Gyemyeongam Hermitage – 계명암 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)

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The beautiful view of Beomeosa Temple from Gyeomyeongam Hermitage in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Continuing on our tour of the temples that are to the right of Beomeosa Temple in Busan, my wife and I decided to go to Gyemyeongam Hermitage (계명암). It’s a hermitage that I’ve long admired from afar. You can actually see the hermitage during the fall, winter, or spring, from the Beomeosa Temple complex. Facing Busan, and looking left towards the neighbouring mountain, you can see the hermitage pretty much anywhere from  Beomeosa Temple.

Gyemyeongam Hermitage, in English, means Rooster’s Crow Hermitage; and strangely enough, as my wife and I were walking up the mountain, we actually heard rooster’s crowing at the base.

To get to the scenic hermitage, you first have to climb a 500 metre long trail up the side of a mountain. At times, this trail can be a bit steep, so make sure you pack proper footwear. As you first approach the hermitage, perhaps out of breath from the climb, you’ll notice a beautifully compact Iljumun Gate. Passing through this weathered gate, you’ll start to see some of the panoramic views of Geumjeongsan Mountain, as well as the valley below, through the trees. Continuing to walk down the temple trail, you’ll come to the hermitage’s courtyard. To the left is the monk’s dorms and study hall.  Beside that is a strangely built main hall.  Well, I should qualify that. The main hall is actually beautiful, what is strange is that there’s been an extension added on to the main hall for the numerous visitors that come to the hermitage everyday. This extension isn’t beautiful at all. It almost seems haphazard the way that it was slapped onto the side of the main hall. Inside the main hall, there’s a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) as the main altar piece. Uniquely, there are four paintings inside the main hall depicting various actions of Gwanseeum-bosal. To the left of the main hall is a compact shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal with stone scrolls with Korean writing on them.  Further to the left, and a bit up the mountain, is a rock outcropping that you can reflexively sit upon, while viewing the valley and Busan down below. To the right of the main hall is a beautiful little shrine dedicated to what looks to be Chilseong. Strangely, on the exterior walls of the hermitage buildings, there is only Korean writing.  There are no murals or large paintings adorning any of the walls.  However, inside the shrine hall, on the left wall, is an unbelievably realistic painting of a white tiger.

But the main reason you’ve probably made your way up the side-windingly steep mountain is to see the views down below. And trust me; the beautifully views of Beomeosa Temple alone are worth the climb. But when you add into the mix the beautiful views of Busan (on a clear day), the other hermitages and small farms in the valley down below, as well as the towering Geumjeongsan mountain range that surrounds you at every turn, and you’ll understand why Gyemyeongam Hermitage is well worth the effort to get to!

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Gyemyeongam 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 계명암,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.” trail to the right is Gyemyeongam Hermitage. There’s a large metal sign, as well as a signpost, pointing you in the direction of the trail that leads you up to the hermitage.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

View 계명암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. For the panoramic views alone of Beomeosa Temple in the valley below, and the giant Geumjeongsan Mountains above, this hermitage rates as highly as it does. But when you add in the beautiful shrine hall to the right of the main hall, you’ll know why the hermitage rates as high as it does. The one draw back to the hermitage is the slapped together main hall extension. However, inside this building, as you collect your breath, it’s a peaceful atmosphere. So if you have the time, and the strength, I would recommend you seeing this hermitage if you’re already visiting Beomeosa Temple.

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The sign that leads you up to 계명암 (Gyemyeongam Hermitage). It’s located in the parking lot.
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The start of the long climb up to the hermitage.
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The side-winding 500 metre path that leads up to Gyemyeongam Hermitage.
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Finally, we’re at the top, with a view of Iljumun Gate in the distance.
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The first gorgeous view of Geumjeongsan Mountain from the hermitage.
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A look at the makeshift addition to the main hall.  A bit haphazard on the outside if you ask me.
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The beautiful Gwanseeum-bosal shrine to the left of the main hall. If you look close enough you can see the unique twin statues with Korean writing on them.
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As you look behind the main hall, you can see just how closely it’s set into nature.
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A view inside the main hall with a smaller sized Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) as the main altar piece at the hermitage.
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Two beautiful Gwanseeum-bosal paintings to the right of the Gwanseeum-bosal statue.
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A look at the shrine hall dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), with a older looking pagoda in the foreground.
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The main altar piece is a statue of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) with a pink bowl of medicine in his left hand.
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On the far left wall inside the shrine hall is this beautifully realistic painting of a white tiger.
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A look through the shrine hall door at the towering mountains that surround Gyemyeongam Hermitage.
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A look up at the mountains and trees that surround the hermitage at every turn.
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And the highlight to this hermitage is definitely the view of the city and valley below.
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Down in the valley you can see both Beomeosa Temple and the associated hermitage to the left of the temple.
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A unique look at Beomeosa Temple.
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And finally, the long path that leads down to the base of the mountain.

Cheongryeonam Hermitage – 청련암 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)

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A Biseon dancing around in the statue courtyard with a golden Buddha at her back at Chungryunam Hermitage, near Beomeosa Temple, in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Continuing on our visit to Beomeosa Temple, and the hermitages to the right of the temple, we decided to go to Chungryunam Hermitage (청련암). Actually, we had always intended this to be our first hermitage to visit, but we spotted Jijangam Hermitage along the way.

Chungryunam Hermitage means Blue Lotus Hermitage. And it’s the closest hermitage to Beomeosa Temple. As you first approach the hermitage from the hermitage’s parking lot, you’ll notice some beautiful Roses of Sharon and blue hydrangeas in full bloom. Past these flowers are a pair of stone guardians at the entrance of the temple. What is most impressive about the hermitage is the U-shaped enclave that houses numerous statues, which you will see as you climb a set of stairs. To the right is the Seonmudo Hall of martial arts. Like Golgulsa Temple in Gyeongju, Chungryunam Hermitage also practices the ancient martial art. Walking past the twin Haetae, mythical creatures that both consume and control fire, you’ll stand at the foot of the statue enclave. In the centre of this enclave is a golden Buddha. Surrounding this golden Buddha are various Bodhisattvas, Guardians, and Biseon. At the back of the enclave, perched on the concrete wall, are two large standing statues. The white one on the left is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), while the contemplative one to the right is Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). To the front of the statues are twelve smaller sized zodiac statues. And at the very front of the statue enclave are Biseon dancing around, with Guardians protecting all, including a beautiful green coppered incense burner with a dragon base.

To the left of this statue enclave is the main hall. The main hall, much like Golgulsa Temple, sports numerous highly original paintings. There are a twin set of paintings adorning the external walls of the main hall. On top are various paintings depicting the various incarnations of the Buddha, while on the bottom there are various pictures associated with the Seonmudo martial arts. Inside the main hall, on the altar, is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Light). On either side of Birojana-bul is Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). All three are backed by a pair flaming golden nimbuses. To the left of the main altar is the Yeongsan Assembly painting; and to the left of that is the guardian painting with Dongjin-bosal (The Protector of the Buddha’s Teachings) at the centre of the painting.  Uniquely, there are dozens of smaller sized black statues adorning the left wall. In front of the hermitage, there is a uniquely designed stone pagoda much like the one at Golgulsa Temple. There seems to be a lot these two holy sites have in common. Behind the main hall, there’s a smaller sized shrine hall that is also illustrated with paintings depicting various acts and practices of Seonmudo. To the far left, there’s the monk’s study hall and dorm. The exterior of the monk’s dorm and study hall are paintings of various Buddhist saints. In front of this holy structure, there’s an impressively intricate stone lantern with a mythological bird adorning the top of it.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Chungryunam 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 청련암,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.” The hermitage to the left is Chungryunam Hermitage.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

View 청련암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Chungryunam Hermitage has a lot to offer the Korean temple adventurer. First, it has beautiful flowers that welcome you to the temple like the blue mums and lavender Roses of Sharon. Past these flowers is an amazing enclave of statues depicting various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Guardians, and Biseon. To the left of this is the main hall, which is decorated with some extremely unique and rare paintings, much like the ones that illustrate different practices of the Seonmudo martial arts. Another highlight to the hermitage is the intricately designed stone lantern in front of the monk’s dorms and study hall. So if you have the time, and the inclination to see something beyond Beomeosa Temple, I highly recommend you check out Chungryunam Hermitage!

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The path that leads up to the courtyard at Chungryunam Hermitage.
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The beautiful blue and purple hydrangeas that were in bloom at the entrance to the hermitage.
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A view of the enclave that houses numerous Buddha, Bodhisattva, Guardian and Biseon statues.
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A better look at some of the statues, including a golden Buddha.
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The gate that leads into the statue enclave.
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Yet another angle of the beautiful bronze statues.
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The golden Buddha in the background is Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).  Because he has so much time, 5,670,000,000 years until his incarnation, he sits contemplatively.
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On the left is the white Gwanseeum-bosal (The Buddha of Compassion), and on the right is Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).
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In the centre sits a golden Buddha on a lotus chair.
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A better look at the beautiful Buddha statue at Chungryunam Hermitage.
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The elaborate incense burner that fronts the enclave.
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A beautiful view of the neighbouring mountains, and the hall dedicated to the practice of Seonmudo.
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A ferocious lion protects the main hall, with the unique pagoda and the monk dorm in the background.
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The main hall at Chungryunam Hermitage.
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A guardian painting by the door on the right side of the main hall.
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A meditative painting on the exterior walls of the main hall.
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A painting symbolizing the insight and enlightenment arrived at during meditation.
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A cartoonized version of the unique pagoda in the hermitage courtyard that is also at Golgulsa Temple. It has something to do with the practice of Seonmudo martial arts.
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A scary and fierce painting adorning the left side wall at the hermitage.
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Another of the guardian paintings on the left side of the main hall.
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A shrine hall behind the main hall. It’s decorated with paintings illustrating the practice of Seonmudo.
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The main altar at Chungryunam Hermitage. In the centre is Birojan-bul (The Buddha Cosmic Energy). On either side is Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power. All three are backed by a twin pair of flaming nimbuses.
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To the left of the main hall is the guardian painting. To the left of this painting are rows of tiny Buddha statues.
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And in front of the monk’s dorm is this beautifully ornate stone lantern.

Beomeosa Temple – 범어사 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)

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A view from the former second gate at Beomeosa Temple.

Hello Everyone!

Beomeosa Temple –  범어사 (“Fish of the Buddhist Scripture Temple”) is the largest and most important temple in all of Busan. In all the time I’ve lived in Busan, or near, I think I’ve visited Beomeosa Temple five times. And next to Tongdosa Temple, Bulguksa Temple, and Seokguram Hermitage, this is the temple that I’ve visited most frequently while living in  Korea.  I’ve visited with my wife, Mom, friends, and co-workers, and each time I visit I find a new aspect of the temple that is amazing and beautiful. I first visited Beomeosa Temple in 2003 and continue to visit it regularly to the present day.

Beomeosa Temple was founded in 678 by the monk Master Uisang-josa. Most of its present buildings date from the 17th and 18th century, and they typify mid-Joseon Dynasty temple architecture. Presently, Beomeosa Temple is one of the six or so largest temples in all of Korea.

From the Beomeosa Temple parking lot, you’ll make your way up a broad staircase, past a patch of pines and bamboo trees, to the first of three temple gates. The first gate, the Iljumun Gate, is an open design. What makes this gate design unique from most in Korea is that it has four pillars, instead of the customary two, to support its weight. Beomeosa Temple has its fair share of flagpole supports and stupas as you make your way to the temple. The second gate previously housed four uniquely sculpted heavenly kings to protect the temple from evil spirits. Unfortunately, on December 16, 2010, a Korean that worked at Beomeosa Temple committed an act of arson and burnt this structure to the ground. Recently, this act of arson was corrected in the summer of 2012, and there is now a beautiful new Cheonwangmun Gate at Beomeosa. In fact, it’s a near exact replica, Heavenly Kings and all, of the former gate. The third gate displays paintings of nature on both the inside and outside of its surface. Unfortunately, you are unable to see the third gate as they are now constructing a new hall above this gate. Instead, you have to head right, near some monk dorms, up some stairs and turn left. This will bring you to the main courtyard, beside the newly furbished two storied bell pavilion. The gift shop is no longer below the bell pavilion, but instead, it’s been moved across the courtyard into a building all its own.

Beomeosa Temple seems to be under a lot of construction as of late. What is also gone from the temple is the Bojae-ru, the temple’s lecture hall. No longer does it obstruct the entrance of the temple’s courtyard from the three gates. This has opened up the temple’s courtyard. Occupying the courtyard is a Silla Dynasty stone lantern and ancient three-tier pagoda. Straight ahead, and up a small staircase adorned with mythical Haetae (controllers/consumers of fire), is the rather plain looking main hall: Daeung-jeon. This building was rebuilt in 1614 and houses altar pieces consisting of the Seokgamoni Buddha and two bodhisattvas. Up in the rafters of this building are numerous dragon heads and fairies dancing around. Buildings surrounding the main hall are a row of halls dedicated to both Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) and Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Light). The interior of both of these buildings is amazingly colourful. To the right of the main hall, on the upper courtyard, is the Gwaneum-jeon hall dedicated to the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Gwanseeum-bosal. And to the left of the main hall is an equally beautiful and ornate hall, Jijang-jeon, dedicated to the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife, Jijang-bosal. All these halls are wonderfully decorated both inside and out and exemplify the beauty of what Korean temple’s can be.

To the left of the main hall is the most unique building at Beomeosa Temple. It’s an older looking and faded building that is divided into three sections. On the far left is Palsang-jeon, which displays the eight major scenes of the Buddha’s life. The middle section, Dokseong-jeon, is dedicated to the Lonely Nahan. And the section to the right is the Nahan-jeon, which houses statues of the Buddha’s disciples. In total, there are a couple dozen buildings at Beomeosa Temple to visit. Additionally, there are eleven hermitages sprinkled throughout Geumjeongsan Mountains associated with Beomeosa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE:  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.

Admission to the temple is free, which is a real steal for a temple of this size and magnitude.


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OVERALL RATING: 9.5/10. The only reason that Beomeosa Temple rates a little lower than the other important temples in Korea is that it doesn’t have the same historical significance and some other temples. However, the buildings themselves are both beautiful and ornate. One example of what I mean is that the main hall is a bit unassuming. But with that being said, Beomeosa Temple holds a lot of charm like the uniquely designed and built three sectioned building beside the main hall, the entrance gates at the temple, as well as the elaborate interiors to all of the halls. For a great day trip in Busan, and a good example of what a city temple can potentially be, I highly recommend this temple.

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The pathway that leads up to Beomeosa Temple.
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A view of the beautiful first gate at Beomeosa Temple.
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A better look at just how beautiful the former second gate use to be. Hopefully they’ll build it again soon.
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A view of the beautiful pagoda and temple museum at Beomeosa Temple.
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One of the four former residence of the second gate.
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They were some of the most spectacular guardians in all of Korea.
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A view of the third and final gate at Beomeosa Temple. All three gates are good examples of just how uniquely beautiful these gates can truly be.
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A picture from this spring with the magnolia trees in bloom, and the temple preparing for Buddha’s birthday.
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A view of the new looking courtyard at the temple. The old lecture hall is no longer there and there’s a new giftshop at the temple. The courtyard looks a lot more open.
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One of the brightly coloured interiors at the temple. This hall, Mireukjeon, is dedicated to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).
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A look inside the hall that houses Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Light) with Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) on either side of him.
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The three-tiered stone pagoda in the courtyard.
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A look at both Gwaneumjeon hall to the immediate right and Daeungjeon, the main hall, straight ahead.
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The beautiful interior of Gwaneum-jeon hall with the ornate statue of Gwanseeum-bosal at the centre of the hall.
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The rather small and unassuming main hall, Daeungjeon hall, at the temple.
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However, the interior, like most other halls at Beomeosa Temple, is decorative and colourful. Seokgamoni sits at the centre.
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Another look inside the gorgeous main hall.
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To the left of the main hall is Jijang-jeon. A senior monk was praying to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) early in the morning.
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The house size boulder at Beomeosa Temple, in the upper courtyard, with the three sectioned building to its left.
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A view out on the mountains surrounding the temple from the three sectioned hall.
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The uniquely designed three sectioned hall.
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A look inside the Nahan-jeon hall which is dedicated to 16 of Seokgamoni-bul’s disciples.
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A look inside the ornately decorated Palsang Hall, which depicts the eight historic scenes from the Buddha’s life.
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And finally, it was time to go.