Gukcheongsa Temple – 국청사 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)

DSC_0606

The three tier pagoda at Gukcheongsa Temple in Geumjeong-gu, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gukcheongsa Temple is located on the southern portion of Mt. Geumjeongsan in Busan. Gukcheongsa Temple is also just south of the Geumjeongsan Fortress walls. Gukcheongsa Temple was first constructed by the famed monk Uisang-daesa (625-702) during the Silla Dynasty. The temple was also used as a strategic military command post for the Buddhist warrior monks against the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Later, in 1982, a three tier pagoda that sits out in front of the main temple grounds, and in a pond, was constructed to console the spirits of Buddhist monks that gave up their lives to defend Gukcheongsa Temple.

You approach Gukcheongsa Temple up one of the roads that connects it to the mountainside Sanseong community. The first thing to greet you is a stout two pillar Iljumun Gate that is colourfully painted. A little further up the temple road and to the right, you’ll notice the beautiful temple pond with the three tier pagoda in the centre of it. Surrounding the overgrown pond are various stone statues that include Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

A little further along, and past the temple parking lot, are the main temple buildings at Gukcheongsa Temple. But before you enter the main temple courtyard, you’ll notice an old monks’ residence that is no longer used. Have a look at its unique stone exterior.

Finally facing the Daeung-jeon main hall at Gukcheongsa Temple, you’ll notice two buildings book-ending the main hall. These are the new monks’ dorms and the visitors’ centre. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with masterful Ox-Herding murals, as well as the Bodhidharma and the myth behind the wooden moktak. As for inside the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful triad of statues that rest on the main altar. Sitting in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the left of the main altar triad is an older Shinjung Taenghwa guardian mural. And to the right is a newer mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

The only other shrine hall to visit at Gukcheongsa Temple is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are adorned with a majestic tiger mural, as well as a mural dedicated to the myth of the golden well on top of Mt. Geumjeongsan. As for inside this shaman shrine hall, there are three rather plain murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Gukcheongsa Temple, you’ll first have to travel to Hwamyeong subway station on the second line (#235). From here, you’ll have to catch a Busan city bus from the Deokcheon Rotary. Take the Busan city bus identified as “Sanseong – 산성”. Ride this bus until you get to the centre of the mountain community of Sanseong, which will probably take 15 to 20 minutes. Nearing the outskirts of this community, get off near a large bathroom complex (yes, you heard me correctly). Facing this community bathroom, head in the direction that your back faces. You’ll see a small brown marker sign that directs you towards the northern gate (북문) of the Busan Mountain Fortress (Geumjeongsanseong). Follow this road for one kilometres. Along the way, you’ll come across Gukcheongsa Temple to your right. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the sort of out of place Iljumun Gate for the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Gukcheongsa Temple is beautifully located on the southern slopes of the towering Mt. Geumjeongsan. Adding to its natural beauty is the three tier pagoda that sits in the temple’s pond, as well as the triad of statues that sits on the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

DSC_0613

The entry stone at Gukcheongsa Temple.

CSC_0639

The stout Iljumun Gate at the temple entrance.

DSC_0618

The temple pond and the three tier pagoda that sits in its centre.

CSC_0636

A better look at the overgrown pond and pagoda.

DSC_0611

The stone statue that stands near the temple pagoda and pond.

CSC_0635

The temple grounds at Gukcheongsa Temple as you first approach it.

DSC_0598

The old monks’ dorms at the temple.

CSC_0539

The Daeung-jeon main hall at Gukcheongsa Temple.

DSC_0593

One of the ten Ox-Herding murals that adorns the main hall.

CSC_0578

As well as this moktak mural.

DSC_0595

And this Bodhidharma mural.

DSC_0549

The elaborate main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

DSC_0547

The older guardian mural that takes up residence to the left of the main altar.

DSC_0555

And the Jijang-bosal mural to the right of the main altar.

CSC_0619

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

CSC_0634

The relaxing tiger that adorns one of the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak.

DSC_0575

As well as this winged golden fish that helps depict the golden well associated with Mt. Geumjeongsan.

DSC_0563

The paintings inside the Samseong-gak.

CSC_0580

And the view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

Manseongam Hermitage – 만성암 (Beomeosa, Busan)

Picture-002

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.

Picture 001

Podae-hwasang at the entry to Manseongam Hermitage.

Picture 003

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

Picture 183

The view as you first enter the temple parking lot.

Picture 018

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

Picture 009

The Koi pond and statue enclave at the hermitage.

Picture 014

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

Picture 017

Statues of Podae-hwasang and Sanshin together

Picture 015

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

Picture 035

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

Picture 181

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

Picture 179

The two story main hall.

Picture 180

A look out towards the hermitage grounds.

Picture 029

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

Picture 028

And the intricate guardian mural to the left.

Haegwangsa Temple – 해광사 (Gijang, Busan)

CSC_5080

The East Sea Yongwang-dang at Haegwangsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

This is only the second time in over five years that I’ve done this, with the first being Hongjeam Hermitage in Jirisan National Park; but like the first, I don’t think I fully explored this temple. So without further ado, here’s a follow up to Haegwangsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Like its close coastal cousin, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Haegwangsa Temple is one of the rare temples in Korea that’s situated next to the East Sea.

You first approach the temple up a bit of a side street, where an upright brown stone marker reads “해광사.” With the East Sea to your left, you’ll first approach Haegwangsa Temple through a pair of buildings that slightly obscure the temple grounds. It’s through this opening that you’ll notice the Daeung-jeon main hall straight ahead of you. Wrapped around the exterior walls to the temple’s main hall are an eclectic set of murals which include the Ox-Herding mural set, the Palsang-do mural set, a mural dedicated to Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa, as well as the Bodhidharma and several other Buddhist inspired motifs. As for the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall, the first things you’ll notice are the row upon row of tiny jade statuettes of the Buddha. As for the main altar itself, a triad of statues sit upon it. Sitting in the centre is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).

To the left of the main hall and past a ten metre tall white statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) is the temple’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. On the right exterior wall is one of the most beautiful floral paintings you’ll see on any temple shrine hall in Korea. The purple lotus flowers are simply amazing. As for inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, you’ll find a set of shaman murals that includes Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). But it’s the mural to the far left of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) with his eyes wide apart that’s the most intriguing of the set.

To the right of the main hall and past the replica of the Dabo-tap pagoda from Bulguksa Temple is Haegwangsa Temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to this hall are painted with various hellish and redemptive murals. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, is a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Jijang-bosal is joined on both sides by two rows, five statues each, of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

Making your way back towards the temple parking lot and hanging a right, you’ll need to make your way towards the East Sea to enjoy the main highlight at Haegwangsa Temple. A simple one hundred metre stroll will bring you to the crashing blue waves of the sea. And perched on a jagged, black rock outcropping is the temple’s Yongwang-dang. This shaman shrine hall is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Carefully following the somewhat slippery rocky path, you’ll climb a set of stairs and enter the diminutive shrine hall. An orange robed statue of the Dragon King sits squarely on a dragon themed throne. There are numerous pigeons enjoying the seaside air. Also, you can get some great angles of the Yongwang-dang and the East Sea together if you take your time in search of the perfect coastal snapshot.

HOW TO GET THERE:  To get to Haegwangsa Temple, you can simply walk the kilometre from Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Turn right, and then walk straight down the highway you first approached the temple from. You’ll notice a large brown rock with the Korean words for Haegwangsa Temple carved into it. Also, you could simply get a taxi from Haedong Yonggungsa Temple to drive you to the temple. It shouldn’t cost you any more than 3,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. While smaller in size, and not quite as impressive as the neighbouring Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Haegwangsa Temple has a unique charm all of its own. The paintings around all three of the temple shrine halls are beautiful; but without doubt, the most impressive feature to the temple is the seaside Yongwang-dang with waves crashing up against it. The location of the Yongwang-dang is a one-off in all of the temple’s I’ve visited throughout the Korean peninsula.

CSC_4964

The front entrance as you first approach the temple grounds at Haegwangsa Temple.

CSC_4966

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall with the towering statue of Mireuk-bul next to it.

CSC_4968

A better look at the all-white Mireuk-bul.

CSC_4987

The purplish-blue lotus flowers painted on the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak Hall.

CSC_4986

Inside the Samseong-gak with Chilseong to the left and Sanshin to the right.

CSC_4984

The sad eyes of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

CSC_4991

The Myeongbu-jeon Hall at Haegwangsa Temple with the Dabo-tap replica out in front of it.

CSC_4999

Inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall with Jijang-bosal front and centre.

CSC_5007

One of the underworld paintings that adorns the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

CSC_5006

An early morning sunrise at Haegwangsa Temple.

CSC_5009

A better look at the Daeung-jeon main hall.

CSC_5020

One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the Daeung-jeon Hall.

CSC_5013

The Wonhyo and Uisang mural on the Daeung-jeon Hall.

CSC_5041

A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

CSC_5043

A temple stupa on the way towards the Yongwang-dang.

CSC_5098a

The first amazing glimpse of the seaside Yongwang-dang.

CSC_5047

The coastal waters that flow in and around the shaman shrine hall.

CSC_5045

A better look at the crowning Yongwang-dang.

CSC_5073

An even closer look at the one-off shaman shrine hall.

CSC_5062a

The main altar inside the Yongwang-dang with the Dragon King front and centre.

CSC_5084a

One final look at this truly amazing place.

Colonial Korea: Beomeosa Temple – 범어사 (Busan)

Beomeosa

Beomeosa Temple in northern Busan as it appeared in 1933.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Beomeosa Temple, in northern Busan, is beautifully located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Geumjeongsan. First established in 678 A.D. by the famed Uisang-daesa (625-702 A.D.), Beomeosa Temple means “Fish from Heaven Temple,” in English. The name of the temple refers to the creation myth that surrounds the temple. And like so many temple myths in Korea, this one is an interesting one. According to legend, there is a water well with golden water inside it at the top of Mt. Geumjeongsan. Purportedly, golden fish rode a rainbow down from the heavens to inhabit this well. So it’s from its scenic location that Beomeosa Temple gets its name.

Beomeosa Temple became known as one of the ten great temples of the Hwaeom sect in Korea in history. Now, Beomeosa Temple belongs to the largest Buddhist order in Korea, the Jogye-jong Order.

At one point in its history, during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Beomeosa Temple had a thousand monks that called the temple home. Later, during the Imjin War that lasted from 1592 to 1598, Beomeosa Temple was one of the first prominent temples to be destroyed by the invading Japanese. A decade later, in 1602, Beomeosa Temple was reconstructed. Shortly after its reconstruction, fire would destroy Beomeosa Temple, once more. So in 1613, Beomeosa Temple was rebuilt. And it’s from this date that the now historic temple buildings date back to like the Daeung-jeon main hall and the Jogyemun Gate.

In more recent years, and after Japanese Colonization, Beomeosa Temple would grow to be one of the sixth largest temples in Korea. It’s also undergone numerous renovations throughout the years like the reconstruction of the Cheonwangmun Gate in 2012 after an arsonist destroyed it in 2010. Also, the Boje-ru pavilion was rebuilt at the end of 2014, replacing a conference hall that blocked the once historic view towards the Daeung-jeon main hall.

In total, Beomeosa Temple houses four Treasures.

Beomeosa1 - Jogyemun 1933

The entry Jogyemun Gate in 1933.

Beomeosa3 - bojeru 1933

The outside view of the Boje-ru pavilion in 1933.

Beomeosa4 - bojeru 1933

A look at its architecture.

Beomeosa2 - Jongru bell p 1933

The Jong-ru bell pavilion in 1933.

Beomeosa5 - daeungjeon 1933

The historic Daeung-jeon main hall in 1933.

Beomeosa100 - three story 1916

The three tier pagoda in the main temple courtyard in 1916.

Beomeosa101 - seokdeung

It’s joined by the Seokdeung lantern in 1916, as well.

Beomeosa7 - daeungjeon

The craftsmanship of the Daeung-jeon main hall.

Beomeosa6 - daeungjeon

The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon.

Beomeosa8 - daeungjeon

A look around the interior of the Daeung-jeon.

Beomeosa9 - birojeon

The Biro-jeon Hall in 1933. This hall houses Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy).

Beomeosa10 - birojeon

A look up at some of the architecture on the Biro-jeon Hall.

Beomeosa11 - gwaneumjeon

The Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Housed inside is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

Beomeosa12 - gwaneumjeon

The latticework and eaves on the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

Beomeosa13 - myeongbujeon

The Myeongbu-jeon Hall in 1933.

Beomeosa14 - myeonbujeon

An up-close of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

Picture 225 - 2011

Beomeosa Temple in 2011.

CSC_4025 - 2015

The Jogyemun Gate during the spring of 2015.

CSC_4131 - 2015

The view from the Boje-ru pavilion down on the Bulimun Gate and the Cheonwangmun Gate in 2015.

CSC_4063 - 2015

The historic three tier pagoda and Gwaneum-jeon Hall in 2015.

DSC02069 - 2005

The Daeung-jeon Hall in 2005.

DSC02078 - 2005

And a look around the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall in 2005.

Myogwaneumsa Temple – 묘관음사 (Gijang, Busan)

CSC_3640

The view from the upper courtyard at Myogwaneumsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located just east of Mt. Daleumsan and hugging the coastline is the well-kept grounds associated with Myogwaneumsa Temple in Gijang, Busan. Off of a bit of a hidden entrance, and along a dirt road, you’ll finally come to the temple parking lot at Myogwaneumsa Temple.

You’ll first be welcomed to the temple by the visitors’ centre. It’s up the set of stone stairs that you’ll pass through the entry gate at Myogwaneumsa Temple. Beautifully adorning the gate are a pair of intimidating guardians. Up on the adjoining walls to the gate are a pair of paintings dedicated to Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), who rides a white elephant; he’s joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom), who rides a blue tiger.

Perfectly framed by the entry gate, and as you step inside the main temple courtyard, you’ll see the nine story stone pagoda at Myogwaneumsa Temple. Slender in size, painted images of various guardians adorn the base of the pagoda instead of being carved into the stone as reliefs, which is far more customary.

Past the pagoda and the book-ending dorms, you’ll find the temple’s main hall. Out in front of the main hall are a line of palm trees. Adorning the exterior walls to the main hall are masterful paintings of the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon main hall, you’ll notice a triad of statues and a pair of paintings on the main altar. Sitting in the centre of the triad of statues is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal. The red painting to the right of the triad of statues is dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And the other red painting to the left is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). The final mural hanging in the main hall is the descriptive guardian mural. The ceiling to the main hall, especially near the front altar, is adorned with various Buddhist-motif paintings.

To the right rear of the main hall stands the Josa-jeon Hall. This hall, with a floral exterior, is dedicated to prominent monks that once called Myogwaneumsa Temple home. In total, there are five murals hanging on the main altar inside this hall. The central painting with three monks are of Majo Doil, Namcheon Bowon, and Baekjang Huihae.

To the far rear of the temple grounds, and situated on the upper courtyard, are a pair of shrine halls. The first, which has a beautiful view of the neighbouring sea, is the Gwaneeum-jeon Hall. Fronted by a slim five tier stone pagoda is the newly built shrine hall, which houses two incarnations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The first is a diminutive golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. This seated image is joined by an elaborate wooden carving of the female Bodhisattva.

The final shrine hall at Myogwaneumsa Temple is situated to the left of the Gwaneum-jeon. The Samseong-gak at the temple is larger is size and houses three beautiful murals of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong, and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: From Jangsan subway station, stop #201,  you’ll need to walk about 4 minutes, or 230 metres, to get to the Jangsan post office bus stop. From there, take Bus #180. After 42 stops, or 55 minutes, get off at the Myogwaneumsa Temple entrance stop. From there, walk for 4 minutes, or 233 metres, to get to the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. The grounds at Myogwaneumsa Temple are immaculately kept. It’s also beautifully situated by the sea. As for the temple itself, it has an amazing wooden image of Gwanseeum-bosal, as well as newer paintings of the three shaman deities that are masterful in their execution.

CSC_3598

A look through the front entry gate at Myogwaneumsa Temple.

CSC_3600

The painting of Munsu-bosal that adorns the front entry gate.

CSC_3601

As well as one of the guardians painted on the front entry gate.

CSC_3606

The main temple courtyard at the temple.

CSC_3608

Some of the paintings, uniquely, that adorns the base of the nine story pagoda.

CSC_3611

The tropical main hall at Myogwaneumsa Temple.

DSC_3486

One of the paintings from the Ox-Herding mural set.

CSC_3612

Inside the Daeung-jeon main hall.

CSC_3613

The main hall guardian mural.

CSC_3624

The Josa-jeon Hall to the right of the main hall at Myogwaneumsa Temple.

CSC_3623

A look inside the Josa-jeon Hall.

CSC_3641

To the rear of the temple, and located on the upper courtyard, is this newly built Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

CSC_3630

The main altar inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

CSC_3634

A closer look at the amazing wooden carving of Gwanseeum-bosal.

CSC_3629

The view down on the temple’s grounds from the upper courtyard.

CSC_3646

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

CSC_3645

The painting of Sanshin housed inside the Samseong-gak.

DSC_3469

As well as Dokseong.

CSC_3650

A look at the temple courtyard from the Daeung-jeon main hall.

Wonhyodae Temple – 원효대 (Gijang, Busan)

CSC_3645

The emperor-looking Sanshin statue inside the packed Samseong-gak at Wonhyodae Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Named for the famed monk Wonhyo-daesa (617 A.D. to 686 A.D), Wonhyodae Temple is located in Gijang, Busan. In a valley just south-west of the towering peak of Mt. Daleumsan, the temple is scenically situated alongside other smaller temples like Daedosa Temple.

You first approach the temple alongside an offshoot of the Ilgwang-cheon River. At the end of this offshoot, and down a country road, lies Wonhyodae Temple. Hanging a left towards the temple sign that reads 원효대, you’ll arrive in the temple parking lot. The first sites to greet you are a collection of three Podae-hwasang statues. The bronze coloured statues are joined to the right by a smaller sized collection of statues of the Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul, teaching his disciples, the Nahan.

Straight ahead, and up a flight of stairs, is the Cheonwangmun Gate at Wonhyodae Temple. Inside the gate stand four crudely sculpted statues of the Four Heavenly Kings. But these statues are no way indicative of the rest of the temple. Passing through the slender Iljumun Gate, you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard.

Straight ahead stands the rather boxy main hall. While understated on the exterior, as soon as you enter the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a row of nine large statues on the main altar. The three statues in the centre are of Seokgamoni-bul, Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom), and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). This triad is joined to the right by another triad. This triad is centred by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). And he’s joined by Ilgwang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Sun) and Wolgwang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Moon). It’s also over in this part of the main hall that hangs the large guardian mural. And the triad of statues to the far left are centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). This triad is joined in the corner by a mural and statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

Situated to the left of the main hall are two additional shrine halls at Wonhyodae Temple. The first, which can only be entered through a side entrance on the right, is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Resting on the main altar is one of the most elaborate multi-armed and headed statues of Gwanseeum-bosal that I’ve seen in all of Korea. To the right hangs a collection of prominent monk portraits including Wonhyo-daesa. And to the left sits a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul. This triad is joined by a black guardian mural.

The other shrine hall in this area of the temple is the Myeongbu-jeon. As soon as you step inside, you’ll notice the unique statues including several guardians, the Ten Kings of the Underworld, as well as Jijang-bosal on the main altar. Of note, there is a stunning, modern Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural hanging elevated on the left side of the shrine hall.

Between the Gwaneeum-jeon and the main hall is a glass enclosure that also acts as another shrine hall on your way towards the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall that lies to the rear of the temple grounds. This glass enclosure acts as both a Yongwang-dang, which is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King), as well as a shrine for an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal statue. The Yongwang shrine has a seated statue of the Dragon King, as well as one of the largest murals of the shaman deity that I have yet to see in Korea. To the right stands the large image of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Both are joined by mountain water that flows in and out of the glass shrine hall.

The final shrine hall you can explore at Wonhyodae Temple is the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Between the Gwaneum-jeon and Yongwang-dang, and up a bit of a wooded trail, is the Samseong-gak. The golden lettering at the front of the Samseong-gak is a sign of things to come. Stepping inside the Samseong-gak, you’ll be greeted by wall-to-wall multiples of the three most popular shaman deities in the Korean pantheon. Hanging on the right wall is a modern interpretation of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left, on the main altar, hangs an older looking image of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), who is fronted by a statue of himself. Next, hangs a similarly styled painting of Chilseong as the Dokseong mural. In the centre of the main altar hangs a newer painting of Chilseong. To the left of the third Chilseong painting is a large statue of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), who is holding a large golden ginseng root. Sanshin is also wearing a large emperor’s crown. Rounding out the set is an older painting of Sanshin from the older set of three. And there is a peculiar guardian mural hanging on the left wall.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Jwacheon train station in Gijang, you’ll need to take a taxi to Wonhyodae Temple. The ride should last about 15 minutes and cost around 9,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Wonhyodae Temple is a hard temple to rate. There are several unique features like the loaded Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall with the ginseng bearing Sanshin inside, as well as the glass enclosure for the Yongwang-dang. Also adding to the temple’s overall rating is the expansive main hall and the amazing Gwanseeum-bosal statue. However, it’s harder to get to and it has a modern concrete feel to it in places.

CSC_3599

The Cheonwangmun Gate at Wonhyodae Temple.

DSC_3494

One of three Podae-hwasang statues at the temple.

CSC_3603

Out in front of the Cheonwangmun Gate is this collection of statues of the Buddha and his disciples.

DSC_3509

One of the rudimentary statues of the Four Heavenly Kings.

CSC_3606

The main hall at Wonhyodae Temple.

CSC_3625

A look across the well-populated main altar inside the main hall.

CSC_3622

The statue of Jijang-bosal to the left of the nine main altar statues.

CSC_3624

A closer look at Amita-bul.

CSC_3627

The glass enclosure that both acts as a Yongwang-dang and Gwanseeum-bosal shrine.

CSC_3630

The large painting and statue of Yongwang.

CSC_3631

And the all-white statue of Gwanseeum-bosal that keeps Yongwang company.

CSC_3607

The Gwaneum-jeon Hall to the right with the Myeongbu-jeon Hall to the left.

CSC_3671

The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

CSC_3664

The elaborate Dragon Ship of Wisdom painting inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

CSC_3688

A look inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

CSC_3687

The mural of Wonhyo-daesa to the right of the main altar.

CSC_3686

A better look at the amazing multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal.

CSC_3640

The beautifully situated Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

CSC_3651

A look around inside the Samseong-gak as you first enter the hall.

CSC_3652

The left corner that houses the unique statue and painting of Sanshin. Of note, there are three statues dedicated to the Mountain Spirit.

CSC_3642

And the view from the Samseong-gak.

Sajaam Hermitage – 사자암 (Beomeosa, Busan)

Picture 045

 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.

Picture 039

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

Picture 043

The hermitage courtyard.

Picture 044

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

Picture 046

The view from the Samseong-gak shrine hall.

Picture 053

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

Picture 185

The Confucian-style Chilseong mural.

Picture 186

To the right hangs this mural of Dokseong.

Picture 187

And to the left hangs this older mural of Sanshin.

Picture 054

A look at the unadorned main hall at Sajaam Hermitage.

Picture 057

A look around the interior of the main hall.

Picture 061

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

Picture 058

The well-populated guardian mural inside the main hall.

Picture 064

One more look at the main hall.

Picture 040

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

Jinhongsa Temple – 진홍사 (Geumgok, Busan)

CSC_0665

Inside the main hall during Buddha’s birthday at Jinhongsa Temple in Geumgok, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone,

Jinhongsa Temple in Geumgok is a rather new temple in the northern part of Busan. While smaller in size, the temple is highly popular among the local population.

Located next to a university and a crowded amount of apartments, Jinhongsa Temple is the last structure before the forested hills of Mt. Geumjeongsan. The first structure to greet you at the temple is the simplistic Iljumun Gate. To the left of the Iljumun Gate lies a collection of stupas and a stele.

Past these introductory structures, and up a bit of an incline, are the three temple buildings at Jinhongsa Temple. To the far left is the monks’ dorms and visitors centre. Straight ahead, and above the temple’s kitchen on the first floor, is the temple’s main hall. The exterior walls to the main hall are beautifully decorated with Palsang-do murals. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s joined on either side Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Body Buddha). The triad sit under a stunning red canopy that are adorned with twisting blue dragons underneath the canopy. And on the far left wall is a wooden guardian relief.

To the right of the main hall stands another two storied temple hall. The second of which is a shrine hall for people to pray in at Jinhongsa Temple. The exterior walls to this hall are lined with dongja (assistants) either playing or helping. Once you enter this hall, which you enter from the east, you’ll be greeted by a large red canopy. Underneath this canopy sit three slender statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined by the familiar statues of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And on the far wall there hangs a red mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take exit #6 at Geumgok subway station (#238) on the second line. At the first major road, you’ll need to cross the street and head east towards Mt. Geumjeongsan. Follow this road to the right of the university for 1.6 km. The hike should only take you 5 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While not the most overwhelming of temples to visit in Korea, it’s a nice little oasis in northern Busan. While the temple buildings are made from concrete, all the statues on the main altars are masterfully sculpted, as are the paintings adorning the exterior walls to all the halls. There is also a restive Koi pond at the base of the main hall at Jinhongsa Temple. So while not the most expansive of temples in Korea, it makes for a nice little break from the urban clutter in northern Busan.

CSC_0530

The stupas and stele at the entry of Jinhongsa Temple.

CSC_0533

The Iljumun Gate at the temple.

CSC_0644

The temple’s main hall during Buddha’s birthday.

CSC_0666

The meditative Koi pond out in front of the main hall.

DSC_0510

One of the Korean style Palsang-do murals adorning the exterior walls of the main hall.

DSC_0613

The nearness of nature at Jinhongsa Temple.

CSC_0627

A look inside the main hall at the main altar.

DSC_0497

The unpainted wooden guardian relief inside the main hall.

CSC_0669

The other shrine hall at Jinhongsa Temple.

DSC_0524

One of the dongja murals that adorns the exterior walls to this shrine hall.

DSC_0481

Some of the decorative Buddhist artwork underfoot.

DSC_0517

The main altar inside the adjoining shrine hall.

DSC_0520

The Jijang-bosal mural at Jinhongsa Temple.

CSC_0679

One last look at one of the shrine halls at Jinhongsa Temple.

Now and Then: Beomeosa Temple

?????? ??? ???? ????? ???? ?

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.

Beomeosa 1929

Another amazing view of Beomeosa Temple from 1929.

Beomeosa 1931

The Iljumun Gate from 1931.

Beomeosa1 1931

The Cheonwangmun Gate from 1931.

Beomeosa2

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

70년대_범어사

A more modern picture of Beomeosa Temple from 1970.

70년대_범어사3

The Iljumun Gate from 1970, as well.

Picture-259

A 2013 picture of Beomeosa Temple.

Picture-346

A more recent picture of the Iljumun Gate.

Picture-014

The temple courtyard at Beomeosa Temple.

Seongamsa Temple – 성암사 (Nam-gu, Busan)

CSC_1296

The fall colours at Seongamsa Temple in Nam-gu, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On the southern slopes of Mt. Hwangryeongsan in Nam-gu, Busan lies Seongamsa Temple. Through some twists and turns in the road and down some back alleys, you’ll come to this well-hidden temple.

You’ll know you’re close when you come to the end of the narrow road and there’s a parking lot. Up a slight bend in an adjoining road, it’ll lead you towards Seongamsa Temple. As you enter the temple courtyard, you’ll notice that it’s surrounded on all sides by beautiful, mature trees that are especially colourful during the autumn months.

The first building, rather uniquely, to greet you at the temple as you approach from the side is the Daeung-jeon main hall. The rather boxy main hall disguises the elaborate interior. As you first enter the main hall, you’re greeted by a set of Gwaneeum-bosal murals. The main hall, while narrow, runs rather deep with a wide main altar. Sitting in the centre of a triad of statues is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). And all three are surrounded by miniature statues of the Buddha. To the far right sits Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha); while to the far left sits a golden capped Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) who is surrounded by tiny, white statues of himself. And on the far right wall hangs one of the larger guardian murals I have yet to see at a Korean temple.

Past the temple’s bell pavilion, and just beyond the narrow seven-tier stone pagoda, sits the rather large Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are a set of beautiful shaman murals. While the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) murals are rather typical in their design, it’s the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural that really stands out. Dressed in a yellow robe with a brown headdress, the Seongamsa Temple Sanshin really makes an impression.

A little hidden, but not impossible to find to the right of the Samseong-gak, you’ll see a brick wall with an opening in the centre of it. This is the Yongwang-dang. With wall-to-wall lights, ornamental stone flooring, and a radiant Yongwang mural, this Yongwang-dang is different from most others that I’ve seen in Korea. Of course, it’s the intricate mural dedicated to the Dragon King that truly stands out with three swirling dragons and a majestically seated Yongwang in the centre of it all. Have a look and get your fill, because this Yongwang mural is one of the best of its kind.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Munjeon Subway stop, line #2, stop #217 , you can board a taxi after exiting out exit #2 or #4. The ride should last about ten minutes, and it should cost you about 4,000 won. Either that, or you can simply walk the distance towards the temple. Head east towards Munhyeon Elementary School and the Munhyeon Girls High School. To head in this direction, go out exit #2. When you arrive at the schools, you should continue towards Hyeondae apartment. It’s just behind these apartments that you’ll find Seongamsa Temple. The walk should take you just under 30 minutes to cover the two kilometre stretch.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. It’s the shaman murals of Yongwang and Sanshin that really stand out about this temple; however, with that said, the autumnal hues and the elaborate main hall are something to have a look at, as well, when you visit Seongamsa Temple in Nam-gu, Busan. While little visited by foreigners, it’s well worth the effort to go and see, especially if you’re in the area.

DSC_1169

The view from the temple.

CSC_1268

A look up towards Mt. Hwangryeongsan.

CSC_1270

As you first enter the temple grounds.

CSC_1307

The temple’s main hall.

DSC_1204

Inside the main hall with a look at the main altar.

DSC_1206

A look to the right reveals Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha).

CSC_1302

Keeping Yaksayore-bul company is this massive guardian mural.

DSC_1211

While to the left is this golden Jijang-bosal statue.

CSC_1306

Lining the interior of the main hall are several murals dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

CSC_1301

A look towards the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

CSC_1272

Inside reveals this amazing Sanshin mural.

CSC_1281

The Yongwang-dang entrance.

CSC_1291

Inside is this beautiful mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).

CSC_1290

Finally, it was time to go.