Myogwaneumsa Temple – 묘관음사 (Gijang-gun, Busan)

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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.

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A look through the front entry gate at Myogwaneumsa Temple.

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

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

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The main temple courtyard at the temple.

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

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The tropical main hall at Myogwaneumsa Temple.

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

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Inside the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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The main hall guardian mural.

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

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A look inside the Josa-jeon Hall.

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

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The main altar inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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

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

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The painting of Sanshin housed inside the Samseong-gak.

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As well as Dokseong.

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

Wonhyodae Temple – 원효대 (Gijang-gun, Busan)

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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.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate at Wonhyodae Temple.

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One of three Podae-hwasang statues at the temple.

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

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One of the rudimentary statues of the Four Heavenly Kings.

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The main hall at Wonhyodae Temple.

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

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

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A closer look at Amita-bul.

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

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The large painting and statue of Yongwang.

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

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

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The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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

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A look inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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

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

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The beautifully situated Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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

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

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And the view from the Samseong-gak.

Sajaam Hermitage – 사자암 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)

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

Hello Again Everyone!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The hermitage courtyard.

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

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The view from the Samseong-gak shrine hall.

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

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The Confucian-style Chilseong mural.

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To the right hangs this mural of Dokseong.

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And to the left hangs this older mural of Sanshin.

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A look at the unadorned main hall at Sajaam Hermitage.

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A look around the interior of the main hall.

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

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The well-populated guardian mural inside the main hall.

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One more look at the main hall.

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

Jinhongsa Temple – 진홍사 (Buk-gu, Busan)

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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.

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The stupas and stele at the entry of Jinhongsa Temple.

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The Iljumun Gate at the temple.

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

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

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

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The nearness of nature at Jinhongsa Temple.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar.

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The unpainted wooden guardian relief inside the main hall.

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The other shrine hall at Jinhongsa Temple.

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

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Some of the decorative Buddhist artwork underfoot.

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The main altar inside the adjoining shrine hall.

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The Jijang-bosal mural at Jinhongsa Temple.

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

Now and Then: Beomeosa Temple

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

Hello Again Everyone!!

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

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

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

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Another amazing view of Beomeosa Temple from 1929.

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The Iljumun Gate from 1931.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate from 1931.

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

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A more modern picture of Beomeosa Temple from 1970.

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The Iljumun Gate from 1970, as well.

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A 2013 picture of Beomeosa Temple.

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A more recent picture of the Iljumun Gate.

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The temple courtyard at Beomeosa Temple.

Seongamsa Temple – 성암사 (Nam-gu, Busan)

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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.

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The view from the temple.

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A look up towards Mt. Hwangryeongsan.

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As you first enter the temple grounds.

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The temple’s main hall.

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

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

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Keeping Yaksayore-bul company is this massive guardian mural.

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

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

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A look towards the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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Inside reveals this amazing Sanshin mural.

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The Yongwang-dang entrance.

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

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Finally, it was time to go.

Cheongryangsa Temple – 청량사 (Gangseo-gu, Busan)

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A look through a window at the Minang-gak shaman shrine hall at Cheongryangsa Temple in Gangseo-gu, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!!

Cheongryangsa Temple is located in an industrial part of western Busan, and it’s surrounded on all sides by neighbouring factories. You first enter the compact temple grounds off of one of the industrial roads, as you pass through the Cheonwangmun Gate. Painted inside this gate are four murals of the Four Heavenly Kings. And adorning the ceiling are a set of swirling Biseon. On top of the gate is the temple’s towering bell pavilion.

As soon as you enter the temple grounds, and pass through the diminutive dirt parking lot, you’ll be greeted by the newer looking main hall. The main hall is surrounded by some of the more beautiful Palsang-do murals that you’ll find at any temple throughout Korea. As for the interior, and sitting under a yet to be painted canopy, are a triad of smaller sized statues. Sitting in the centre is Amita-bul (The Bodhisattva of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Wisdom and Power or Amita-bul). On the far right wall is a memorial shrine for the dead and to the far left is a guardian mural. And just behind the main hall is a seated statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

In between the main hall and the temple bathroom is an ancient tree. Just behind this ancient tree are the monks’ dorms, kitchen, and visitors’ centre.

Perhaps the most unique aspect to the temple is the Minang-gak, which houses the usual shaman suspects, as well as another highly original painting. The Minang-gak shaman shrine hall is painted with various murals of the Shinseon (The Daoist Immortals). As for when you first step into the Minang-gak, you’ll be welcomed by a highly original mural of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). To the right of this mural is an older looking painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). The next painting, and in the same style as the Sanshin mural, is a mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). The final mural in the set of four is the Dangsan painting. This highly original mural is dedicated to a female spirit that protects the temple grounds and the surrounding area. It was formerly housed in a shrine all to its own before Cheongryangsa Temple was first established. With the creation of the temple, Cheongryangsa Temple simply absorbed the shrine dedicated to Dangsan and housed the painting dedicated to this feminine spirit alongside other shaman deities inside the Minang-gak.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll need to take the subway to the Hadan subway stop, #102, line one. Take exit number 3 and find the bus stop where you can take town bus #3 or #15. The bus is smaller in size, and you’ll need to take it for 7 stops. Get off at the Sachuideung (사취등) stop. Look for the temple signs and walk towards the temple for about three minutes. Either that or you can simply take a taxi from Hadan subway station. The ride will take about 7 minutes, depending on traffic, and cost you about 5,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. While small in size, Cheongryangsa Temple has the most uncommon of shaman spirits housed in one of the more unusual of shaman shrine halls, the Minang-gak, in all of Korea. This shrine hall alone is worth the attempt to find Cheongryangsa Temple. However, couple this with the newly constructed main hall and the murals it sports, and you’ll have more than enough reason to visit this unknown temple in western Busan.

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 A look through the Cheonwangmun Gate at Cheongryangsa Temple.

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Just one of the Four Heavenly Kings housed inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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The swirling set of Biseon painted on the ceiling of the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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A look up at the Cheonwangmun Gate and just some of the trees that line the temple grounds.

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A look at the newly built main hall at Cheongryangsa Temple.

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Just one of the masterful Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls along the main hall.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar.

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A statue of Mireuk-bul that sits in back of the main hall.

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The monks’ residence at the temple.

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Finally, a look at the Minang-gak shaman shrine hall at Cheongryangsa Temple.

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Just one of the Shinseon murals that adorns the shaman shrine hall.

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The earthy image of Sanshin inside the Minang-gak.

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A look at the other three murals that make up the shaman set of paintings.

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 A closer look at the Dangsan mural inside the Minang-gak.

Okryeonseonwon Temple – 옥련선원 (Suyeong-gu, Busan)

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A man prays to the massive Mireuk-bul statue at Okryeonseonwon Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Okryeonseonwon Temple is located in the heart of Suyeong, in Busan, just outside Haeundae and Gwangalli beaches. It has a commanding view of the ocean and trendy neighbourhood apartments.

You first approach Okryongseonwon Temple up a steep road that seems to be popular with mountain hikers. You’ll know that you’re getting closer and closer to the temple because you’ll see an extended three metre high wall made completely of roof tiles. When you do eventually arrive at the temple grounds, the first structure to welcome you is the Iljumun Gate that is decorated with a pair of guardian murals: Heng and Ha.

Passing through this gate, you’ll see the nuns’ quarters straight ahead. The lovely grass path is bordered on all sides by tall, lush hedges. The bell pavilion hovers over the hedges on the far end of this lower temple courtyard.

At the end of the path, and just before the bell pavilion, are a pair of stone lanterns with an assortment of figurines stuffed in all crevices and cracks. Just up the stairs, and you’ll finally arrive in the upper temple courtyard. Straight ahead is the compact main hall. Inside the main hall, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues. In the centre sits a slender statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by two equally slim-looking statues of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of the main altar is a mural of the multi-eyed Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

Just to the left of the main hall, and up a set of stairs, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. You’ll get some more amazing views of the neighbouring cityscape from here. As for inside this shaman shrine hall, and unusually resting in the centre of the three, is a life-sized statue of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). He’s joined to the left by an unassuming Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and a pair of paintings to the right. The first is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), while the other is a rather atypical painting of Yongwang (The Dragon King) joined by Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings). Just to the right of the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, and behind the main hall, is a solitary three-tier pagoda.

The real highlight to this temple, and to the far left of the temple halls, is the massive 20 metre tall statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). Mireuk-bul, from his commanding vantage point, looks out protectively over Busan. As you make your way back down to the lower courtyard, you’ll make your way past some beautiful landscaping. There are a combination of red roses, purple irises, and an assortment of flowers in bloom along the way. Make sure you visit either in summer or spring to this temple. You’ll be amazed by the landscaping if you do.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways in which you can get to Okryeonseonwon Temple. Both require that you first take the subway to Millak subway stop, #207. From there, you exit out exit #1 and catch a taxi. The ride should only take about 5 minutes, over 1.4 kilometres, and it should cost you 2,800 won. The other way that you can do it is by simply walking. Again, you’ll need to go out exit #1. Head towards the ocean and towards the second bridge to the south. Once you get to the bridge, hang a right. Head in this direction for about 300 metres. Then, hang another right towards the Millak Elementary School. Head up this road, which has a bit of an incline, for another 300 metres until you arrive at Okryeonseonwon Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. This has to be one of the most beautifully kept temples that you’ll visit in all of Korea. It’s beautiful lawns and amazing landscaping with an assortment of flowers and hedges make Okryeonseonwon Temple an amazing escape from the daily grind, especially if you’re in the Suyeong area of Busan. Add into the mix the view and the massive statue of Mireuk-bul, and you have plenty of reason to visit this little known gem.

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The road that leads up to the temple.

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Just one of several guardians that greet you at the temple entrance.

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The Iljumun Gate at Okryeonseonwon Temple.

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The beautiful hedges that welcome you to the temple grounds.

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 The view of the temple halls at Okryeonseonwon Temple.

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The bell pavilion that hovers over top of the tall hedges.

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 A look up towards the main hall.

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A closer look at the compact hall with the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall just to the left.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar. Sitting in the middle is Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal. To the far right, you can see the elaborate mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

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 The amazing view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The life-sized statue of Sanshin.

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He’s joined to the right by these two murals dedicated to Chilseong and Yongwang.

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The solitary pagoda behind the main hall.

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And through the forest, you’ll catch your first glimpse of Mireuk-bul.

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A closer look at the masterful statue of the Buddha.

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And a look over his shoulder at the view he gets to enjoy.

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Just some of the amazing landscaping at the temple.

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A beautiful stone lantern surrounded by nature on all sides.

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 And lastly, some beautiful red roses that were still in full bloom at Okryeonseonwon Temple.

Haeinjeongsa Temple – 해인정사 (Saha-gu, Busan)

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The beautiful view of the Boje-ru pavilion from Haeinjeongsa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Haeinjeongsa Temple is a newly rebuilt temple that hugs Mt. Gudeoksan in Saha-gu in Busan. To get to the temple, you’ll need to ascend the steep road that leads to the temple parking lot. You’ll first pass under the high vaulted ceiling of the Boje-ru pavilion. The ceiling is painted with beautiful dragon and Biseon murals.

Finally level with the temple grounds, you’ll pass by the temple’s visiting centre and kitchen. Ascending a set of stairs, you’ll enter the main temple courtyard. As you look up at the elevated main hall, you’ll notice the bell pavilion to your back. This is the upper portion of the Boje-ru pavilion that you first passed through to gain entrance to the temple. There are some amazing views of the west-end of Busan from these heights.

As for the main hall itself, it’s adorned with some of the more unique paintings you’ll see in Korea. These golden hued murals depict various episodes from the various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in Buddhism. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are seven golden statues. The central figure is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s flanked by two large seated statues of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) to left and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Body Buddha) to the right.

To the left of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon. The exterior walls are adorned with various murals, but none as frightening as the judgment murals of Agwi and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the left side of the hall. The interior of the hall is rather cavernous, and plain, because there is only a golden haired statue of Jijang-bosal with a golden scroll in his hand. Of note, the Ten Kings of the Underworld, which are so common in this type of hall, are absent.

And to the right of the main hall, and joined by the monks’ dorms to the extreme right, is the Gwaneeum-jeon. All of the exterior walls are adorned with various murals of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). There are various incarnations of the 33 forms that this Bodhisattva can appear like to people. As for the main altar inside the Gwaneeum-jeon, and much like the Myeongbu-jeon, the only thing taking up residence inside this hall is a large golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

The only other two shrine halls left to see at the temple are to the left of the main temple grounds. These halls are some of the most underwhelming halls dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that you’ll see in all of Korea, especially after seeing the newly constructed halls in the main temple courtyard. These Korean War-looking bunkers house a statue of Yongwang and a painting of Sanshin in their respective shrine halls. If you don’t feel like being depressed, simply pass by these halls after visiting the three buildings in the main temple courtyard.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Haeinjeongsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to Goejeong Subway Station #105 on line one in Busan. From there, you should take a taxi, because the roads that lead up to the temple are confusing and steep. It should only cost you 2,800 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. This temple is a tough one to rate. It’s not the easiest to get to and it has the two dilapidated buildings dedicated to the two shaman deities to the side of the main temple grounds. However, the newly constructed buildings dedicated to Jijang-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal, as well as the main hall, largely make up for most short-comings. Also, the spectacular views of western Busan are pretty amazing. So a mixed bag of sorts will greet you at Haeinjeongsa Temple.

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The steep road that leads up towards the temple.

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A look through the Boje-ru pavilion.

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And a look up at the bell pavilion with a beautiful blue sky surrounding it.

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A look inside the bell pavilion.

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The amazing view of western Busan from the Boje-ru pavilion.

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The main hall and Myeongbu-jeon at Haeinjeongsa Temple.

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The golden paintings that adorn the main hall that depict Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

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A look inside the main hall at the elaborate main altar.

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One of the paintings that adorns the exterior walls of the Myeongbu-jeon.

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And inside the Myeongbu-jeon is a solitary statue of Jijang-bosal.

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To the right of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon.

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Just one of the beautiful paintings of Gwanseeum-bosal that adorns the hall’s walls.

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The golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal that sits all alone inside the Gwaneeum-jeon.

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The amazing view of both Haeinjeongsa Temple and Busan down below.

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The bomb-shelter-like Sanshin-gak.

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The rather plain looking painting of Sanshin inside the Sanshin-gak.

Taejongsa Temple – 태종사 (Yeongdo-gu, Busan)

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 Just one of the amazing views from Taejongdae Park, where Taejongsa Temple is located in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Taejongdae Park and Taejongsa Temple are named after the 29th King of the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. to 935 A.D.), King Taejong. King Taejong Muyeol (604-661) enjoyed archery and hiking in this area of Busan. He was also the father to King Sejong the Great. Taejongdae Park is well known for its scenic views. You can see Tsushima Islands in Japan, as well as the beautiful rock beaches. The park is also famous for a ritual for the rain. The ritual is performed on May 10th of the lunar calendar, and it’s called Taejong Rain. Besides Taejongsa Temple, you can also enjoy Gumyeongsa Temple, an observatory, the Yeongdo Lighthouse, the Sinseon Rock (where deities came to relax), and the Mangbuseok rock, where a woman is said to have waited for her husband who had been taken by the Japanese. Taejongdae Park is known as Scenic Site #17. But above it all, it’s the amazing views that people come to Taejongdae Park, and subsequently see Taejongsa Temple along the way.

If you take the more scenic route, which I strongly recommend, you’ll come to the mountainside Taejongsa Temple after about 30 minutes of hiking. About 100 metres up the trail, you’ll come to Taejongsa Temple from the rear. So the first thing to greet you at the temple is the main hall. The main hall, which is rather underwhelming when you first see it, is made of concrete. Of note, the brown latticework is especially beautiful. On each corner is a manja. Housed inside the main hall, and sitting all alone, is a large golden statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Flanking this statue on either side are colourful murals of the Buddha. On the far right wall is the Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian mural). It’s well populated with shaman deities and guardians. On the other wall is an equally elaborate mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

Just to the rear of the main hall, and to the left, is the Sanshin-gak. Another concrete hall, this house-like structure has a nice painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). The painting is joined by a white statue of Sanshin-dosa (The Mountain Pass Deity). Just down the mountain, and to the left, is the Bo-gung shrine hall. Inside this hall are the purported remains of the Buddha that they received from Sri Lanka. As you enter this hall, you’ll notice a stone statue of a lying Seokgamoni-bul. Straight ahead is a large golden pagoda with an open chamber, where the partial earthly remains of the Buddha reside. Above is a window that lets in natural sunlight. Behind the golden pagoda are south-east Asian-looking statues of the Buddha. The walls inside this hall are lined with miniature statues of the Buddha.

Just out in front of this hall and the main hall is a very unique, non-traditional, three-story stone pagoda. Just beyond this pagoda is a field of stupas and the monks’ quarters. The final thing you can see, as you make your way back to the main road of Taejongdae Park, is a popular replica of a Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) statue.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Taejongdae Park, and then Taejongsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to Busan Station. From the Busan train station, you can catch city bus #88 or #101. When you arrive, and from the entry of Taejongdae Park, you should hang a left and head up the road for about a kilometer. The temple is on your left.


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OVERALL RATING: 4/10. On its own, the temple might be a two out of ten. But Taejongdae Park, which is a ten out of ten, raises this below average temple to a sort of respectability. While the temple purportedly houses the Buddhas sari (crystallized earthly remains of the Buddha), take your time and enjoy the must more pleasurable, and scenic, Taejongdae Park. Little else of this concrete temple is worth seeing.

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One of the first openings you’ll come to at Taejongdae Park.

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Another amazing view, as boats leave and enter the neighbouring Busan port.

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A look over the sheer cliff at the neighbouring East Sea.

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Finally, after 30 minutes of hiking, you’ll come to Taejongsa Temple. The first thing to greet you is the temple’s main hall.

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The latticework on the main hall. Notice the manja design on the four corners of the windowpane.

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A look at the altar inside the main hall.

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A painting of Seokgamoni-bul beside the statue of a golden Buddha.

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The mountainside Sanshin-gak at Taejongsa Temple.

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A look inside at the mural of Sanshin, as well as a statue of Sanshin-dosa to the left.

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The Bo-gung hall that houses the partial earthly remains of the Buddha.

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The golden pagoda that houses the Buddha’s sari.

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A closer look at the open chamber with the Buddha’s remains inside.

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The Korean and south-east Asian style statues of the Buddha.

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One last look…

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The stupa field to the south of the temple.

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One last amazing view of the neighbouring sea, as you make your way back to the park exit.