Jajangam Hermitage – 자장암 (Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The stunning view from the Chilseong-gak at Jajangam Hermitage in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Hovering over top of Oeosa Temple, precarious placed on the edge of a mountain cliff, is Jajangam Hermitage. The hermitage, which is named after the famed Buddhist monk, Jajang-yulsa, is situated 200 metres up a mountainside trail. While not the easiest of hikes, it is a rather easy hike when it comes to mountainside hikes.

Nearing the peak of the mountain, you’ll see a trail that leads both right and left. To the left, before you enter the temple grounds, you’ll follow a trail that looks down a steep cliff at Oeosa Temple and the beautiful river that runs out in front of it. It’s also from this angle that you get some really great pictures of Jajangam Hermitage up above. So take your time and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Back on the main trail, and heading up towards the hermitage, you can see a tiny trail entrance just before a row of bamboo trees. Take this trail, and once more, you’ll get some great views of Oeosa Temple down below and the hovering Jajangam Hermitage up above.

Finally having crested the mountain, and coming to Jajangam Hermitage, you’ll notice a large beautiful hall to your immediate left. This two storied structure acts as both the main hall and the monks facilities. The first floor houses the monks facilities, while the visitors’ centre and the main hall rest on the second floor. To gain access to the hermitage halls, you’ll have to take the flight of stairs to the second floor.

Inside the main hall, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined to the right by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and to the left by Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). This triad rests under a large new red canopy. And this triad is surrounded by at least a hundred statues of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). On the right wall is the Shinjung Taenghwa painting, while to the left rests an altar for the dead.

Next to the main hall, and up a smaller set of stairs, is Chilseong-gak, which is solely dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This is the hall that is precarious placed on the cliff of the mountain that you can see all the way from Oeosa Temple. Inside this hall is a beautiful golden relief of Chilseong, while the exterior is adorned with two very simplistic sets of paintings: the Palsang-do murals and the Shimu-do murals. Beautifully placed out in front of this hall is a stone lantern that puts an exclamation mark on the entire view.

Around the corner, and rather surprisingly, is a hall dedicated to Dokseong (The Recluse) and the Nahan. The exterior walls are well populated with groups of Nahan, while the altar inside the main hall is adorned with a rather simplistic painting of Dokseong. He’s surrounded on all sides by smaller sized statues of the Nahan.

In the set of hermitage halls, I thought the Dokseong-gak would be the last one in the set; however, rounding the narrow corner, I was pleasantly surprised to see the diminutive hall dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Inside this narrow hall is a similarly designed painting of Sanshin as the one that appears at Oeosa. It’s simple, yet beautiful, in design.

Once more, I thought this would be the final thing to see at the hermitage, when my wife told me that around the elbowed bend in the path were the purported remains of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Above a simple stone altar, and under a twisted red pine, is a budo dedicated to the Buddha’s remains.

HOW TO GET THERE: From Busan, you’ll first have to get to the Busan Intercity Bus Terminal at the Nopo Subway Stop, #134. You can catch a bus to Pohang Intercity Bus Terminal. The trip takes about an hour and twenty minutes, it leaves every ten to fifteen minutes, and it costs 7,700 won. From the Pohang Intercity Terminal, you’ll then have to make your way over to the Ocheon Transfer Station. To get there, you can either take bus #175 for about 30 minutes to the transfer, or you can take a taxi for 17 minutes, and it’ll cost you about 9,000 won. From the Ocheon Transfer Station, you’ll then have to board the bus that says, Ocheonjiseon (Oeosa), 오천지선 (오어사). The ride lasts about 20 minutes, or 11 stops. From where the bus lets you off, you’ll have to walk the remaining kilometre to Oeosa Temple. Just before you enter the Oeosa Temple parking lot, you’ll notice a sign to the right that’s the start of a mountainside trail that leads all the way up to Jajangam Hermitage. It’s about 200 metres to the top of the mountain and Jajangam Hermitage.


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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Rarely does a hermitage rival that of the main temple, but Jajangam Hermitage does exactly that. Secretively, this hermitage slowly reveals a wealth of artistry: both natural and Buddhist in nature. The beautiful scenery that surrounds you on all sides, coupled with the beautifully situated, and designed, halls, make Jajangam Hermitage a must see with or without visiting Oeosa Temple. But since they’re so closely situated to each other, it makes seeing both a no brainer. And then when you add into the mix the purported remains of Seokgamoni-bul, well…you get the point.

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Spring was just starting to come into bloom as we climbed the mountain towards Jajangam Hermitage.

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A look down at the trail that leads up to Jajangam Hermitage.

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A side trail that allows for some spectacular views of Oeosa Temple down below and the surrounding mountains and lake.

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And from this side trail you’ll see the first amazing sights of Jajangam Hermitage up above.

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 A fuller view of the hermitage grounds.

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Finally at the top of the mountain, you’ll first come across the main hall.

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Inside the main hall sits this triad under a large red canopy. In the centre sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And he’s flanked on either side by Daesaeji-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal.

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To the side is this beautiful guardian mural.

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The view from the main hall out onto the mountains and the picturesque Chilseong-gak.

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The view down from the Chilseong-gak at Oeosa Temple.

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 A better look at the Chilseong-gak.

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 Yet another amazing view from the heights of Jajangam Hermitage.

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 Rounding the corner, you’ll pass by the Dokseong-gak.

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 Inside the Dokseong-gak is this simplistic painting of Dokseong (The Recluse), as well as the sixteen statues of the Nahan.

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 To the left of the Dokseong-gak is the Sanshin-gak.

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 Inside this final hall is a rather typical painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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Rather surprisingly, and around the bend that runs behind the Sanshin-gak, is a stone lotus bud with a sari from the Buddha’s earthly remains.

Oeosa Temple – 오어사 (Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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Springtime at Oeosa Temple in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had long wanted to visit Oeosa Temple ever since I got my very first tour guide book about Korea back in 2003. And while it took me ten years to get there, it certainly didn’t disappoint with its natural beauty.

Oeosa Temple was first established during the Silla Period under King Jinpyeong’s reign (579 A.D. to 632 A.D.). In its very first incarnation it was called Hangsasa Temple. The temple gained its present name from a very interesting story that involves the monks Hyegong and Wonhyo. One day, while attempting to revive two fish that were swimming in the neighbouring lake, one of the two came back to life. Both claimed that they were the one to revive the fish, so from that day forward the temple came to be known as Oeosa Temple: My Fish Temple.

You first approach Oeosa Temple up a long winding road that’s surrounded by close lying mountains and an artificial pond. On your way, you’ll be joined by local mountain hikers that enjoy the low lying mountains and the picturesque landscape just south of Pohang.

Immediately when you enter the temple grounds, and just past the overcrowded parking lot, you’ll be greeted by the rather openly designed bell pavilion. There’s a large Brahma bell that sits in the centre of the pavilion, and it’s adorned with beautiful Biseon. In addition to this beautiful bronze bell, you’ll see a rather uniquely, and gnarly, designed wooden fish gong.

To the immediate right of the bell pavilion is the temple’s fountain that has a baby stone monk at the head of the fountain. Rather cutely, this stone monk is clothed with a scarf and toque. And to the right of this rather cute fountain and statue is the temple’s Nahan-jeon. Up the stairs, and a peek inside this hall, will reveal a golden collection of Nahan statues that are centred by a large triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).

Next to the Nahan-jeon is the simplistic Samseong-gak with beautiful landscape paintings around its exterior walls. Inside, and sitting in the centre on the main altar, is a rather long painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the right is a simplistic painting of Dokseong (The Recluse), and to the left is a stunning painting of Yongwang (The Dragon King). And if you look close enough at this painting, you’ll actually see the bubbled golden skin of the dragon in the Yongwang painting. Keeping this hall company, and slightly to the left and under a beautiful cherry blossom tree, is the Sanshin-gak. The simplistic painting houses a ferocious tiger.

Uniquely, or strangely, depending on how you want to view it, the main hall at Oeosa Temple sits in the centre of the temple courtyard and not at the back of the grounds. To the left sit the monks’ dorms, visitors’ centre, and temple kitchen. As for the main hall itself, it dates back to 1741, and it’s surrounded on all sides by Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals.

After looking at the main hall head-on, you can walk your way out the temple gates and past the two fierce looking guardians that adorn the temple gate doors. Down the stairs, and you’ll come to the beautiful river that flows out in front of the tranquil temple. The sandy beach front and the neighbouring rocking bridge that allows hikers up into the trails that surround the temple only add to the atmosphere of the temple.

Before you leave, make sure you visit the temple’s museum, which is free, because it houses the purported hat of Wonhyo-daesa, as well as a bronze bell that dates back to 1216.

HOW TO GET THERE: From Busan, you’ll first have to get to the Busan Intercity Bus Terminal at the Nopo Subway Stop, #134. You can catch a bus to Pohang Intercity Bus Terminal. The trip takes about an hour and twenty minutes, it leaves every ten to fifteen minutes, and it costs 7,700 won. From the Pohang Intercity Terminal, you’ll then have to make your way over to the Ocheon Transfer Station. To get there, you can either take bus #175 for about 30 minutes to the transfer, or you can take a taxi for 17 minutes, and it’ll cost you about 9,000 won. From the Ocheon Transfer Station, you’ll then have to board the bus that says, Ocheonjiseon (Oeosa), 오천지선 (오어사). The ride lasts about 20 minutes, or 11 stops. From where the bus lets you off, you’ll have to walk the remaining kilometre to Oeosa Temple.


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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Oeosa Temple is one of the most beautifully situated temples in all of Korea with the meandering river that flows out in front of its grounds as well as the towering mountains that hover over it like a guardian angel at every angle. Add into the mix the ancient bronze bell, the historic main hall, and the beautiful artistry in and around all the temple halls, and you’ll know why Oeosa Temple makes for such a nice weekend getaway.

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The beautiful artificial lake just outside the temple grounds.

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The mountains and lake that surround Oeosa Temple.

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The beautiful hanging bridge that allows visitors to cross the artificial lake.

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The back entrance to the temple grounds.

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The dry water fountain with a stone monk statue with a toque on its head.

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The bell pavilion at Oeosa Temple.

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The Nahan-jeon Hall with beautiful golden statues inside.

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A look at the main hall from the Nahan-jeon.

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A good look at the Samseong-gak and the Sanshin-gak behind it, as well as spring in full bloom.

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The painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) inside the Samseong-gak.

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A look at Yongwang (The Dragon King).

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And a look at the ferocious tiger that joins Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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The beautiful view of the main hall from the Sanshin-gak.

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A better look at the main hall front and centre.

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Just one of the beautiful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.

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A monk saying morning prayers inside the main hall.

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The purported hat of Wonhyo-daesa inside the temple’s museum.

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A look at the small bronze bell that dates back to 1216 inside Oeosa Temple’s museum.

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The temple gates at Oeosa Temple.

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A look up at the well manicured grounds at Oeosa Temple.

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A view from the water’s edge.

Unsusa Temple – 운수사 (Baekyangsan, Busan)

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The view of Busan and the Nakdong River from the wooden pavilion at Unsusa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Wanting to fill out the major temples I had yet to visit in Busan during my winter vacation, I decided to wake up early and brave the cold winter wind to visit Unsusa Temple on the southern slopes of Mt. Baekyangsan.

Just before the Baekyangsan Tunnel entrance, and up a steep winding mountainside road, you arrive at the uniquely designed grounds of Unsusa Temple. Immediately, you’ll be welcomed by the new Daeung-jeon main hall that rests on the heights as you enter the temple parking lot. To the right, and up a set of stairs, you’ll be able to get a better look at the large sized main hall. In front of this new main hall is a natural wood pavilion that is off-limits to visitors. It’s also from this vantage point that you get a beautiful view of Busan and the Nakdong River down below. And in combination with the pavilion, you can get some truly stunning pictures.

Surrounding the newer main hall are a beautiful set of Palsang-do murals. As for the interior of this rather spacious main hall, there are a set of five large statues that sit on the main altar. In the centre sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked to his immediate right by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and to his left by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Book-ending these three, and to the far left, is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the far right. All five are situated under five large red canopies that are intricately designed and painted. On the far left wall, and next to Jijang-bosal, is a large sized guardian mural with well over a hundred figures in it. And on the far right wall is a beautiful painting of Jijang-bosal just outside the gates of a fiery underworld.

What’s unique about this temple is that there are actually two main halls. There’s the new one, which I’ve just described, as well as the older one that dates back to at least 1770 in the lower courtyard. From the parking lot, and if you continue to hang a right instead of ascending the stairs that lead up to the newer main hall, you’ll enter into the lower temple courtyard.

As you enter the lower temple courtyard, you’ll enter to the left of the older main hall. To the right are two temple structures that act as the monks’ dorms, visitors centre, and kitchen. Standing all alone in the courtyard is a slender five tier pagoda. Behind it is the old main hall that is newly under renovation. There are some decorative paintings that adorn the exterior walls to this hall. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, sits a statue of Amita-bul. He’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). And hanging on the far left wall is a unique guardian mural.

To the left rear of the older main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The exterior is adorned with Shinseon murals, while the interior is dimly lit. Hanging in the centre of the main altar is an intricately painted Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. To his left Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that sits beside a ferocious tiger and under a cherry blossom tree in his painting. And finally, and to the right, is an equally intricate painting of Dokseong (The Recluse).

The final hall at Unsusa Temple, and to the right rear of the older main hall, is the Yongwang-dang. The exterior is only painted in the traditional dancheong colours, while the interior is filled with the wooden fish gong, as well as a beautiful mural of Yongwang (The Dragon King).

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Unsusa Temple along the Busan subway system. You’ll have to get off at Mora subway station, #230, on the second line. Then, you’ll have to take a taxi to Unsusa Temple. The drive should only take you about ten minutes and is a mere three kilometres in length. The entire taxi ride should be about 4,000 won.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Unsusa Temple is a rather unique temple in that it houses two main halls. And both main halls, in their own right, are beautifully designed and decorated. Add into the mix the scenic views of both Busan and the Nakdong River, as well as the beautiful shaman deity paintings, and the little known Unsusa Temple quickly becomes a temple you should see if you’re in Busan.

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The wooden pavilion and the new main hall that first greet you to the temple.

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As you ascend the stairs to the upper courtyard, you’re first greeted to the left by the wooden pavilion and the stunning view.

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The large new main hall.

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The view from the main hall out on to the wooden pavilion and through to Busan.

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The final painting in the Palsang-do set that adorns the new main hall.

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The large and lavish interior to the new main hall.

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A closer look at Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), who resides on the main altar.

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The massive guardian mural to the left of the main altar.

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A look up at the regal Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

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The painting of Jijang-bosal that’s inside the main hall.

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The temple’s lower courtyard with the historic main hall in the centre.

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The main altar inside the older Daeung-jeon Hall with Amita-bul in the centre.

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The unique guardian mural, the Shinjung Taenghwa, inside the historic main hall.

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The mural inside the Yongwang-dang of Yongwang (The Dragon King).

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The painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). It was hard to get a good picture because of the darkness inside the hall and the glass over the mural.

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One last look from the old main hall to the new one with a billow of smoke indicating just how cold it was.