Seonmuam Hermitage – 선무암 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The beautiful view from Seonmuam Hermitage in northern Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Here’s one more temple this week to help celebrate Buddha’s birthday. Enjoy!

I had seen a temple on top of a mountain, as I drove down Highway 55 on the way up to Daegu on numerous occasions. It just so happens that this temple is Seonmuam Hermitage in the  northern area of Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

When we first arrived at the small dirt parking lot at Seonmuam Hermitage, we were greeted by a very friendly one-eyed dog. This friendly welcome was an omen of good things to come. The first thing to welcome you at the temple is a nice little lotus pond with a jovial dharma standing in the centre of it.

Up the stairs, and to the right, is the newly built main hall called the Geungnak-jeon hall at Seonmuam Hermitage. The exterior is beautifully adorned with both woodwork and paintings. The exterior has various paintings like a white clad Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), Dazu Huike and the Bodhidharma, and a judgment mural with Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) hovering in its midst. Probably the most impressive aspect of the main hall’s exterior is the latticework on all three of the frontal entrance doors. As for the interior, a solitary Amita-bul (The Bodhisattva of the Western Paradise) sits on an unpainted main altar. To the left of the main altar is a nice painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This is joined on the left by a simplistic guardian painting. And on the far right wall is an elaborate Jijang-bosal painting.

Crossing over the lower courtyard, you’ll pass by a golden seated statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) that has a beautiful view of the Nakdong River down below, the towering Obongsan Mountains off in the distance, and the city of Yangsan even further off in the misty distance. The only other building in this lower courtyard is the Myeongbu-jeon hall dedicated to Jijang-bosal. The exterior of the hall is largely unadorned, however, the interior of this hall more than makes up for it. Sitting on the main altar is a golden Jijang-bosal with an equally golden coloured hallow painted behind his head. This statue is surrounded by two separate shelves that house smaller sized statues of Jijang-bosal. And on the far left wall is another simplistic guardian painting.

If you look towards the peak of the mountain, you’ll see a row of three more shrine halls on the upper courtyard at Seonmuam Hermitage. As you climb the numerous sets of stairs, have a look back at the beautiful views. When you finally climb to the ledge that houses the three shrine halls like an eagle’s nest, you’ll first be greeted by a white Buddha statue with a pair of diminutive stone lanterns on either side of him.

The first building in the set of three is a Gwaneeum-jeon hall dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal. There are numerous beautiful paintings of this Bodhisattva both on the exterior and interior walls of this hall. As for the interior itself, there’s a chubby looking statue of Gwanseeum-bosal sitting on this shrine hall’s altar. She is backed by a very intricate multi-armed and eyed mural of this Bodhisattva. Strangely, and to the left of the altar, are two older looking paintings just leaning up against the altar on the ground. The one is of Amita-bul, while the second is of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). They must have been moved to their present location after the new main hall was constructed.

The second shrine hall in this set of three is the San shin-gak, which is dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit). Inside the largest of the three upper courtyard buildings is a beautifully large statue and painting of the shaman deity. Finally, and to the left of the San shin-gak is the Cheontae-gak, which is a hall dedicated to Dokseong (The Recluse). As you enter the low-ceilinged hall, you’ll enter into a hall that has a cave for its altar. This natural cave houses a stone statue of Dokseong dressed in a red robe with an accompanying attendant that holds onto yellow and red clothes in his hands. And up on the far right side of the cave is an older looking statue of San shin. This cave altar is definitely the highlight to the temple. Interestingly, and to the right of this hall, is a door with the Yin and Yang symbol on it. There are two uniquely created door knockers that have some sort of Indian influenced demon to them. And this door opens up to the interior of the cave. However, I believe you’re not allowed to enter into the cave. Instead, enjoy all that this cave has to offer from the Cheontae-gak shrine hall’s interior. It’s also from this area that you get the best views of the Korean landscape down below.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: It’s unfortunate, but once again, this hermitage can only be accessed by private transportation. So you’ll either need a car, scooter, or a good set of legs, to get to this hermitage in the northern part of Gimhae. Hopefully the map will help you a bit if you really want to visit Seonmuam Hermitage.

View Larger Map

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. The exterior of the main hall at Seonmuam Hermitage is stunningly decorated with beautiful murals and colourful latticework. Also, the elaborate Gwanseeum-bosal painting and San shin painting in each of their respective shrine halls are rather impressive, as well. The views of the Nakdong River and Mt. Obong are second to none in epitomizing the beauty of Gyeongsangnam-do’s eastern landscape. But by far, the greatest highlight to this temple is the main altar cave dedicated to Dokseong.

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A look up at the lower courtyard and the main hall that it houses.
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Inside the main hall, or Geungnak-jeon hall, with a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) sitting on the unpainted altar.
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An equally unpainted altar dedicated to a mural of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
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The amazing lattice work that adorns the frontal entrance doors on the main hall.
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And a judgment mural, as well, that adorns the left exterior wall of the main hall.
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A look at the view that a golden Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) has from the lower courtyard at Seonmuam Hermitage.
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The view of the Nakdong River from the Myeongbu-jeon hall in the lower courtyard.
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A golden Jijang-bosal has a golden hallow painted behind his head on the main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon hall.
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And another view from the lower courtyard of the Nakdong river and Mt. Obong off in the distance.
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 The upper courtyard sits on top of the entire hermitage like an eagle’s nest.
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The white Buddha statue and twin set of diminutive stone lanterns that welcome you to the upper courtyard.
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The set of shrine halls that comprise the upper courtyard. In the centre is the San shin-gak. To the right is the Gwaneeum-jeon hall, and to the left is the Cheontae-jeon shrine hall.
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A look at just one of the murals that adorns the exterior of the Gwaneeum-jeon shrine hall. Not so surprisingly, it depicts the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Gwanseeum-bosal, with an outstretched arm.
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The beautiful, but chubby, statue of Gwanseeum-bosal with an equally elaborate painting of the Bodhisattva at her back.
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The large painting and statue of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) inside of his home: the San shin-gak.
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The Indian-influenced door knocker that rests on the Yin and Yang door that allows you access into the cave where Dokseong (The Recluse) resides.
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A look at the cave altar that’s inside of the Cheontae-jeon shrine hall dedicated to Dokseong.
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A better look at the red caped recluse.
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A look over at the area that allows you the best views of the neighbouring landscape at Seonmuam Hermitage.
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And the amazing view!

Bueunsa Temple – 부은사 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A scenic view of Bueunsa Temple from the surrounding mountains of Mt. Cheontaesan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Continuing with the weekly celebration to the lead-up to Buddha’s birthday this Monday, I thought I would share yet another one of Korea’s beautiful Buddhist temples. This time, I explored Bueunsa Temple. Buensa Temple (부은사) was the last major temple I had yet to visit on Mt. Cheontaesan. I was told by an English speaking monk at the temple, whose English was excellent, that the temple dates back 1800 years. And it was first established during the Gaya Kingdom from visiting monks from India.

When you first arrive at Bueunsa Temple, after making your way up a steep gravel road, you’ll be greeted by the temple’s dorms and kitchen. Behind this building, and to the left, is the temple’s main courtyard.

Immediately, you’re greeted by a modern looking Yongwang-dang dedicated to the shaman deity, Yongwang (The Dragon King). There are two oval glass windows that allow you to look inside the hall without actually going inside. Inside of this hall, there’s a nice painting of Yongwang with a statue of Okhwang-sangje (The Daoist Jade Emperor) to the left. To the rear of the Yongwang-dang is the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Sitting on the main altar of this newly established hall is Chiseonggwangyeorae-bul, and he’s flanked by Ilgwang (The Bodhisattva of the Sun) and Wolgwang (The Bodhisattva of the Moon), which are backed by an older mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Flanking this triad of statues is San shin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Recluse). There are also some nice new murals of the Nahan inside of this hall.

To the right of these two shaman structures is the natural wood looking bell pavilion. The bell pavilion houses some impressive Buddhist ceremonial music instruments like the Braham Bell and the Dharma Drum. Interestingly, and in front of the bell pavilion, is a map of what the head monk wants the temple to eventually look like when it’s completed.

Next to the bell pavilion is the main hall. It’s surrounded by some nice Palsang-do paintings of the historical Buddha’s life. Interestingly, I met the man that painted them, Mr. Gwan, because he had just completed them the day before. As for the interior of the main hall, and sitting on the main altar, is a set of five statues. In the centre is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s flanked to the left by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) to the right. And to the far left is a golden haired (Jijang-bosal) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the far right. To the left of this altar, and harkening back to the temple’s origins, is a sign dedicated to King Suro, the founding king of the Gaya Kingdom. The altar is surrounded by a beautiful canopy and hundreds of tiny golden statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. On the far right wall, there’s a beautiful large guardian painting. This is fronted by Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings). This is the most impressive statue of this Bodhisattva that I’ve ever seen.

It was at this point that the head monk at the temple spotted me. He yelled out of the main hall to someone that a foreigner was visiting. It was at this point that I met a nice monk that speaks flawless English. He told me a lot about the temple and a hidden treasure at the temple. There’s a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the monk’s quarters. This statue is over 300 years old. And it’s accompanied by three murals that date back 80 years, the most notable being the mural on the left dedicated to San shin. The other two murals are dedicated to Amita-bul and the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). And in front of this statue and mural are the purported remains of the historical Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul, that the head monk paid a lot of money in Nepal to bring them back to Korea. In the future, and as part of the temple plan, there will be a pagoda that will be built to house these remains. It was thanks to the English speaking monk, that I was able to see all of the temple’s hidden treasures.

As for the rest of the temple grounds, there is a Nahan-jeon dedicated to the Disiciples of the Historical Buddha to the right rear of the main hall. There are some interesting statues of the Nahan riding elephants inside of this hall. Also, there is the triad of Seokgamoni-bul in the centre. He’s flanked by Jaehwagalra-bosal (The Past Buddha) to the left and Mireuk-bosal (The Future Buddha) to the right on the main altar, and beautiful murals of the Nahan surrounding this central triad.

Up the mountainside, and to the right of the temple grounds, is a cave with a triad of statues inside. The climb is about 1.5 kilometres, but it provides for some amazing views of the temple, the Nakdong River, and the sprawling valley below. As for the cave itself, it’s a rather deep cave with a protective cover over top of its entrance. The triad of stone statues that sit on its altar are Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) in the centre. He’s flanked by Dokseong (The Recluse) to the left, and Mago Shin Seon (A shaman spirit), which is an extremely rare deity to see at a Buddhist temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: Unfortunately, unless you have your own car, or you can hitch a ride, this temple is impossible to visit through public transit. Hopefully, if you’re interested enough to visit, the map below will be enough of a help to find this remote temple.

크게 보기

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Just for having an English speaker as a monk alone, this temple rates as highly as it does. It’s so nice to be able to talk to someone that can explain the intricacies of the temple’s history. Also, the kindness of the monks to allow me to see the temple’s private treasures like the Amita-bul statue and the San shin painting are two other highlights to this temple. This temple is littered with shaman deities, a gorgeous main hall, and a cave shrine, which only help enhance this temple’s overall rating. And yet, it’s not even complete. I can only imagine just how amazing this beautiful, but humble, temple will be when it’s completed.

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The beautiful main hall at Bueunsa Temple.
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A look inside the bell pavilion.
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The head-monks vision of what the temple will look like when it’s completed.
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One of the murals from the Palsang-do set. This one is the last of the eight, which depicts the Buddha’s earthly demise.
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The amazing interior of this Taego sect Buddhist main hall.
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The large guardian mural with Dongjin-bosal to the left.
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The three hundred year old statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre inside the monks’ quarters.
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The purported earthly remains, sari, of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).
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The obscured San shin painting from inside the monks’ quarters. This painting is over 80 years old.
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The shaman shrines at Bueunsa Temple. In the foreground is the Yongwang-dang, and in the background is the Samseong-gak.
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A look inside the Yongwang-dang at the mural of Yongwang (The Dragon King).
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A look inside the Samseong-gak shrine hall at the main altar inside the hall.
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One of the murals that sits upon the walls inside the Samseong-gak shrine hall.
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The view from the Samseong-gak shrine hall at the temple grounds and the valley and river down below.
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The view from the trail head that leads up to the cave shrine on top of Mt. Cheontaesan. You get a good look at the newly constructed Nahan-jeon.
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A look inside the Nahan-jeon at the main altar pieces.
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The statues and murals that depict the various Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha).
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The hazardous mountainside trail that leads up to the cave shrine.
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The view from the mountainside plateau as you near the cave shrine.
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And a look inside the cave shrine at the altar.

Sowonsa Temple – 소원사 (Busan, Gijang)

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The compact but colourful temple compound at Sowonsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I thought for the upcoming Buddha’s birthday this Monday, I would post at least one extra posting this week. So having been out to this beautiful and picturesque part of Busan before, I thought I would visit the eastern part of the city by the sea once more.

When you first arrive at Sowonsa Temple (소원사), your eyes are met by a world of colours and Buddhist iconography. And while it borders on excess, it doesn’t go past it. Standing in the parking lot, you’ll make your way over a stone bridge that spans a diminutive pond that is filled with colourful carp. Over this bridge is a small shrine hall solely dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). This shrine hall is neighboured by a shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the left. And there’s another wall shrine dedicated to hundreds of tiny golden Buddha statues, which is a little bit further left of these other two shrines.

After viewing these two shrines and the shrine hall, you’ll make your way up a long entrance hall that leads up to the main temple courtyard. Along the way, there are two Buddha statues that monks pour water over their heads during Buddha’s birthday. Also, there are murals dedicated to the twelve Zodiac signs and the 10 Kings of the Underworld along the way. And just before you enter the temple courtyard, there are a set of very unique murals in the entranceway.

Finally, arriving in the temple courtyard, you’ll be greeted once again by a tantalizing amount of colours, sounds, and structures. Immediately in front of the long set of stairs that leads up to the main hall is an amazing eleven tier pagoda. It’s beautifully adorned with various Biseon, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas. To the right of this pagoda is a two storied building. On the first floor is a funeral home that houses various statues of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And depending on just how much money you’re spending on your dearly departed, is how large of a room and statue of Jijang-bosal you’ll receive. On the second floor is a large room that is filled with hundreds of gold statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. And sitting on the main altar is a large multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal statue. Gwanseeum-bosal is joined by four larger statues in the sea of smaller ones. To the immediate left and right are Jijang-bosal and Seokgamoni-bul. And even further left and right are probably Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).

To the left of this building is the main hall. Around the exterior of this main hall are some well composed paintings of the Palsang-do murals. As for the interior of this hall, and sitting upon the rather large main altar, is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by Moonsu-bosal to the left and Bohyun-bosal to the right. To the right of this triad is an equally large sized mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And to the left of this triad is a mural of Jijang-bosal that is accompanied by a memorial wall for the dead. The most interesting part of this interior is the guardian painting that has a large golden statue of Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings). I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen an accompanying statue of this Bodhisattva in front of a guardian painting before.

Up the embankment, and a large set of metal stairs, is the world famous San shin-gak. In fact, the sign leading up to the shrine says, in Korean, that it’s the largest sized San shin shrine in all of Asia. I’m pretty sure this isn’t true, but nothing wrong with a little self-promotion. Inside, what looks to be a man-made cave, is a shrine hall dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit). There is a large statue of this spirit with a fading mural of himself at the statues back. Interestingly, there is an adjoining cave with nothing in it inside the San shin-gak. To the right of the San shin-gak is the Dokseong-gak. It’s rather small and has a very simplistic statue and painting of Dokseong (The Recluse). Another interesting aspect to this temple, and nearby these two shrine halls, is a small display case that houses folded paper. Much like in the style of the Japanese, people write their wishes down on them and then fold them and place them in this display case so that their wishes come true.

To the rear of the temple is a small man-made pond. There is a nice little deck that looks out onto the entire temple complex. Also, there’s a nice little landing that you can step out onto to have a better look at the large sized golden Gwanseeum-bosal statue.

The final area of the compact temple complex that packs in so much into such a small area is probably one of the most unique areas I’ve ever seen at a temple. There are about half a dozen structures shaped like a spire and yellow in colour. On top of these spires are various Buddha and Bodhisattva statues, while inside of these structures are paintings and statues of various Buddhas and shaman deities like Seokgamoni-bul and Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Strangely, it almost resembles a mini-golf area. Up above this area is a small shrine hall that houses a sari of unknown origins. And to the right of this shrine hall is a display case that houses all of the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha).

And just as you’re about to leave, and almost as though you couldn’t see anything more, there is an area that houses large statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The centralized triad in this group is Seokgamoni-bul, Gwanseeum-bosal, and Jijang-bosal.

HOW TO GET THERE: From Busan, you’ll have to take the subway to Beomeosa Subway Station, #133, on the first line. After exiting out of Exit #2, you’ll see a bus that says “Sowonsa – 소원사”. This bus only leaves from this subway stop at 10 A.M. And it arrives at Sowonsa Temple at 10:30. I’m not exactly sure when this bus returns to Beomeosa Subway Station, but I would guess when they had enough people to return to Busan.

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OVERALL RATING: 8/10. This temple has so much to see in such a small area. It’s truly incredible from the small lotus ponds that greet you to the elevated main hall in the main courtyard. And when you thought that was all, all you have to do is climb another set of stairs to see the famous San shin-gak, the temple’s pond, and the yellow spires that almost look like a mini-golf course.  Sowonsa  Temple truly has something for everyone.

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The numerous shrines, bridges, and lotus ponds that greet you at the temple.
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The main hall with the eleven tier pagoda to the right.
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Just one of the nicely painted murals that depicts the birth of the Buddha from the Palsang-do murals around the main hall.
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A look inside the main hall. Sitting in the middle is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).
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The rare statue of Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings) that sits in front of the temple’s guardian painting.
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A better look at the amazing temple pagoda and courtyard that houses it.
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And the two story building that sits to the far right of the main hall houses this multi-armed Gwanseeum-bosal statue and hundreds of small and larger sized statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
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On the first floor of the same structure is a Buddhist funeral home. In the larger sized rooms, like this one, are larger sized statues of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
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The self-aggrandizing sign that leads up to the San shin-gak.
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One of the bronze guardian statues that guards your way as you make your way up to the San shin-gak area.
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The long set of metal stairs that leads up to the San shin-gak shrine hall.
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The paper-tied wishes of the hopeful.
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A look at the altar inside the San shin-gak shrine hall cave.
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And a look at the empty cave, with only lighted candles on its altar, that runs to the left of the main San shin altar.
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The golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that stands behind a man-made carp pond.
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A look over at the San shin-gak and Dokseong-gak from the temple’s pond area.
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After descending down an uneven and shaky set of stairs, you come to this mini-golf feel of an area at the temple.
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In one part of this area are these three golden spire huts. On top are statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and inside are smaller paintings and statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, as well.
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Just one of the murals and statues inside of the golden spire huts.
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A couple rows of the Nahan (The Historical Buddhas Disciples) inside of a display case in the mini-golf looking area of the temple.
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And just before you leave, if you look left, you’ll see this amazing sight of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, lions, attendants, Biseon, and so much more. It’s the perfect way to finish your temple tour.

Yeongsanjeongsa Temple – 영산정사 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The stunning seven tier pagoda hall at Yeongsanjeongsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Up a very long country road, you’ll finally arrive at Yeongsanjeongsa Temple on the northwestern outskirts of Miryang. And with it placed not too far from my town, I thought I would explore yet another of Gyeongsangnam-do’s hidden treasures. However, long before you ever come close to the temple grounds, you’ll be able to spot a gorgeous structure reaching up towards the sky. This structure, which dominates the temple grounds, is the seven tier pagoda hall.

The first thing to greet you at the temple is a rather non-descript Iljumun Gate. After passing through this, you’ll be greeted by a couple of stone spiritual guardian poles. Finally, you’ll have arrived at the rather spacious temple courtyard. To your immediate left is a large building that acts as the monks’ dorms, kitchen, and visitors’ centre. And to the right of this modern looking building is a beautiful statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). He’s surrounded by a shallow pool of water and two attendants that are standing chin deep in the water.

Housed between the statue of Gwanseeum-bosal and the Myeongbu-jeon hall is the amazing seven tier pagoda hall. It is remarkable for a couple of reasons. First, it acts as a sort of museum for the temple. Around the concrete pagoda are various Buddhist statues and vases. Inside the pagoda (which is 2,000 won to enter), and on the first floor, is a hall filled with prominent historical monks throughout the ages in Korean history. Also, there are numerous large statues on the first floor. On the second floor there are numerous paintings from various temples in the area. And on the third floor are a world record setting amount of sari, monks remains, which occupy the entire floor in display cases. And on the fourth floor, the final floor to display anything, are numerous Buddhist statues. Finally, on the fifth and final floor that you can explore, is a bit of an observation area that you can see the temple and surrounding valley below.

The two main halls at the temple are next to the seven tier concrete pagoda. When we arrived, they were preparing for Buddha’s birthday, so a canopy of colourful paper lanterns had already been mounted. They were framed by a pair of rather plain looking nine tier stone pagodas.

On the left is another concrete hall at  Yeongsanjeongsa  Temple. This time, it’s the Myeongbu-jeon hall dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). The exterior of the hall is adorned with very simplistic paintings of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. They must have been saving their money on these paintings, because the paintings inside of this hall are some of the most original I’ve ever seen in all of Korea. Sitting on the long altar are seven statues of Jijang-bosal backed by amazing paintings of this Bodhisattva with various depictions of hell at their base. To the far left is a wall of gold to commemorate the dead, while on the right is a stunning painting that depicts the various stages of the journey from hell to heaven (very Dantesque).

Between the Myeongbu-jeon and the main hall is a man-made waterfall that houses what looks to be a moon rock carving of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on it. Surrounding the exterior of the main hall are the Palsang-do paintings that depict the ten stages of the historical Buddha’s life. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are five of Korea’s most original paintings of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In the centre is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He is flanked by Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) to the left and to the right is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And on the farthest two sides from the centre are Yaksayore-bul  (The Medicine Buddha) on the far right side and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) on the far left. The spacious main hall has a newer looking painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) on the far right wall and the temple’s guardian painting.

As a bit of a side note, the temple is a couple of kilometers away from the birthplace of Sa-myeong-daesa, the warrior monk. Admission to the temple is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Yeongsanjeongsa Temple only by first arriving in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do. From the Inter-City Bus Terminal in Miryang, you’ll have to catch the “Seogeojyeong” bus. The bus ride will take you around 40 minutes, and you’ll have to get off at the Seogeojyeong stop. From this stop, you’ll have to walk about 10 minutes to get to the temple. It’ll be easy enough to see because the top of the pagoda protrudes forth from the valley.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. For the seven tier pagoda hall itself, this hall is rated as highly as it is. Added to it are the contents of the pagoda as well as the interior of the Myeongbu-jeon and the main hall, and it only adds to the temple’s overall rating.

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A look at the temple courtyard as you first enter it.
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The statue of the stoic Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
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An up-close look at the beautifully sculpted statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.
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And a better look at the stunning seven tier pagoda at Yeongsanjeongsa Temple.
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A beautiful ornamental pot that sits outside of the pagoda.
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The first floor hall inside of the pagoda with all of the monks’ paintings on display.
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An up-close of Wonhyo-daesa.
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A look at an Indian-looking statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.
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A contemplative statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).
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One of the more amazing shaman paintings I’ve seen at a Korean temple. It has all the major players if you look close enough at it.
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Another beautiful painting that hangs inside of the pagoda. This is a beautiful rendering of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). In total, there are three Chilseong paintings at the temple.
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The rows upon rows of sari (monks’ remains).
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The view from the fifth floor of the pagoda.
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The waterfall between the two halls at the temple.
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And the moon rock-looking Buddhist statue that sits in the middle of the waterfall pond.
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The rudimentary Ten Kings of the Underworld paintings around the Myeongbu-jeon hall.
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Two monks looking at the Dantesque painting of the journey from hell to heaven inside of the Myeongbu-jeon hall.
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Two, of the seven, depictions of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) inside the Myeongbu-jeon hall.
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Just one of the paintings from the set of Palsang-do paintings.
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Inside the amazing main hall, and a look at the main altar statues and paintings.
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A look at Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) with the honey-combed painting at his back.
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The beautiful Chilseong (Seven Stars) painting inside of the main hall.
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And one last look up at the pagoda through the canopy of paper lanterns at Yeongsanjeongsa Temple.

Haedong Seongchuisa Temple – 해동성취사 (Busan, Gijang)

 The beautiful neighbouring ocean as seen from Haedong Seongchuisa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Having already visited a couple of other temple’s by the sea in Gijang like Haegwangsa Temple and the famous Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, I thought I would push my luck and see what Haedong Seongchuisa Temple had to offer. However, I think I might have stretched my luck with this temple.

When you first arrive at Haedong Seongchuisa Temple (해도성취사), you’ll be greeted by a beautiful view of the neighbouring ocean in front of you. While not right on the ocean, it has some beautiful views of the ocean from about a 200 metre distance.

The first thing to greet you is a rather interesting traditional drum shaped bathroom at the temple. Up the slight embankment, you’ll be greeted by the monks’ dorms to the right, as well as the bell pavilion that’s housed in the same cluster of buildings. Interestingly, and on top of the bell pavilion, is a stoic statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He is holding a golden staff, and you can get some of the most impressive views of the neighbouring ocean from this vantage point.

Further up the embankment, and straight ahead, is the large sized two-storied main hall at Haedong Seongchuisa Temple. On the first floor, as is rather customary for smaller sized temples like this one, is the temple kitchen and visitors’ centre. As for the second floor, there are beautiful Palsang-do paintings around the exterior of the main hall. The artist that painted these murals is also the same artist that painted Guryongsa Temple in Busan and Garamsa Temple in Yangsan. He’s probably my favourite Palsang-do artist, and yet I’m not sure who he is. As for the interior of the main hall, it is rather simple in design and layout. On the main altar sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He is joined by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) on the right and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) on the left. The interior of the hall is covered wall-to-wall by various smaller sized Buddha and Bodhisattva statues. On the far left wall is the guardian painting, and at the base of some of the walls are medium-sized statues like the statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the right wall with a swirling rainbow of colours at his back.

The more interesting features of the temple, however, lay outside of the main hall. To the left rear of the main hall is a golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. Even though this statue is rather cheap looking in composition and design, it is surrounded by some of the more impressive paintings of the twelve zodiac signs. They are painted by the very same artist that painted the Palsang-do paintings around the main hall.

To the right of the courtyard that houses this large golden Bodhisattva are two of the more interesting Sanshin-gaks and Yongwang-dangs I’ve seen in all of Korea. The shrine halls look like a bad looking make-shift army hall. It’s made out of plaster that’s been painted black and placed between two large shrubs. Inside the first shrine hall, the Sanshin-gak, is a large sized granite statue of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). He is backed by a beautifully rendered painting of himself. As for the second shrine hall, the Yongwang-dang, the first thing you’ll notice as you approach are two haunting golden eyes penetrating through the darkness. As you get a bit closer, you’ll realize that these set of eyes are coming from a statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King). In front of him trickles a small stream that flows into a shallow pond. To the left of Yongwang is a painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And in front of this painting is a stone marker that suggests just how auspicious the land is where the temple sits.

HOW TO GET THERE: Get off at Gochon Subway Station, line 4, stop #413. You’ll need to walk out exit number 4. From there, go straight for about 5 to 10 minutes until you get to the bus station. Take bus #188. You’ll need to take this bus for 32 stops, or about one hour. Get off at the Onjeong bus stop and walk for about 7 minutes (400 metres) to get to Haedong Seongchuisa Temple.


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OVERALL RATING: 5/10. I have to admit, after seeing a few pictures online, I was expecting a bit more from this temple. However, the nearness to the neighbouring ocean, the traditional drum bathroom, and the military black plaster Sanshin-gak and Yongwang-dang are definitely the highlights to this temple.

A pretty nice view from the temple parking lot.
The highly original Korean traditional drum design for the temple bathroom.
The walk up to Haedong Seongchuisa Temple.
The stoic Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) that sits on top of the bell pavilion.
The jovial Podae-hwasang that sits to your left as you enter the temple courtyard.
The two storied main hall at the temple.
Just one of the highly artistic Palsang-do paintings that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.
A look inside the main hall at the altar.
The Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right of the main altar with a rainbow of colours at her back.
The large golden Gwanseeum-bosal statue to the rear of the main hall.
Just one of the amazing zodiac murals at the base of the Gwanseeum-bosal statue.
The view from the Gwanseeum-bosal statue with the main hall to the left and the ocean expansively ahead.
And finally, the military looking black plaster Sanshin-gak.
The multi-tigered Sanshin painting.
The amazingly decorative Nathwi that lies between the Sanshin-gak and the Yongwang-dang shrine halls.
A look at the Yongwang-dang shrine hall.
Inside the Yongwang-dang shrine hall is a statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King) to the right and a Chilseong (Seven Stars) mural to the left.
And a closer look at the eerie golden eyes of Yongwang that greet you to his shrine hall.

Maneosa Temple – 만어사 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The amazing black boulders that start at the base of the mountain and make their way up to Maneosa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Checking another temple off of the list for Gyeongsangnam-do temples I have yet to visit, I decided to visit  Maneosa  Temple in southern Miryang.

Like all historical temples, Maneosa has a pretty good creation story. In fact, it’s memorialized in the famous Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms). In this text, it states that during the reign of King Suro (r. 42 A.D. – 199 A.D.) lived in a lotus pond called Okji within the Gaya Kingdom (around present day Gimhae). This dragon started a relationship with a Nachal, which is similar to a siren from Greek mythology. As a result of this relationship, thunderstorms and hailstorms rained down on the Gaya Kingdom for four years, which prevented grains from growing. In a attempt to alleviate these drought like conditions, King Suro used sorcery. With this not working, King Suro then called on the Buddha in India. Through his divine power, the Buddha became aware of the king’s problems and came to Korea to help. He was joined by six monks and ten thousand followers. The Buddha was easily able to defeat the dragon and the Nachal, which brought an end to all problems in the kingdom. As a sign of thanks, King Suro built ManeosaTemple for the Buddha.

You first approach Maneosa Temple (만어사), which means 10,000 Fish Temple in English, up a long and steep mountain side road situated on Mt. Maneosan. Finally, you’ll arrive at the temple. You can enter the courtyard in one of two ways. The first way is to head up the ramp to the right of the bell pavilion, or you can head up the steep set of stone stairs. It’s funny, because there’s actually a sign that says for older people to use the ramp instead of the stairs. I wonder what happened to warrant such a sign.

If you’re like me, and you head up the set of stone (slash boulder) stairway, you’ll see a colourful bell pavilion to your far left. Next to this is the building that acts as the monks’ dorms and kitchen. Straight ahead is the very compact main hall at the temple. Around the exterior of this hall are some beautifully rendered Palsang-do paintings that depict the Historical Buddha’s life. And in front of the main hall are two delicate designed stone lanterns. As for the interior of the hall, it’s wonderfully adorned with various colours. On the main altar a triad of statues is centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the left of this altar is a golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the right of the main altar is a statue of a green-haired Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). On the far right wall is an originally and uniquely designed guardian painting with one of the best renderings of Dongjin-bosal (The Protector of the Buddha’s Teachings) in the centre of the mural that I’ve seen in quite some time. Interestingly, and next to the guardian painting, is a mural of Gwanseeum-bosal. And beneath this mural, and resting on the altar, is an altar dedicated to the former Korean president, Roh Moo Hyun. It’s definitely a very unique touch to the temple.

To the right of the main hall is the Samseong-gak shrine hall. The exterior of this hall, surprisingly, is unadorned. However, the interior of the hall has three beautiful paintings of the three most popular shaman deities in Korean shamanism. In the centre is Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and he’s flanked on either side by Dokseong (The Recluse) and San shin (The Mountain Spirit). The painting of San shin, and especially the painting of the tiger, are two of the more intense paintings of the spirit I’ve seen in a while.

It’s from the vantage point of the Samseong-gak shrine hall that you first catch the amazing views of the valley below that possesses numerous rolling hills, as well as the sea of black rocks that leads down the mountain like a trail of bread crumbs. So the story goes that the rocks use to be five women and a dragon that lived in the area. Together, they would do evil deeds. One day, they heard the Buddha’s sermon and turned into stone. Currently, all of the stones are turned towards the peak and if you tap on them they’ll either sound like iron or jade.

Next to the Samseong-gak shrine hall is a masterfully rendered stone statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the  Western Paradise). And not too surprisingly, he’s facing the west. Stepping down from this stone statue altar, and housed in the centre of the temple courtyard, is a stone pagoda that dates back to sometime around 1181.

Slightly to the left, and through a path that leads through a part of the black stone bread crumbs, is the temple’s most unique hall. As you approach, the first thing you’ll notice is that the hall is actually two stories high. And wrapped around the hall are some of the cutest Shimu-do paintings you’ll see. Strangely, there’s a hole cut out of the back of the hall with a rock that appears to jut into this hall. And once you do enter the hall you’ll see a massive rock housed inside of this hall. The story behind this rock being housed inside this hall, just like having a rock housed inside of a Buddhist hall, is unique. The story states how the son of the Dragon King (Yongwang) came from the East Sea and crossed the Nakdong River because he realized his death was near. He came looking for the famous monk at Mt. Mucheoksan. The son of the Dragon King asked the monk for a new place to reside. The monk told him to reside where a prince sat to rest. And after the prince eventually left after resting, thousands of fish followed Yongwang’s son to where Maneosa Temple is located.  As for the prince, he supposedly turned into Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and appeared on the large rock inside of the shrine hall at Maneosa Temple. As for the fish that followed Yongwang’s son, they turned into the thousands of black rocks known as Eosanbulyeong. And now, if you pray to this rock inside of the shrine hall at ManeosaTemple you will be blessed with a son.

HOW TO GET THERE: Before you ever arrive at Maneosa Temple, you’ll first have to do a couple things to get to this well hidden gem. First, you’ll have to get to the city of Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do from wherever it is in Korea that you call home. Then you have to get a bus that heads to “Samrangjin” (삼랑진) at the Miryang Bus Terminal. From this bus, you’ll have to get off at Samrangjin Station and board a local bus to “Ugokri” (우곡리). It’s from Ugokri that you’ll have to walk the rest of the way up to Maneosa Temple.

View 만어사 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. There are a few reasons that this smaller sized temple rates as high as it does. First, the sea of mountains that appears from the temple halls is one reason. The others are the black breadcrumb like rocks that wind their way up and down the mountain, as well as the altar dedicated to Roh Moo Hyun in the main hall, and the two storied hall that houses a massive rock that has an image of the Buddha on it. For all these reason, this temple, while not that well known, is a must see in Gyeongsangnam-do.

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The colourful bell pavilion that you pass on your way to the temple courtyard.
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The view from the temple’s parking lot. A pretty nice welcome.
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The diminutive main hall at Maneosa Temple.
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Siddhartha Gautama fleeing his princely life. This is just one of the murals in the Palsang-do set.
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The beautifully designed main hall. To the left is the main altar triad. In the centre is the green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal. And to the far right is the elaborate guardian painting.
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This statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) sits to the left of the main altar.
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The painting of Gwanseeum-bosal with a picture of former Korean president Roh Moo Hyun to the bottom left.
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A nice look up at the Samseong-gak shrine hall with a look over at the masterful stone statue of Amita-bul sculpted into the mountain’s rock face.
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The painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) with a fierce looking tiger at his side.
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The picturesque view from the Samseong-gak shrine hall.
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A better look at the beautiful stone statue of Amita-bul with the early morning sun shining through the trees.
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A better look at the face of serenity.
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And just before you descend down the stairs to the altar dedicated to Amita-bul, have a look out on all that Korea’s natural countryside has to offer.
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A look back at the Samseong-gak shrine hall as you make your way down the stone path that leads over to the temple’s most unique hall.
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Finally, a sighting of the two storied shrine hall.
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A look up at the hall with the radiant sun at its back.
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The charming paintings that depict the Shimu-do murals.
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And to my surprise, this massive rock was housed inside of the hall. If you look close enough, you can see the image of the Buddha that appears on the top right side of the boulder.
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I was wondering why this rock was part of the hall’s exterior. But after seeing the interior, it wasn’t hall the difficult to guess why.

Hongbeopsa Temple – 홍법사 (Busan, Geumjeongsan)

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A beautiful look through the gorgeous landscaping at Hongbeopsa Temple towards the giant golden Amita-bul statue on top of the main hall.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had seen the golden head of a giant Buddha a few times while travelling around the northern parts of Busan. And it wasn’t until I looked at a temple blog written by a Korean that I realized that it was the ultra-modern Hongbeopsa Temple.

When you first arrive at Hongbeopsa Temple (홍법사), after circumnavigating the perimetre of the temple, you find yourself in a large parking lot. And while the temple wasn’t busy on this cloudy morning, it speaks to just how busy Hongbeopsa Temple can get. As you pass through the lion-based entrance markers, the one on the left is written in Chinese characters, while the one on the right is written in Korean, you’ll notice the ever-present giant golden statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) staring out over the temple grounds from the main hall. The first set of statues you’ll encounter are a triad of childlike stone statues that embody the idea of “hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.” This is a theme that will come up later. A little further along is another beautiful statue that depicts Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And at her feet is a stone statue of a helper.

As you near the modern-looking main hall, which could also be mistaken for a large sized auditorium, you’ll notice a beautifully maintained lawn and temple grounds to your right. Really, it is one of the best landscaped grounds in all of Korea. To the left is the main hall itself. In front of a large flight of stairs that leads up to the main hall is a beautiful bronze incense burner with eight decorative lions holding up the roof of the incense burner. This incense burner runs parallel with a row of perfectly placed bridges and lotus ponds. And just before you make your way up the stairs to the main hall, there’s a serenely standing golden statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine) with a handful of kids at his feet. What sets this statue apart is the waterfall that falls in front of the golden statue’s face.

As you ascend the flight of stairs that leads up to the ultra-modern main hall, you’ll probably be wondering where you can gain access to this Buddhist hall. It was a question I was asking myself as I stared at the circular structure. If you make your way to the right, alongside the main hall, you’ll eventually arrive at an entrance almost completely at the rear of the main hall. To the right of the elevator that brings you all the way up to the fifth floor to where the massive statue of Amita-bul sits, is the entrance for the main hall. After taking off your shoes, you can grab either a Buddhist prayer book or a set of prayer beads. After entering into the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a low ceiling with beautiful decorative paintings as well as male Biseon. To your immediate right you’ll notice one of the more original statues you’ll ever see at a temple. The statue is a beautiful two metre long replica of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom with both a statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) at the back of the boat with recently deceased patrons on board.

If you completely turn 180 degrees from where you stand as you look at the Dragon Ship of Wisdom, you’ll be greeted by a massive prayer section inside the main hall. Sitting on the expansive main altar, and well lit from behind, are three paper lanterns that once more depict the “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil” theme of the statues in the courtyard. In front of these large size paper lanterns are three smaller sized golden statues with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre. He’s flanked by Jijang-bosal to the left and Gwanseeum-bosal to the right. Interestingly, and slightly to the right of the main triad, is a row of seven statues that depict Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) in the centre. To the right of the main altar is a pastoral painting of Seokgamoni-bul praying with his disciples. Complimenting this painting, and on the far left side of the main altar, is a painting of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom.

Once you’ve viewed all that you need to see inside the main hall, you can exit from where you first entered. To the left of the elevator is a set of stairs. These stairs will bring you to the top of the main hall. At the top, you’ll get an amazing view of both the serene face of Amita-bul as well as the beautiful view of the temple, Busan to the south, and the city of Yangsan to the north. After climbing the final set of stairs, you’ll get an even better view of all you had seen from the previous floor. Amazingly, you can enter inside the massive Amita-bul statue. And sitting on the altar is a gorgeous crystal palace with what looks to be a historical sari front and centre.

After descending from the fifth floor, you can make your way over to the left side of the temple courtyard. To the left, again, are some beautifully maintained grounds with both cherry blossom and magnolia trees well represented. In front of the hall dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Recluse), is a large sized coy pond with a statue of a large sized and jovial Dharma. Inside of the shaman shrine hall are two newly painted, and beautifully rendered murals of Dokseong in the centre flanked by San shin to the left. Interestingly, Chilseong is noticeably absent in this shaman shrine hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: There is a Hongbeopsa Temple shuttle bus that leaves from Nopo-dong Subway Station, #134 in Busan. This bus leaves every 30 minutes between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. However, there has to be at least five people for the bus to leave the station. And to return back to Nopo-dong Subway Station, the bus leaves Hongbeopsa Temple at 15 and 45 minutes on the hour, every hour. As for lunch, buses do not leave between 11:00 to 12:15.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Without a doubt, the highlight of this temple is the massive golden statue of Amita-bul that sits on top of the modern looking main hall. Both the artistic rendering of this Buddha of the Western Paradise, as well as the inner contents of the golden Buddha easily makes it a must see. In addition, the beautiful paper lanterns that sit on the main altar, as well as the wooden statue of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom, and the beautifully cared for grounds of the temple make Hongbeopsa Temple a must see if you’re in the northern part of Busan.

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The first good look at the golden Amita-bul statue as seen through the entrance at Hongbeopsa Temple.
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The triad of statues that represent, “Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil,” with a curious Amita-bul peering over their collective shoulders.
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And the beautiful granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that sits in the temple courtyard.
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The beautiful bronze incense burner at the temple.
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And a look at the neighbouring bridges and lotus streams that run parallel with the incense burner.
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The water that flows in front of the Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) in front of the main hall.
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The beautiful, and intricate, paintings that adorn the interior of the modern-looking main hall.
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The highly original Dragon Ship of Wisdom statue inside the main hall.
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A different angle of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom.
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A look up at the golden main altar inside of the main hall. The customary centre triad is flanked to the right by seven statues centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) and large sized paper lanterns of the “Hear no..” theme.
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Finally, an up close look at the giant golden Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) that sits on top of the modern-looking main hall at the temple.
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An up close look at Amita-bul’s face.
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And a look at Amita-bul’s mudras.
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And you can go inside of Amita-bul. Inside is this chamber where you can pray.
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Sitting on the altar is this amazing crystal palace statue. It’s fronted by what looks to be a sari.
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Walking away from the main hall, there are several beautifully landscaped paths at Hongbeopsa Temple.
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A look at the shaman hall that houses both Dokseong (The Recluse) and San shin (The Mountain Spirit).
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A gorgeous piece of artwork that adorns the exterior base of the shaman shrine hall.
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The San shin painting sits to the left on top of the main altar inside the shaman shrine hall.
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In front of the shaman shrine hall is this beautiful view with the neighbouring Geumjeongsan mountains and a large lotus pond with the Dharma at its centre.
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And one last look at the modern-looking main hall from the shaman shrine hall.

Samseongam Hermitage – 삼성암 (Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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This beautiful cherry blossom tree was in full bloom when we arrived at Samseongam Hermitage in Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

We had never planned on visiting Samseongam Hermitage, let alone ever heard of it. But on the way to the neighbouring, and much more popular and famous Gwanryongsa Temple, we saw a temple high up in the Hwawang mountain range. This temple turned out to be Samseongam Hermitage.

Samseongam Hermitage, which means “Three Stars Hermitage” in English, dates back at least a couple hundred years, but probably several hundred more. You first make your way up a very steep road that leads up Mt. Hwawang. Our car nearly stalled halfway up the 500 metre climb.

Finally at the ledge that houses Samseongam Hermitage, you’re first greeted by a three storied visitors’ centre and meeting hall. A bit further along are several beautiful cherry blossom trees. The views from this side of the hermitage of Changnyeong below are beautiful. They are only bettered by the views from the tiny pavilion that juts out over the quickly receding mountainside. The views from this pavilion are amazing.

Around the bend in the road, and a bit closer towards the hermitage grounds, is the monks’ dorm. It’s rather new looking with just the natural wood finish still untouched by a Korean temple’s colourful painted patterns. The next temple building to greet you is the Myeongbu-jeon hall dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). The exterior is adorned with Shimu-do murals, better known as the Ox-Herding murals in English. As for the interior, it took me a few strong pulls on the door even to gain entrance to this hall. But with a bit of muscle, I was finally able to gain access to the beautiful decorated interior. Sitting on the main altar of the Myeongbu-jeon hall is an atypical stone statue of Jijang-bosal. This Bodhisattva is backed by an older looking mural of himself with Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To the left of the stone Jijang-bosal statue is a painting of The Dragon Ship of Wisdom. And in front of this mural are two statues, of dissimilar size, of Yongwang (The Dragon King). On the right side of Jijang-bosal is another Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural. The other difference between the two is that a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) sits on the right side of the altar. Amazingly, and all about this hall, there are masterful paintings of various birds like ducks, peacocks, and falcons.

Next to the Myeongbu-jeon hall is the main hall at Samseongam Hermitage. The exterior of this hall is atypically adorned with various murals like monks chasing after a scroll with the name of Wonhyo-daesa written on it in Chinese characters. As for the interior, the hermitage’s most prized historical possession sits on the main altar in the main hall. The wooden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal is Gyeongsangnam-do’s Tangible Cultural Property #414. The rounded facial expressions are reminiscent of the late Joseon Period. And connected literature of the time dates the serene wooden statue back to 1838. This statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) sits all alone on the main altar. On either side of the main altar are paintings and statues of the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). And on the right side of the altar, just below the statues of the Nahan is a painting of the famous Wonhyo-daesa. And on the far right wall is a mural dedicated to the Buddhist Silla martyr, Ichadon.

The final building of any significance at Samseongam Hermitage is to the left rear of the main hall. Interestingly, the hall should be called the Samseong-gak shrine hall because it houses the three most popular Korean shaman deities, and yet, it’s not named the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Instead, above each of the three entrances to this hall is a name plate written in Chinese characters that identifies each of the three shaman deities. As you step into this hall, and in the centre, is a simplistic painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the right is another atypical painting at Samseongam Hermitage. This time, the painting is of Dokseong (The Recluse). Finally, and to the left, is a mural of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) that is accompanied by a rather fierce-looking, but bloated, tiger. Strangely, there’s another statue of Yongwang in front of the San shin mural.

From the hermitage compound grounds, you get a great view of the neighbouring Hwawangsan mountain range, and the valley below where the city of Changnyeong resides. And behind the hermitage are several trails that lead up to the top of Mt. Hwawang.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: Depending on where you’re coming from, you can arrive at Samseongam Hermitage in a couple ways. If you’re coming from Seoul, you can take a bus that leaves five times a day to Changnyeong. And if you’re leaving from Daegu, Busan, or Miryang, you can take a bus that heads to the city of Youngsan. The bus to Youngsan specifically says Youngsan-haeng (영산행) on it. During this bus ride to Youngsan, you’ll have to get off at Gyeseong. And from Gyeseong, you can take a local a taxi. You simply have to tell the taxi driver “Samseongam” and they’ll know the rest. Either that, or they’ll get to the base of the mountain where Samseongam Hermitage lies up a very steep road, and tell you get out and walk it.

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OVERALL RATING: 6/10. If you’re in the Changnyeong area, and you want to visit a couple of beautiful temples or hermitages, I would suggest visiting Samseongam Hermitage in conjunction with those other temples. The views from the hermitage, at any vantage point, are amazing. Added to this is the historically important Gwanseeum-bosal statue inside the main hall and the stunning bird murals inside the Myeongbu-jeon hall. All of these things add up for a nice little visit to an out of the way hermitage in Gyeongsangnam-do.

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The front facade that welcomes you to Samseongam Hermitage. It’s noticeable from the valley below.
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The amazing view from the hermitage.
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Only bettered by the view from this pavilion that is perched precariously over a steep falling mountainside.
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The view! I told you it was good.
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The road that leads up to the hermitage courtyard is lined with cherry blossom trees.
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An amazing look up at the cherry blossoms at Samseongam Hermitage.
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A view from the hermitage courtyard of the cliff side road that winds its way up from the valley floor to the hermitage.
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The Myeongbu-jeon hall to the right of the main hall.
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Inside, and on its main altar, sits the stone statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
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To the Jijang-bosal’s left is this painting of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom and the two different statues of Yongwang (The Dragon King).
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Surrounding the trim of the Myeongbu-jeon ceiling are numerous paintings of stunning birds like these falcons.
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And in the centre of the hermitage’s buildings is the compact main hall.
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A look inside of the main hall during morning prayer.
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A zoomed in look at the historical statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that dates back to 1838.
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And next to the main hall, and slightly up the embankment to the left, is the shaman shrine hall that has three unique name plates to each of the deities housed inside of the shaman shrine hall.
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And a look at just one of the paintings inside of the shaman shrine hall.  The painted San shin (Mountain Spirit) is next to a bloated tiger. And in front of this painting, strangely, is yet another statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King).