations for the  Sunim’s Space: Experience Monastic Life Just as Sunims in Korea Live It!



(Courtesy of the Hwaunsa Temple Facebook Page)