Manseongam Hermitage – 만성암 (Beomeosa, Busan)

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

Hello Again Everyone!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Podae-hwasang at the entry to Manseongam Hermitage.

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

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The view as you first enter the temple parking lot.

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

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The Koi pond and statue enclave at the hermitage.

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

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Statues of Podae-hwasang and Sanshin together

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

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

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

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The two story main hall.

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A look out towards the hermitage grounds.

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

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And the intricate guardian mural to the left.

Sajaam Hermitage – 사자암 (Beomeosa, Busan)

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 The beautifully realistic painting of a tiger on the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Sajaam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Sajaam Hermitage means Lion Hermitage in English. And it’s the closest associated hermitage to Beomeosa Temple out to the left. But it’s a bit tricky to find through the maze of restaurants and houses even though it’s only 300 metres up a side road.

When you first approach the hermitage, up its elevated driveway, you’ll first be greeted by five really strange looking metal rings. Up the stone walkway, and under the metal rings, you’ll see the compact courtyard. To the right is a non-descript dorm for the monks. And to the immediate left is the kitchen and visiting centre at the hermitage. Straight ahead is a nice looking main hall that is framed by the mountains that loom overhead. Behind the main hall, and to the left, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. This shrine hall is beautifully decorated with a masterfully rendered painting of a tiger. And to the right of this painting is a simplistic painting of a monk walking along a wooded pathway. Inside the shrine hall are four paintings. On the altar are three paintings. In the centre there is a painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars); to the left is a painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit); and to the right is Dokseong (The Recluse). All are beautifully painted. On the right wall is an older looking painting that is equally beautiful in its artistry.

The main hall itself has no exterior paintings. However, the interior of the main hall is nice, but minimalistic. On the main altar is a smaller sized Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) statue behind a glass display case. To the left of this statue is a well-populated guardian painting. And to the right of the centre altar piece is a unique painting. This painting is a depiction of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) at the centre with six flanking Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on either side of him including Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Sajaam Hermitage in one of two ways. In both cases you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa Station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to  Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of  Beomeosa Temple. Instead of walking towards Beomeosa Temple, continue to walk left down the paved hill. You’ll see a big sign to the right that highlights the three hermitages to the far left of Beomeosa Temple. For Sajaam Hermitage, look for the sign that reads 사자암. The hermitage is 300 metres ahead down twisting and disorienting side streets. Just follow the road that never comes to a dead-end, and continue to head left down the side streets. There will be a sign reading 사자암 to show you that you’ve arrived at the right hermitage entrance.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. There is very little to see at Sajaam Hermitage. Of the lot, there are three beautifully rendered paintings of the shamanistic deities (Chilseong, Sanshin, and Dokseong), as well as a beautiful painting of Seokgamoni-bul and the other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas inside the main hall.

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The strange partial metal rings at the entry of Sajaam Hermitage.

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The hermitage courtyard.

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

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The view from the Samseong-gak shrine hall.

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The solitary monk painting that adorns the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak.

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The Confucian-style Chilseong mural.

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To the right hangs this mural of Dokseong.

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And to the left hangs this older mural of Sanshin.

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A look at the unadorned main hall at Sajaam Hermitage.

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A look around the interior of the main hall.

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The main altar with a diminutive statue of Seokgamoni-bul front and centre.

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The well-populated guardian mural inside the main hall.

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One more look at the main hall.

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And one more look at the mountains that surround the unique entry at Sajaam Hermitage.

Now and Then: Beomeosa Temple

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A bird’s-eye-view of Beomeosa Temple from the turn of the last century.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in the northern part of Busan, on Mt. Geumjeongsan, Beomeosa Temple dates back to 678 A.D. The temple was founded by the famed temple-builder, Uisang. The name of the temple means “Fish from Heaven Temple,” in English, which is in reference to the creation myth that surrounds the temple. According to the myth, there is a well with golden water on top of Mt. Geumjeongsan, which is where the temple is located. Supposedly, golden fish rode a rainbow down from the heavens to inhabit the well.

Beomeosa Temple became known as one of the ten great temples of the Hwaeom sect in Korea, even though it is now part of the Jogye-jong Buddhist Order, which is the largest sect in Korea. During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), there were more than a thousand monks that took up residence at the temple. During the destructive Imjin War from 1592-98, Beomeosa Temple was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese. In 1602, the temple was reconstructed, but was destroyed a few years later in an accidental fire. So in 1613, the temple was rebuilt once more. And it’s from this date that a number of shrine halls and buildings were constructed. These structures include the main hall and the Iljumun Gate.

More recently, Beomeosa Temple is one of the sixth largest temples in Korea. And spread throughout the rolling hills of Mt. Geumjeongsan are an additional eight hermitages directly associated with Beomeosa Temple. In total, besides a dozen shrine halls that a temple visitor can explore, Beomeosa Temple also houses seven treasures within its grounds.

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Another amazing view of Beomeosa Temple from 1929.

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The Iljumun Gate from 1931.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate from 1931.

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A pavilion with the main hall to the right from 1931.

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A more modern picture of Beomeosa Temple from 1970.

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The Iljumun Gate from 1970, as well.

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A 2013 picture of Beomeosa Temple.

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A more recent picture of the Iljumun Gate.

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The temple courtyard at Beomeosa Temple.

Jijangam Hermitage – 지장암 (Beomeosa, Busan)

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 The statue of Jijang-bosal that greets you at Jijangam Hermitage, near Beomeosa Temple, in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Jijangam Hermitage (지장암) is a hermitage dedicated, and named after, the Bodhisattva Jijang-bosal. Jijang-bosal is the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife. He can be identified by his bald or closely cropped hair that is green, black or gold.  In his hands he holds a staff in his right hand and a pearl in his left.  The pearl is a “wish-fulfilling pearl” that grants selfless wishes, while the staff opens the gates of hell.

When you first approach the hermitage from the uphill, side-winding, road, you’ll notice both a sign that reads – 지장암 – as well as a five foot tall stone sculpture of Jijang-bosal to your right. You can get to the hermitage in one of two ways: you can either take the newly constructed road to the left, or you can take the path that leads to the left through the overgrown trees and shrubs. Originally, the path to the left was intended as the way to approach the hermitage, so that’s the way my wife and I decided to travel. Up a set of overgrown trees and shrubs, as though nature were collecting back what was rightfully Hers, we spotted a pond that hadn’t been used in quite some time. Up another set of stairs, we were finally eye to eye with the main hall at the hermitage.  Finally, up one more set of stairs and we were in the main courtyard at the hermitage.

Facing the main hall, we noticed that there was the monks’ dorms to the left, while the nicely sized main hall was directly in front of us. The main hall itself has very little exterior decoration adorning it, other than being customarily painted the standard Korean temple colours. However, the views of the surrounding mountains, Mt. Geumjeongsan, were beautiful. And inside the temple, there were a couple highlights to the trip to the hermitage. There was a beautiful guardian painting, as well as a beautiful painting of Jijang-bosal, both of which have countless Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and guardians. The triad on the altar is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre, with Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and the namesake of the hermitage, to the left, and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right. When leaving the temple, down the newly constructed road, there was a beautiful shrine with a statue of Buddha. Also, there was a uniquely designed meditation hall built as a hut into the side of the mountain.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Jijangam Hermitage in one of two ways. In both scenarios you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk halfway up the thirty minute hike to Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of the hermitage. You’ll probably overshoot the hermitage, and have to make your way back down the hill a bit, but as long as you have a keen eye you’ll be able to spot the hermitage. After visiting the hermitage, you can either walk the remaining 15 minutes up to Beomeosa Temple, or you can find your way back to the bus stop.


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OVERALL RATING: 3/10. While not the most amazing or inspiring hermitage you’ll see in Korea, the hermitage does have a few highlights. The beautiful views from the main hall of the surrounding Mt. Geumjeongsan is certainly one of them. Another is the beautiful guardian painting, as well as the Jijang-bosal painting, both of which are on the left side of the main hall. There is also a uniquely built meditation hut for the monks at the hermitage on the newly constructed hermitage road. Finally, there is a beautiful sculpture of Jijang-bosal at the entrance of the hermitage. While I probably wouldn’t get off the bus that heads up to Beomeosa Temple, I would stop by if I was making the thirty minute hike uphill to the famous Busan temple. It makes for a nice little break at the half-way point, and what better way to take a rest than to have a look at a nice hermitage along the way.

 The sign and the statue that welcome you to Jijangam Hermitage.
 The newly paved road that leads up to the left of the hermitage.
And the overgrown path that leads right to the hermitage.
The set of stairs that leads up to the main hall and the hermitage courtyard.
 A view across the front of the main hall.
 A view from the main hall at the surrounding mountains.
Another view of the craggy rocks that make up the surrounding Mt. Geumjeongsan.
 And one more look.
The altar inside the main hall. In the middle is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), to the left is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and to the right is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
 To the left of the altar is this mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.
 And on the far left wall is the guardian painting.
Here is a better look at one of the open-mouthed individuals on the guardian mural.
 The beautiful little shrine to the left of the main hall.
One of the little Buddha figures beside the shrine.
 The meditative hut for monks at the hermitage.
And one last look at the Jijang-bosal statue at the hermitage that both welcomes you and says good-bye.

The Story of…Wonhyoam Hermitage (Busan)

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 The amazing view from Wonhyoam Hermitage…and the hike that nearly killed me to get it.

Hello Again Everyone!!

As I mentioned in a previous posting about Wonhyoam Hermitage, there are literally dozens of Wonhyoam Hermitages throughout the Korean peninsula named after the famous Korean monk, Wonhyo-daesa. And this entry is about another hermitage called Wonhyoam Hermitage.

The difference between this Wonhyoam Hermitage and others is that this one is directly associated with Beomeosa Temple in Busan. In fact, it’s located on the temple grounds and up Mt. Geumjeongsan.

The story all starts when I was exploring some of the hermitages in and around Beomeosa Temple. Initially, I had been attempting to see Geumjeongam Hermitage. One wrong turn later, and I was attempting to see Wonhyoam Hermitage. I had known, or thought I knew, that the two hermitages were close in proximity to each other. So when I was unable to locate one, I was crossing a bridge over Dolbada (The Sea of Rocks), and heading up a mountain in search of a second hermitage.

Without knowing the distance it took from the base of the mountain up to Wonhyoam Hermitage, I was ill prepared for the climb. I didn’t have any water, and I didn’t have my hiking boots on, either. Halfway up the climb, which is about 500 metres straight up, I was wondering what I had got myself into. Resting at the first of many large rocks along the way, sweat covering my body, a stranger walked by me. He kindly offered me water. I must have looked like death when he saw me. Fortunately, this wasn’t the first stranger to offer me assistance along the way.

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 Part of the arduous hike on your way up to Wonhyoam Hermitage.

A further 300 metres up the hike, a hike that I had no idea when it would come to an end, another stranger walked by me as I rested on a rock. His English was great, and he offered me the encouraging words that the hermitage was only another 200 metres up the mountain trail. Before he had told me the distance remaining in the hike, I had been contemplating descending the mountain. I hadn’t seen a sign pointing me in the direction of the hermitage for several hundred metres.

He asked why I was so interested in seeing Wonhyoam Hermitage. I told him that I had heard great things about the hermitage. He then went on to tell me that he visited Wonhyoam Hermitage every weekend, which was a miracle onto itself, considering the distance and stamina it took to see this hermitage located amongst the mountain peaks of Mt. Geumjeongsan.

He suggested that we go together. When I told him that I was going to rest a bit longer, he gave me the most accurate directions to get to the hermitage: through a fenced gate and around a rightward bend in the trail.

Having finally ascended the mountain, I saw both Korean gentlemen that helped aid me in my time of need. With a kind smile exchanged between us, I hung around a bit before descending down the mountain.

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 The older looking main hall at the hermitage.

To me, it’s these moments that remind me of the kinder and gentler side of Korea. It isn’t the driving or balli, balli (hurry, hurry) culture, but the kindness shown from one stranger to the next. And the more I explore the mountain trails and temples of Korea, the more I get to discover the sweeter side of Korea.

For more information on Wonhyoam Hermitage in Busan.

Temple Stay: Beomeosa Temple (Busan)

CSC_1987The beautiful Beomeosa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

In an all new segment on the website, and since a few of you have been asking for it, I thought I would now include the popular Temple Stay program.

Introduction to the Temple:

Beomeosa Temple (Fish Sutra Temple), in Busan, is beautifully situated on the slopes of Mt. Geumjeongsan (Golden Well Mountain). Beomeosa Temple dates back to 678 A.D., when it was founded by the famous monk, Uisang-daesa. Beomeosa Temple is filled with beautiful halls, and the gates that lead up to the temple grounds are certainly no different. The highlights to this temple are the Cheonwangmun Gate, the Iljumun Gate, and the Daeungjeon Hall (the main hall).

As for the Temple Stay program itself, it focuses on the practice of Buddhism. The way that this is practiced is through chanting, bowing, a tea ceremony and meditation. In addition to these features, hiking and bead making are also highlighted in the Beomeosa Temple Stay program.

For more information on Beomeosa Temple.

(courtesy of the Beomeosa Temple Stay website)

Directions:

You can get to Beomeosa Temple in one of two ways. In both scenarios you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk a thirty minute hike up a winding road to Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the Beomeosa Temple entrance.

From the temple entrance gate, and to get to the Temple Stay building at Beomeosa Temple, it’ll take you ten to fifteen minutes. The name of the building for the temple stay is called the Hyu Hyu Jeongsa (휴휴 정사). You’ll make your way towards the temple buildings and gates. Just before the first gate, you’ll see a small path to your left. There will also be a sign with a red arrow pointing you towards where you should go. Follow to the left and follow the signs that read “Temple Stay.”


View Larger Map

General Schedule:

Day 1:
13:00~13:30 : Registration & Orientation
13:30~15:00 : Temple Manners/Opening Ceremony
15:20~16:20 : Self-Introduction
16:30~17:30 : Learn Traditional Buddhist Meal
17:30~18:20 : Dinner
18:30~19:00 : Evening Service
19:00~20:30 : Make 108 Prayer Beads
20:30~21:00 : Ready for Sleep
21:00~ : Sleep

Day 2:
03:00~03:30 : Wake up & Wash
03:30~04:00 : Dawn Service
04:00~04:30 : 108 Bows
04:30~06:00 : Seon Mediation
06:00~07:30 : Breakfast
07:30~09:00 : Tour of a Local Hermitage
09:00~10:00 : Dharma Talk
10:00~10:40 : Community Work & Survey
10:40~ : Closing Ceremony

(courtesy of the Beomeosa Temple Stay website)

Beomeosa Temple Information:

Address : 546, Cheongnyong-dong Geumjeong-gu Busan
Tel : +82-51-508-5726 / Fax : +82-51-508-3229
Homepage : http://www.beomeosa.co.kr/templestay/eng/sub7.php
E-mail : beomeosa@templestay.com

Fees:

Adults: 50,000 won; Teens: 45,000 won; Under 13: 40,000 won

Link:

To make a reservation for the Beomeosa Temple Stay, follow this link.

CSC_2012The gates that guide your way to the main hall.

 

Naewonam Hermitage – 내원암 (Busan)

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The beautiful main hall at Naewonam Hermitage, near Beomeosa Temple, in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone,

The fourth, and final, hermitage we visited on the weekend was Naewonam Hermitage (내원암). It’s the temple that is furthest away from Beomeosa Temple to the temple’s right. It is also one of the smaller hermitages associated with the temple.

Naewonam Hermitage means Buddha’s Celestial Teaching Hall Hermitage. As you first approach the hermitage, you’ll notice a beautiful overgrowth of trees, shrubs, and flowers. To the right, as you first enter the courtyard, is the hermitage kitchen, and to the left is an administration office. As you continue to walk through the courtyard, you’ll see a mound of beautiful flowers.

Continuing along, you’ll first see the beautiful main hall that resides at Naewonam Hermitage to your right. The main hall is surrounded by two separate monk study halls. Down the path, and to the left, are a beautiful sounding stream, and an equally beautiful stone bridge that spans the width of the hermitage stream. The main hall is simple and compact in design. Inside the main hall, on the main altar, is an elaborately designed Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) statue similar to the one at Haeunjeongsa  Temple in the Haeundae area of Busan. Its multiple heads and hands make for a beautiful golden array. To the right of the main altar piece is a simplistic and older-looking Buddha painting. To the left of Gwanseeum-bosal is an extremely unique guardian piece of art. Instead of being painted, this piece of art is a golden sculpture depicting the various guardians, including Dongjin-bosal at its centre. Around the exterior walls of the main hall are neither the standard Palsang-do paintings, nor are there the Ox-Herding Murals. Instead, there is a painting of the Dharma and Dazu Huike, monks working, and paintings of rabbits and birds.

Up the hill, and to the left, is the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Inside, and in the centre, is painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To his right is a painting of Dokseong (The Recluse), and to his left is a painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit). Surrounding the exterior walls is very little. On the right side there is a fading painting of a fierce guardian. The views from the shrine hall of the valley and the mountains are nice.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Naewonam Hermitage in one of two ways. In both scenarios you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to  Beomeosa  Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of  Beomeosa  Temple. Instead of walking left towards the Iljumun Gate, continue to hang right towards the hermitage. You’ll pass by Beomeosa Temple, which will be to your left. There will be a sign halfway between the temple and the hermitage, which will read 내원암, continue to follow these signs as they lead you right of the main temple. Eventually, you’ll come to a small parking lot. The path will fork like a “W.” Follow the trail that’s in the middle to Naewonam Hermitage. There’s a sign that reads 내원암halfway up the trail that will lead you to the hermitage.

View 내원암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Naewonam Hermitage is located in a beautiful area with rolling streams and neighbouring mountains. Also, the hermitage is well kept. The highlight of the hermitage is definitely the main hall with the amazingly beautiful main altar piece of Gwanseeum-bosal. Also, the unique golden guardian sculpture is yet another highlight of the hermitage. Finally, there’s a lazy guard dog that did more sleeping than guarding. He only woke up when one of the people at the temple called to him: O-E, which means cucumber in English. If you’re in the area, visiting the other two hermitages in the area, I would also recommend taking a look at Naewonam Hermitage.

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The entrance way that leads up to Naewonam Hermitage.
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The beautiful pink flowers in the courtyard.
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The hermitage kitchen to the right.
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To the left are these monk study halls.
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In front of the study halls is the compact main hall at Naewonam Hermitage.
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The altar inside the main hall.
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Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) is the solitary statue that sits upon the altar. It’s elaborately designed with multiple arms and heads with eyes and hands of support and comfort. Gwanseeum-bosal sees all and helps all.
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To the right is this older looking Buddha painting. It’s completed in a simple design.
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To the left is this golden guardian sculpture. I’ve never seen this before. Usually, the guardian piece of art is a painting.
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Outside is the famous painting of Dazu Huike proving his devotion to both the faith and the Bodhidharma.
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Up in the eaves, on the left side of the main hall, were these rabbits. A rare painting at any hermitage or temple in Korea.
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A painting of two senior monks, as they watch a novice monk smash a lantern.
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Up the hill is the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Along the way were a couple statues.
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Inside the hall, in the centre, is a painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Dokseong (The Recluse) to his right.
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The view from the shrine hall. To the right is the monk study halls and the main hall is to the left.
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And a view to the left of the entire main hall down below.
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And finally, a walk down the set of stairs that will eventually lead me home.

Mireuksa Temple – 미륵사 (Busan)

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The wintry view of Mireuksa Temple in Busan up on Geumjeongsan Mountain.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had been to Mireuksa Temple two times in the past, but it had been four years since I last went during Buddha’s Birthday. And even though the temperature was -9 degrees Celsius up in the mountains, nothing would stop me during my vacation.

Mireuksa Temple (미륵사) is named after Mireuk-bul, the Future Buddha indirectly. The reason that I say indirectly is that the mountain peak that Mireuksa Temple is situated under is called Mireuk-bong, which has an elevation of 712 metres. The peak of Mireuk-bong is said to resemble Mireuk-bosal wearing a laureate. As a result, it’s been long believed that Mireuk-bong has given people spiritual energy. Mireuksa Temple, formally known as Mireukam, was founded by the famous monk, Wonhyo-daesa, in 678. Interestingly, a local legend states that a dragon once lived inside a neighbouring cave around Mireuk-bong.

As you first approach Mireuksa Temple up a long, steep, stone staircase, you’ll see the visitors’ centre, as well as the temple kitchen, with a view of Mireuk-bong above this building. Passing by this building, as well as the adjacent monks’ dorm, you’ll arrive in the main courtyard at Mireuksa Temple. And the view up at the main hall, which is to the right, as well as the rock formation that is Mireuk-bong, is amazing.

Surrounding the exterior walls of the main hall, uniquely called Yeomhwajeon main hall, are fading Shim-u-do Ox-Herding murals, as well as a cracked painting of a white-clad Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Inside the main hall, and sitting on the main altar, is a common triad with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre. And he’s flanked by Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), as well as Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). On the far left side of the wall is the temple’s red guardian painting that is surrounded by hundreds of tiny white Buddha figures (as is most of the interior of the main hall). On the far right side of the wall is a beautiful red mural that depicts Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). The most unique feature of this main hall, by far, are the three murals in the right rear corner. The mural on the immediate right is a set of three soldiers that protect the 10 Kings of the Underworld. Straight ahead, are two additional murals that look similar in their composition. They depict two of the 10 Kings of the Underworld. They are older in design, and one wonders where the other eight murals might be.

Outside of the main hall, and straight ahead, is the Nahan-jeon shrine hall dedicated to the disciples of Seokgamoni-bul, The Historical Buddha. Surrounding the exterior of this hall are various Nahan, Wonhyo-daesa, The Bodhidharma and Dazu Huike, as well as a beautiful mural with a golden fish and a rainbow above its back. As for inside the main hall, there are two life-sized guardians protecting the two entrance ways to the hall, which surprised me (to put it mildly). Sitting on the main altar, again, much like the main hall, are Seokgamoni-bul, Bohyun-bosal, and Moonsu-bosal. This familiar triad is surrounded by five hundred gray Nahan with various facial and physical features. And to the left of the Nahan-jeon shrine hall is the temple’s bell pavilion. Rather ordinary in design, this bell pavilion protrudes out from the banks of the courtyard, and it’s one of the first things you’ll see when you first approach the temple.

Now, to the right rear of the main hall, and slightly up the banks of Mireuk-bong, is the shrine hall dedicated to both San shin (The Mountain Spirit), as well as Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This is a rather unique feature, as San shin and Chilseong are usually housed alongside a third shaman deity: Dokseong (more on him later). But for this temple, it’s just the two of them together. There are various murals in and around this shrine hall that are rather unique in their rendering. As for the two murals that depict San shin and Chilseong, they are simple, and yet older in age. Interestingly, there’s a sign to the left of San shin’s name that tells shamans not to hold rituals at the temple. I guess there must have been problems in the past.

To the immediate left of the main hall, as you face it, is a smaller sized shrine hall. This hall is decorated on the outside by various paintings that depict beautiful scenes from nature. Inside this hall sits a solitary, and rather stout, golden Buddha; this Buddha is Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). This statue is backed by a beautiful red mural of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. If you look up at the ceiling, you’ll see one of the more beautiful murals inside any shrine hall in Korea. On the ceiling is a large sized cherry blossom tree with a bird perched on one of the tree’s limbs.

Continuing up the set of narrow stone stairs to the left of the shrine hall dedicated to Mireuk-bul is another shrine hall that crowns both the temple as well as Mireuk-bong. From the heights of this shrine hall dedicated to Dokseong (The Recluse), to which the temple is famous, you can see the valley and Busan down below. And on really good days you can see the Gwangan Bridge that’s located all the way in Gwanali. So take your time up here, and enjoy the view, before entering the hall dedicated to Dokseong. The exterior of this hall is rather plain and ordinary; however, the exterior doesn’t prepare you for the beauty inside of this hall. Inside this hall, and sitting on the main altar, is a stone carved picture of Dokseong that’s carved out of the mountain’s face. It’s a beautiful altar that personifies and represents the beauty that is housed at this truly hidden gem of a temple.

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HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Mireuksa 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 Moutain Fortress (Geumjeongsanseong). Follow this road for 1.5 kilometres. Then, on a sign to your immediate right, and up a steep entry road, you’ll follow this gravel road for an additional 2 kilometres. Finally, past the barrier gate that blocks traffic, you’ll head up this unused road for 300 metres, until you see a silver sign marker that reads the temple’s name – 미륵사 – in Korean. Follow this forested path, up the moutain, for an additional 700 metres. The trail is rather easy to follow as there are several colourful paper lanterns that guide the way for you. In total, the walking part of the hike is about 4.5 kilometres.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Mireuksa Temple is truly a hidden gem amongst temples in Busan. While difficult to get to, this temple is well worth the effort to first find and then explore. The temple is literally placed on the side of Mireuk-bong with several of its shrine halls placed precariously on face of the peak. The highlights, besides the view, are the crowning Dokseong-shrine hall, the rare murals inside the main hall, as well as the older looking murals dedicated to the shaman San shin and Chilseong.

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The break in the road that heads left towards the temple grounds.
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The trail that leads up Geumjeongsan Mountain towards Mireuksa Temple.
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The first look at the face of the temple grounds.
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The visitors’ centre and kitchen are to the right with the main hall straight ahead.
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A look up at the shrine halls, including the main hall, that are strewn along the face of Mireuk-bong peak.
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One of the serene paintings of a monk that adorns the exterior of the main hall.
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A look inside the main hall at the altar and at the guardian painting.
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A better look at the Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) mural to the right of the main altar.
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And a better look at the protective soldiers mural in the right rear corner of the main hall.
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A look at the shaman shrine hall that houses both San shin (The Mountain Spirit) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars).
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A look inside the shrine hall at San shin.
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A tiger mural that adorns the left side of the shaman shrine hall.
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A look at the Nahan-jeon shrine to the left of the main hall in the temple courtyard.
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A painting of Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa as they worked their way towards enlightenment. This mural adorns the exterior of the Nahan-jeon shrine hall.
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A look at the main altar inside the Nahan-jeon shrine hall with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre, and he’s surrounded by 500 Nahan (The Disciples of Buddha).
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A look at the temple courtyard from the Nahan-jeon shrine hall.
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A look up at the shrine halls that are suspended precariously across the face of Geumjeongsan and below Mireuk-bong.
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A look inside the shrine hall that is at the base of the mountain’s face from the previous picture. Sitting on the altar, not surprisingly, is a stout Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).
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A look outwards from the mountainside stairs at the shrine hall that houses Mireuk-bul.
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And a look up at the shrine hall that sits upon the highest heights at Mireuksa Temple.
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A look inside the Dokseong shrine hall: the highest shrine hall at Mireuksa Temple.
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And a look at the stone sculpted Dokseong that sits upon the main altar inside the shrine hall.
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A look down at the temple compound from the Dokseong shrine hall.
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And a look out upon the rolling mountains of Busan.

Geumgangam Hermitage – 금강암 (Busan)

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The cascading water that pools beside the trail that leads up to Geumgangam Hermitage near Beomeosa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Geumgangam Hermitage was the last hermitage I needed to see to have seen all the hermitages associated with Beomeosa Temple. And even though I hadn’t saved the best for last, that going to either Chungryunam Hermitage or Mireukam Hermitage, it certainly was one of the better hermitages. So waking up early, on what started off as a clear day, I made my way over to Beomeosa Temple.

Geumgangam Hermitage (Diamond Mountain Hermitage, in English) is named after the mountain that Beomeosa Temple, and this hermitage, reside on: Geumgangsan Mountain. Like Anyangam Hermitage and Daeseongam Hermitage, Geumgangam Hermitage is the closest group of hermitages to Beomeosa Temple. The only difference is that you can actually visit Geumgangam Hermitage, while the other two are strictly off-limits to visitors as they are study centres for Buddhist monks.

Trekking to the upper left side of the Beomeosa Temple grounds, you’ll come to an opening where there are a littering of large rocks. This area is called Dolbada, or “Sea of Rocks” in English. Continuing to head south-west, you’ll come to two wooden bridges; instead of going over them, in the direction of Wonhyoam Hermitage, hang a right at the white sign with black print that reads –금정암. The hermitage is a further 300 metres up a stairway of rocks that is situated beside a beautiful cascade of mini-waterfalls. You can take some really beautiful pictures from this area of the temple grounds. Walking up the uneven stairs, you’ll then see a sign with the temples name, as well as a bridge that spans that length of the cascading water. By now you should be able to see the Iljumun Gate for the hermitage. The gate is uniquely designed with a Korean name tablet written in Korean that reads the name of the temple: 금정암. Like Okryeonam Hermitage near Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, this feature is highly unique for a Korean temple or hermitage because these signs are almost always written in Chinese characters.

Passing through the uniquely designed and labeled Iljumun Gate, you’ll enter into a beautiful situated hermitage that has lush green grass for a courtyard. Straight ahead is the beautiful main gate that is flanked to the left by an administrative office, kitchen, and to the right by a study hall. Behind this study hall is a gate and monk quarters that is off-limits to visitors. However, there is a stunning lotus flower design on the front of the gate’s doors. The main hall itself is beautiful both on the inside and out. The outside of the main hall has the common pairing of the Palsang-do paintings (The Eight Stages of the Buddha’s Life) on top, with the Ox-herding murals on the bottom. The Palsang-do paintings have seem to have done better with the aging process than have the Ox-herding murals. Even though some of the Palsang-do paintings on the right side of the hall are fading, they are still visible enough to see the animated illustrations. The Ox-herding murals are mostly flaking in their circular framed renderings; however, there are still a few that are visible to see. Inside the main hall sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre of the triad. On either side of him sits, what appears to be Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). Behind this triad is a beautiful wood carving with the Buddha in the centre. To the right of the main altar is another stunning wood carving of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the left of the triad is yet another wood carving, this time, it’s a guardian painting with Dongjin-bosal  (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings) in the centre. On the far left wall is a painting that depicts a white clad Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

Around this main hall are some unique structures. Immediately to the right of the main hall is a somewhat non-descript pagoda with a beautiful incense dragon holder out in front of the pagoda. Above this pagoda is the Samseong-gak, which houses the three shaman gods. The outside of this hall is painted with various renderings of the three shaman gods. Inside, this hall is quite unique. The centre altar piece is a golden sculpture of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left is a painted wooden carving of San shin (The Mountain Spirit). Adjacent to this wooden statue is a beautiful rendering of San shin. To the right of Chilseong is another painted wooden sculpture, but this time it’s Dokseong (The Recluse). Once more, there’s a depiction of this god on the right side wall of this hall.

To the left of the main hall is a small bell pavilion. The bell inside is equally compact, but just as beautiful as a larger sized temple bell. Now, this is where the hermitage gets a bit interesting. Up the hill is an entrance way into a cave that’s called Yaksa-jeon (The Medicine Hall). Inside this cave is a statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine) pouring the mountain water from his bottle. Surrounding him are tiny white Buddha statues. Further up the hill, and only accessible by way of a Samseong-gak trail, is the Nahan-jeon. As the name of the hall states, in Korean, this hall is dedicated to the Nahan, which were the disciples of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The exterior of the hall is painted with various Nahan performing various tasks such as studying or teaching. Inside the hall, again, is a highly unique religious structure. The main altar is adorned with a smaller sized Seokgamoni-bul statue. And flanking him are Bohyun-bosal and Moonsu-bosal once more. Behind this triad is another stunning golden sculpture. Flanking this triad, in a row, are the fifteen Nahan. Behind these two sets of rows are two more painted wooden scultptures; however, this time, they depict Nahan. On opposing walls are two paintings that again depict the Nahan. Interestingly, there is one Nahan statue with his hands on his head. Look for it because it’s rather unique and cute.

HOW TO GET THERE: Like all the other hermitages at Beomeosa Temple, you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of Beomeosa Temple.  You can take a path that leads left of the Iljumun Gate. This trail will lead you to an opening with a wooden bridge that spans a stream. This area is the start of the Dolbada (The Sea of Rocks). Hang a left but don’t cross the bridge; instead, head up the stone staircase beside the cascading water for 300 metres. You’ll pass by Daeseongam Hermitage to your right.  The first thing to greet you will be a sign that reads –금정암. This sign is situated on a bridge that spans the length of the rolling rocks and water. Head up the path another 50 metres and you’ll see the Iljumun Gate for Geumgangam Hermitage.

View 금강암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Like Gyemyeongam Hermitage, there are some beautiful views of the neighbouring mountainsides and valleys below. The only difference between the two is that Geumgangam Hermitage has some beautiful halls. Whether it’s the unique decorated interiors of the Nahan-jeon, Samseong-gak, or the Yaksa-jeon Hall that is built inside a cave, the hermitage is beautifully built. Added to that is the elaborately designed and decorated interior and exterior, as well as the Korean writing that adorns all of the wooden structures at the hermitage.  That’s why this hermitage is one of the better hermitages to visit at Beomeosa Temple in Busan!

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Finally, a bit of beautiful blue sky over Geumjeongsan Mountain.
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Part of the Dolbada, Sea of Rocks, and the stone stairs that lead you up to Geumgangam Hermitage.
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And the still waters that cascade beside the stone stairs.
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The sign that directs you, and the bridge that helps you, towards Geumgangam Hermitage.Picture 010The first sign that you’ve arrived at the hermitage: Iljumun Gate.
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The main hall at the hermitage: Daejabe-jeon.
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A better look at the front door of the main hall and the Korean written name tablet.
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A view of the right side of the courtyard at Geumgangam Hermitage.
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To the left of the main hall is the off-limits monk quarters. The front gate to these quarters is painted a unique design.
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A better look at the lotus flower design that adorns the gate at the monk’s quarters.
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The main pieces inside the main hall: Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) is in the centre and on either side of him is what looks to be Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).
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One of the Palsang-do murals of the Buddha’s life. This one is about Mara trying to tempt the Buddha.
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One of the more uniquely designed Nathwi. Notice the eyes staring to the right.
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The Samseong-gak Hall, which is dedicated to the three shaman gods.
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This unique, but fading, eagle painting adorns the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak Hall.
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This is what the interior of the Samseong-gak Hall looks like. To the right (but the central figure on the altar) is Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left is a painted wooden sculpture of San shin (The Mountain god) with a painting of this Shaman god on the left wall.
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On the right side of the altar is this painted wood carving of Dokseong (The Recluse). And on the far right wall is a painting of this Shaman god.
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A look at the diminutive bell pavilion to the right of the main hall at Geumgangam Hermitage.
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Behind the main hall is this opening to a cave and the Nahan-jeon Hall above it.
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Inside the cave is the central figure of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) with tiny white Buddha statues surrounding him. Mountain water is pouring out from his bottle.
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This painting adorns the exterior of the Nahan-jeon Hall, which is dedicated to the disciples of the Historical Buddha.
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Another beautiful altar inside the Nahan-jeon Hall. The golden central sculpture is of Buddha. The painted wooden sculptures on either side of it are of depictions of various Nahan. In front of these three religious art pieces is Seokgamoni-bul being flanked by 15 Nahan figures.
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One of the uniquely designed wooden Nahan sculptures inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.
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And the view from the Nahan-jeon Hall out above the main hall and Gyemyeongam Hermitage on Mt. Geumjeongsan.

Wonhyoam Hermitage – 원효암 (Busan)

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A beautiful view from Geumjeongsan Mountain near Wonhyoam Hermitage in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Getting up early to visit a few more of the hermitages at Beomeosa Temple, I was surprised by one and disappointed by a couple others. The one that I was pleasantly surprised with was Wonhyoam Hermitage. I think it’s probably the most difficult hermitage that I’ve ever tried to get to, but the views of Busan down below were well worth the one kilometre hike up Geumjeongsan Mountain.

Wonhyoam Hermitage (원효암) is named after the famous Korean monk, Wonhyo, who helped popularize Buddhism throughout the late Three Kingdoms Period and the early Silla Dynasty. Wonhyoam Hermitage is built on the former residence of Wonhyo. As I was walking in the temple courtyard, I was greeted by a hermitage monk. He told me that the hermitage is over 300 years old.

Half the adventure of seeing Wonhyoam Hermitage is making the long hike up the steep rock trail. In fact, the area that you first start to climb to the hermitage (left of Beomeosa Temple) is called Dolbada, which literally translates as “Sea of Rocks.” So make sure you bring a good pair of shoes because the hike can be a bit treacherous at times if you don’t have the right pair of footwear. The trail that leads up to the hermitage zigzags for about a kilometre. The trail to the hermitage is marked by white signs, with red print, that read – 원효암. There’s a faded hermitage sign to the right which highlights the summit of the mountain ridge. However, before you turn towards the hermitage path, hang a left towards a rock outcropping. Scaling the rocks is a bit dangerous, so be careful. But once you’ve traversed these big boulders, a beautiful panoramic view of Busan and the Nakdong River reveal themselves in the twisting valleys below. It’s a nice little spot to catch your breath amongst the sky and stone. Take your time and take as many pictures as you want because you’ve earned it with the hike.

Once you’ve gathered all the pictures you want, and your breath, head back to the main hiking trail. A groomed trail will lead you to a set of three stupas of monks who once resided at the hermitage. To the left of these stupas is an ancient pagoda that dates back to the 10th century. So important is this three-tiered pagoda that it’s been declared a Busan Tangible Cultural Property. Continuing down the trail, and past the hermitages farm, you’ll notice the hermitage’s main gate to the right and through the trees. The entrance gate is adorned with two fading paintings of the guardians Heng and Ha. The gate doors are uniquely adorned with an equally fading symbol of Yin and Yang. The door knockers are a pair of beautiful lion heads. As you pass through this gate you’ll be met by a serenely maintained hermitage courtyard. Straight ahead is the diminutive main hall. Inside the main hall, have a seat and enjoy the serenity. The main altar statue is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To her right is a statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). There is a beautiful guardian painting to the left of Gwanseeum-bosal. As you step out of the main hall, you’ll notice an administrative office to the left of the main hall. To the right, and up the hill, is a set of monk dorms and study halls. Up this hill is the twin pagoda to the one at the entrance of the hermitage. Like the first, this pagoda also dates back to the 10th century. Originally, it was located 30 metres northwest of the hermitage, but was later moved to be included on the hermitage grounds.

The Story Of…Wonhyoam Hermitage in Busan.

HOW TO GET THERE:  Like all the other hermitages at Beomeosa Temple, you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of Beomeosa Temple.  You can take a path that leads left of the Iljumun gate. This trail will lead you to an opening with a wooden bridge that spans a stream. This area is the start of the Dolbada (The Sea of Rocks). Hang a left and cross the bridge. Straight ahead is the first of several white signs with red print that read – 원효암. Now the truly tricky part: Head up the 1 kilometre trail to the summit of the ridge along the Geumjeongsan Mountain Range. You’ll pass through a gate with wired fencing. You’re halfway there! Keep going, and you’ll come to a fading sign. The hermitage is about 300 more metres up the trail passed the pagoda, stupas, and the hermitage farm. It’s tough but well worth it!

OVERALL RATING:  6/10. While the buildings aren’t quite as beautiful as the ones at Gyemyeongam Hermitage, the sister hermitage at Beomeosa Temple, the views of Busan and the Nakdong River down in the twisting valleys below are second-to-none. The hermitage has a pair of ancient pagodas that are beautiful. The hermitage itself is serene and worth the effort to get to. So if you have the time, strength and the stamina, have a look at this hermitage!

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 Dolbada is the starting point to your exhausting climb.
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 You’ll be greeted by a lot of these signs along the way that lead you up to Wonhyoam Hermitage.
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Just a part of the arduous kilometre hike up Geumjeongsan Mountain.
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 Finally, the sun appeared as I made it to the ridge that the hermitage rests upon.
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 To the right, as the path forks, is Wonhyoam Hermitage.
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But before you go, hang a left and climb these boulders to get an amazing view of Busan down below.
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 Part of the panoramic view. There is ancient Chinese character writing to the right and Busan in the valleys below to the left.
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 A beautiful view from the rock ledge of Busan and the Nakdong River.
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 Back on the hermitage trail you’ll come across these unique monk stupas.
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 Across from these stupas is this 10th century pagoda.
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 Past the stupas and pagoda is the richly coloured hermitage farm.
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 Not long after the hermitage farm is the hermitage’s main gate. It slants a bit, but it’s still beautiful in colour and design.
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 On the right side of the gate is the guardian Heng.
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 And to the left is the guardian Ha.
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 The fading Yin and Yang sign that adorns one of the hermitage’s gate with a beautiful lion-head knocker.
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Finally, a walk through the hermitage’s front gate.
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 Straight ahead in the courtyard is the main hall at the hermitage.
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 A look across the front of the main hall at one of the monk study halls.
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 Inside the main hall is this majestic statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
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 To the right of her is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). One of the people that works at the hermitage was dutifully cleaning around all the altar statues and paintings when I arrived.
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 As you step out of the main hall you’ll see the monk’s dorms to your right and up the hill.
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 A trail to the left of these study halls is the twin ancient pagoda at the hermitage that also dates back to the 10th century.
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A look up at the clearing sky above a study hall.