Updated: Gwaneumsa Temple – 관음사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The all-new Samseong-gak at Gwaneumsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I thought I would return to the lowest rated temple on the site after I had recently seen pictures online that showed some new landscaping and repairs. With that in mind, I give to you, once more, Gwaneumsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Gwaneumsa Temple is located behind row upon row of apartments on the north-east side of Mt. Obongsan (533m). Down a mountainside back alley, you’ll see a new stone sign that reads “관음사” that welcomes you to the temple. To the left side is the temple’s monks’ facilities and dorms. Up a steep cemented incline that leads past terraced vegetable gardens and a beautiful stone lantern, you’ll finally come to a newly built stone stairway. At the base of the stone stairs that lead up to the main hall are a pair of stone frog statues.

Climbing the numerous stairs, you’ll finally arrive at the temple’s main hall. The boxy main hall has beautiful large Palsang-do murals dedicated to the life of the Historical Buddha, as well as some twisting blue and yellow dragons near the entrances. Stepping inside the rather plainly adorned interior, you’ll notice a triad of statues resting on the main altar. In the centre of the three is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the right of the main altar is a blue Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian mural). Look closely for Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) with his trusty tiger on his shoulder.

While one of the big changes to the temple is the landscaping, the other big change is the all new Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left rear of the main hall. The exterior walls are made from brick; and regrettably, the old exterior painting of a male and female Sanshin is gone (see below). However, somewhat making up for this loss, as you step inside the Samseong-gak, is a large three-in-one mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), Chilseong (Seven Stars), and Sanshin. Take a close look at the beautiful starry background to the Chilseong mural, as well as the mountainous background in the Dokseong and Sanshin parts of the mural. And to the rear of the Samseong-gak is a beautiful mature bamboo forest.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Gwaneumsa Temple, you can get off at Namyangsan subway station, line two, subway stop #242. After exiting from the subway station, head west for about 30 minutes. You’ll pass by a Dunkin’ Donuts at the 5 minute point, but keep heading west. You’ll then meet a steep hill with a Paris Baguette at its base at the 10 minute mark: keep heading west. Once you’re at the top of the hill, at the 20 minute mark, you’ll notice a Buddhist statue to the left. You have to turn right, where the apartments end, and head up another steep hill. Once you’re at the top of this hill you’ll notice a sign pointing you towards the temple.

NOTE: Not sure why the temple is referred to as Bogguam Hermitage on Google, but it is most definitely Gwaneumsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. With the new landscaping and the all new three-in-one shaman mural, Gwaneumsa Temple is lifted out of the basement on the site. Also, have a good look at the Shinjung Taenghwa with a smiling Sanshin and tiger.

The Gwaneumsa Temple sign that first greets you at the temple.

A look at the newly landscaped Gwaneumsa Temple.

The newly constructed stone stairs that lead up towards the temple’s main hall.

The main hall at Gwaneumsa Temple.

Some of the beautiful artwork in and around the main hall.

As well one as one of the beautiful blue dragons that adorns the exterior of the main hall.

The main altar inside the main hall.

A closer look at Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).

As well as a closer look at Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

The Shinjung Taenghwa to the right of the main altar.

A look up towards the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The highly unique three-in-one shaman mural inside the Samseong-gak.

A closer look at the Chilseong mural.

The mature bamboo forest to the rear of the Samseong-gak.

And a look from the main hall towards the row upon row of apartments.

The old Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall taken in 2011.

A closer look at the male and female Sanshin mural that used to adorn the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak. Unfortunately, it no longer exists.

Cheonansa Temple – 천안사 (Busanjin-gu, Busan)

Jijang-bosal and a mountain stream at Cheonansa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Cheonansa Temple is located on Mt. Baekyangsan in central Busan. While overshadowed by the much more famous Seonamsa Temple to the west, the smaller sized Cheonansa Temple has a rustic charm of its own.

You approach Cheonansa Temple down some back roads until you come to a wide temple parking lot that’s fronted by a large protective stone guardian. To the right, which first greets you to the temple, is the temple’s visitors centre. Behind it, and still to the right, are the monks’ dorms.

To the left of the monks’ dorms is the temple’s main hall. Out in front of the main hall is a three tier, Silla inspired, stone pagoda. Before climbing the stairs that give you access to the main hall, there are a pair of stone reliefs book-ending the set of stairs. The stone reliefs depict Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the far left of the main hall is a beautiful modern statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And between both the main hall and the stone statue is a mountain stream bisecting the two. And to the far left, left of Jijang-bosal, is wild grass filled with mountain hikers’ cairns.

As for the main hall, the exterior walls are adorned with beautiful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. While entering the main hall, you’ll first notice the main altar with golden flowers suspended from the ceiling above three smaller sized main altar statues. Sitting in the centre of the triad is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the left of the main altar is the temple’s guardian mural. And to the left of that is a shrine for the dead and a statue of a bright, golden image of Jijang-bosal. To the right of the main altar is a shrine, once more, for Jijang-bosal. In addition to the green haired statue of this Bodhisattva, Jijang-bosal is also backed by an older image of himself. The final mural of note inside the main hall is a painting of the Bodhidharma with his back facing you in a green robe and a nimbus halo surrounding his head.

To the rear of the main hall, and up a very precarious mountainside path, are a pair of simplistic shrine halls. The shrine hall to the right is the Sanshin-gak. Housed inside this simplistic shrine hall is a vibrant painting dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). And to the left is another simplistic shrine hall with another equally impressive image; this time, of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Busan subway, line two (the green line), to Dongeui University stop #222. From this stop, you can take a taxi to Cheonansa Temple, and it should cost you about 4,000 won. The trip should last about 10 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While not anywhere as close to impressive as the neighbouring Seonamsa Temple on Mt. Baekyangsan, Cheonansa Temple makes a nice little addition if you’re already in the neighbourhood. The vibrant murals of Sanshin and Dokseong, as well as the beautiful scenery of the framing mountain are the true highlights to this smaller temple.

The mountainside view as you approach the temple on Mt. Baekyangsan.

A closer look at the statue of Jijang-bosal out in front of the main hall.

The main hall and temple shrine halls at Cheonansa Temple.

The main altar inside the main hall.

The painting and statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

The Bodhidharma mural on the far right wall of the main hall.

The guardian mural at Cheonansa Temple.

As well as this Chilseong mural.

The T-1000 Terminator-looking Jijang-bosal inside the main hall.

One of the Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall.

This Nathwi also adorns the main hall.

The trail that leads up towards the two shrine halls to the rear of the main hall.

The Sanshin-gak to the right rear of the main hall.

Inside is this beautiful Sanshin mural.

The view from the Sanshin-gak.

And the painting inside the Dokseong-gak of the Lonely Saint at Cheonansa Temple.

Suamsa Temple – 수암사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Buleum Falls at Suamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Suamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do is located on the northern slopes of Mt. Togoksan. It’s located between two towering mountain peaks and next to a beautiful tall waterfall called Buleum Falls (불음폭포).

You first make your way towards Suamsa Temple up a long valley. The valley stretches four kilometres in length and ends at the temple. Along the way, you’ll encounter several smaller rapids cascading over the jagged rocks. A short trek up a set of uneven stairs will bring you to the beautiful Buleum Falls. Amazingly, this waterfall is almost unknown, while the smaller Hongryong Falls at Hongryongsa Temple is much more famous. There are several great angles to enjoy this waterfall, but it’s a bit difficult to get to the base of the falls as there are no stairs that give you immediate access to Buleum Falls.

Walking across the Y-shaped green metal bridge, you’ll need to walk a bit further up the mountain trail to get to Suamsa Temple. But to keep you company along the way is the beautiful falls to your left through the forest.

Finally stepping into the temple grounds, you’ll notice the monks’ dorms, kitchen, and visitors’ centre to your far right. Perched to the left is the temple’s main hall. Uniquely, the exterior walls to the main hall are built from stone. I’ve never seen this before at a temple. I’ve seen other shrine halls, like the Yaksa-jeon Hall at Mangunsa Temple, built from stone; but never the main hall. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll first step onto a concrete floor. It’s from there, after taking off your shoes, that you can walk around the main hall. Seated on the main altar, in the centre, is a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right and a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). All three statues are backed by a beautiful white image of Gwanseeum-bosal. To the right of the main altar is a painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). While to the left are two additional paintings: one of Jijang-bosal and the other is the temple’s guardian mural.

The other shrine hall visitors can explore is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, which is slightly elevated to the right rear of the main hall. This shaman shrine hall is built from brick, and when you first step inside this hall you’ll instantly notice that the main altar is slightly different than other temples. Usually, the main altar is comprised of three paintings dedicated to Chilseong (which hangs in the middle). This painting is then joined on either side by Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). Instead, at Suamsa Temple, a painting of Dokseong rests in the centre of the main altar. And to the right is Sanshin, while to the left hangs a mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Obviously, Suamsa Temple has given prominence to a different set of shaman deities then most other temples.

HOW TO GET THERE: Outside of owning a car, the only way to get to Suamsa Temple is by taxi. You can get a taxi from Jeungsan subway station, line 2, stop #240. The taxi ride should take about 35 minutes and cost you 30,000 won (one way).

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Suamsa Temple is a little known temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. However, the temple’s natural beauty is nearly unrivaled by a lot of other temples on the Korean peninsula. Buleum Falls majestically flow next to the temple. As for the temple itself, it has a few quirks like the murals in the Samseong-gak, as well as the stony exterior of the main hall.

The first evidence of Buleum Falls.

The cascading water that flows as you make your way up to Suamsa Temple.

A mini-falls along the way as you get nearer and nearer to the temple grounds.

The green Y-shaped metal bridge that stands out in front of the falls.

Paper lanterns are the surest sign that a temple is nearby.

The beautiful Buleum Falls!

 A closer look at its natural beauty.

A pretty amazing view at the entrance of the temple grounds.

The main hall at Suamsa Temple.

The unique concrete entry to the main hall.

The main altar in surround sound.

The view from the main hall with its stony exterior.

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

A look across the main altar.

A closer look at the jovial Sanshin.

The view from the Samseong-gak Hall.

Cheonjuam Hermitage – 천주암 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The main hall at Cheonjuam Hermitage in preparation for Buddha’s birthday.

Hello Again Everyone!!

The compact Cheonjuam Hermitage is located in northern Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do. And it’s beautifully situated on the eastern slopes of Mt. Cheonjusan, which stands an impressive 639.5 metres in height.

Follow the plethora of mountain hikers as you make your way towards Cheonjuam Hermitage. The first thing to greet you is the stone front façade to the hermitage. Before entering the hermitage, turn around to get a beautiful view of northern Changwon down below.

To the right, follow the pathway up towards the lower courtyard. Situated in the lower courtyard is a two story building that acts as the monks’ dorms at Cheonjuam Hermitage. To the left of the monks’ dorms, and overhanging from the upper courtyard, is the hermitage’s bell pavilion. It’s rather surprising that a hermitage so small in size would have such a large bell; but it does!

Having climbed the stairs either to the right or left of the bell pavilion, you’ll see the main hall to your right. The main hall is surrounded around the exterior by beautiful blue hued Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll notice a main altar comprised of three seated statues. Sitting in the centre is the image of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined to the left by a green haired Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and a crowned Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right. And hanging over top of these three statues is a large red datjib. To the right of the main altar is a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And to the left is the temple’s guardian mural.

The only other shrine hall that visitors can explore at Cheonjuam Hermitage is the newly constructed Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the right rear of the main hall. Both the Chilseong and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) murals are rather typical in composition; it’s the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural that stands out a bit with a dongja offering Sanshin an assortment of fruits including grapes and a watermelon. Also worth having a look is the fiercely painted tiger on the left exterior wall of the Samseong-gak Hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Cheonjuam Hermitage from the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal by taxi. The taxi ride should last about 10 minutes and cost 6,000 won. And after visiting the hermitage, there’s plenty of mountain hiking to enjoy.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. During Buddha’s birthday, when the paper lanterns are hanging in the upper hermitage courtyard, Cheonjuam Hermitage is especially beautiful during these mid-spring months. Added to this aesthetic beauty is the large hermitage bell, as well as the Ox-Herding murals adorning the main hall and the Sanshin and tiger murals housed in and around the Samseong-gak Hall.

The front facade as you make your way up to the hermitage grounds.

The view from Cheonjuam Hermitage towards northern Changwon.

The entry to the hermitage grounds with the monks’ dorms to the right.

The bell pavilion at Cheonjuam Hermitage.

A large bell for such a small hermitage.

The main altar inside the main hall with Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre.

The amazing datjib canopy above the main altar.

The guardian mural to the left of the main altar.

And to the right is this mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

One of the Shimu-do murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall at Cheonjuam Hermitage.

The beautiful scenery that surrounds the main hall.

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

A closer look at the Samseong-gak Hall.

The Sanshin mural housed inside the shaman shrine hall.

A decorative tiger that adorns the left exterior wall of the Samseong-gak Hall.

The view from the Samseong-gak Hall over the monks’ dorms at Cheonjuam Hermitage.

Yeongamsa Temple – 영암사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The main hall and the three tier pagoda at Yeongamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located southwest of the towering Mt. Togoksan (855m) is Yeongamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. In fact, if you look towards Togoksan, you’ll be able to see the abandoned Bokcheonjeongsa Temple from Yeongamsa Temple.

You’ll first approach Yeongamsa Temple down one of the worst roads I’ve ever driven on while visiting a temple in Korea. After finally traversing the pothole filled country road, you’ll be greeted by the Cheonwangmun Gate. You’ll be greeted by this gate and a very friendly Jindo dog. Painted on the doors are two intimidating guardians. With the doors wide open, the painted Heavenly Kings take up residence behind the large wooden entry doors.

Entering the temple’s lower courtyard, you’ll notice the monks’ residence to the right and the kitchen and visitor’s centre to the left. There is a stream that divides the two sides up the centre. It’s up the embankment that you’ll enter the upper courtyard. It’s the upper courtyard that houses all of the shrine halls at the temple.

Sitting in the centre of the upper courtyard is the main hall at Yeongamsa Temple. Adorning the exterior walls to the main hall are two different types of mural sets. The lower set, which are masterful in composition, are the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals. The upper set is the Palsang-do murals. Housed inside the main hall is a triad of statues that rest on the main altar. These jade-looking statues that are green in hue are centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined on either side by Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul) and Gwanseum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This triad is surrounded on the main altar by row upon row of smaller sized green Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) statues. To the left of the main altar is an altar dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And this bodhisattva is backed by a dark Gamno-do painting. To the right of the main altar is the guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall is a biseok, while out in front is a three tier stone pagoda. To the right rear of the main hall is a glass shrine hall dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Out in front of the Yongwang-dang is a stagnant pond with, miraculously, Koi fish inside. Stepping inside the Yongwang-dang, you’ll be greeted by another green statue; this time, of Yongwang.

Over the ridge, and to the rear of the main hall, in a plum tree orchard, is the Samseong-gak. The plainness of the shaman shrine hall is elevated by the natural beauty of the flowering plum trees during the spring months. The Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural is traditional in composition, while the blood-red eyes of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and the atypical appearance of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) standout. To the far right of the Samseong-gak, and over the bisecting stream, is another stone pagoda. This pagoda is seven tiers in height.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest, and perhaps only way, to get to Yeongamsa Temple is by taxi. You can get a taxi from Jeungsan subway station, #240, in Yangsan. The taxi ride should last about 30 minutes and cost 15,000 won one way.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. While a bit treacherous to get to, Yeongamsa Temple is surrounded on all sides by the beauty of nature. As for the temple itself, the main highlights are the interior of the main hall with its jade-like looking ceramic statues, as well as the eerily dark Gamno-do painting.

The Cheonwangmun Gate at Yeongamsa Temple.

The stream that bisects the temple grounds.

The friendly Jindo dog that might just accompany you around the temple grounds.

The main hall at Yeongamsa Temple.

The biseok to the left of the main hall.

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

As well as one of the masterful Shimu-do murals that also adorns the main hall at Yeongamsa Temple.

The unique main altar inside the main hall.

The Jijang-bosal altar inside the main hall with the Gamno-do mural backing the green bodhisattva.

The guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

The view from the Yongwang-dang towards the main hall.

The glassy exterior to the Yongwang-dang.

The hulk-like looking Yongwang (The Dragon King) inside the Yongwang-dang.

The plum tree orchard that fronts the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

A closer look at the boxy Samseong-gak.

Some of the beautiful nature that surrounds Yeongamsa Temple.

Unfortunately, the Sanshin mural was placed in a glass frame. But his red eyes are still pretty menacing.

It’s not everyday that you get to see Dokseong with such a unique hairstyle.

And the seven tier pagoda through some of the plum trees.

Gigiam Hermitage – 기기암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Gigiam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gigiam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do is another one of those hermitages directly associated with the famed Eunhaesa Temple on the eastern slopes of Mt. Palgongsan. Of the three roads that lead out towards the hermitages at Eunhaesa Temple, Gigiam Hermitage is located on the southern road just up from Seounam Hermitage.

You approach Gigiam Hermitage along a river valley and then up a twisting and turning mountainside road. When you do eventually arrive at the hermitage parking lot, you’ll find the sprawling hermitage grounds. Straight ahead of you, and past some beautifully manicured grounds, are the monks’ dorms. These dorms are fenced off by a high wall, and the dorms are off-limits to visitors.

It’s to the left that you’ll find the buildings that visitors can explore. Unfortunately, when I visited, the main hall was being completely torn down and restored. So instead of being able to visit the beautiful, old main hall at Gigiam Hermitage, they had relocated the main altar paintings and statue to an auxiliary building at the hermitage. This building is the plain-white building to the right of the main hall construction site.

Housed inside this temporary main hall is a crowned seated statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And this statue is then backed by a beautiful black mural. Hanging on the right wall is a newer looking guardian mural.

Past the main hall construction zone, and to the right of the kitchen at Gigiam Hermitage, is a sign that directs you towards the hermitage’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is just big enough for an adult to sit in. Housed inside this shrine hall are three paintings dedicated to various shaman deities. The first of the three, and straight ahead, is the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. To the left of the Chilseong mural is a retro-looking Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) mural. But it’s the mural to the right, the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural, that will draw most of your attention. Sanshin is joined in the painting by a leper-looking tiger.

Entrance to Eunhaesa Temple is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can either catch a bus from Hayang or Yeongcheon bus station. The bus ride will cost you about 2,000 won. It’s probably easier to get to Yeongcheon bus station. The bus to Eunhaesa Temple, from Yeongcheon, leaves 8 times a day and it takes about 45 minutes. The first bus leaves at 6:20 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 8:00 p.m. And from Eunhaesa Temple, you’ll need to continue to walk west of the temple, and to the south, towards Gigiam Hermitage. The walk takes about 2.5 km.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. I think if it wasn’t for the re-construction of the main hall at Gigiam Hermitage, this hermitage would rate higher. However, since half of the buildings that visitors can explore are under construction, Gigiam Hermitage rates as low as it does. However, if you do decide to visit Gigiam Hermitage, keep an eye out for the hidden Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall behind the main hall and the distinctive Sanshin mural housed inside it.

Some of the grounds around Gigiam Hermitage.

One of the stone reliefs at the hermitage with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre.

The temporary main hall at Gigiam Hermitage.

Inside is housed this beautiful statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

The Bodhisattva of Compassion is backed by this black Buddhist mural.

The guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

A look around the temporary main hall.

Yep, the main hall is definitely under construction.

The stairs that lead up to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The diminutive Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Gigiam Hermitage.

The Chilseong mural housed inside the shaman shrine hall.

As well as this image of Dokseong.

The unique Sanshin mural housed inside the Samseong-gak.

And the view from the main hall at Gigiam Hermitage.

Baekheungam Hermitage – 백흥암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

The entry to Baekheungam Hermitage near Eunhaesa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Like Unbuam Hermitage, Baekheungam Hermitage is a hermitage directly associated with the neighbouring Eunhaesa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. And like almost all hermitages associated with Eunhaesa Temple, Baekheungam Hermitage is situated to the west of the main temple.

Baekheungam Hermitage was first established in the mid Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Originally, the hermitage directly belonged to Eunhaesa Temple. The shrine, which was to become Baekheungam Hermitage, was first constructed in 1546 to commemorate the spirit of King Injong (r. 1544-45). It was later in 1643 that the main hall, the Geukrak-jeon Hall, was constructed.

You first approach the temple up a long road. To the right, you’ll finally arrive at the hermitage and be greeted by a large Boje-ru Pavilion (much like the one at Unbuam Hermitage). Unlike Unbuam Hermitage, you can’t walk up the stairs at the centre of the pavilion to gain entrance to the hermitage courtyard. Instead, you’ll need to walk to the right through an entry that opens between the nuns’ living quarters and the right exterior wall of the Boje-ru Pavilion. Baekheungam Hermitage is very similar in its architectural layout as Unbuam Hermitage. Book-ending the main hall are a pair of living quarters for the nuns. And to the far left and right, outside the hermitage main courtyard, are the facilities for the nuns like the gardens and the kitchen.

Straight ahead is the main highlight to Baekheungam Hermitage: the Geukrak-jeon Hall. Unfortunately, this hall is off-limits to both visitors and photography except on Buddha’s birthday. I was, however, lucky enough to run into a nun that allowed me entry to this historic building. The Geukrak-jeon Hall is designated Korean Treasure #790. The exterior walls of the building are unpainted. However, once you step inside the main hall, you’ll instantly notice the amazing altar that stands in the middle of the historic hall. Sitting in the centre of the altar is a seated statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is then joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). This altar is one of the best examples of Joseon artistry that you’ll find in Korea. The Buddhist altar also just so happens to be Korean Treasure #486. Have a close look at the intricate wood engravings on the five tiers of the altar.

Filling out the rest of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is a haunting Gamno-do (The Sweet Dew Painting) on the far left wall. And this painting is joined on the far right wall by a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), a guardian mural, as well as a mural dedicated to one of the Ten Kings of the Afterlife.

Depending on when you visit Baekheungam Hermitage, especially during the spring and summer months, the grounds are naturally graced with an assortment of beautiful flowers.

Admittance to Eunhaesa Temple is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can either catch a bus from Hayang or Yeongcheon bus station. The bus ride will cost you about 2,000 won. It’s probably easier to get to Yeongcheon bus station. The bus to Eunhaesa Temple, from Yeongcheon, leaves 8 times a day and it takes about 45 minutes. The first bus leaves at 6:20 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 8:00 p.m. And from Eunhaesa Temple, you’ll need to continue to walk west of the temple, and along the central road, towards Baekheungam Hermitage. The walk takes about 3.5 km.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. Baekheungam Hermitage is one of the most difficult hermitages to rate, because it’s so rare that you’ll find a main hall at a temple or hermitage off-limits to the public. With that said, if you’re lucky enough to enter the Geukrak-jeon Hall at Baekheungam Hermitage, the overall rating easily climbs to a six or seven out of ten with its amazing artistry all around the main hall like the main altar and the Gamno-do painting.

Some of the beautiful flowers in and around Baekheungam Hermitage.

A better look at the Boje-ru Pavilion.

The side entry to the hermitage courtyard.

An inside look at the Boje-ru Pavilion that first greeted you at the entry of the hermitage.

The entry to one of the nuns’ quarters at Baekheungam Hermitage.

The exterior of the amazing Geukrak-jeon Hall at Baekheungam Hermitage.

And the view out towards the hermitage courtyard from the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

Unbuam Hermitage – 운부암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

The Wontong-jeon main hall at Unbuam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Unbuam Hermitage is one of several hermitages directly associated with the famed Eunhaesa Temple. Both Eunhaesa Temple and Unbuam Hermitage are located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Palgongsan (1,192m) in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

After arriving at Eunhaesa Temple, make your way past the temple grounds and head northwest. You’ll need to head in this direction for about 3.5 km. The hike is pretty flat the entire way. When you do finally arrive at Unbuam Hermitage, you’ll notice two large artificial ponds out in front of the main hermitage grounds. While the one to the right is rather non-descript, the pond to the left has a towering stone statue of the Bodhidharma standing in the centre of the muddy water.

Between both of the ponds, you’ll find an unpainted Bulimun Gate (The Gate of Non-Duality). Up a set of uneven stone stairs, you’ll see the large Boje-ru Pavilion straight in front of you. This gate shields people from seeing directly into the hermitage courtyard. You’ll need to pass under the Boje-ru Pavilion, and up the set of stairs at its centre to finally gain entry to the main hermitage courtyard.

As you step into Unbuam Hermitage’s courtyard, you’ll find that the main hall is book-ended by two long buildings. The building to the left is the visitors’ centre and kitchen, while the long unpainted building to your right is the monks’ quarters. And standing all alone in the middle of the hermitage courtyard is a diminutive three story stone pagoda.

Past the smaller sized pagoda, you’ll see the rather stout Wontong-jeon main hall at Unbuam Hermitage. The exterior walls to the main hall are adorned with fading murals. If you look closely up at the eaves, you’ll notice some of the fading floral patterns that were once a bit more vibrant. As for the main hall itself, and seated all alone on the main altar in a glass enclosure, is a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. This highly ornate statue is Korean Treasure #514. If you look closely at this early Joseon Period (1392-1910) masterpiece, you’ll notice the flames, flowers and birds of paradise decorating the crown. This gilt bronze statue stands one metre in height. As for the rest of the main hall, you’ll find a guardian mural and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) mural hanging on the far right wall.

To the left rear of the Wontong-jeon main hall, you’ll find a brand new Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. This hall, which will become apparent soon, is highly original in a few ways. First, there are three rooms housed inside the Samseong-gak. But instead of being divided into rooms dedicated to various shaman deities like at Beomeosa Temple, this shaman shrine hall has rooms to the left and right dedicated to those that want to pray alone.

As for the central room inside the Samseong-gak, you’ll find three paintings housed inside it. Typically, the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting hangs in the centre of the triad of shaman paintings. But inside this hall, the Chilseong painting hangs on the left wall, while the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) painting hangs on the right wall. And taking centre stage inside the Samseong-gak is one of the most original Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) murals I have seen in all of Korea. Sitting front and centre is a seated image of Sanshin. And he’s joined by his companion, a tiger, to the left. But what sets this painting apart are the five painted images of monks in the mural. In the back row appear the images of Uisang-daesa (625-702) to the left and Wonhyo-daesa (617-686) to the right. As for the front row, and in the centre, appears Gyeongheo-seonsa (1849-1912). And he’s joined on either side by Seongcheol-seonsa (1912-1993) and Jinje-seonsa. The only guess that I have as to why they all appear in the Sanshin mural is that all five might have appeared alongside Sanshin to the head monk at Unbuam Hermitage in a dream.

And the reason why I think this might be true is that to the rear of the Wontong-jeon main hall and past the vegetable garden at Unbuam Hermitage, you’ll find what looks to be an abandoned building over a bit of a ridge. Without any sign board indicating what might be housed inside, you’ll have to take a look for yourself. And when you do, you’ll find a beautiful modern painting of yet another Sanshin.

Entrance fee to Eunhaesa Temple, where Unbuam Hermitage is located, is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can either catch a bus from Hayang or Yeongcheon bus station. The bus ride will cost you about 2,000 won. It’s probably easier to get to Yeongcheon bus station. The bus to Eunhaesa Temple, from Yeongcheon, leaves 8 times a day and it takes about 45 minutes. The first bus leaves at 6:20 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 8:00 p.m. And from Eunhaesa Temple, you’ll need to continue to walk west of the temple, and to the north, towards Unbuam Hermitage. The walk takes about 3.5 km.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. While not as large as the neighbouring Eunhaesa Temple, Unbuam Hermitage is packed with originality. There’s both the Bodhidharma statue, the slender Bulimun Gate, and the Boje-ru Pavilion that first welcome you to the hermitage. But that’s just for starters, because housed inside the main hall is an amazing gilt bronze statue of Gwanseeum-bosal that just so happens to be Korean Treasure #514. And last, but certainly not least, is the highly original Sanshin and monk mural housed inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

As you first approach Unbuam Hermitage.

The entry to Unbuam Hermitage with the Bodhidharma off in the distance.

The pond with the Bodhidharma statue in the centre.

The Bulimun Gate that welcomes you to the main hermitage grounds.

A look through the Bulimun Gate towards the Boje-ru Pavilion.

A better look at the all-natural Boje-ru Pavilion.

The view as you first step inside the hermitage courtyard.

A look inside the Boje-ru Pavilion.

The compact entrance to one of the monks’ quarters.

The Bodhidharma guiding you towards the hermitage kitchen.

A look up at the Wontong-jeon Hall at Unbuam Hermitage.

A look through the front door of the Wontong-jeon Hall.

Korean Treasure #514, Gwanseeum-bosal.

The newly built Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at the hermitage.

One of the prayer rooms inside the Samseong-gak.

The amazing, and highly original, Sanshin mural at Unbuam Hermitage.

Who is joined by Dokseong to the right.

The tile work and fading floral patterns that adorn the Wontong-jeon main hall.

The seemingly abandoned Sanshin-gak to the rear of the hermitage grounds.

Housed inside is this beautiful second Sanshin mural at the hermitage.

One final look from the hermitage courtyard.

Seongheungsa Temple – 성흥사 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The beautiful bell tower at Seongheungsa Temple in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seongheungsa Temple is located in southeastern Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do. It’s scenically located in a valley with a stream that flows the length of it. And beautifully framing Seongheungsa Temple to the north is the towering Mt. Gulamsan, which stands 663.1 metres in height.

You first approach the temple down the long valley with the tranquil stream to your left. Eventually you arrive on the grounds at the terraced temple parking lot. A little further up the paved pathway that leads towards the main temple grounds, you’ll notice a large seven tier stone pagoda to your right. Lined with pink flowers around its base, and fronted by two stone lanterns, the pagoda is well protected on all four corners by stone guardians.

Just a little further up the path, you’ll see that the temple grounds are beautifully backed by the towering mountains to the north. To gain access to the temple grounds, you’ll pass through the Cheonwangmun Gate. Housed inside this temple gate are four statues dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings. Each appears to be older in age.

Finally standing in the lower temple courtyard, you’ll notice the visitors’ centre to your left and the monks’ dorms to your right. These two buildings are the only buildings at the temple that are unadorned at Seongheungsa Temple.

Up a small flight of stairs, you’ll see the main hall straight ahead of you. Populating the well-manicured main courtyard is an older tree to your left with colourful paper lanterns hanging from its limbs, as well as the two storied bell pavilion to your right. On the first floor of the bell pavilion is a large bronze bell, while the second floor houses a large drum.

Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon main hall, you’ll notice a large guardian mural on the far left wall. And on the far right wall is a painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). As for the main altar, you’ll see a triad of seated statues. In the centre rests Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Strength and Wisdom for Amita-bul). The exterior walls to the main hall are only adorned with the traditional dancheong colours, and the Daeung-jeon Hall dates back to the late Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

To the left of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are adorned with simplistic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Stepping inside the Nahan-jeon Hall, you’ll notice a triad of statues seated on the main altar. In the centre of the three sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The triad is then joined by two levels of Nahan statues. Seated on the ground, and much larger in size, are the sixteen disciples of the Buddha, while in the upper levels are smaller statues of additional Nahan statues.

And to the right of the main hall rest`s the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The exterior walls to this hall are beautifully adorned with the most popular shaman deities, as well as a realistic depiction of a tiger on the left rear exterior wall. Stepping inside the Samseong-gak, you’ll first be greeted by a painting and statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King). The next pair of a painting and a statue are dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), while in the centre of the main altar hangs an elaborate mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stairs). The final pairing is dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). While the painting is rather bland, the realistic features of the statue are something to keep an eye out for.

HOW TO GET THERE: The only real viable option to get to Seongheungsa Temple is by car. So a taxi from the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal to Seongheungsa Temple takes around 40 minutes, and it’ll cost 28,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. While not a huge temple, Seongheungsa Temple has a lot of features to draw a visitor in like the large seven story stone pagoda at the entrance of the temple, as well as the dozens of Nahan statues and the paintings adorning the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

As you first approach the temple grounds with Mt. Gulamsan in the background.

The large seven tier stone pagoda at Seongheungsa Temple.

A closer look at the beautiful pagoda.

The Cheonwangmun Gate at the temple.

A look through the Cheonwangmun Gate towards the main hall at Seongheungsa Temple.

One of the four Heavenly Kings inside the gate.

The Daeung-jeon main hall at Seongheungsa Temple.

Some decorative paper lanterns hanging from a temple tree.

A monk performing the morning ritual inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

To the left of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon Hall.

One of the simplistic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals that adorns the exterior walls of the Nahan-jeon Hall.

The view from behind the Nahan-jeon Hall.

The main altar inside the Nahan-jeon Hall with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) seated in the centre.

The rows of Nahan statues inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.

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

The Sanshin mural that adorns one of the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The statue of Yongwang that fronts the painting of the Dragon King.

The statue and painting of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

And the view from the Samseong-gak shrine hall out towards the temple’s bell pavilion.

My New Fiction Book!!

Hello Again Everyone!!

I’m extremely to announce, once more, the publication of an all new book. This time, it’s my first attempt at fiction with The Lonely Saint.

In The Lonely Saint, and unbeknownst to Sean, his life has mirrored an ancient set of Zen Buddhist murals. Since graduating from university with an English degree and a suffocating amount of debt, Sean Masters decides that he wants to teach and travel abroad; however, his life seems to be anything but ordinary as he negotiates the culture and seamier sides of living and teaching in South Korea. It’s only through his loss of everything, including his wife to a horrible accident, that Sean is able to find peace in the most unlikely of places. In the end, it’s with the Zen Ox-Herding murals as a guide that Sean Masters is finally able to go from a life of ignorance to that of enlightenment.

You can order The Lonely Saint through Amazon.com either in hard copy or as an e-book.

You can order the hard copy here.

And you can order the e-book here.

If you’d like a signed copy for $20 dollars (plus shipping and handling) of my book, please contact me at: dostoevsky_21_81@yahoo.com   We can discuss the details.

Please support this free website by ordering your copy today!

-Dale