Samyeongam Hermitage – 사 명암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Picture 401

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.

For the Story Of…Samyeongam Hermitage.

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.

Picture 384
On the left is the stone marker that shows the way to Samyeongam Hermitage.
Picture 385
A view of Samyeongam Hermitage.
Picture 399
A view of the coy pond from the granite bridge that spans its depths.
Picture 389
And one, of the two, bell pavilions that hangs over the coy pond.
Picture 390
And the other bell pavilion and the Iljumun gate at the hermitage.
Picture 438
Just one of the many statues that sits on the banks of the pond. This one was the most beautiful.
Picture 403
The brown Buddha statue that welcomes you to the hermitage that is perhaps Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
Picture 404
A unique perspective as one ascends the stone staircase.
Picture 409
A view through Iljumun gate.
Picture 434
The main hall that is uniquely adorned with childlike paintings of monks.
Picture 428
The shrine hall with ancient trees as guards to the building.
Picture 422
The main altar inside the main hall. Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) is in the centre, with Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left, and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right.
Picture 423
A better look at Amita-bul.
Picture 424
An intricate guardian painting inside the main hall.
Picture 411
Just one of the many unique paintings that adorns the exterior of the main hall.  In this painting, there are childlike monks dancing around and wearing traditional masks.
Picture 419
Another of the childlike monk paintings.  If you look close enough, you’ll notice one of the monks on the far left is painting the Korean flag.
Picture 420
And another of the childlike monks, making, what looks to be a snowman. I’ve never seen a painting at any other temple or hermitage that even closely resemble this one.
Picture 415
 The shrine hall that is hidden behind the main hall.  The entire hermitage complex is surrounded by a bamboo forest.
Picture 418
The well hidden shrine hall directly behind the main hall at the hermitage.
Picture 432
A gorgeous pool of water with a stone lotus spout in the foreground.  In the background is one of the monk dorms at the hermitage.
Picture 405
One last look at the coy pond, as we descend the hermitage stairs.

Okryeonam Hermitage – 옥련암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Picture 319

The uniquely designed and decorated main hall at Okryeonam Hermitage 

Hello Again Everyone!!

Recently, my wife, in-laws and I all jumped in my wife and I’s new car and headed over to Tongdosa Temple to visit a few of the hermitages that are situated all around the grounds of Tongdosa Temple.  The first on our list was Okryeonam Hermitage (옥련암). It’s had a lot of renovations and add-ons since I was last there in the spring of 2007.

When you first approach the hermitage, you’ll notice three newly built/molded pagodas.  In fact, the pagodas are so new, that only one is completely done with a stone altar piece and cobble-stone around the pagoda. As you continue towards the hermitage, you’ll notice a life-size stone sculpture of Podae-hwasang welcoming you to Okryeonam Hermitage. Continuing up the increasingly elevated road that leads to the hermitage, you’ll notice fields of vegetables that help sustain the monk population with sustenance. In the distance, you’ll finally be able to spot the courtyard of the hermitage. To the left and right of the main stairs that lead up to the elevated courtyard, are a visitor’s centre and retreat hall.  These are newer looking buildings with beautiful landscaping and stone sculptures surrounding them.  Just before you climb the staircase to the upper courtyard at the hermitage, you’ll be able to see a unique pagoda made of temple roofing tiles.

Up the short staircase, and past two fiercely carved lion sculptures, are the main hall, shrine hall, and monk dormitory. The shrine hall, to the left, houses the figure of San shin and Dokseong.  Uniquely, this shrine hall also houses Jijang-bosal, Amita-bul, and Gwanseheum-bosal. Around this hall, there are beautifully painted pastoral paintings and ox-herding murals. To the right of the main hall is the monk dormitory.  The most unique structure at the hermitage is the main hall.  There was a religious ceremony going on when we visited, so we couldn’t go inside; however, the outside of the main hall more than made up for the inability to go inside. One of the most unique features on the exterior of the main hall is that the name of the hall, which is situated above the main doors at the main hall, are almost always written in Chinese characters.  But at Okryeonam’s main hall, the name is written in Korean:  Keun  Bit Eui Jeeb (“House of Big Light”). In fact, the paintings surrounding the exterior of the main hall, which represent the different life stages of the Historical Buddha, are also written in Korean, which is another rare feature to any Korean temple/hermitage. One more unique feature to the temple, and probably the most unique feature of the temple, is the gable area of the main hall, just below the roof.  Accompanying the usual paintings of gods and monks, there were also wooden statues of gods and monks.   In the courtyard, as you’re leaving, take your time to look at the wooden sculptures with human faces that are smiling at you.

HOW TO GET THERE:  To get to Okryeonam Hermitage, you’ll first have to get to Tongdosa Temple.  And to get to Tongdosa Temple you can take an intercity bus from Busan, Eonyang or Ulsan. Specifically 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 go 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.

Admission to Okryeonam Hermitage is free; however, to get into the grounds, you’ll have to pay 3,000 won at the Tongdosa Temple entrance gate.

View 옥련암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING:  6.5/10. There are a lot of unique features to this hermitage.  As soon as you approach the hermitage, you’ll be greeted by the uniquely molded pagodas, much like at Haedong Yonggungsa, that are just being completed. The other more unique features at this hermitage are littered throughout the exterior of the main hall, like the Korean name plate for the main hall, the Korean writing for the story of the Historical Buddha, and the wooden sculptures of gods and monks spread out along the main hall’s gables. If you’re going to visit any of the hermitages located at Tongdosa Temple, Okryeonam Hermitage is one of the better ones to visit.  Also, it’s one of the easier and more accessible hermitages to locate throughout the Tongdosa Temple grounds.

Picture 373
The newly molded pagodas that welcome you to the hermitage.
Picture 372
The pagodas and Podae-hwasang together welcome you to Okryeonam.
Picture 318
The beautiful manicured grounds and conference hall at the hermitage.
Picture 321
The tiled pagoda just below the elevated courtyard at Okryeonam Hermitage.
Picture 367
The uniquely designed and decorated main hall.
Picture 323
This is the first, of three, comical wooden sculptures in the main courtyard.
Picture 327
A view of the courtyard at Okryeonam Heritage.  On the left is the main hall, and on the right is the monk dormitory.
Picture 325
The shrine hall with a rare blend of hall guests.
Picture 331
First is Jijang Bosal, the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife.
Picture 336
Adorning the altar are Amita Bul (The Celestial Buddha), and Gwanseheum Bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
Picture 338
And the shaministic god: Dokseong.
Picture 349
Up high, just below the roof, is this charismatic painting.
Picture 364
The unique name inscription above the main doors at the main hall.  It’s unique because the words are written in Korean and not in Chinese chracters.  The Korean words read Keun Bit Eui Jeeb: The House of Big Light.
Picture 357
Another unique thing about the main hall at Okryeonam Hermitage.  Again, the writing accompanying the paintings about the life of the Historical Buddha are written in Korean and not in Chinese characters.
Picture 359
The wooden sculptures of gods and saints all along gable of the main hall at the hermitage.
Picture 366
And just before we left, a comical good-bye from the second wooden sculpture in the main courtyard at Okryeonam Hermitage.

Nojeonam Hermitage – 노전암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Picture 206

A beautiful look up at Saja-bawi and across the Naewon Valley that houses Nojeonam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yangsan is home to some of the most beautiful and well known temples/hermitages in all of Korea including Tongdosa Temple and Naewonsa Temple. And adding to that long list of beautiful Yangsan temples/hermitages is Nojeonam Hermitage (노전암).

Nojeonam Hermitage is a hermitage nestled on the slopes of  Cheonseongsan  Mountain, and it’s associated with Naewonsa Temple. Like eighty-nine other hermitages in the Naewon valley, monk Wonhyo also erected this hermitage during the Silla Dynasty. Legend has it that 1,000 followers of Wonhyo-daesa followed him out of China to become his disciples and eventual sages. The hermitage was later restored by the Seon priest Taehui between 1800 to 1834. Originally, this hermitage was treated as a hermitage; however, with the spread of Buddhism Nojeonam Hermitage was historically treated as a small temple. Nowadays, Nojeonam Hermitage has resorted back to being considered a hermitage once more.

When you first arrive at the hermitage, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful Iljumun Gate that has numerous paintings about the creation of the hermitage adorning it. Also, there are two fiercely painted renderings of Heng and Ha on the two entrance doors. After passing under and through the Iljumun Gate, you’ll enter into a beautifully maintained hermitage courtyard. Up a set of uneven stone stairs, you’ll finally arrive at the upper courtyard. To the left is a plainly decorated residence hall for the nuns that live and study at Nojeonam Hermitage. Straight ahead is the larger sized main hall at the hermitage. Surrounding the exterior walls are Ox-Herding murals. These paintings remind me of pastel drawings. There are beautiful pastoral paintings of the Korean countryside near the roof of the exterior walls, as well as larger sized Biseon. Additionally, there is a fiercely rendered blue dragon on the right side of the exterior wall. Finally, there are beautiful paintings of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas at the front of the main hall up near the roof. Inside this main hall is a larger sized Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre of a triad of statues upon the altar.

In front of this main hall is a newer looking five-tier granite pagoda. And to the right rear of the main hall is a Sanshin-gak, which is dedicated to the Shaman Mountain god: Sanshin. The exterior and interior of the hall is uniquely decorated with a female figure guiding male monks and administrators. It isn’t until you look at the altar inside the hall that you get an idea of who this female figure is. Sitting all alone on the shrine hall altar is a wooden carving of a female San shin. To have a female San shin rendering, even at a nunnery, is extremely rare as San shin is usually depicted as a male god. Behind the Sanshin-gak shrine hall is a field of stupas that house the earthly remains of former nuns that once took up residence at the hermitage.

The highlight of this hermitage is where it’s situated. In the fall, the leaves change into beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows, and they typify just how beautiful the Korean landscape becomes in late October/early November.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

HOW TO GET THERE:  To get to Nojeonam Hermitage, you’ll first have to get to the city of Yangsan. From Yangsan, you can catch bus #12-1 from Yangsan bus terminal. This bus leaves every hour. From the bus terminal, you’ll ride the bus about 20 to 30 minutes (depending on traffic) in front of the Naewonsa Temple entrance. Once here, you’ll have to walk an additional 30 minutes to the ticket booth. You can either walk the 30 minutes or take a taxi. Once you’re at the Naewonsa Temple ticket booth, instead of heading right towards Naewonsa Temple, you’ll have to head left and walk through a parking lot. Once you’re at the far end of the parking lot, and next to an washroom facility, you’ll see a green barrier fence in front of a dirt road. There’s an entrance to the right. You should head down this dirt trail for 2 kilometres until you arrive at Nojeonam Hermitage.

View 노전암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. While this hermitage is rather remote to the average temple/hermitage adventurer, to the more adventurous temple goer, the time it takes to find this hermitage will be well worth the effort. Walking the long and scenic Naewon valley, towards Nojeonam Hermitage, is almost worth the day trip alone to this hermitage (especially in the fall months). And once you get to the hermitage, you’ll first be greeted by the rarely seen, at least in this size of a hermitage, Iljumun (First Gate), and the Iljumun at this hermitage is beautifully designed and decorated with elaborate paintings. Also, the female San shin statue inside the Sanshin-gak shrine hall is another highlight to this hermitage.

Picture 201
The beautiful Naewon valley that you trek down. In the fall, the mountside and stream are especially beautiful.
Picture 013
 About a kilometre up the trail you’ll come to this trail marker. On the top right you can see the marker that reads 노전암 0.8 km. Nojeonam Hermitage isn’t all that far away now.
Picture 214
 Another look up the gorgeous valley. As you can see, we weren’t the only ones out on the beautiful Sunday morning.
Picture 207
 A look up at the rock face that’s called Saja-bawi in Korean, but Lion Rock in English. To me, it actually looks more like an old man.
Picture 025
 You be the judge.
Picture 039
Along the way we saw this bee busy at work. Picture 210
Almost there, as the fall colours are out in full force.
Picture 134
A row of beautiful white and purple flowers just outside the hermitage compound.
Picture 217
One of the more beautiful and unique Iljumun Gates that’s found at Nojeonam Hermitage.
 Picture 057
A look up at the gate and the door that is adorned with the guardian, Heng.
Picture 059
 And to Heng’s right is the equally fierce Ha, with his mouth wide open.
Picture 058
 A painting that adorns the Iljumun Gate as you first walk into the hermitage courtyard. You can see in this painting Wonhyo-daesa with his 1,000 followers.
Picture 221
 Stepping up the stone staircase, you’ll then see the rather large main hall at Nojeonam Hermitage.
Picture 113
On the right exterior of the main hall is this intricate blue dragon painting and the Biseon that are flying overhead.
Picture 110
 Surrounding the main hall are these pastel looking Ox-Herding murals.
Picture 102
 And near the roof are a set of these impressive pastoral paintings. Picture 230
The name tablet, written in Chinese characters, sits above the entrance to the main hall. Below the tablet is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre. He’s flanked by Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) riding his white elephant to the left, and on the right is Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) riding his tiger.
Picture 225
Inside the main hall, sitting upon the altar, is Seokgamoni-bul in the centre of a triad.
 Picture 220
To the right rear of the main hall is the Sanshin-gak shrine hall dedicated to San shin, the Shaman Mountain god. And out in front of the main hall is this newer looking five-tier pagoda.
Picture 073
 Inside the Sanshin-gak Hall is this unique painting of a female San shin guiding Wonhyo-daesa and his 1,000 followers to a perfect place to establish Nojeonam Hermitage.
Picture 069
One of the true highlights to visiting Nojeonam Hermitage is the female San shin etching.
Picture 083
And behind the Sanshin-gak is this lone stupa with the remains of a nun inside. Surrounding these remains are the beautiful mountains and fall colours.

Seokgolsa Temple – 석골사 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The beautiful waterfall at Seokgolsa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

I probably would have never visited Seokgolsa Temple if it weren’t for my in-laws bringing me there in 2007.  And fortunately for me they did, because the temple turned out to be one of the more picturesque temples I’ve visited since moving to  Korea in 2003.

After visiting the grandmother-in-law in Miryang, my in-laws decided to drive around the scenic mountainscape that is Miryang. After driving around for a bit, my mother-in-law asked if I wanted to visit a little known temple in the area. Obviously, my answer was a yes, and the temple turned out to be Seokgolsa Temple (석골사).

Seokgolsa Temple is a smaller sized temple along one of the mountain ranges in Miryang. As you approach the temple, the first thing you’ll notice is a beautiful flowing waterfall. As you near the ascent towards the temple, you’ll first see the large pool collecting the water from the waterfall. This waterfall is a lot more picturesque than the one at Hongnyongsa Temple. Up the rocky trail, and across a well-worn granite bridge, you’ll come across the stone stairway that leads up to the temple compound. The temple itself consists of no more than 5 buildings: the main hall, shrine hall, dormitory, and prayer halls.  Adorning the main hall are some uniquely illustrated paintings of the Buddha’s life. The temple compound itself is surrounded by a mature bamboo forest. So as nice as these handful of temple buildings are, it’s the scenery at Seokgolsa Temple that makes it such a beautiful temple.

HOW TO GET THERE:  To get to Seokgolsa Temple…well…your guess is as good as mine. Other than to say it’s in Miryang, and only accessible by car, this temple is a near mystery to locate. So good luck: and sorry that I couldn’t be more help on this one.

The admission to the temple is free.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. As was previously mentioned, this temple is a little more picturesque than the other waterfall temple, Hongnyongsa Temple, in Yangsan. And for that reason, Seokgolsa Temple garners a slightly higher rating. Adding to the rolling waterfall are the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains from the temple grounds. Also, there is a beautiful bamboo forest that skirts the temple compound. And if the views of nature weren’t enough, the temple buildings themselves are beautifully decorated (both inside and out). So for all these reasons, and if you can find it, Seokgolsa Temple is well worth a visit in the Miryang countryside.

A view of the beautiful mountains that surround Seokgolsa Temple.
The bridge that spans the ravine that feeds the beautiful waterfall at the temple.
The view of the cascades that feed the waterfall at the temple.
A view from the head of the waterfall down at the pool below.
The stone stairway that leads up to the temple grounds.
The main hall at Seokgolsa Temple.
And the shrine building, dedicated to Sanshin, at Seokgolsa Temple.
Some of the beautiful paintings on the main hall.  This one illustrates the life of the Buddha.
The most unique painting at the temple.
The earthly Buddha dying.
The Buddha teaching his disciples.
The Buddha being tempted.
Two life stages of the Buddha.  On the right is the Buddha escaping from his princely duties.  And on the left is the Buddha starving as he pursues enlightenment.
And just like the exterior, the interior of the temple buildings are just as beautiful.
A look at one of the intricately designed guardian painting inside a temple building at Seokgolsa Temple.
Another altar piece. This one is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
The back entrance at the temple with the surrounding bamboo forest.
One last look at the temple grounds from the temple bridge.
One last look at the rolling cascades.
And one last look at the beautiful waterfall at Seokgolsa Temple.

Updated: Haedong Yonggungsa Temple – 해동 용궁사 (Gijang-gun, Busan)


Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan

Hello Again Everyone!

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, which means “Korean Dragon Palace Temple,” in English, was first founded in 1376 by the Venerable monk Naong who was an advisor to King Gongmin. One day in a dream, the Divine Sea god of the East Sea revealed itself to Naong. He was told to construct a temple at the top of Mount Bongrae and the nation would become larger and more stable. So after checking around the nation for a place to build a temple, he found the land where the temple now rests. In the process, he named the temple Bomunsa Temple. However, in 1592, during the Imjin War with Japan, the temple was burned to the ground. It wasn’t until the 1930’s, over 300 years after its destruction, that the Venerable monk Ungang, from Tongdosa Temple, rebuilt the temple. He renamed it Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

You first approach the temple grounds, which are located along the coastal waters of the shoreline, down a narrow corridor filled with vendors selling their wares. It’s only after emerging on the other side that you’re confronted by twelve three metre tall statues of the zodiac generals. Have a look for yours, as you make your way towards the tire pagoda, because it’ll most certainly be there. Next, you’ll see the towering seven-story stone pagoda that is intricately detailed in its design. At its base is a tire shrine for people to pray to to avoid car accidents (seriously!).

It’s through the gate, which sports two golden dragons on either pillar, and down the flight of stairs that you’ll draw closer to the main temple grounds. Waiting for you along the way with a tarnished nosed and a scuffed belly is a Podae-hwasang statue that grants woman that rub its belly or nose a future son.

After finally passing through an artificial cave passageway, the East Sea will finally come into view. Dozens of stone lanterns lead the way as you make your descent down the 108 stairs that are symbolic of the 108 delusions of the mind in Buddhism. But before you reach the base of the stairs, about halfway down the flight of stairs, is an outcropping to your left. It’s along this pathway that you’ll see Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). If you go a little bit further, you’ll notice a golden statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). It’s also from this shoreline outcropping that you get an amazing view of the temple grounds.

Crossing over the bridge that separates one shoreline from the next, you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard. Along the way, you can toss a couple coins to a dongja or a turtle for good luck. Just past the temple entry gate, and just to your left, is the three-tier stone pagoda with four lions at its base. These lions represent the four basic human emotions of love, sorrow, anger, and joy.

With the main hall to your right and around a bend that sports a ferocious metal dragon, you’ll finally have an commanding view of the neighbouring sea and the large sized Daeung-jeon main hall behind you. The main hall is filled with beautiful paintings including the Palsang-do murals and a painting to the Divine Sea god of the East Sea revealing itself to the monk Naong. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To the right of this triad is a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), while to the left hangs a Yeongsan Hoesang-do mural.

To the left of the main hall is a large, jovial, golden statue of the Podae-hwasang. Also in the main courtyard are two large, round, golden pigs that grant good fortune. There are a flight of stairs that lead underground which houses a statue of Yaksayore-bul, as well as water that purportedly cures ill health. The only other shrine hall in this area is the Yongwang-gak. Looking outwards on the ocean is a wooden statue of the Dragon King.

It’s next to this shrine hall, and up an uneven set of stairs, that you’ll climb towards a serenely smiling figure of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The towering statue is known as the Haesu Gwaneeum Daebo, which means “Sea Water Bodhisattva of Compassion Statue.” She is surrounded on all sides by shrubbery and thin monk statues. From these heights, you get a breath-taking view of the East Sea and Haedong Yonggungsa Temple down below.

Admission to the temple is free.

For more on Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE:  From the Haeundae subway stop (line 2, stop #203), and out exit #7, you can catch Bus #181 that will bring you all the way to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Just make sure you get off at the temple’s stop. You can take a bus or you can simply take a taxi from the Jangsan subway stop (line 2, stop #201). The price should be about 10,000 won.

OVERALL RATING:  9/10.  What isn’t to love about this seaside temple? The temple is a bit of a rarity in Korea in that it’s located next to the sea and not up in the mountains. This only adds to the temple’s natural beauty. This, in combination with its elegant statue of Gwanseeum-bosal, the view from the Jijang-bosal statue, and the main hall itself, make for a beautiful combination of Buddhist artistry. I’ve been visiting Haedong Yonggungsa Temple since 2003, and it’s only gotten busier and busier each time I go, which really speaks to its popularity; and ultimately, its beauty.


The row of 12 zodiac generals that greet you at the temple.


An up close of the rat with coin in eye.


The seven-tier stone pagoda.


The entry gate that leads down to the sea and the temple courtyard.


The baby-making Podae-hwasang.


The first view of the sea from the stone lanterns that guide the way.


A look towards the buildings at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.


The beautiful neighbouring seaside.


The golden Jijang-bosal statue.


A couple enjoying a moment.


The view as you cross the bridge towards the temple.


The three-tier pagoda with a lion base.


The expressive metal dragon with the main hall in the background.


The Naong dream painting.


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


The large golden Podae-hwasang statue.


The statue and painting dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).


The crowning Gwanseeum-bosal statue.


The view that Gwanseeum-bosal gets to enjoy.