The gorgeously serene coy pond at Samyeongam Hermitage
Hello Again Everyone!!
Continuing on our tour of hermitages around Tongdosa Temple, this posting will be about Samyeongam Hermitage (사 명암). Samyeongam Hermitage is one of the largest hermitages I’ve ever visited, and probably the largest of the hermitages associated with Tongdosa Temple. As you approach Samyeongam Hermitage, the first thing you’ll notice is the beautiful pond that is located out in front of the main hermitage courtyard. A gorgeous granite bridge spans the length of this coy pond. Scattered all around the rim of the pond are assorted Buddhist statues. And like two sentinels, the twin bell pavilions hang out over the pond from the depths of the elevated main courtyard above. Greeting you, as you climb the staircase that leads up to the main courtyard at the hermitage, is an intricately designed brown Buddha statue (probably Gwanseeum-bosal). Once you make your way up the stairs, you’ll be introduced to the main courtyard by a low standing Iljumun (First Gate). As you pass through Iljumun, you’ll first see the main hall directly in front of you. The main hall has extremely rare paintings adorning its exterior. Because it’s a hermitage for monks studying Buddhism, the paintings are of childlike monks, symbolic of the spiritual maturation process within the Buddhist faith. To the left is the monk study hall. To the immediate right of the main hall is a shrine hall with ancient trees standing out front of it like two protective guards. Surprisingly, there was a well hidden shrine hall directly behind the main hall up a steep set of stairs. To the far right are a handful of buildings that are the monks’ dorms, and they’re off limits to the public. Of note, you can get some great pictures of both the pond, and the valley below, from the elevated main courtyard.
HOW TO GET THERE: Much like Okryeonam Hermitage, to get to Samyeongam Hermitage, you’ll first have to make your way to Tongdosa Temple. To get to Tongdosa from the Gyeongsangnam-do area, you can take an intercity bus from Busan, Eonyang or Ulsan. And from Busan, you can take a bus or subway to Nopo-dong intercity bus terminal. There, you can get a ticket for Tongdosa Temple. It leaves every 20 minutes. Once you arrive in Yangsan, and facing the very small bus terminal, you should walk left and then turn right at the first corner. The temple entrance is past the numerous restaurants and shops. Walk up a 1.5 km path, sprinkled with ancient graffiti, and you will eventually arrive at the outskirts of the temple grounds. Once you get to the parking lot for Tongdosa Temple, keep walking up the road for cars to the left. Follow this road for about a kilometre. The road will fork to the right or straight. Follow the road that leads straight. Continue up this road for another two kilometres and follow the signs as you go because there is more than one hermitage back there. As you near Samyeongam Hermitage, you’ll come to a point where the road forks. Whereas the road that leads to Okryeonam Hermitage splits to the left, the road that leads to Samyeongam Hermitage heads right. There is a large stone standing on its edge that reads the hermitage name in Korean: 사 명암.
Like Okryeonam Hermitage, admission to Samyeongam Hermitage is free; however, you’ll have to pay the modest 3,000 Won entrance fee to Tongdosa Temple to gain access to the rest of the grounds.
View 사명암 in a larger map
OVERALL RATING: 7/10. The coy pond at Samyeongam Hermitage is beautiful. And this unique aspect of this hermitage slightly outweighs the smaller uniqueness of the neighbouring Okryeonam Hermitage. For this reason, Samyeongam Hermitage rates slightly higher than Okryeonam Hermitage. Besides the coy pond, there are other highlights at this hermitage, like the ancient trees that act as sentries for a shrine hall. Also, the lower standing Iljumun gate nicely frames the main hall as you ascend the stairs at Samyeongam Hermitage. Much like Okryeonam Hermitage, Samyeongam Hermitage has a lot to offer the temple adventurer; and to top it off, it’s one of the easier hermitages to get to at Tongdosa Temple.