Anyangam Hermitage – 안양암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Picture 663The foggy view from Anyangam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yesterday, we weren’t planning on much after visiting Sinheungsa Temple besides visiting the in-laws. However, the visit to the in-laws quickly turned into a whirlwind temple tour.  In all, after Sinheungsa Temple, we visited three more temples and hermitages. After visiting Tongdosa Temple, we visited another smaller hermitage called Anyangam Hermitage (안양암). It’s on the Tongdosa Temple grounds, like so many other temples and hermitages in the area. I hadn’t been to Anyangam Hermitage in about seven years, and had wanted to go for some time.  So when my mother-in-law insisted we go, we went.

Anyangam Hermitage was built in 1295 by the Venerable Monk Chanin.  Like the stream beside Jajangam Hermitage, the view from Anyangam Hermitage has been designated one of the eight best scenic sights at Tongdosa Temple.

Anyangam Hermitage is an average sized hermitage for the hermitages associated with Tongdosa Temple. As you approach the hermitage, you walk down a nice mountain-side trail. The views below are amazing, as you stare down into the valley below Chiseosan Mountain. Be careful when walking, because one wrong move and you’re headed down the side of the mountain and a couple hundred metres below. Continuing along the path, you’ll be able to see the tops of the hermitage buildings just over the knoll. To the left is a gathering of rocks with various small Buddhist statues adorning it. There are even more great views of the valley below from this vantage point.  A fog was rolling in over the mountains when we were there, and it was pretty amazing. After you’ve had your fill of photo opportunities from this vantage point, head right, and towards the temple grounds. Uniquely, the hermitage is situated in a bit of a sink-hole. The mountain envelopes the hermitage, and the hermitage is nestled into a seeming hole. Down a row of stairs, you’ll have to step down to get to the hermitage. As you climb down these stairs, you’ll pass by the shrine hall dedicated to San Shin (the Mountain God). The hermitage is compactly situated, with a shrine hall to your immediate left, the monk dorms directly in front of you, and the larger sized main hall to your right. The main hall is dark and cavernous inside with a solitary Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) stoically and solitarily sitting at the altar of the main hall. To have a solitary Buddha figure on the altar of the main hall is an extremely unique feature to a temple or a hermitage. There were a couple interesting paintings adorning the inside of the main hall, but the more amazing paintings lay on the exterior of the hall walls. The paintings depicting the life of the Buddha as well as the ox-herding murals were cartoonish. Also, there were a couple other paintings on the far side of the main hall wall that were unique to the hermitage, like cranes flying with a floating feminine figure in between them. Equally interesting, and beautiful, are the wooden flowers adorning the front doors to the main hall.  They are both colourful and vibrant.

HOW TO GET THERE:  Just like all the other hermitages associated with Tongdosa Temple, you’ll have to first take a bus 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.  Instead of continuing to head straight, like Seounam Hermitage, you’ll hang a right. Heading uphill, you’ll first pass by Sudoam Hermitage. Anyangam Hermitage is just another 500 metres up the road.

Again, you’ll have to pay the 3,000 won entrance fee at the Tongdosa Temple entrance gate, but Anyangam Hermitage, itself, is free of charge.

View 안양암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Just for the views alone of the Chiseosan Mountain range above, and the valley below, this hermitage rates as highly as it does. And while the hermitage itself is rather small and compact, the paintings inside and outside of the main hall add to the depth of this hermitage’s overall score. Furthermore, the uniqueness of having a solitary Seokgamoni-bul on the altar of the main hall only adds to the uniqueness of this beautiful hermitage. If you have the time and energy, add this to the list of things to see while visiting Tongdosa Temple.

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The stone sign that directs you towards Anyangam Hermitage.
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The pebbled path that leads you towards the hermitage.
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Over the rocky knoll is a first look at Anyangam Hermitage.
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And a great view down into the Chiseosan Mountain range and the valley down below.
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Another lookout over the valley below. On top of the large rocks some people have left Buddhist statues and souvenirs.
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A row of baby monks keeping each other company with their backs to the valley and mountains.
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A look up at the shrine hall dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain god).
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A look at the hermitage grounds as you descend down the stairs.
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A better look at one of the prayer halls at the hermitage.
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And the beautiful bell that hangs from its rooftop.
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A look at another prayer hall and the main hall at Anyangam Hermitage.
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A guardian painting inside the main hall.
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The solitary Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) all by his lonesome on the altar in the main hall.
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A statue of Jijang Bosal (The Boddhisattva of the Afterlife) with mural at her back.
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A painting with personality.
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Outside the main hall are these beautiful paintings. These cartoonish paintings of the Buddha’s life are second-to-none.
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Ladies trying to seduce the Buddha. If you look closely at the mirror that the Buddha is holding, you’ll see a demons face, instead of the faces of the beautiful women seductively staring at him.
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A painting filled with meaning. It’s just a meaning I don’t understand!
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One of the more beautiful paintings of a Biseon that I’ve seen adorning the exterior of a main hall.
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As are these ornamental flowers that adorn the front doors of the main hall.

Biroam Hermitage -비로암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Picture 029The monk dorm with the shrine hall on the right.  In the background is the beautiful Chiseosan Mountains with a heavy fog sweeping over them.

Hello Again Everyone!

Trying to round out all the hermitages we hadn’t visited yet at Tongdosa Temple, my wife and I decided to visit Biroam Hermitage (비로암). We had visited it before our marriage in 2005 with my mom and my wife’s mom.  It was a great memory, and it was great visiting the hermitage once more. So after a nice lunch with the in-laws, we hopped in the trusty KIA Pride and headed over to Tongdosa Temple.  And like most hermitages at Tongdosa Temple, Biroam Hermitage did not disappoint.

Biroam (Biro Hermitage) is named after Birojana-bul, the Buddha of Infinite Cosmic Light. The hermitage itself dates back to 1345.  It was founded by the Great Master Yeongsuk during the first year of King Chungmok. The hermitage itself is one of the furthest away from Tongdosa Temple on the grounds. It’s a long, but beautiful, hike up the side of Mt.Chiseosan.

As you approach the hermitage, you’ll first be greeted by a unique guardian gate.  Usually, the guardian gate contains four statues of the Heavenly Kings; however, at Biroam, there are painted images of the Heavenly Kings inside, on the walls, of the gate. Passing through this gate, you’ll get beautiful views of the valley below where Tongdosa Temple, and numerous other hermitages, reside. To your right, you’ll get your first few looks of the hermitage buildings over the low-lying hedges. You’ll pass through Buli-mun, the gate of non-duality, to gain entrance to the main hermitage grounds. Straight ahead is the beautiful main hall at the temple.  With colourful paintings of Biseon  (flying Angels playing music and offering fruit) as well as ox-herding murals adorning the exterior of the hall, there are equally beautiful paintings on the inside.  The main altar piece at the hermitage, and the namesake of the hermitage, is a statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Infinite Cosmic Light). To this Buddha’s right is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).  One of the interior paintings is an older looking Yeongsan Assembly painting with numerous gods, monks, and others accompanying the Buddha.  Also, there are a couple monk paintings as well as a painting of a phoenix and dragons adorning the roof beams in the main hall.  To the immediate right of the main hall is a non-descript visitors’ centre, which neither hurts nor helps the hermitage aesthetically. Continuing to the left is a shrine hall dedicated to a Buddha, as well as San Shin and Chilseong (The Seven Stars of the Big Dipper). Around the exterior of the shrine hall are unique paintings about a mother rearing a child from birth to adolescence. On the lower level of the main courtyard is a beautiful pond neighboured by the monk dormitory.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Yangsan; and more specifically, Tongdosa Temple. 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.  Admission for adults is 3,000 won. From Tongdosa Temple, you’ll have to continue up the main road for another 700 metres until you come to a fork in the road.  Instead of heading straight ahead, turn right and continue heading that direction for two kilometres.  The road forks to the left and right: left to Jajangam Hermitage and right to Biroam Hermitage. Follow the fork that heads right.  And when the road forks once more to the left and right, the left to Gukrakam Hermitage, and the right continues towards your final destination of Biroam Hermitage.

View 비로암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING:  6/10. It’s a long journey to get to the hermitage, but the hermitage and the views of the valley below are well worth the journey. The unique Heavenly Kings entrance gate is a nice little introduction to the rest of the temple.  And once you pass through the second gate at the temple, the beautifully painted main hall dedicated to Biro Bul and shrine hall are a nice addition to an already beautiful hermitage.  Finally, the proximity of the neighbouring mountains, as well as the beautiful little man-made pond at the hermitage, and Biroam Hermitage is a hermitage well worth a visit if you’re in the area for an overnight stay.

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Somewhere up there in Chiseosan Mountain is Biroam Hermitage.
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The sights that welcome you to the hermitage.
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A look through the Heavenly Kings Gate at Biroam Hermitage.
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One of the four Heavenly Kings that protects the hermitage from evil spirits.
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A beautiful painting of a dragon on the ceiling of the Heavenly Kings Gate.
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The well-groomed path that leads up to the main courtyard at the hermitage.
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A look through Buli-mun gate at the main hall at Biroam Hermitage.
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A look across the main hall.
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A beautiful ornamental bell adorning the main hall with the neighbouring mountains in the background.
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Two Biseon adorning the main hall while playing instruments.
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A look at the main altar piece at the hermitage, and the namesake of Biroam Hermitage: Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Infinite Cosmic Light).
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And the accompanying Jijang Bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
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The beautiful, and full, Yeongsan Assembly painting at Biroam Hermitage.
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The beams inside the main hall are adorned by both a phoenix and a dragon.
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A view of the main hall to the left, centred by the shrine hall, and the monk dorms even further left.  All three buildings are surrounded by beautifully manicured grounds at the hermitage.
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A better look at the colourful shrine hall.
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A centred Buddha, with the accompanying Sanshin, Dokseong, and Chilseong.
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 A breath-takingly beautiful dragon that adorns the shrine hall at Biroam Hermitage.
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One of the murals on the shrine hall.  Uniquely, the paintings depict the nurturing of a baby to adolescence. In this painting, the father is returning home from a day at work with the mother breast-feeding the baby.
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And in this painting from the series of baby to adolescence murals, the child is being bathed by his mother.
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And finally, the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys that neighbour Biroam Hermitage.

UPDATED: Tongdosa Temple – 통도사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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My wife and I really enjoy visiting Tongdosa Temple. And with it only being a 20 minute drive from our home, we like to go there regularly.  I realized that the last posting on Tongdosa Temple was woefully inadequate.  So with that being said, I’ve now changed most of the pictures from the winter landscape they were in to the spring/summertime that it is presently.  Also, the information that was posted about Tongdosa Temple was my very first attempt at blogging.  I’ve gone back and added a lot more details to the blog entry about the temple.

So check out the new pictures and the expanded information section on Tongdosa Temple here:

Tongdosa Temple

I hope you’ll enjoy the newly updated Tongdosa Temple posting as much as I enjoyed updating it!


Jajangam Hermitage – 자장암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A painting depicting monk Jajang drilling a hole with his finger into the face of a mountain to create a home for the golden frog that lives at Jajangam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!!

We had been to Jajangam Hermitage back in 2004, and we hadn’t been back since. So going to Jajangam Hermitage was an obvious choice to add to the list of hermitages around Tongdosa Temple.

Jajangam Hermitage (Jajang Hermitage) predates the building of Tongdosa Temple, which was built in 646 A.D. The hermitage was once only a hut that was built beneath a stone cliff for the founder of Tongdosa Temple, monk Jajang, to pray.  The hermitage gets its name from the monk, and creator of Tongdosa Temple, Jajang. And between 1987 and 1993 three new buildings were built upon the rock cliff.  These temple buildings are Gamwonsil, Geumwadang, and Chwihyun-ru. There is also a statue of a four metre tall Ma-ae Buddha engraved into the rock.  Most interesting of all is the golden frog that lives behind the main temple hall.  As the story goes, Jajang drilled a hole into the rock face with his finger so that the golden frog could make it a home.  Presently, there is a finger sized hole called Geumwagong, which literally translates as “golden frog hole” where the frog now lives. It is said that the golden frog, named Geumhwa-bosal (Golden Frog Bodhisattva), only shows itself to people with strong belief.

As you approach Jajangam Hermitage, you’ll notice a stream, Jajangdongcheon,  to the right of the road that leads up to the hermitage.  This stream is considered one of the eight most beautiful places to see on the Tongdosa Temple grounds. There are a couple narrow paths that lead down to the base of the stream.  Be careful as you try to get closer because there is an elevated concrete barrier that divides the forest from the stream. However, the effort to get to it is well worth a try.  The stream flows gently, but there are a couple areas that you can get some beautiful pictures of the surrounding mountains and rolling stream together. Once you’ve had your fill of these beautiful sights, trek back up to the road that leads you to Jajangam Hermitage. To the left is an uneven, and sometimes steep, set of stairs that lead you up to the hermitage.  Interestingly, as you approach the hermitage, you’ll notice a unique O shaped granite piece that acts as a gate that allows you entry into the Jajangam Hermitage.  I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything remotely close to its design or placement at any other temple or hermitage. As you pass through the O shaped granite entrance gate, you’ll notice buildings to the right of you and buildings to the left of you perched precariously on the side of the rock face. The buildings to the right of you are the kitchen and visitor centre.  The more important buildings, at least for temple travelers, are to the left of you.  Through a weathered brown entrance gate, you’ll make your way to the main courtyard at the temple.  The courtyard couldn’t be any more than 10 metres by 4 metres wide, but it packs a whole lot of historical and beautiful things into one small space. Straight ahead is the monk dorm at the hermitage.  Beside this is the main hall with statues of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), Biro Bul (The Buddha of Infinite Cosmic Light), and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) acting as the main altar pieces.  Interestingly, there is a large rock that protrudes from the main hall floor.  I guess it was just too big to move when they were originally building the main hall.  Around the main hall are some beautiful paintings.  Unlike most main halls it has no paintings of the Buddha’s life nor does it have any ox-herding murals.  Instead, there is an extremely unique painting on the right hand side, as you head towards Geumwadang (“Golden Frog Room”). The painting is of monk Jajang creating a hole for the golden frog with his finger.  Behind the main hall is in fact the hole where the golden frog resides.  And it’s really just a finger-sized hole, which is just the right size for a golden frog, I guess.

To the right of the main hall and the residence of the golden frog is the 4 metre tall stone carving of the Buddha with two accompanying Bodhisattvas to both the right and left of the Buddha.  The sculpture dates back to 1896.To the far right are two shrine halls, one dedicated to a Buddha with gold painted Bodhisattvas, and the other with a painting dedicated to San Shin as well as a painting of the founding monk of Tongdosa Temple, Jajang.

To learn more about Jajangam Hermitage, please follow the link.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Yangsan; and more specifically, Tongdosa Temple. 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.  Admission for adults is 3,000 won. From Tongdosa Temple, you’ll have to continue up the main road for another 700 metres until you come to a fork in the road.  Instead of heading straight ahead, turn right and continue heading that direction for one kilometre.  There are a cluster of hermitages. Find the sign that reads Jajangam Hermitage (자장암) and continue heading in that direction until you arrive at the hermitage.

View 자장암 in a larger map

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One of the signs, on the left, that leads you to Jajangam Hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Jajangam Hermitage is extremely important to Buddhist history in Korea.  For that reason alone, it is worth such a high rating.  But adding the story of the golden frog and the beautiful views of the valley and mountains that surround the hermitage, and you’ll better understand why Jajangam Hermitage is rated so highly.  Out of all the hermitages at Tongdosa Temple, Jajangam Hermitage ranks as a top three hermitage.  So even though it’s a bit harder to get to, it is well worth the time and effort.

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A rock at the entrance of Jajangam Hermitage filled with graffitti.
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The view from the concrete barrier of the mountains above and the stream, Jajangdongcheon, below.
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A better look at the stream and the mountains at Jajangam Hermitage.
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And one last gorgeous look.
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The path that leads up to the O ringed granite entrance at the hermitage.
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The weathered gate that welcomes you to the main courtyard at Jajangam Hermitage.
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A better look at the compact courtyard at Jajangam Hermitage with a smaller sized three-tiered pagoda with the main hall to the immediate right and the monk dorm straight ahead.

Picture 097The door residence which is at the very edge of a cliff and the courtyard.Picture 110And a better look at the main courtyard at the hermitage. Morning prayers were ongoing when we arrived.Picture 105

On the left is the monk conducting the service. And both on the inside and out is the large rock that still inhabits the mountainside at Jajangam Hermitage’s main hall.
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The view from the main hall down on the valley below and the mountains above.
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The sign is on the right side of the main hall and it reads Geumwadang (Golden Frog Room).
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 As you walk to the rear of the main hall you’ll encounter this painting that is unique to the hermitage alone. In this upclose picture, you can see monk Jajang, the founder of Tongdosa Temple, drilling a hole with his finger into the mountain face for the golden frog.
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Up above is the painting of this beautiful Biseon (flying angel) carrying a plate of fruits.
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And finally, the Golden Frog Room.  The pin-hole, which also acts as the frog’s residence, is to the left of the woman on the right.  The woman on the left, on the other hand, was with her less-than stable husband.  The two made for quite the pair.  But that’s a completely different story all together as they chanted and fist-pumped the air in incoherent Korean.
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To the right of the main hall is this delicate 4 metre tall Buddha sculpture that dates back to 1896.
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The accompanying Boddhisattva to the left of the Buddha.
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Further right of the Buddha sculpture are two shrine halls. The one to the left was dedicated to a Buddha, and the one to the right houses a painting of San Shin (The Mountain God) as well as a painting of monk Jajang.
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The hall to the left that houses the Buddha.
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Also housed in this hall are two beautiful golden paintings of Bodhisattvas. Picture 074
Inside the shrine hall to the right are the beautiful paintings of San Shin, Dokseong, and the founding monk of Tongdosa Temple, monk Jajang.
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And one last look out on the neighbouring valley and mountains from Jajangam Hermitage.

Updated: Unmunsa Temple – 운문사 (Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do)


Unmunsa Temple from the neighbouring mountainside.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Unmunsa Temple, which means “Cloud Gate Temple,” in English, is situated on Tiger Mountain along the Yeongnam Alps. The temple dates back to 560 A.D. where a Silla monk named Woneung built a hermitage and eventually gained enlightenment after three years of meditation. Originally, the temple was called Taejakgapsa (“Great Magpie Hillside Temple”). But in 937, King Taejo, the founder of the Goryeo Dynasty, renamed the temple Unmunsa Temple. The temple has undergone numerous renovations, especially during the Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1910). And in 1958 an academy for monks was established. More recently, the temple has become a college for nuns. In total, there can be an average of 200 to 260 nuns at any given time at the temple.

You move towards the temple grounds under a beautiful canopy of twisted red pines. The five hundred metre long trail runs alongside the meandering Unmun-cheon River. Rather uniquely, you approach the temple from the rear with the main hall being the first thing you see as you approach. However, you’ll have to go the long way around to the left of the four foot high stone fence. It’s under the Beomjong-ru Pavilion, which also acts as the temple’s bell pavilion, that you’ll finally enter the temple grounds.

The gift shop is to the right, while a collection of Biseok stone memorials are to the left. The large Mansye-ru Pavilion lies straight ahead past the 500 year old weeping red pine. The Mansye-ru Pavilion houses a painting of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) with children surrounding him on all sides. This pavilion also acts as a barrier between the halls in the upper and lower courtyard. To the right lies the upper courtyard, while to the left lays the lower courtyard.

Heading to the right, you’ll first encounter the rather large Eungjin-jeon. Just past the Eungjin-jeon is the Daeungbo-jeon, which acts as the main hall at the temple. It’s beautifully adorned with exterior paintings of the Palsang-do murals which commemorate the eight scenes from the Buddha’s life. The newly built main hall is grand and cavernous all at the same time. Resting upon the main altar are seven seated and standing statues dedicated to various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, which include Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy), Seokgamoni-bul, and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Buddha).

With the Mansye-ru Pavilion to your left, and passing by a beautiful stone eight spoke Buddhist wheel, lies the Biro-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to this ancient hall have some of the most beautiful Palsang-do murals in all of Korea for both craftsmanship and age. As for the interior, and sitting all alone on the main altar, is a beautiful Birojana-bul statue. While in this hall, have a look up towards the rafters and the intricate woodwork and paintings.

To the side of the Biro-jeon Hall is the Obaek-jeon hall that houses the 500 disciples of the Buddha joined by a golden Seokgamoni-bul statue on the main altar. The exterior walls have some of the more simplistic renderings of the Shimu-do murals; however, they are masterful in their artistry.

Past the Biro-jeon and the two ancient pagodas that stand out in front of it, are a handful of some more smaller sized shrine halls. The first is the Jakap-jeon, which houses a statue dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul that either dates back to Late Unified Silla or early Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). He’s joined by four equally old stone Cheonwang reliefs. To the right of this hall is another diminutive hall; this time, it’s the Gwaneum-jeon. A rather squat-looking Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) sits all alone on the main altar. The interior walls to this hall are adorned with beautiful white-incarnations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

The other two halls in this area are the Myeongbu-jeon and the Chilseong-gak. The Chilseong-gak is dedicated to the shaman deity Chilseong (The Seven Stars). The main altar mural is beautifully executed for all its intricacies. Rather uniquely, it has each of the seven stars in their own individual murals, as well as rather plain paintings dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) to the far sides. As for the Myeongbu-jeon, it houses a large green-haired statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlief) on the main altar. And he’s joined by equally large-sized wooden statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

The rest of Unmunsa Temple is off-limits to visitors, as the temple is a fully functioning Buddhist training school for nuns.

Admission to the temple is 2,000 won.

For the Story of Unmunsa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE:  You can get to Unmunsa Temple from the Cheongdo Intercity Bus Terminal. You can take a bus from this terminal towards Unmunsa Temple. This bus runs eight times a day. The first bus leaves at 7:40 in the morning, while the last leaves at 19:30.

OVERALL RATING: 9.5/10. Unmunsa Temple is filled with gorgeous buildings and surrounded on all sides by picturesque mountains. From the massive main hall to the beautiful Gwaneum-jeon, Biro-jeon, and Obaek-jeon, there’s a little of everything for everyone at this amazing nunnery. Take your time and spend the day, because with a handful of hermitages spread throughout the neighbouring mountainside, especially in the fall months, the temple setting can make for some pretty beautiful, and lasting, memories.

As you approach Unmunsa Temple.
The weeping red pine with the Mansye-ru Pavilion to the left.
A look inside the Mansye-Pavilion with the Buddha inside.
A look over the Eungjin-jeon at the neighbouring mountains.
A look inside the Eunjin-jeon at the main altar.
A look towards the Daeungbo-jeon, main hall, at Unmunsa Temple.
The seven statues that make up the main altar inside the massive Daeungbo-jeon.
A look towards the Biro-jeon Hall past the eight spoke Buddhist wheel.
Just one of the amazing Palsang-do murals at the Biro-jeon.
An up-close with Birojana-bul inside the Biro-jeon.
A look towards the Obaek-jeon and past the Biro-jeon.
Inside the Obaek-jeon Hall with hundreds of Nahan accompanying the Buddha.
The diminutive Jakap-jeon Hall.
The ancient stone statue dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul.
Just one of the highly descriptive, yet ancient, Heavenly Kings.
The main altar inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.
A look across the main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon.
One of the Ten Kings of the Underworld that takes up residence on an exterior wall on the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
Inside the Chilseong-gak with the intricate Chilseong mural to the left.
The biseok memorial shrines at Unmunsa Temple.

Anapji – 안압지 (Gyeongju)

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A view of two of the three pavilions at Anapji garden in Gyeongju

Hello Again Everyone!!

With the new car, my wife and I have been heading up to Gyeongju a lot lately. With Gyeongju only being a 45 minute drive from Yangsan, it’s made Gyeongju extremely accessible and enjoyable. This time, we decided on a couple places we hadn’t visited in a couple years as well as one new temple we hadn’t ever visited. So this trip included Bulguksa Temple, Bunhwangsa Temple, Anapji, and Heungnyunsa Temple. This entry will be about Anapji with an entry on Heungnyunsa Temple to soon follow, as well as updated pictures from Bulguksa Temple and Bunhwangsa Temple. So without any further ado, here’s Anapji!!

Across from Banwolseong site, the principal palace used by Silla rulers, is Anapji. Anapji, also known as Imhae-jeonji, is/was a pleasure garden. Anapji was first constructed in 674 A.D. by King Munmu to commemorate the unification of the Silla Dynasty during the previous decade. And in 679, the villa Dong-gung was built on the pond’s west side. The lotus pond, roughly shaped as the Korean peninsula, allowed the King to survey his “country.” Water is fed into the pond through stone channels from the South Stream on the far side of Banwolseong site. Three artificial islands were created in its middle. There are also 12 “mountains” placed on the edges of the lotus pond. Rare trees, flowers, animals, and birds were raised on the site. And only 300 years after Anapji was built during the peak of the Silla Dynasty’s power, the kingdom was abdicated by King Gyeongsun to the king of Goryeo, king Wang Geon at Anapji.

The three buildings that now stand on the edge of the pond at Anapji were rebuilt between 1975 and 1976 during an extensive restoration. In fact, during this restoration over 30,000 items were taken from the pond’s muddy bottom. Many of these items are now on display at the neighbouring Gyeongju National Museum. Also, there is a beautiful small-scaled reproduction of what the garden, buildings and all, use to look like inside one of the three pavilions at Anapji. Besides the three pavilions, there are numerous foundation stones littered across the lawn indicating where former buildings stood at Anapji. These foundation stones are a good indication of just how majestic Anapji formally was. Past these foundation stones, the three newly built pavilions, and the hordes of students and ajummas that regularly visit the garden, you can get some amazing pictures of the buildings as well as the pond itself from the north side of the pond. In fact, there is a beautiful path that circumnavigates the perimetre of the pond. Take the time and walk this path as there are numerous places you can get amazing photo ops of both the pavilion structures as well as the pond and islands that inhabit it.

HOW TO GET THERE: Anapji is easily accessible from the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal. And as a part of a walking tour of the downtown historical sites of Gyeongju, including Daeneungwon (Tumuli Park), Chemseongdae Observatory, and Banwolseong Palace site, you can visit Anapji. In fact, Anapji is directly across the street from Banwolseong Palace site. It’s easy to get to, and makes for a nice half-day walking trip around downtown Gyeongju. But remember, because it’s so easy and accessible to get to, that it will also be really busy as well. So either go early or later. Anapji is open from 9a.m. to 10p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday. The entrance fee to Anapji is a very reasonable 1,000 won.

View 안압지 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 9/10. Even though it’s on the smaller size compared to Bulguksa Temple or even Banwolseong Palace site, it is truly a beautiful place to visit and is perhaps the greatest example of the beauty the Silla Dynasty were capable of creating. Beautiful pictures of the pond can be taken from nearly every angle. So if you’re visiting, and if you haven’t already heard of this Silla garden, make sure you add it to a very lengthy list of places to visit in Gyeongju.

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The first pavilion you see at Anapji garden as you walk through the entrance.
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A view from the pavilion of the man-made pond at Anapji.
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A view of the second and third pavilion at Anapji.
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Numerous foundation stones at Anapji: a reminder of just how majestic Anapji was.
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A view from the second pavilion out onto the third pavilion.
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A beautiful golden coy that inhabits the man-made pond at Anapji.  There are dozens of these larger coy in the pond.
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A beautiful view of all three pavilions with the pond skirting all three.
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A view from the path that encircles the entire pond and pavilions.
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A picture of just one of the islands and pavilions at Anapji.
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Another angle of the island with a different pavilion.
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Just like three stones skipping on a pond, the large rock and two pavilions are lined up all in a rippling row.
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Another view of a beautiful pavilion.  This time, it’s framed by trees to the north and the pond to the south.
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Twin lotus flowers sitting beside each other surrounded by an apparent ocean of water.
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The water that feeds the entire pond.
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 And one last look out on Anapji!