Euirimsa Temple – 의림사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The main hall at Euirimsa Temple in south-western Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Euirimsa Temple is located in south-western Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do in a valley below Mt. Inseongsan. Euirimsa Temple was first constructed in 688 A.D. by the famed monk Uisang-daesa (625 A.D. – 702 A.D.). Initially, Mt. Inseongsan was called Mt. Yeohangsan. The name Mt. Yeohangsan was in reference to the Buddha’s teachings enlightening all living beings towards Paramita (perfection or completeness). Like Mt. Yeohangsan, Euirimsa Temple was initially called Bongguksa Temple. It was only after the Imjin War (1592-98), after the warrior monk Samyeong-daesa (1544-1610) defended the nation from this temple, that the temple changed its name to Euirimsa Temple. During the Korean War (1950-53), Euirimsa Temple was completely destroyed. It was only a full forty years after its destruction, in 1995, that Euirimsa Temple was rebuilt to its former glory. And even now, in 2016, Euirimsa Temple continues to undergo renovation and reconstruction.

You first approach Euirimsa Temple down a long country road. You’ll know that you’ve arrived at the temple when the road ends and the temple parking lot begins. Just before the temple parking lot is a colourful and stately built Iljumun Gate. Have a look up as you pass under it at its intricate patterns and vibrant colours.

After passing under the Iljumun Gate, you’ll approach the outskirts of the main temple grounds. The front façade that first welcomes you to the temple courtyard is Euirimsa Temple’s bell pavilion and conference hall. Taking the stone stairs to the right of both of these structures, you’ll be able to see all that the temple has to offer.

To your far left is the temple’s main hall. The exterior walls are adorned with an expanded set of thirty-two Palsang-do murals. Have a look, because I’ve never seen anything like them before. And to the left of the main hall is an eloquent Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) statue. As for inside this large main hall, and resting on the main altar, are three large seated statues. The first one in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal.

To the right of the main hall, which is one of three, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Of the three paintings, it’s the older Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) that’s the most unique. But the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) painting, with its white tiger, is also pretty nice, as well. Rounding out the set is the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) in the centre.

The next hall in the line of three shrine halls is the Nahan-jeon Hall. While this unpainted shrine hall looks older in style, the interior is newly redone. The interior of this hall is filled with brand new paintings adorning its walls, as well as several dozen all white statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha).

The final hall of the three, and also unpainted like the Nahan-jeon, is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Out in front of this hall is an ancient three tier pagoda. As for inside, and seated all alone, is a beautiful statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. To the left of the main altar is a magnificent guardian mural. And rounding out this hall are various painted incarnations of Gwanseeum-bosal, so have a look around.

It should be noted that Euirimsa Temple, as of late 2016, is under major restorations.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to Euirimsa Temple is from the Masan Nambu Intercity Bus Terminal. From the terminal, take a taxi for 24 minutes, or 18 kilometres. The ride will set you back 15,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. There are quite a few things to explore at Euirimsa Temple like the older painting dedicated to Dokseong inside the Samseong-gak. Also, the artwork in and around the Gwaneum-jeon Hall is really second to none, as are the extended Palsang-do murals that adorn the exterior walls to the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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The newly built, and colourful, Iljumun Gate at Euirimsa Temple.

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The front facade to Euirimsa Temple.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall at Euirimsa Temple.

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The old three tier pagoda in the temple courtyard.

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The Gwanseeum-bosal statue to the left of the main hall.

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The fifteenth painting from the extended set of Palsang-do murals that adorns the main hall.

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A better look at some more of the extended Palsang-do set at Euirimsa Temple.

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A look inside the main hall during morning prayer.

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The bell pavilion at Euirimsa Temple.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The mural of Sanshin and his white tiger.

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As well as this older Dokseong mural that resides inside the Samseong-gak.

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The Nahan-jeon Hall to the right of the Samseong-gak.

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A look inside the Nahan-jeon at the main altar.

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The rows of white Nahan statues inside the hall.

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And the Gwaneum-jeon Hall to the right of the Nahan-jeon Hall.

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The main altar statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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A look at the guardian mural inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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As well as one of the murals of Gwanseeum-bosal adorning the interior walls.

Daeinsa Temple – 대인사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The amazing painting of Ha outside the main hall doors at Daeinsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Daeinsa Temple is located in the northern part of Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do not too far away from the famed Tongdosa Temple. You first approach Daeinsa Temple down a country road and by a couple of farmers’ fields. When you finally arrive at the end of the road, you’ll have arrived at the modern looking Daeinsa Temple.

The first thing to greet you is a large stone with the name of the temple inscribed on it. Approaching the temple from the gravel parking lot, there is a two-storied building that acts as both the main hall and the kitchen/conference halls to the temple. Surrounding the upper level, which acts as the main hall, are gorgeous paintings of the Ox-Herding, Shimu-do, murals, as well as the Palsang-do paintings that depict the life of the Historical Buddha. Added to these gorgeous paintings are various paintings of Boddhisattvas and a unique painting of the Bodhidharma. Finally, the entrance way to the main hall is adorned with descriptive depictions of the guardians Heng and Ha. I was unable to go inside this main hall, as there was a funeral ceremony going on when I visited; however, the people that worked in the kitchen were kind enough to allow me to photograph the stunning pictures that adorn the exterior of the main hall.

The views from the main hall of Mt. Cheonseongsan and Mt. Chiseosan off in the distance are amazing. This vantage point also allows you to see the rest of the tiny temple. Besides the main hall, there is a beautiful and well-manicured lawn to the rear of the main hall. And to the far rear of the temple, and up on a terraced landing, is a newer looking stone pagoda. This pagoda is fronted by a water fountain with a stone image of Yongwang (The Dragon King) on it. And finally, to the left side of the pagoda is a meditative hall for monks that call Daeinsa Temple their home. As for the pagoda itself, it is a simple design with a Silla influence. There are beautiful sculptures of various guardians around the base of the pagoda, and images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on the upper-tier

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yangsan subway station (stop #243) there is a bus stop, take Bus #13. After 26 stops, or 40 minutes, get off at Jinheung Mokhwa Apartment stop. From this stop, walk for twelve minutes or 800 metres towards Daeinsa Temple.

Or you can simply take a taxi from the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should last 23 minutes and cost 15,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 2.5/10. While not the most impressive of temples you’ll visit in Korea, there are a couple things that are well worth seeing. The most attractive things about this temple are the murals that surround the main hall. These newly painted murals of the Ox-Herding murals and the Palsang-do paintings are highlighted by the Heng and Ha renderings near the entrance of the main hall. The Silla influenced pagoda and the Yongwang water fountain to the rear of Daeinsa Temple are other highlights to this temple.

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The metal signboard that welcomes you to Daeinsa Temple.

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A look at the two-storied main hall at Daeinsa Temple.

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A look towards Mt. Chiseosan off in the distance.

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The colourful entrance to the main hall. Murals of Heng and Ha greet you on either side of the glass doors.

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One of the murals that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall. This one is an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal.

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Next the mural of Gwanseeum-bosal is this mural of the Bodhidharma.

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Just one of the murals from the Palsang-do mural set.

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This is the tenth painting from the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, mural set.

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The view to the rear of the main hall with Mt. Cheonseongsan framing the temple.

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A longer look at the two-storied main hall at Daeinsa Temple.

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The five tier pagoda to the rear of the temple grounds.

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One of the guardians that adorns the base of the pagoda.

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The view from the pagoda towards the shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).

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A closer look at the Dragon King.

Jingwansa Temple – 진관사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A look up at the main hall past a mature red pine at Jingwansa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in the south-western part of Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do, and under the two towering peaks of Suri-bong and Oknyeo-bong, is Jingwansa Temple.

Just beyond a cluttered cluster of older homes and up a valley with a stream at its side are the outskirts to Jingwansa Temple. When you first approach this Jogye Order Buddhist temple, your eyes will first be drawn to the large silver triad to the right of the main hall. Seated in the centre of this triad appears to be Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined to the right by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and to the left by Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). This large courtyard that houses these three equally large silver statues are backed by a row of Palsang-do murals and fronted by two simplistic stone lanterns.

To the left of this courtyard is the temple’s main hall. The main hall is adorned with large Palsang-do murals, as well as other Buddhist motif murals like an all-white image of Gwanseeum-bosal. The front latticework is beautiful in its intricate nature. And just out in front of the main hall is the temple’s diminutive bell pavilion. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a main altar of statues that’s comprised of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) in the centre. On either side sits Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Looking up at the ceiling and around at the walls inside the main hall, you’ll notice some beautiful paintings dedicated to Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Podae-hwasang (The Hempen Sack). Rounding out the images inside the main hall is a smaller guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall and past the monks’ dorms is the Samseong-gak. You’ll have to cross a stream that intersects the temple over an out of place blue bridge. Once you’ve crossed it with the temple garden to your left, you’ll enter the shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are three larger images of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

The final thing to be seen at Jingwansa Temple after re-crossing the blue temple bridge is a shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) at the head of the stream. The large granite statue of Yongwang stands on top of a stone turtle. Both statues are then fronted by two ornate stone lanterns and backed by a beautiful mature forest.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to Jingwansa Temple is to take a taxi from the Masan Nambu Intercity Bus terminal. The taxi ride will take 25 minutes, or 14.2 kilometres, and cost 13,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Upon first entering Jingwansa Temple, it has a bit of a strange feel to it with its fading paintings and chipped large silver statues. But after walking around a bit, the Jogye Order temple starts to grow on you with its more rustic feel. Have a look at the Yongwang shrine and enjoy the slightly eccentric courtyard that houses the three large silver statues of the Buddha.

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As you first approach the strange silver statues of the Buddha.

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The row of Palsang-do murals that back the silver statues.

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The three statues in a row with Amita-bul in the centre joined by Seokgamoni-bul to the right and Mireuk-bul to the left.

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A look towards the main hall from the eastern courtyard.

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A closer look as you approach the main hall.

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The temple’s tiny bell pavilion.

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Some of the ornate and vibrant latticework that fronts the main hall’s doors.

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One of the paintings from the Palsang-do set that adorns some of the exterior walls to the main hall.

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As well as this all-white Gwanseeum-bosal painting.

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This beautiful painting of Munsu-bosal awaits you as you first enter the main hall.

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The main altar statues inside the main hall.

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The paintings of flowers and Podae-hwasang that adorn the ceiling inside the main hall.

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The guardian mural housed inside the main hall.

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The blue bridge and Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Jingwansa Temple.

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The large Chilseong mural housed inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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Alongside Dokseong.

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And Sanshin.

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The beautiful Yongwang shrine placed on the north end of the temple grounds.

Cheongyeonam Hermitage – 청연암 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The Koi pond at Cheongyeonam Hermitage in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Cheongyeonam Hermitage in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do is situated just to the south of the valley that houses both Wongaksa Temple and Baekunsa Temple. And it’s beautifully framed, like the other two temples, by the towering Mt. Muhaksan (761.4m).

Off of the busy Muhak Road, and up a winding country side street, you’ll come across Cheongyeonam Hermitage. On the lower courtyard of the hermitage are the monks’ dorms and visitors’ centre, as well as a beautiful Koi pond that is placed in the centre of some beautifully cared-for and manicured grounds.

There is a bridge that intersects the beautiful Koi pond, and it also leads you towards a set of uneven stone stairs and the upper courtyard at Cheongyeonam Hermitage. And there is really only one hall at the hermitage that you can visit, the Daeung-jeon main hall. The exterior walls to this beautiful large hall are painted with a pair of mural sets. The first, on top, is the Palsang-do set. And the one on the bottom is the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, mural set. Both are masterfully rendered.

As for stepping inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll be welcomed by a set of three statues seated on the main altar. The one in the middle is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s joined to the right by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and to the left by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Filling out the rest of the hall, and to the right of the main altar, is an older guardian mural and a more recent mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal. But it’s to the left of the main altar that you get to enjoy an older set of shaman murals. The first is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), while the other two are dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). The final shaman painting in the set, and a much more recent addition than the others, is Yongwang (The Dragon King) mural.

Just to the right of the main hall is a rather unique stone structure. I’ve never seen this before, but the stone structure almost looks to be a stele and pagoda put together into one structure. It’s unique and beautiful.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go to where Cheongyeonam Hermitage is located. One of these buses is Bus #707. After eight stops, or sixteen minutes, you’ll need to get off at the “Seowongok Ipgu” stop. Head south from where the bus lets you off. Head that way for about a kilometre on Muhak Road. The sign for the hermitage will appear on your right as you head south. Follow that side-street for a little and you’ll arrive at Cheongyeonam Hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. There are certainly a few highlights to this temple, but because it’s a bit smaller, it gets the rating it does. First, the older shaman paintings inside the Daeung-jeon Hall are second to known. Another highlight is the beautiful and serene Koi pond out in front of the main hall. And the final is the stele/pagoda combination to the right of the main hall.

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The large Daeung-jeon main hall at Cheongryeonam Hermitage.

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The stele/pagoda combination to the right of the main hall.

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A closer look at a part of the body of the pagoda.

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One of the Shimu-do murals.

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And a mural taken from the Palsang-do mural set.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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Joined by this older looking Sanshin mural.

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This Dokseong mural.

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And this Chilseong mural.

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A look at the main hall from the front.

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The Koi pond out in front of the main hall.

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And a closer look at the colourful Koi that swim in the pond.

Baekunsa Temple – 백운사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The view behind the main hall at Baekunsa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

A little further along the valley that houses Wongaksa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do is Baekunsa Temple, or “White Cloud Temple,” in English. The temple is beautifully placed along the very same stream that divides Wongaksa Temple and underneath the towering peaks of Mt. Muhaksan (761m). In fact, just to the west of Baekunsa Temple is a trail head that leads up towards the towering mountain.

Crossing a cement bridge that spans the depths of the stream, and underneath the boxy Iljumun Gate, you’ll enter the diminutive temple grounds at Baekunsa Temple. To your far right is the temple’s bell pavilion with a broken stone lantern and a unique six-tier stone pagoda.

Up the right side of stairs to the two storied shrine hall, you’ll be able to gain entrance to Baekunsa Temple’s main hall. The exterior walls to this main hall are adorned with various Buddhist motif murals. Housed inside the main hall, and seated on the main altar, is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This statue is then joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the left of this main altar is a beautiful guardian mural, as well as a mural dedicated to the Ten Kings of the Underworld. And to the right of this triad is a large and beautiful Gamno-do mural.

To the left rear of the second story main hall is a shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). The painting and statue contained within the Yongwang shrine are capped by a beautiful granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

The final shrine hall people can enjoy at Baekunsa Temple is to the far left and past the monks’ dorms, visitors’ centre, and temple kitchen. Behind a pair of metal doors and next to a tree that has been cut down stands the Sanshin-gak. Inside this shaman shrine hall hangs a beautiful mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go to where Baekunsa Temple is located. One of these buses is Bus #707. After eight stops, or sixteen minutes, you’ll need to get off at the “Seowongok Ipgu” stop. From the stop, walk about twenty minutes, or 1.5 kilometres, to get to the temple. There are various signs leading you in the direction of Baekunsa Temple. You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal. A taxi ride will set you back 6,000 won over the 15 minute ride.

OVERALL RATING: 3.5/10. Baekunsa Temple is beautifully located at the base of the towering Mt. Muhaksan in a picturesque valley. As for Baekunsa Temple, you should keep your eyes open for the beautiful Sanshin mural, as well as the rare Gamno-do mural kept inside the main hall.

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The entry gate to Baekunsa Temple.

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The rocky stream that runs next to the temple.

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One of the guardians that protects the temple. This painting adorns one of the entry doors.

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A look up towards the second floor main hall.

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The bell pavilion and six-tier stone pagoda at Baekunsa Temple.

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One of the Buddhist murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.

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As well as this Gwanseeum-bosal mural.

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The Yongwang shrine out back of the main hall.

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A look at the main altar of the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The beautiful Gamno-do mural at Baekunsa Temple.

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A look to the left of the main altar.

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The Sanshin-gak at the temple.

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And the Sanshin mural taking up residence inside the shaman shrine hall.

Wongaksa Temple – 원각사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The temple courtyard at Wongaksa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in the central part of a wide eastern valley on Mt. Muhaksan (761 m) Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do lies Wongaksa Temple. In fact, halfway up the aforementioned valley, you’ll first see a rather plain looking Iljumun Gate with the name of the temple written on it. Passing through this gate, and past a collection of rundown buildings, you’ll eventually come to a paved clearing where Wongaksa Temple lies.

Immediately you’ll know you’re in the right place when you spot the blue metal banner with the words “원각사” written on it. It’s behind this metal banner that you encounter yet another entry gate for the temple. This temple gate is a lot more refined than the first with beautiful floral murals adorning it, as well as a pair of fierce guardians painted on its doors.

Stepping inside the main temple grounds, you’ll immediately notice the temple bell pavilion straight ahead of you. Uniquely, there is a large bronze bell under the wooden structure with another equally good sized bronze bell exposed to the elements with only a neighbouring tree as protection.

To your immediate right is the temple’s visitors’ centre. It’s next to this building that you’ll find the unique main hall at Wongaksa Temple. Stepping inside the nearly square shaped main hall, which is all but unadorned except for the dancheong colours, you’ll first notice the main altar. The main triad consists of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre and joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). On either side of this triad is a smaller wooden pagoda and a stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And all five statues are fronted by a much larger golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. The interior of the main hall is lined with smaller statues of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

To the left of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Sitting all alone on the main altar is a seated black haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This older looking statue is backed by an equally older looking painting of Jijang-bosal. To the right of the main altar is a triad of older shaman paintings dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

Across the temple’s main courtyard, and over a bridge that spans a narrow stream, is the southern portion of the temple. Housed inside an unassuming brick façade is the temple’s Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Housed inside this hall, besides pooling water from the neighbouring stream, is a tall granite statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

While the Gwaneum-jeon Hall lies to the right, there is a small courtyard that houses a collection of stupas, stele, and a slender five tier pagoda.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go to where Wongaksa Temple is located. One of these buses is Bus #707. After eight stops, or sixteen minutes, you’ll need to get off at the “Seowongok Ipgu” stop. From the stop, walk about eleven minutes, or 800 metres, to get to the temple. There are various signs leading you in the direction of Wongaksa Temple. You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal. A taxi ride will set you back 6,000 won over the 15 minute ride.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. There are a few highlights to Wongaksa Temple. The first is the older collection of shaman paintings housed inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Another is the main altar inside the main hall at Wongaksa Temple. The final highlight to Wongaksa Temple, besides the beautiful Mt. Muhaksan in all directions, is the unassuming shrine hall that houses an elegant statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A spider lily outside the temple grounds.

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The first of two gates that welcome you to Wongaksa Temple.

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The shacks that line the route towards Wongaksa Temple.

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The blue metal banner and the second entry gate at Wongaksa Temple.

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The stream that divides the temple in half.

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The second entry gate at Wongaksa Temple.

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One of the guardian murals that adorns the second entry gate.

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As well as this beautiful floral mural.

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The temple bell pavilion.

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The main hall at Wongaksa Temple.

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The unique main altar inside the main hall at Wongaksa Temple.

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A look across the Myeongbu-jeon Hall towards the main hall.

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The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall with Jijang-bosal front and centre.

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The amazing and old shaman triad of paintings inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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The view from the Myeongbu-jeon Hall out onto the the temple courtyard.

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Across the stream is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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Inside is this beautiful stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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To the left of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall is this stupa and stele field.

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As well as this slender five tier pagoda.

Geumryongsa Temple – 금룡사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The unique entry to Geumryongsa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Ever since visiting the neighbouring Seongdeokam Hermitage in the winter of 2015, and passing Geumryongsa Temple by, I thought I would revisit this temple as well as the eastern portion of Mt. Muhaksan in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

You first approach Geumryongsa Temple down some narrow side streets, until you eventually stumble upon the outskirts of the temple grounds and the welcoming Iljumun Gate. Besides the two pillar entry gate, and a steep incline to crest before entering the main temple grounds, you’ll also notice a golden three tier pagoda standing on the heights of the temple grounds to the left of the Iljumun Gate.

Walking up the paved incline, you’ll finally have a better idea of what Geumryongsa Temple has to offer a visitor. To your immediate right and left are the temple’s visitors’ centre and monks’ dorms. It’s also to your right that you’ll be welcomed to the temple by a jovial, golden statue of Podae-hwasang.

Straight ahead, on the other hand, is the Daeung-jeon main hall at Geumryongsa Temple. The exterior is painted with various Biseon either offering up fruit or playing a musical instruction. Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll be able to see a main altar centred by a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) on either side.

To the left rear of the main hall is a small overgrown pond with an even smaller granite bridge spanning its depths. It’s to the left of the main hall, and up a steep set of stairs, that you’ll next come to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are three newer, well executed, shaman paintings dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

The final shrine hall to be visited at Geumryongsa Temple lies up another set of stairs; this time, to the rear of the Samseong-gak. Rather strangely, this diminutive shrine hall is a Gwaneum-jeon Hall dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), which is made apparent by the solitary golden statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take Bus #101, or City Bus #122 at the Daeshin Bookstore, which is just outside the terminal. You’ll need to take either bus for ten stops and get off at the Burim Market stop. You’ll need to walk towards the hill for ten minutes from the stop to get to Geumryongsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. While certainly not as impressive as the neighbouring Seongdeokam Hermitage, Geumryongsa Temple has a few highlights of its own like the small pond and the shaman paintings inside the Samseong-gak, as well as the very entry to the temple. In combination with Seongdeokam Hermitage, or along the way, Geumryongsa Temple can make for nice little add-on to your temple adventure in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

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The cityscape from the entry of Geumryongsa Temple.

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The steep incline towards the main temple grounds at Geumryongsa Temple.

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The statue of Podae-hwasang that greets you at the temple.

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Part of the grounds at Geumryongsa Temple.

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The Daeung-jeon Hall.

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Some of the decorative Biseon that adorn the exterior walls to the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at the main altar and Seokgamoni-bul.

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The pond to the left of the main hall.

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The view as you near the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall with the city of Masan all around you.

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The previous pond down below as you continue to climb the stairs.

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A look up towards the Samseong-gak.

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The painting of Sanshin that adorns one of the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak.

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The Chilseong mural inside the shaman shrine hall.

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As well as a mural of Dokseong inside the Samseong-gak.

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A look over top of the Samseong-gak.

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From the rather strangely placed Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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And inside the Gwaneum-jeon is this solitary statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

Nawonsa Temple – 나원사 (Gyeongju)

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The five tier pagoda, which is also National Treasure #39, at Nawonsa Temple in northern Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in the northern part of Gyeongju, and on the former site of a much older temple, is Nawonsa Temple. This newer temple points to a much older and glorious past in Korean history.

Along a few country roads and past the scenic Hyeongsan River is the well hidden Nawonsa Temple. When first approaching the temple, you’ll pass through the temple parking lot, which appears to be situated out in front of the old temple site. Passing through this clearing, you’ll notice an elevated pagoda to the rear. This nearly ten metre tall white pagoda, which dates back to the 8th century, is National Treasure #39. In the past, this pagoda appeared to the rear of the main temple building during the Unified Silla Period. Now, with the original temple no longer in existence, the historic pagoda stands alone. The body of the pagoda consists of one solid stone and stands five tiers in height. The most remarkable thing about the pagoda is that it’s retained its pure white colour for over a thousand years.

In a bend in the road to the left of the elevated pagoda, and at the base of a small mountain, is Nawonsa Temple. Straight ahead, and past a collection of temple facilities to your left, is the diminutive concrete main hall. The exterior of the main hall is unpainted, but there are a pair of stone lanterns out in front of the elevated main hall. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll notice a collection of white statues on the main altar. Sitting in the centre of the seven statues is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). On the far left wall is the temple’s guardian mural as well as a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

The only other hall to be enjoyed at Nawonsa Temple is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left rear of the main hall. Up a set of innumerable stairs, you’ll finally arrive at this little hall. Housed inside the unadorned exterior are three paintings. Resting on the main altar is a simple Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. To the left of Chilseong rests a mural of Yongwang (The Dragon King) and to the right is a mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, you need to take Bus #232. After 21 stops, or 30 minutes, get off at the Nawonsa Temple entrance stop (나원사 입구).

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. By far, the main highlight to Nawonsa Temple is the ancient five tier pagoda that also acts as National Treasure #39. The interior to the Daeung-jeon main hall is rather inviting, as well.

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The five tier pagoda as you first approach it.

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The picture does no justice to just how massive this pagoda truly is.

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The bend in the road to the left where the newer Nawonsa Temple is located.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall at Nawonsa Temple.

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Some little trinkets that people have left behind out in front of the main hall.

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A paper Dragon Ship of Wisdom that hangs out in front of the main hall entrance.

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A look around the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall at the main altar.

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To the rear of the main hall.

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Where this long flight of stairs rests on your way up to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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A look at the underwhelming Samseong-gak.

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The Chilseong mural that rests on the main altar.

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With a mural dedicated to Yongwang to the left.

Seongjuam Hermitage – 성주암 (Gyeongju)

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The 8th century Amita-bul rock statue at Seongjuam Hermitage in south-western Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seongjuam Hermitage is located in south-western Gyeongju near the Yuldong train station. More specifically, the small hermitage is situated on the eastern slopes of Mt. Byeokdosan (437m).

You first approach the hermitage up some very rural roads in Gyeongju and eventually up a mountainside road. Standing in the remote hermitage parking lot, which has the feel that no one’s parked there for decades, you’ll find the head of the trail that leads up to the hermitage to the right of the parking lot retaining wall. Through a bend in the trail to the left and then to the right, you’ll see a sign that is the surest indication that Seongjuam Hermitage is up ahead. The sign describes the history behind what the hermitage is most famous for: the Rock-carved Standing Buddha Triad.

Up the mountain trail for one hundred metres, you’ll finally come to the outskirts of the hermitage. Uniquely, the first thing to greet you to the right is the hermitage’s Sanshin-gak. The diminutive shrine hall has a beautiful signboard that denotes the name of the hall above the entry. Stepping inside the Sanshin-gak, you’ll see that Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) is making a mudra with his left hand, while the psychedelic eyes of his tiger companion stare out at you.

To the left of the Sanshin-gak, and up a set of uneven stone stairs, is the hermitage’s main hall. Both the main hall and the monks’ dorms are one. The L-shaped building houses the monks’ dorms to the far left, while the main hall is to the right. Inside this extremely small main hall are a set of red paintings that illustrate the guardian mural as well as the Sermon on Vulture Peak.

But it’s to the right rear of this L-shaped building that you come across what the hermitage is most famous for: the Rock-carved Standing Buddha Triad. This triad, which also acts as Korea’s Treasure #122, was first created in the 8th century during the Unified Silla Dynasty. The triad looks out towards the west and has a slightly smiling Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre. This image is flanked on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul) to the left. The triad is reminiscent of the images found at Gulbulsa-ji Temple Site in central Gyeongju.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yuldong Train Station in Gyeongju, you need to exit the train station to the south. Along the way, follow the signs that read “경주두대리마애석불입상.” These signs are leading you towards the famed Rock-carved Standing Buddha Triad at Seongjuam Hermitage. The trek is about one kilometre long.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While the temple buildings at Seongjuam Hermitage are largely disappointing outside of the beautiful painting housed inside the Sanshin-gak, a bit of the luster that is lost from them is regained by standing in front of the amazing 8th century Rock-carved Standing Buddha Triad.

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The head of the trail that leads up to Seongjuam Hermitage.

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The actual trail that leads towards the hermitage grounds.

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The Sanshin-gak at Seongjuam Hermitage.

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The unique signboard that is placed above the entry of the Sanshin-gak.

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The amazing Sanshin mural housed inside the shaman shrine hall.

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A look towards the monks’ dorms and the main hall at the hermitage.

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A closer look at the L-shaped building.

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The plateau where the 8th century triad is located.

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A look at the amazing triad!

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A closer look at Amita-bul.

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Daesaeji-bosal.

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And Gwanseeum-bosal.

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The view from the stone platform out towards the Sanshin-gak.

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As well as some of the beautiful flowers that line that side of the hermitage trail.

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.