The Story Of…All Korean Temples Look the Same

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Just one of the scenic views at Tongdosa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone,

I thought I would finally write an opinion piece about Korean temples. In particular, I’d like to address a statement that has often been leveled at temples by expats in Korea. So without further ado, here it goes.

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The colourful Samgwangsa Temple during Buddha’s birthday.

From time to time, whether it’s in person, on the internet, or through the blogosphere, I’ll hear or read the comment: all Korean temples look the same. But to make an analogy, that would be like going to an art gallery to see a painting by Van Gogh, only to close your eyes right before seeing it. And then, once you’ve closed your eyes, complain that all Van Gogh’s paintings look the same. There are subtle, and not so subtle, differences between temples. And sometimes, someone just needs to look to locate these differences. Perhaps you’ll have to educate yourself on these differences; but trust me, the differences are there waiting to be seen.

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The ocean-side temple in Busan: Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

I guess the first response I would make is that you don’t know what you’re talking about, if you say all temples are the same. And my second response would be that you should educate yourself on the topic before coming up with such an opinion.

While there isn’t all that much out there on Korean Buddhism, at least in English, there’s enough. Also, there’s a lot of material out there in books and on the internet about Buddhism in general to answer a lot of the questions that might come up. Besides, my website, David Mason’s amazing website, and in part, the Korean government website, there should be more than enough material to educate an individual that simply shrugs off the supposed similarities between temples.

For arguments sake, I thought I would point out three examples about the subtle, and not so subtle, differences between temples here in Korea.

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A look at the Geumgang Gyedan at Tongdosa Temple.

The first comes from the main hall at Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. If you’ve ever been, you’ll have noticed that there aren’t any Buddha or Bodhisattva statues on the main altar. Instead, there’s only a window that looks out onto a stone courtyard. To the uneducated, or uninitiated, this looks nothing more than a stone courtyard with some nice scenery and a rather strange window. But what this stone courtyard, the Geumgang Gyedan (Diamond Altar), houses are the partial remains of the historical Buddha. And the reason there are no statues on the main altar, which symbolize the presence of various Buddhist figures, is that the actual Buddha is housed just outside the window at Tongdosa Temple.

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The four-pillared Iljumun Gate at Beomeosa Temple.

Another example are the gates that you pass through on your way to a large temple’s courtyard. Perhaps some of the most beautiful gates at any temple in Korea can be found at Beomeosa Temple in Busan. To someone that simply doesn’t know, they are either artistically beautiful, or simply not noticed. In actual fact, the first of these gates is called the Iljumun Gate. The two to four pillared gate embodies an idea of the Buddha Dharma. When you look at the pillars in a row, they actually appear as one. This shows that things aren’t always what they seem. And this is symbolic because it’s the first step towards enlightenment.

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One of the fierce-looking Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate at Naesosa Temple.

The second gate, the Cheonwangmun Gate, houses four Heavenly Kings. The purpose of this gate, and its four occupants, is to protect Buddhism and the Buddha’s teachings. The four Heavenly Kings’ ferocious looks aid in the suppression of unruly spirits. Their intensity also helps focus the mind of a temple visitor. So their ferocious expressions encourage people to bow to them, and to rid a visitor’s mind of bad thoughts. A great example of this gate can be found at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju.

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A look through the Bulimun Gate at Tongdosa Temple.

The third gate is the Bulimun Gate. This gate, in English, is known as the Gate of Non-Duality. This idea refers to a central belief in Buddhism; namely, that all things are one. That things like good and evil are not two separate ideas; but instead, they are one. By freeing ourselves of this binary discriminatory worldview, we rid ourselves of our ego and the selfishness that comes as a result of it. Instead, everything, and everyone, is one. So while beautiful in artistic design, these gates are packed full of meaning.

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The highly elaborate and original Sanshin mural at Daeheungsa Temple.

The third, and final example, are the Sanshin Taenghwa paintings that you can usually find either in the Samseong-gak or the Sanshin-gak halls. Sanshin, who is known as the Mountain Spirit, in English, can literally take on thousands of different forms. Almost no painting is identical. Instead, there are some obvious and not so obvious differences between paintings. In general, Sanshin is usually seated. He’s an older looking man with white flowing hair and beard that still looks full of life, even at his more advanced age. He’s situated in a beautiful scenic setting that is perfect for meditation. He’s joined on this outcropping by a beautiful twisted red pine that is indigenous to Korea, much like the indigenous shaman origins of Sanshin. He’s sometimes joined by one, two, or several attendants called “dongja.” The clothes that he wears can be Buddhist, Confucian, or Daoist in appearance. Almost always, he possesses something in one or both of his hands like a fan or a walking stick which symbolize health, longevity, virility, scholastics, or spiritual attainment. One of the easiest ways to identify Sanshin is that he’s always accompanied by at least one tiger. The reason that the tiger is there is that it’s the king of the mountain animals and the enforcer of Sanshin. Occasionally, Sanshin will be joined by a female figure. Also, Sanshin can be female. The variations are really limitless. In total, I have around 200 Sanshin paintings, and not one is the same as another. Some are noticeable, and others, you have to look a little closer.

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A female Sanshin at Ssangyesa Temple.

As you can see through these three simple examples, there is a world of differences that can be found in the smallest of details at a Korean temple. So much about a temple is packed with meaning. So before you say the words, “All temples look the same,” you really should educate yourself on the differences that can be found at the thousands of temples throughout the Korean peninsula. They can be seen in halls, paintings, statues, pagodas, and various structures. So the argument quickly becomes: if you’re willing to learn, the material is out there for you to learn. Otherwise, you have no excuse to make the ridiculous claim that all Korean temples look the same.

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A beautiful pink lotus flower at Gakwonsa Temple.

The Story of…Donghaksa Temple

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The main hall and courtyard at Donghaksa Temple in Gonju, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had first visited Donghaksa Temple, just outside Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do, back in 2004. Ever since quickly visiting the temple in the spring of 2004, on a late afternoon day with a friend, I had wanted to go back. The opportunity to revisit this beautifully situated temple came during the summer of 2011.

Unlike the previous time I had visited Donghaksa Temple, the sky was overcast and starting to rain. I was feeling a bit unwell, and the weather certainly wasn’t helping.

The long walk up to the temple was a bit hazardous, as they were just starting to lay the ground work for paving the road. However, during this stage of construction, and because of the rain, the road was nothing more than a massive mud puddle.

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 The beautiful stream that flowed beside the muddy road at Donghaksa Temple.

During our trek up to the temple through the mud, it had been raining on and off. Sometimes it was nothing more than spitting and other times it was a deluge. Having finally arrived at the temple courtyard, we started to explore Donghaksa Temple when the rain rolled in once more. Not only that, but it brought thunder and lightning with it. With umbrella in hand, a la a lightning rod, we quickly took shelter in the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Other than the occasional nun that went running by seeking shelter, my wife and I were the only ones crazy enough to visit a temple during a thunderstorm.

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 The downpour as seen from the Samseong-gak.

With all that being said, and if it’s possible for a temple to be romantic, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. As the rains beat down all around us, and the thunder and lightning lit up the neighbouring valleys with noise and light, we looked out onto the storm without a care in the world. It was just the two of us, in the eye of a storm, waiting for the storm to pass us by as we hunkered down.

For more information on Donghaksa Temple.

The Story of…Sujeongsa Temple

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 Inside the elaborate and colourful main hall at Sujeongsa Temple in Ulsan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Sujeongsa Temple was recommended to me by a friend. He glowingly spoke about the temple and its double Samseong-gak (a shrine hall inside a shrine hall). It only took us a couple drive-bys and misses to finally spot the unmarked turn-off to the temple. Up a long and narrow one lane road, we finally arrived at the end of the road and the temple at the same time.

Getting out to explore the unassuming Sujeongsa Temple, we were greeted by a volunteer at the hermitage. She was happy to see me again at the temple. I looked at her with a confused look on my face. So my wife talked to her for a bit more clarification, as she explained to the woman that it was the first time for me to visit Sujeongsa Temple. With a surprised look on her face, I realized that she was confusing me with my friend. I’m pretty sure that we’re the only two expats to have ever visited this out of the way temple.

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 A closer look at the breath-taking main altar.

The next person to approach us was the head nun at Sujeongsa Temple. As I was exploring the main hall and my wife was praying, the head nun introduced herself to us. She went on to basically give us a private tour of the temple, as there were no other visitors at the temple but us. She told us how she had a dream about how the interior of the main hall should look. So with a professor from Dongguk University, she was able to see her vision come to fruition. Surrounding the main altar is an elaborate relief of seventeen Gwanseeum-bosals (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This relief is joined by an equally beautiful relief of a Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian motif) and one of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), as well. The base of the altar amazingly depicts the Palsang-do images, and the main chandelier that hangs from the main hall is made from the same material as airplanes.

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 A look at the double Samseong-gak at Sujeongsa Temple.

She then directed us towards the Samseong-gak, which is a shrine hall inside another shrine hall. The head nun told us how she had initially intended to simply knock down the 200 year old Samseong-gak; however, Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) appeared to the head nun three times in a dream. During an early morning ceremony at the Samseong-gak, a picture was taken that captured what looked to be a neighbouring pine tree on fire. The head nun took this as a sign, so she built a new protective Samseong-gak around the old one. The reason she did this, as she explained it, is that if she didn’t, someone would die.

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 The apparent flame above the old Samseong-gak.

The final stop along the tour led by the head nun at Sujeongsa Temple was of the Yongwang (The Dragon King) shrine to the far left of the Samseong-gak. She explained to us that before you pray, you can lift the stone that sits on the Yongwang altar. However, once you pray, you’re no longer able to lift this stone. So me being me, I decided to put her words to the test. And strangely, she was right.

We were very fortunate to have the head nun as our personal tour guide. It’s not very often that this happens. And as we were saying thank you just before we left, a collection of cars arrived at the temple.

For so many reasons, we were lucky in the time we had at Sujeongsa Temple in Ulsan.

For more on Sujeongsa Temple.

The Story Of…Baekyangsa Temple

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The icy Baekyangsa Temple in Jeollanam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

The beautiful Baekyangsa Temple is located in scenic Naejangsan National Park. With the jagged mountains looming overhead and the rolling streams running down its ridges, Baekyangsa Temple is situated in the centre of this beauty. With a handful of temple halls and stone monuments, I took my time and soaked it all in. After seeing the fifth temple of the day in Jeollanam-do, I decided to call it a day and retire to a neighbouring hotel.

I had prearranged to spend the night at Baekyang Tourist Hotel, but what happened was anything but planned. I had spent the previous night in a rundown dump in Haenam, Jeollanam-do. My room had three different types of wallpaper on the same wall (I don’t even want to guess), and a dog ran up and down the hallway at all hours of the night yapping the entire time. So I figured I would splurge and find better accommodations, which took me to Baekyang Tourist Hotel.

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The view over-top the main hall at the surrounding Naejangsan National Park.

The hotel parking lot was pretty full, and with it being one of the recommended hotels for the neighbouring Yeosu Expo from the previous year, I thought it might be difficult to get a room. I was pleasantly surprised when the desk clerk told me he had a handful of rooms still left. So taking out my debit card, or what I thought was my debit card, I went to pay the 80,000 won fee. But instead of pulling out my debit card from where I usually keep it in my wallet, I pulled out my Jogye-jong card. The Jogye-jong card is a card where you initially make a larger donation to a temple, which is followed by an annual donation of 10,000 won. I might be the only foreigner with this card, because wherever I go, the temple ticketing office always looks surprised that I am a card-carrying member of the Jogye Buddhist Order.

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An example of the Jogye-jong card.

The desk clerk suddenly became animated, and he kept repeating my Buddhist name: Bulwang. He was telling me things in Korean, in rapid succession, that I was pretty sure I understood. Because I had a Buddhist name, the head-monk at Baekyangsa Temple pays for any visiting monk. I was a bit taken aback, because I have all my head hair and I don’t look like a pious monk. But he was quite adamant that I pay nothing and enjoy my stay.

The only drawback to saving 80,000 won is what awaited me inside my beautiful room. Because the desk clerk thought I was a monk, he must have figured that I didn’t need a bed. So when I opened the door to my room, there wasn’t a bed in sight. Instead, I would have a free, yet uncomfortable, sleep on the floor with mats as my sole means of luxury.

Surprises, both good and bad, come in many forms.

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The surprise “bed” fit for a monk.

The Story Of…Bulguksa Temple

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Korea’s most famed temple: Bulguksa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

The very first temple I ever visited in Korea way back in the fall of 2003 was Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju. Korea today is very different than Korea from even a year ago, so you can imagine just how much change has gone on over the course of ten years. Not much was known about Korea. This was before Facebook, Twitter, and the regular supply of most western foods. Back then there were only a couple English channels on TV, and Costco only existed in North America. So suffice is to say, I didn’t know all that much about Korean temples, or even about the famed Bulguksa Temple at that point in time. So when my roommate asked me if I wanted to go to Gyeongju on Saturday and see the beautiful Bulguksa Temple, I first said what’s that? Then when I found out it was perhaps Korea’s most famous temple, I jumped at the opportunity.

Before I had a car, I would take buses to better known temples throughout the Korean peninsula. Now that I have a car, I can go to lesser known temples; but back then, I had to rely on the Korean transportation system, which is one of the best in the world, to get me to these beautiful Buddhist temples throughout Korea.

So making our way to the Nopo-dong Bus Terminal in northern Busan from our centrally located apartment, the three of us headed out. Somehow, our strange co-worker had invited himself to go to Gyeongju with us. It wasn’t much of a problem, because we would have Bulguksa Temple to distract us. The hour-long bus ride from Busan to Gyeongju went rather smoothly for three newly landed teachers. In a bit of confusion, we were able to find the bus that ran its way up to the temple from the bus terminal. It was the first time I really got a good look at Korea outside of Busan.

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Dabotap Pagoda: Just one of the sites we were looking forward to at Bulguksa Temple.

When we finally arrived at the large temple parking lot, we made our way up to the temple with a lot of anticipation, or so I thought. I knew I was really excited, as the ticket booth finally came into view; so I thought my companions were, as well. And I was right, at least in part. My friend, who I am still friends with to this day, was the first to pay the entrance fee. He was followed a close second by me. Then the two of us just stared at the third member of our party.

We asked, “Aren’t you coming with us to see the temple?”

“No, the admission fee is too much.”

The two of us just looked at each other and then at him. This guy had spent over two hours traveling. He had paid who knows how much in bus fare; and suddenly, the 3,000 won entrance fee (at least in 2003) was too much?

“But you came all this way. Don’t you want to see it?” I asked.

“Nah…I’ll just wait for you guys out here.” And he just wandered off towards the parking lot without looking back.

Even looking back on it ten years later, I still can’t believe someone would travel that distance and pay all that money in bus fare just to wander around the Bulguksa Temple parking lot. What didn’t come as a surprise is that the same guy was fired six months later from our hagwon for being a bit strange.

For more information on Bulguksa Temple.

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What was missed at Bulguksa Temple.

The Story Of…Seondosa Temple

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The famous Amita-bul sculpture at Seondosa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

This past spring, I had the great opportunity, and fortune, to travel around the western part of Gyeongju with David Mason and his friend. We visited temples, hermitages, shrines, and tombs. We even enjoyed a nice lunch together. But what we were unable to do was visit the peak of Mt. Seondosan. We travelled all around it, but the day was drawing to a close when we finally got around to it. So to make up for it, I finally found myself in Gyeongju again this past fall to hike up Mt. Seondosan.

There are numerous ways that you can hike to the top of Mt. Seondosan, but I chose the trail that is on the eastern face of the mountain. In fact, there are two trails on this eastern side of Mt. Seondosan. To be clear, I chose the wrong one, which will become clearer soon.

In total, the hike up to the top of Mt. Seondosan, and Seondosa Temple in turn, is a kilometer in length. You’ll first start off just west of four tombs, one of which is the famed King Jinheung’s tomb. While walking this trail, you’ll pass by numerous tombs and a scorched landscape laid bare by a recent forest fire. There are quite a few places you can catch your breath during the hike up to the top of Mt. Seondosan, which stands at 390 metres in height. Take your time and enjoy some amazing views of this haunting landscape, but don’t do what I did when taking a rest. As I lowered myself onto a burnt out log, I accidentally put my hand in a bush of thistles. Ya, ouch!

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An eerie picture from where I put my hand in the thistles

However, as haunting, and painful, as this landscape is in parts, it was also hard to travel because the trail has become overgrown with bushes and fallen debris. The kilometer hike to the top of Mt. Seondosan felt at least double the initial length.

It wasn’t until I got to the top of the mountain, just below Seondosa Temple, that a four-wheel motorcycle went speeding by me on a narrow dirt road. Onboard this bike was an older Korean man and woman, who waved to me as they parked at Seondosa Temple. Before I had even seen them as they turned the corner, I was kicking myself for not having taken this much easier dirt road; instead, I had chosen the much harder bushwhacking trail. Usually, I do a lot of research into a temple before I visit it, but there was so little out there to help me this time. Doh!

I guess the moral of this story is look before you leap. But then again, the adventure is part of the journey.

For more on Seondosa Temple.

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One last look at the completely disfigured face of Amita-bul

The Story Of…Tongdosa Temple

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The famed Geumgang Gyedan Altar with the lotus shaped stone that houses the Buddhas partial remains behind the main hall at Tongdosa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I’m often asked what my favourite temple in all of Korea is, which makes sense because I run a website on Korean temples. For me, the answer is quite simple: Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. There are so many reasons why Tongdosa Temple is my favourite temple in Korea; so many of those reasons revolve around fond memories.

One of those memories is that it was the second temple I ever visited in Korea (the first being Bulguksa Temple). I went with friends from the very first school I ever worked at. Most of those people are still my friends to this day. I’ve also brought a lot of new friends I’ve met through the years to this temple just because it has so much to offer a first time visitor. But perhaps one of my greatest friendships came from a novice Czech monk that was training at Tongdosa Temple not too long ago.

Another reason is that it’s the first temple I brought my mom to when she came to Korea for the first time in 2004. Like me, I wanted her time here to mirror some of the adventures and joys in my life while staying in Korea. And there was no better representation of these feelings than Tongdosa Temple.

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The stunning main hall at Tongdosa Temple.

But perhaps the greatest reason I love Tongdosa Temple so much is that it’s the first place I went on a date with my wife. We fumbled around our feelings, as we wandered around the temple grounds and museum, while figuring out just what we felt for the other. So what better reason do you need to love a place than it being the place where you dated your future wife?

As you can tell, I have so many reasons why Tongdosa Temple is my favourite temple in all of Korea. But outside of friendships, family, and a beautiful wife, the temple is a pretty awesome place to visit, especially when you consider it houses the partial remains of the Buddha.

For more on Tongdosa Temple.

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A colourful look at the amazing Tongdosa Temple.

The Story Of…Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

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The beautiful view at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone and Merry Christmas!!

Like so many people, I mark the passage of time through the milestones of certain achievements or memorable moments in my life. But unlike the vast majority of people, I tend to mark these memorable moments in the way that Korean temples change. I know that that sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, these religious beacons that stand the test of time, but Korean temples do in fact change aesthetically. Perhaps this is indicative of the ten years I’ve been here, and perhaps it points to a greater affluence in the Buddhist community in Korea. Either way, change is in fact all around us.

Perhaps there’s no greater example in the way that temples change than Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan. This once out of the way temple, at least according to 2003, has grown to be arguably the most popular temple in Busan (and for good reason).

The first time I ever attempted to get to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple was in the winter of 2003. And the first taxi driver I attempted to get a ride from in Haeundae hadn’t even heard of Haedong Yonggungsa Temple; and that was with the aid of a Korean written note to assist both him and I. It took a second taxi driver to finally know where I wanted to go. And when I finally did arrive, the temple parking lot was nothing more than a dirt road that they dropped you off at before you hiked your way towards the temple by the sea. Back then, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple didn’t even have a main hall.

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The view of the temple from 2005 with the newly built main hall.

But like so many things, time has a way of changing things, whether it’s a gradual change or quite dramatic in style. Now, when you arrive at the temple, there’s a large paid parking lot with a loud corridor of vendors that are pushing their wares. Also, if you’d rather a bus ride to take you out to the temple, there’s now a direct bus that takes you to the temple with a convenient bus stop just outside the well manicured grounds. Included in all this change are the number of shrines that have popped up all around the temple like the tire shrine to help those Koreans that don’t want to get into a car accident. Additionally, there’s now a golden statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) that is situated on a rock outcropping. Before this, it had been all black; and back in 2003, it simply didn’t exist.

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A look at the black Jijang-bosal, which is now gold.

Even the ocean-side view that formally had no fencing protecting you from the waves that crash upon the shore, has a knee-high fence warning you of any potential dangers from the mighty sea that gives Haedong Yonggungsa Temple so much of it’s amazing beauty. Yet another dramatic change from the winter of 2003 is that Haedong Yonggungsa Temple now has a beautiful, large main hall that is elaborately decorated both inside and out. But perhaps the greatest change comes in the form of just how many visitors frequent the temple each and every day. It used to be that you would be one, among a handful, of visitors. Now, especially if you visit on the weekend, you can be crushed (or at least pushed) by the throngs of people that come to the beautiful Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

So much about Haedong Yonggungsa Temple has changed in the ten years I’ve been here; but then again, the temple is really just symbolic of the many changes that have occurred in my life. Not everyone has something tangible to point to to highlight the rapidity of change, but I have Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

For more on Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

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The coastal view where Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is located.

The Story of…Cheontaesa Temple

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The view from the mouth of the waterfall at Cheontaesa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

So often, you’ll go to a temple and it’s packed with people like at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju or Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. For some people, like me, this takes a little bit away from the zen-like feeling I kind of expect at a Korean Buddhist temple. However, expectations aren’t always met by reality.

Fortunately, there are temples and hermitages outside the sphere of touristy trappings in Korea. There are more of these less frequented temples than I can even count with numerous halls and unique features to both enjoy and experience.

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The beautiful grounds at Cheontaesa Temple

For me, the closest zen-like feeling, or seon-like feeling if you’re Korean, that I’ve experienced at a Korean temple was at Cheontaesa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. Bored one day, I decided to visit an out of the way temple that’s at a bend in the road. Seldom visited, least of all by expats, I was able to enjoy the temple primarily to myself.

There are numerous halls, paintings, and shrines to be enjoyed at Cheontaesa Temple like the large sized Dokseong-gak Hall, the well populated Cheonbul-jeon Hall, and the unique shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Also, there is a massive relief dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) that must stand well over ten metres in height. This relief is joined by a neighbouring stream that runs up against a Buddhist cemetery.

But the real highlight, and where I had my “moment,” is at Yongnyeon Falls. The falls flow about a fifteen to twenty minute hike up a valley. This hike is a bit treacherous at times; in fact, you’ll need to repel up a few boulders using a thick rope to get there. But when you do finally get to the falls, and climb all the way up the brown staircase, you’ll be standing right next to the mouth of the falls.

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The boulders you’ll have to climb to get to the falls.

Amazingly, you can climb down a precarious set of rocks to stand right next to where the water goes over the falls and takes the twenty metre plunge. There’s a rock bed at the top of the falls, where you can take a bit of a breather. It’s also from these heights that you get an amazing view of the valley down below, where Cheontaesa Temple rests, as well as the jagged surrounding cliffs from Mt. Cheontaesan. Everything is simply perfect from this vantage point. And it’s from here, while simply enjoying the view, that I had my zen-like moment. It’s really hard to even describe, and I think words would cheapen the experience. It was really something amazing and indescribable to feel.

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The somewhat dehydrated Yongnyeon Falls, where I had my zen-like moment.

Suffice it to say, it was a pretty unique moment I had at the mouth of the waterfall, looking down from its heights, as the water poured out into the valley below. I’ve had a few other moments like these, but certainly nothing quite as strong as my experience at Cheontaesa Temple.

For more on Cheontaesa Temple.

The Story Of…Samneung Valley in Gyeongju

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 The Large Seated Statue of Mireuk-bul up Samneung Valley.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Sometimes, a temple adventure isn’t always amazing, or adventurous for that matter. However, Samneung Valley on Mt. Namsan in Gyeongju was both amazing and adventurous; but it was also something else: embarrassing.

I had been enjoying all the sites along the Samneung-gol Valley like the Headless Mireuk-bul Statue, the Gwanseeum-bosal Image on a Rock Face, the Two Lined-Carved Buddha Triads, the Seated Stone Buddha, and Sangseonam Hermitage, where I was able to take a bit of a rest and enjoy the amazing views that Mt. Namsan offers.

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The Gwanseeum-bosal Image on a Rock Face mid-way up Samneung Valley.

The final destination was the Large Seated Statue of Mireuk-bul. I followed the trail that leads to the left of Sangseonam Hermitage, attempting to find perhaps the most important statue on Mt. Namsan. Somewhere along the way, I must have got lost because I ended up at Sangsaam Rock, which I knew was well past the Large Seated Statue of Mireuk-bul; so either I had missed it completely, or it was well hidden.

Back-tracking down the mountain, I was finally able to spot the massive statue. However, everywhere I turned, it was roped off. I was finally able to figure out that the government ropes off the area in winter to protect hikers from the icy stairs. It must have been at this point that the Canadian in me kicked in, because I wasn’t going to let a little ice prevent me from hiking all that way and not see the Large Seated Statue of Mireuk-bul.

So hopping the roped off area, and with the winter wind seeming a bit cooler, I finally saw the amazing Large Seated Statue of Mireuk-bul. It was everything I had imagined it to be and more.

Finally back at home, after an amazing tour of Mt. Namsan, and Samneung-gol Valley in particular, I realized I had torn the crotch of my pants. Not only had I torn my pants, but I had completely blown a hole in them. Seeing this, I finally realized why it felt that much colder after hopping the roped off fence. But what is most embarrassing is that I’m sure there must have been at least a dozen Korean hikers watching me with amazement with a huge hole in the crotch of my pants! Sometimes, I’m just so embarrassing…

For more on Samneung Valley on Mt. Namsan Pt. 1

For more on Samneung Valley on Mt. Namsan Pt. 2

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 Said pants…