Dongmyeong Bulwon – 동명불원 (Nam-gu, Busan)


A look over at the temple courtyard and the massive main hall at Dongmyeong Bulwon in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had first visited Dongmyeong Bulwon (동명불원) back in 2004, and I had long wanted to re-visit this centrally located temple in Busan. So on Saturday, to beat the crowds, I made my way over to Dongmyeong Bulwon.

Dongmyeong Bulwon is a newer looking temple. When you first arrive at the temple, and turn left off of the busy city street, you’ll be greeted by one of the most impressive Cheonwangmun Gates in all of Korea. Sitting inside of this gate are four of the more menacing, and yet regal, looking Heavenly Kings. And they are trampling under foot some Japanimation-looking demons. This gate is finally decorated with the likes of the lion-headed door knockers, and the rendering of two more Japanimation-looking guardians just as you enter into the temple courtyard (which also acts as the temple’s parking lot).

To your immediate left, and as you enter the temple courtyard, is the temple’s bell tower. Equal in proportion to the rest of the temple buildings the bell is large in size. Straight ahead, and in the self-contained square set-up of the temple grounds, is the Nahan-jeon. This hall houses the sixteen nicely crafted statues of the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). These statues surround a large golden statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who sits on the main altar. To the right of this hall, and hidden behind shubbery that grows extensively throughout the rest of the temple grounds, is the hall dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Sitting on the main altar is Amita-bul. And he’s flanked by what looks to be Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Power and Wisdom of Amita-bul) on either side.

One thing that will have been impossible to miss is the mammoth two-story main hall, which is one of the largest in the country. Unfortunately, since it’s made out of concrete and some of the hall’s paintings are fading, it isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing. However, while the exterior isn’t all that attractive, the cavernous interior is amazing. Sitting on the main altar are three of the largest statues I’ve seen at any temple in Korea. Sitting in the centre of the triad is Seokgamoni-bul. He’s flanked by Yeondeung-bul to the left and Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) to the right. And if you look up at the ceiling inside the main hall, you’ll be greeted by an impressive dragon mural. To the right of the large main altar is a highly original Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the left is a rather plain guardian mural. Out in front of this main hall are two highly original pagodas. Standing at the top of both are four smaller looking pagodas, which almost make it look like a rook in chess.

To the immediate right of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Inside of this hall, and standing on the main altar, is a fiercely aggressive standing statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King). He’s standing beside the angelic looking Gwanseeum-bosal.

Almost hidden away, and up a set of stairs to the left of the main hall, is an upper courtyard that houses three shrine halls dedicated to shaman deities. The first shaman shrine hall houses Dokseong (The Recluse). The statue that sits on the main altar is large, and Dokseong is wearing long, regal clothes. The next shaman shrine hall is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Interestingly, and rather strangely, there’s the temple’s main vegetable garden between the Chilseong-gak and the San shin-gak. Inside the San shin-gak is another large sized statue, this time, dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit). He is joined by an even larger sized statue of an accompanying tiger.

The temple is free, and it’s open from 4:30 in the morning until 7:30 at night.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Dongmyeong Bulwon, you’ll first have to take the Busan subway to Daeyeon Station on the second line. From there, take exit #10, and walk towards the U.N. cemetery for about 15 minutes. From the U.N. cemetery, you’ll have to walk another 15 minutes towards the mountains, with the signs as a guide along the way. Either that, or you can simply get off at Daeyeon Station and take a taxi from there. Simply say to the cabby, “Dongmyeong Bulwon.”

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. While newer and built out of concrete, Dongmyeong Bulwon is one of the more impressive Busan city located temples that I’ve visited. With its massive statues, the very impressive Cheongwangmun Gate, and the sheer size of the main hall, make Dongmyeong Bulwon a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The amazing Cheonwangmun that welcomes you to the temple.
Just some of the things that adorn the Cheonwangmun Gate.
One of the more amazing statues of a Heavenly King in Korea.
And equal to the Four Heavenly Kings in design are the multiple demons they are trampling under foot like this one.
This Japanimation rendering of a Korean guardian is highly, highly original, and it adorns the exterior wall of the Cheonwangmun Gate.
The towering bell pavilion that houses a large sized bronze bell.
A look at the Nahan-jeon with the temple’s bus out in front of the hall.
The hall dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).
The main altar of the aforementioned hall with Amita-bul in the centre of the triad.
Inside the hall, and to the right of Amita-bul, is this rendering of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom that ferries people to the afterlife.
Also to the right of the main altar is this shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
Another look at the massive main hall at Dongmyeong Bulwon.
The rook-like top of the pagoda that sits out in front of the main hall.
A look inside the main hall at a woman praying to the large sized statues on the main altar.
To the right of the main altar is this original painting of Jijang-bosal.
To the right of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon hall dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This is the altar inside of that hall.
In the upper courtyard are three shaman shrine halls. This is a view from the Chilseong-gak at the Dokseong-gak.
A look inside the Dokseong-gak at the regal looking Dokseong (The Recluse).
And a look inside the Chilseong-gak at Chilseong (The Seven Stars).
A look at the temple’s vegetable garden with the San shin-gak in the background.
A look inside the San shin-gak at the large sized San shin (Mountain Spirit) statue and painting. It’s only surpassed by the size of the accompanying tiger.

Video: Seochukam Hermitage

Hello Again Everyone!!

The last time I visited Seochukam Hermitage, at Tongdosa Temple, in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, it was about two years ago and there was snow on the ground. This time, I went during the summer months, which made for quite the nice contrast. Also, I was extremely impressed by the colourful interior of the plainly decorated exterior walls of the main hall. Have a look and see what I mean.

Samboksa Temple – 삼복사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The hundreds of Gwanseeum-bosal seated statues at Samboksa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

With having the first couple temples fizzle out with them being nothing more than a couple of tin huts, I finally found Samboksa Temple (삼복사) at the base of Gunjisan Mountain on the southeastern side of Yangsan.

Past a collection of rice fields, and up a one-lane country road, I found Samboksa Temple. The road forked in three directions, and I was just lucky to have picked the right one (which is the left one). Driving up the base of the mountain, and past a forest of over-hanging trees, Samboksa Temple finally came into view.

Parking at the temple parking lot, I made my way up the long, and beautiful, temple stairway. As you approach, not only does the main hall come into view, but several other treasures come into view, as well. As though solemnly welcoming all visitors to the temple, a three foot high bronze statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) stands at the top of the set of stone stairs. To the far right, and at the start of one of the trails that leads up to the peak of Gunjisan Mountain, is a tiny man-made stone grotto. The grotto couldn’t be any bigger than a foot in height, but it houses an equally small statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined by a few baby monk statues.  And book ending the statue of Gwanseeum-bosal are two ornately designed and beautifully crafted bronze incense burners. They are adorned with Biseon, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Nathwi. Take a second and have a look at the pair of incense burners, because they are amongst some of the finest in all of Korea.

Samboksa Temple is one of the more uniquely situated temples I have yet to visit in Korea. It’s perfectly placed inside a naturally occurring plateau that’s formed inside of a indentation on the mountain. I’m sure Nature had a little help, but I’m just as sure that a lot of what is seen at the temple is natural. The main hall is placed at the back rock wall of this mountain indentation. It’s a two storied building with the kitchen, meeting halls, and monks’ dorms on the first floor. Unfortunately, this main hall is largely made of concrete, unlike the more traditional wooden structures; however, and for some strange reason, it doesn’t seem to take all that much away from the overall aesthetics of the temple. Usually, I’m put off by this medium, but for some strange reason I wasn’t put off this time.

On the second floor of this hall is the main worship hall. Surrounding the exterior are some nicely painted Shimu-do, Ox-herding, murals. There are also some beautiful floral murals, and an intricate dragon mural near the name plate of the main hall. As you first enter the main hall, on the left side of the hall, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful guardian painting. While the painting looks newer in origin, it seems to be painted in an older style. Next to this painting is the main altar. Seated in the centre of the triad is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left and a regal looking Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right. This triad is backed by a beautiful mural similar in design to that of the guardian painting. Strangely, to the right of the main altar is a wall shrine that is missing a statue or a painting. It almost looks like it had been recently removed from this wall in a hurry. It was a bit of a strange sight to be honest. But the best thing about this hall were the hundreds of ceramic Gwanseeum-bosal seated statues. They were perfectly placed and beautifully situated so that the morning sun was squarely reflecting off of row upon row of them. As equally interesting, was the collection of designs at the base of the stone altar. Most were either floral in design, but the occasional one had a phoenix in its midst. But the biggest surprise was the intricately designed, and finely crafted, diminutive statue of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) to the far left on this stone base. He’s joined by a Taoist figure on the far right of the altar’s base.

To the right rear of this main hall, and up a naturally occurring (and moss covered) set of stairs, is the San shin-gak shrine hall. This hall, which houses San shin, is literally carved into the side of the mountain’s face. Inside this man-made grotto is a beautifully painted, and older looking, San shin painting. Have a look at the fierce looking tiger that joins San shin. And like most paintings of San shin, he’s joined by a similar looking statue of himself out in front of the painting. To the right of the San shin-gak is a small water well that looks to be a shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).

HOW TO GET THERE: By far, this is one of the most remote temples I’ve visited in Korea. So unfortunately, you’ll either need a car or to take a long taxi ride from Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal.

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OVERALL RATING: 6/10.  There are several highlights to this well hidden temple at the base of Gunjisan Mountain, which includes the highly original location of Samboksa Temple. The first, as you approach, are the twin incense burners that are finely crafted pieces of Buddhist art. Another highlight are the hundreds of ceramic Gwanseeum-bosal statues and the decorative San shin sculpture that adorns the base of the Gwanseeum-bosal altar. Finally, the San shin-gak, both for its location and artwork, is yet another highlight to this unassuming temple.

The long and beautiful walk up to the temple.
The tiniest cave grotto, perhaps, in all of Korea.
Just one of the stunning bronze incense burners that welcomes you at the entrance at Samboksa Temple.
And centred between the two bronze incense burners is this graceful looking statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
And a look at exactly what Gwanseeum-bosal sees.
As mentioned, the temple is perfectly situated inside a large rock indentation on the mountain.
A look up at the colourful eaves on the main hall.
One of the more unique Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals, that I’ve seen at a temple. Both the ox and the ox-herder are exerting quite the effort.
A look inside the beautiful main hall.
To the left of the main altar is the newly painted guardian mural.
Sitting on the altar, and in the centre, is what looks to be Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He is flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal to the right and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left.
To the far right, and on an altar of their own, are these hundreds of ceramic Gwanseeum-bosal statues.
Amazingly, if you look at the base of the Gwanseeum-bosal altar, you’ll see this uniquely rendered San shin (The Mountain Spirit) sculpture.
A better look at San shin.
To the right of the main hall are these shrines dedicated to San shin and Yongwang (The Dragon King).
A look inside the San shin-gak at the large San shin mural inside of the shrine hall.

Video: Wonmyeongam Hermitage

Hello Again Everyone!!

I recently visited this rather remote hermitage, Wonmyeongam Hermitage, in northern Gimhae. It was one of the last larger sized temples or hermitages in the area that I had yet to visit. And while it wasn’t the most extravagant, it had a lot of natural charm and a lot of newly built halls. With a large focus on Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), try to count just how many statues and paintings of this Bodhisattva are at this temple. Enjoy!

Mangunsa Temple – 망운사 (Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The beautiful view from the heights of Mangunsa Temple in Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

As the third, and final, temple in our journey, I decided to head up to the remote Mangunsa Temple. While it wasn’t our first choice, it was definitely a great choice to go and see.

At the top of Mt. Mangunsan, which the temple gets its name from, is Mangunsa Temple (망운사). Standing at a height of 786 metres tall, you can get some great views of the ocean below.

You’ll make your way up a very winding, mountainous, and long road that leads up to Mangunsa Temple. The first thing to greet you at the temple is a colourful Iljumun Gate. A little further along the road, and you’ll come to the temple’s parking lot, as well as a small stone gate just before you enter the temple grounds. This looks to be a gate for welcoming the dead. It’s from this area that you get your first good look at the ocean below. While not as popular of a temple as its neighbour, Boriam Hermitage, the views from Mangunsa Temple are just as spectacular.

As you first enter into the temple courtyard, you’ll first notice that there has been a lot of new construction at Mangunsa Temple. To your immediate right is a newly built budo that is pretty ornate. Backing this budo is the Yaksa-jeon. This Yaksa-jeon is built completely of stone, so all but for the front of the hall, there are no murals adorning this hall. As for the interior, a solitary Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) sits on the altar. He is backed by a beautiful red mural that has various Buddhas and deities in it. To the right of the main altar is a guardian mural, and to the left is an equally beautiful painting of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

Behind the Yaksa-jeon is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The interior of this hall houses three newly painted murals to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), San shin (The Mountain Spirit), and Dokseong (The Recluse). All three of these murals are still very vibrant. To the left of the Samseong-gak shrine hall is Yongwang-dang. This hall, like the Yaksa-jeon, is completely built out of large gray stones. As for the interior, a nice single dragon mural, with Yongwang (The Dragon King) in the centre, adorns the altar of this shrine hall. This mural is fronted by an intense, and eye-popping, statue of Yongwang.

In front of both the Samseong-gak and the Yongwang-dang is the large main hall at Mangunsa Temple. Surrounding the exterior of this hall are numerous white-clad murals of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). As for the interior, and sitting on the altar, is a triad centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To his left is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and to his right is Gwanseeum-bosal. The interior of this hall is decorated with a handful of beautiful red murals like the one that backs the triad on the main altar. To the right is a guardian painting. And to the immediate right of the main altar is a red hued Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural. And to the left is another red mural of Jijang-bosal.

As for the remainder of the temple, there are the monks’ quarters as well as a very colourful bell pavilion. This bell pavilion looks like it has just recently seen the edge of a paint brush. There is also a platform in the temple courtyard that allows you to look out onto the beautiful ocean down below.

HOW TO GET THERE: Once again, to get to a remote temple in Namhae, you’ll first have to get to the Namhae Intercity Bus Terminal. From this bus terminal, you can take a taxi to Mangunsa Temple. The distance is 7.2 kilometres. The reason that I give the distance, and not a time, is that once you’re up in the mountain and climbing the road in a car, the time can fluctuate. But as a ballpark figure, the time to get to Mangunsa Temple can be anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes and the price of the trip can cost you anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 won.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Much like Boriam Hermitage, the temple buildings won’t blow you away. However, there is enough to occupy you with like the red murals inside the main hall, the beautiful shaman deity murals inside the Samseong-gak, as well as the intense statue of Yongwang inside his own shrine hall. And the views from Mangunsa Temple are pretty damn impressive, too.

The view from Mt. Mangunsan as you steadily climb it towards Mangunsa Temple.
The stone gateway that greets you at the temple.
A view of the temple courtyard.
The Yaksa-jeon, which is the first building that greets you as you step into the temple courtyard.
And in front of the Yaksa-jeon is this ornately designed budo.
The main altar inside of the Yaksa-jeon hall.
And to the right of the main altar is this gorgeous guardian painting.
Behind the Yaksa-jeon is this Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
Sitting in the centre of the Samseog-gak altar is this vibrant Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural.
Chilseong is joined by this equally vibrant painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit). If you look closely, you’ll notice that the tiger is copping quite an attitude with its arms crossed.
To the left of the Samseong-gak is this Yongwang-dang.
Inside the Yongwang-dang is this intense statue and mural of Yongwang (The Dragon King).
A look inside the main hall at Mangunsa Temple.
The main altar and the triad of statues that sit upon it.
A look at the amazing guardian painting that hangs on the right wall.
To the immediate right of the main altar is this highly original Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural.
A look inside the beautifully decorated bell pavilion.
And one last look down at the ocean below from the heights of Mangunsa Temple.

Video: Mangunsa Temple

Hello Again Everyone,

The final video from my Namhae road trip was taken at the extremely remote Mangunsa Temple. While extremely difficult to get to, this temple, with its gorgeous views, was definitely worth the trek. Amazingly, the views of the ocean down below from Mangunsa Temple nearly rival that of Boriam Hermitage. And yet, Mangunsa Temple is almost completely unknown to the general public. Perhaps not for that much longer.

Yongmunsa Temple – 용문사 (Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The amazingly decorative main hall at Yongmunsa Temple in Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Another temple I had long wanted to visit in the Namhae area was Yongmunsa Temple. And the wait was well worth it to this ancient temple.

Yongmunsa Temple (용문사), which means Dragon Gate Temple in English, was first built by Wonhyo-daesa in a round-about-way. While the exact date of the temple’s creation is unknown, there is a lot about it that we do know. First, it’s believed that Wonhyo-daesa built Bogwangsa Temple on Mt. Geumsan during the Silla Period. This temple was later moved to its present location on Mt. Hogusan and renamed Yongmunsa Temple. Yongmunsa Temple was burnt to the ground, like a lot of famous temples of its time, during the Imjin War from 1592 to 1598. Monks from this temple served to defend Korea from the invading Japanese, and as a result, it’s been designated a temple of national defence and preserved by the present Korean government.

Down a long road that roams through houses and fields, you’ll come to the first sign of the temple: two guardian spirit poles. While these two guardian spirit poles are new in design, they are excellently executed with playful and devilish looks. Further up the road, you’ll finally arrive at the temple. To the far right is the temple parking lot, which also houses a large, and newly built, shrine to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

If you continue to walk straight, you’ll cross a beautiful bridge, and then enter one of the older Cheonwang-muns in all of Korea. And while the Four Heavenly Kings inside the hall have seen better days, as made evident by one of the kings dropping their lute and another dropping their staff, these subtleties point to the impertinence of time that is so central to the Buddhist faith.

Around the corner of the large conference hall, you’ll enter the temple courtyard. The temple grounds are well maintained. When you first enter, and to your immediate right, are the monks’ dorms. And across the courtyard, and straight ahead, are the monks’ facilities like the temple kitchen and dining area. To the right of that building, and in a row, is another off-limit building. And to the left, and in a bit of a secluded courtyard, is the temple’s bell pavilion. Interestingly, the rawhide drum has been struck so many times that the leather surface has a hole in it.

The crowning achievement to Yongmunsa Temple, by far, is the main hall. The exterior paintings that surround the hall are simplistic Shimu-do murals. And up in the eaves are some of the best examples of wooden dragon heads in all of Korea. They are large, colourful, and masterfully executed. As for the interior of the main hall, the ceiling decorations are reminiscent of the main hall at Eunhaesa in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. There are various creatures like dragons suspended from the ceiling. As for the main altar itself, it’s occupied by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre. He’s flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva that is the Power and Wisdom of Amita). To the far right is a beautiful mural that dates back to 1897, and it depicts the Vulture Peak Assembly. To the far left is a guardian mural that also dates back to 1897. These are two of the oldest murals of these types that I’ve seen inside a temple hall and not inside a museum. Amazing stuff!

To the right of the main hall is a Myeongbu-jeon that dates back to 1662. Sitting on the main altar is a green haired Jijang-bosal, who is perched on a red silk pillow adorned with numerous dragon heads. Jijang-bosal is surrounded by ten large statues, both seated and standing, of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. Interestingly, and a bit hidden away around the corner of the Myeongbu-jeon, is a courtyard and tiny shrine hall that houses the Stone Buddha of Yongmunsa statue. This white crowned statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) dates back to Goryeo Period (918-1392) and was buried in the ground to protect it from destruction at the hands of the Japanese during the invading Imjin War from 1592 to 1598.

To the far left of the main hall, and up the embankment, are two buildings. The first is the Nahan-jeon which houses the 16 disciples of the Historical Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul, as well as the past, present, and future Buddha that sit as a triad on the main altar. Another interesting aspect to this temple is the second hall in the upper courtyard: The Chilseong-gak. Inside of this hall are not just one, but three Chilseong (The Seven Stars) paintings. All three are old in age, and masterful in design. To the left of these three paintings is the San shin (The Mountain Spirit) painting, and to the far right is the Dokseong (The Recluse) painting. All five paintings have seen better days, but are still as beautiful as ever.

HOW TO GET THERE: If you’re traveling from anywhere outside of Namhae, you will first have to travel to the Namhae Intercity Bus Terminal. From this large sized terminal, you can then catch a taxi to Yongmunsa Temple. The distance is 13.8 km and it takes about 25 minutes. The total cost of the taxi ride should be between 10,000 to 15,000 won.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. The rarity of a lot of what this temple houses allows it to rate as highly as it does. Some of the highlights, at least in hall form, are the Cheonwangmun, the Myeongbu-jeon, and especially the main hall. Added to it are the rare murals inside of the main hall and the Chilseong-gak, as well as the ancient statue of Mireuk-bul, and this temple is a must see if you’re in the Namhae area of Gyeongsangnam-do.

The pair of guardian spirit poles that greet you at Yongmunsa Temple.
A better look at one of the comical, yet devilish, faces of the spirit guardian poles.
A look across the bridge at the Cheonwangmun Gate.
One of the Four Heavenly Kings that seems to have lost a grip on his lute.
One more bridge and a look up at the large conference hall at the temple.
A gorgeous view around the temple courtyard and the amazingly designed main hall in the centre of it all.
Just the first of many amazing dragon heads in the eaves around the exterior of the main hall.
Returning to earthly life, the final mural in the set of ten, from the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals.
A look at the triad of statues and the mural that adorn the altar inside the main hall.
Just one of the four-legged dragons that resides around the ceiling inside the main hall.
Just one, in a set of two, older murals inside of the main hall. This one depicts the Assembly at Vulture Peak.
The view of the courtyard from the main hall.
To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall that is dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and his ten accompanying Kings of the Underworld.
Just one of the seated Ten Kings of the Underworld.
Around the corner, in an equally diminutive courtyard, is this shrine hall. It houses…
This white statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) that dates back to the Goryeo Period.
A unique look at some of the monks’ quarters.
And a look at some of the beautiful blue flowers that were in bloom as you enter into the upper courtyard at Yongmunsa Temple.
The altar pieces inside the Nahan-jeon.
And a look up at the crowning Chilseong-gak. It houses five of the more unique shaman paintings in Korea.
A look at just three of the five murals inside the Chilseong-gak.

Video: Yongmunsa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

Another one of the temples I visited during my Namhae adventure was Yongmunsa Temple. While not as well known as the neighbouring Boriam Hermitage, Yongmunsa Temple has a lot for the Korean temple adventurer to explore. In fact, Yongmunsa Temple is a bit like a museum in the form of a Korean Buddhist temple with it various Buddhist paintings and artwork. Take a look at the video and see what I mean.

Boriam Hermitage – 보리암 (Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The breath-taking view of the ocean from the 10,000 Buddhas Hall at Boriam Hermitage in Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Boriam Hermitage had been a hermitage I had long wanted to visit in Gyeongsangnam-do. But since it’s on the western border with Jeollanam-do, and far from my home, I have never been. However, I corrected this oversight this past weekend.

Boriam Hermitage (보리암) dates back to 683, when it was created by the famous monk Wonhyo-daesa. The most interesting part of this hermitage’s history is related to the three storied pagoda that sits on a landing that overlooks the ocean. According to legend, the pagoda was built from the stones that Queen Heo, the Indian princess that would go onto marry King Suro who was the founding king of the Gaya Kingdom, to enshrine the Buddha’s remains that she had brought with her. However, because the stones are made of granite and the pagoda appears to have been built during the Goryeo Period (918-1392), it seems highly unlikely that this story is true. Another interesting aspect to this hermitage is that the future Joseon Period king, Yi Song-gye (better known as King Taejo), who also turned out to be the first Joseon king, stayed at Boriam Hermitage praying for 100 days before he became the Korean ruler.

Arriving at the base of Mt. Geumsan, which alone acts as a provincial park, you’ll have to pay 2,000 Won (if my memory serves me correctly) as an entrance fee. There are three ways you can get to the top of Mt. Geumsan, and in the vicinity of Boriam Hermitage. First, you can walk the nearly four kilometers up the mountain (which I don’t recommend); second, you can take the shuttle bus to the top which leaves frequently; or third, if you drive your own car, you can wait in line until a parking spot opens up in the limited parking lot for Boriam Hermitage. If you choose this option, make sure you get there early because the line fills in fast.

After getting to the summit of the mountain, you’ll pass through the entrance gate to Boriam Hermitage, which will cost you a reasonable 1,000 won. The hike from this gate to the hermitage grounds is another kilometer. This hermitage is very popular with Koreans, so just follow them and you won’t get lost. Along the way, you’ll catch glimpses of the ocean front views that makes Boriam Hermitage so famous and popular.

Finally, you’ll come to a second parking lot that also houses a smaller sized convenience store. It’s from this vantage point that you’ll get your first clear view of the ocean and the tiny islands that dot the breath-taking landscape.

A little further up the trail, and at a fork, you’ll turn left towards the hermitage. To the right lies a less popular hermitage and the peak of Mt. Geumsan. Descending down a large set of stairs, you’ll finally come to the compact hermitage courtyard. You’ll first pass by the hermitage’s office. To your immediate left is the first building at Boriam Hermitage. This hall is the 10,000 Buddhas Hall. Inside of this hall, as the name kind of hints at, are 10,000 Buddhas that line all of the walls of the interior to this hall. Sitting on the main altar is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). It is from the front of this hall that you gain some of the most impressive views of the ocean and Namhae down below.

Stepping up into the centre of the temple courtyard, you’ll be flanked by the main hall to the right and an observation hall to the left. Both are fairly long in length. Surrounding the main hall are paintings of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And sitting inside the smaller sized main hall is a diminutive statue of Gwanseeum-bosal on a red silk pillow. There are numerous statues of this Bodhisattva as it’s one of the thirty-three most venerated temples to Gwanseeum-bosal in all of Korea.

Behind the main hall, and up a steep set of stairs, is the San shin-gak. Inside of this rather plain looking shrine hall is a beautiful painting dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit). The highlight of the painting is the uniquely painted tiger. To the left of the main hall is the hermitage’s bell pavilion. It houses a beautiful bronze bell that is adorned with some masterfully crafted Buddhas.

The final area to the hermitage grounds is down a set of stairs next to the bell pavilion. Down the set of stairs, and up a smaller set, is a plateau area that houses another large sized statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. This granite statue looks out upon the ocean. And to her right is an ancient pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Period. Again, there are some amazing views of the ocean side landscape from here.

HOW TO GET THERE: If you live in Busan, or near it, the easiest way to get to Boriam Hermitage is from the Busan Train Station. There’s a bus that leaves from there, I would assume in the morning. The ride from Busan to Namhae should take about three ours in length.

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OVERALL RATING: 8/10 While the hermitage buildings aren’t the most amazing that you’ll ever see at a hermitage or a temple, this probably isn’t the reason you’ve come to Boriam Hermitage. By far, the views of the ocean and the neighbouring landscape are second-to-none at a hermitage or temple in all of  Korea. And while crowded, there’s enough room for you to enjoy Boriam Hermitage and its spectacular vista.

There is limited parking at Boriam Hermitage, so make sure you get there early.
The beautiful trail that leads up to the hermitage.
The first, of many, amazing views from Boriam Hermitage.
The first view of Boriam Hermitage just beneath Mt. Geumsan.
A look over at the observation hall and down at the ocean below.
The hermitage courtyard.
A few people taking in the amazing view of the ocean and islands below near the observation hall.
Just one of the halls at Boriam Hermitage. This is the 10,000 Buddhas Hall.
The main altar inside the 10,000 Buddhas Hall.
And the gorgeous view from the 10,000 Buddhas Hall.
A better look around the hermitage courtyard with the main hall to the right, the observation hall to the left, and the bell pavilion centre right.
A look inside the main hall at the altar. Inside is a seated Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on a red silk cushion.
A look up at the San shin-gak that’s located just behind the main hall.
The beautiful painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) inside the San shin-gak.
Yet another spectacular view of the ocean and islands below from the San shin-gak with the main hall in the foreground.
A look above the colourful bell pavilion at the peak of Mt. Geumsan.
The large sized observation hall that frames the main courtyard at Boriam Hermitage.
In the lower courtyard is a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal and the ancient four tiered pagoda.
A better look at The Bodhisattva of Compassion, Gwanseeum-bosal.
And a better look at the ancient pagoda.
And one last look down at the ocean and Sangju Beach.