Geumseonsa Temple/Seonwonsa Temple – 금선사/선원사 (Gyeongju)

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The beautiful blue sky and the intricate roof of the main hall at Geumseonsa Temple in Gyeongju. 

Hello Again Everyone!!

A couple weekends ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with the preeminent expert on Korean Buddhism and Shamanism, Mr. David Mason. He brought along a friend, Alex, and the three of us headed off to explore Mt. Seondosan in Gyeongju. While not as well known as some of the other mountains in the area like Mt. Namsan, it was still rich in Korean and Buddhist history and culture.

The first temple we visited was Geumseonsa Temple. Out in front of this temple were a collection of meditation centres, which the name of the temple, potentially suggests: “Golden Seon (Zen) Temple.” And out in front of them was a bust and stele for the founding monk of Geumseonsa Temple.

As for the temple grounds themselves, and as you ascend the stairs that lead to the courtyard, you’ll notice a compact bell pavilion to your left. And to the right, as well as an adjoining hall, are the nuns’ facilities. The main hall is a newer looking structure with the Shimu-do, or Ox-Herding, murals surrounding the exterior. Rather uniquely, the 8th and 9th paintings have been combined. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a common enough combination with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre. He’s flanked on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

Up the embankment lies the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. And while the interior is rather plain, the paintings inside are anything but. Most noticeably, the emaciated painting of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) is rather unique. Next to the Samseong-gak is a silver sprain painted statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). And next to it is a beautifully sculpted statue of Gwanseeum-bosal with eleven heads. It’s unfortunate that this statue lies under an ugly green protective structure.

After Geumseonsa Temple, David Mason suggested we visit the neighbouring Seonwonsa Temple. A bit further up the hill, and a little less tidy, we arrived at the temple. And when you first arrive at the temple, you’re greeted by the temple’s vegetable garden and a couple well-worn monks quarters. While it looks a bit run-down, looks can be deceiving.

Uniquely, there is grass growing on top of the main hall, and the Palsang-do murals that surround the main hall are rather juvenile in composition (to put it mildly). Out in front of the main hall is a tilting five tier pagoda. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined by two smaller statues of Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal. To the right of the main altar is an older looking Chilseong (Seven Stars) mural. And to the left is an equally older looking guardian mural.

But the true hidden gem of this temple can be found in the Sanshin-gak, which is to the left rear of the main hall and up some slippery stone stairs (especially when it’s humid or it’s just rained). Inside this hall, you’ll find two highly unique paintings of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong. Sanshin is uniquely reading a book. Mr. Mason said that he’s only ever seen this 7 times, and he’s visited over 1500 temples in Korea; while Dokseong, clad in a yellow robe, looks a bit dour.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take bus #30 to get to Seonwonsa Temple. After two stops, you can get off at the Seorabeol University dormitory stop. (서라벌 대학 기숙사). After being dropped off, you’ll need to walk about 600 metres to get to the temple. And to get to Geumseonsa Temple from Seonwonsa Temple, you’ll need to head back to the main road and head north. From there, you’ll eventually run into a sign directing you towards the temple.



OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. These two temples are rather hard to rate for a couple reasons. First, the temples themselves aren’t really that impressive; however, the shaman paintings that reside at both temples are uniquely impressive. So with that in mind, I rated the two as I did. With that being said, if you enjoy shaman paintings, perhaps the rating should be a bit higher; but if you don’t enjoy them, perhaps the temples won’t be your cup of tea.

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 The bust and stele dedicated to the founding monk at Geumseonsa Temple.

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 The main hall straight ahead with the nuns’ quarters to the right.

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 The beautiful stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal to the left of the main hall.

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 A closer look at the eleven-headed crown of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

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 The silver spray painted statue of Yaksayorae-bul to the left of the Samseong-gak on the upper courtyard at Geumseonsa Temple.

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 The Chilseong painting inside the Samseong-gak.

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 The emaciated painting of Dokseong to the right of the Chilseong mural.

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 The bell pavilion to the right as you first enter the temple grounds. In this case, we were just leaving.

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 The main hall and pagoda at Seonwonsa Temple (the next stop in the tour).

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 The triad of statues on the main altar inside the main hall at Seonwonsa Temple.

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 The older looking Chilseong painting to the right of the main altar.

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 And to the left is this guardian mural.

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 The child-like Palsang-do murals that adorn the main hall at Seonwonsa Temple.

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 The view from the mountain behind the monks’ quarters.

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 A trail leads up to this Sanshin-gak behind the main hall.

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 The rather rare looking mural with Sanshin reading a book.

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 And the colourful, but sad looking, Dokseong.

 

The Story of…Seokguram Hermitage – 석굴암 (Gyeongju)

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The hall that houses the grotto at Seokguram Hermitage in Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I’ve been to Seokguram Hermitage more times than I can count. I’ve been with friends, my students, my wife, and my mom. The first time I visited was way back in 2003, and all I can remember about that first visit is how spellbound I was by the statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) inside the grotto. Then in 2004, when my mom visited me for the first time, I remember seeing the wonder in her eyes as she saw this breathtaking statue for the first time, as well. And I was even lucky enough to see the wonderment in my students eyes as some of them saw what lay inside the grotto for the first time back in 2012.

More recently, I’ve been back to sneakingly take pictures inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall just below the grotto, as it was a shift change for the women that watch over the hall. But the funniest/strangest story of late comes from within the grotto itself.

Customarily, I’m very respectful when it comes to temples where there’s a sign that reads “No photos,” or any other variation that Konglish might cook up. So each and every time I visit Seokguram Hermitage, I just look with my eyes, and I leave my camera off…that is, until recently.

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The statue of Seokgamoni-bul inside the grotto before I was told to stop taking pictures alongside the Chinese and Korean photo-happy tourists.

I was standing just staring at the statue of Seokgamoni-bul when a bus full of Chinese tourist entered the grotto. Immediately, they started snapping an endless amount of pictures as the woman inside the grotto that ensures that no pictures are taken said nothing. It wasn’t until I started taking pictures that she said, with a wave of the finger, “No, you can’t take pictures in here.” I looked around at the Chinese tourist as they kept taking pictures, as I was told that I couldn’t. This hypocrisy didn’t make me all that happy. So when the Chinese tourist left, and a new bus load of Korean tourists entered with their cameras clicking away, I looked at the woman with a look that said, “So it’s also okay for them to take pictures?” And all the woman did was shrug her shoulders with a smile on her face. Sometimes, I just don’t get it…

For more on Seokguram Hermitage, please follow the link.

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The view from the grotto as I leave more confused than anything else.

Gounsa Temple – 고운사 (Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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 A look at part of Gounsa Temple from the main hall.

Hello Again Everyone!!

With my continued exploration of Gyeongsangbuk-do, I thought I would take a look at Gounsa Temple in Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do. This rather remote, and little travelled temple, was a nice surprise.

Gounsa Temple, which means “Solitary Cloud Temple,” in English, was first founded in 681 A.D. by the famous monk, Uisang-daesa. And while the pronunciation of the name of the temple hasn’t changed, the meaning of it has. Formerly, the meaning of this temple’s name was “High Cloud Temple.” The temple was later rebuilt by Choi Chiwon (pen name Goun). It was at this time that the meaning of the temple’s name changed. And during the Imjin War, the warrior monk, Samyeong-daesa, used this temple as a military base for the warrior monks. Additionally, Gounsa is the regional headquarters for the Jogye-jong Buddhist Order, so it manages temples in the area.

Gounsa Temple is surrounded by Mt. Deungunsan (or, Riding in the Clouds Mountain), and up a rather remote valley. In fact, the road that leads into the temple runs over eight kilometers in length. When you do finally arrive at the temple, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful bow-pillared Iljumun Gate. Beyond this gate is the Cheongwangmun Gate with four fierce looking guardians inside.

Before you get to the rest of the temple complex, you’ll be greeted by the oldest building at the temple. Inside this hall, the Yaksa-jeon, sits a faceless statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). But watch your head when you enter this halls, because the ceiling is rather low.

Beyond the Yaksa-jeon, and to the left, sits the most unique building at Gounsa Temple: the Gaunru Pavilion. This pavilion, which was rebuilt in 1835 after a disastrous fire at the temple, stands precariously on thin poles. These poles elevate the pavilion over a stream as though they are defying gravity. As a result, when you translate the name of Gaunru into English it means “Floating Over the Clouds.”

To the left, and over a bridge, you’ll be greeted to the temple by a ferocious looking tiger. To the left are the monks’ living quarters, and to the right is a temple courtyard. This old temple courtyard houses an older looking hall. Inside this hall, and sitting on the main altar, sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And this building is decorated with bluish hued Palsang-do paintings.

Past the visitors’ centre, you’ll come out next to the temple’s bell pavilion, which has a beautiful fish and cloud gong. To the left of the bell pavilion is the Yeonsu-jeon Hall. Very uniquely, this hall enshrines the family records of the royal family. It was built in 1774, and it looks Confucian in style.

To the far right, and still in the same courtyard, you’ll see the brand new, and massive, main hall. The main hall is surrounded on all sides by Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). On the far right wall is the guardian mural, and the entire interior of the main hall is decorated with beautiful Palsang-do murals.

Up the embankment is the older, and much smaller, main hall. To the left, and in a new courtyard, stand a handful of buildings. Most of these buildings are the monks’ living quarters. However, there are three buildings that visitors can in fact visit. The first is a smaller structure that houses a stone statue of Seokjo Seokgayeorae Jwasang (a Buddhist statue designated as National Treasure No. 246).

The other two halls in this area are the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall and the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. The paintings inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall are rather plain in design, while the statues inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall are a bit frightening. The entire temple grounds are surrounded by beautiful red Japanese maples.

On a bit of a side note, I’ve never seen so many butterflies at a temple like I did at Gounsa Temple. It was like the temple grounds were infested with them.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Andong. From Andong, you can catch a local bus to Gounsa Temple. The buses that head towards Gounsa Temple leave at 9:10, 10:40, 1:15, 4:40, and it takes about 40 minutes to get to the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Gounsa Temple, while rather removed from a large neighbouring city, houses a couple of rarities like the beautiful Gaunru Pavilion, the Seokjo Seokgayeorae Jwasang statue, as well as the massive new main hall. To top it all off, the entire temple grounds are beautifully situated and capped off by gorgeous red Japanese maples.

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 The bow-legged pillars on the Iljumun Gate at Gounsa Temple.

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 Next is the Cheonwangmun Gate at the temple.

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 Just one of the ferocious Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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 The faceless statue of the Buddha of Medicine inside the Yaksa-jeon.

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 A colourful look at the Gaunru Pavilion.

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 A better look at the thin pillars that support the weight of the Floating Over the Clouds Pavilion.

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 A ferocious tiger that welcomes you to the first, of three, temple courtyards.

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 The path that leads you towards the monks’ quarters.

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 A pretty ragged door outside the monks’ quarters.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall in the first temple courtyard.

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Inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

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The beautiful view behind the Geukrak-jeon.

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The massive, and new, main hall at Gounsa Temple.

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Inside the spacious main hall with a look at the main altar.

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The bell inside the bell pavilion just out in front of the new main hall.

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The Confucian-looking Yeonsu-jeon that has the family records of the royal family inside.

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 This is the hall that houses the stone statue of Seokjo Seokgayeorae Jwasang (National Treasure # 246) inside.

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A better look at the amazingly preserved Seokjo Seokgayeorae Jwasang statue.

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The beautifully situated Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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A look inside at Dokseong, Chilseong, and Sanshin.

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To the right of the Samseong-gak is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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 And a look at the main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

The Story of…Haeunjeongsa Temple

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 The beautiful wooden pagoda at Haeunjeongsa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

For as close as Haeunjeongsa Temple is to the famed Haeundae beach in Busan, hardly anyone visits the temple. This is unfortunate, because the temple has a lot to offer the temple adventurer. In total, I think I’ve been a handful of times with the earliest visit dating back to 2004. However, the most interesting adventure, for me personally, came just a couple months back in the winter of 2013.

Originally, I had been attempting to visit the neighbouring Pokposa Temple in Haeundae-gu, but this fell through after learning there was no neighbouring parking for my car. So instead of allowing the entire trip to be a bust, I decided to head over to Haeunjeongsa Temple. It had been about 5 years since I had last visited it, and if my memory was serving me correctly, I knew I was in for a treat.

When I finally did arrive at the temple, and because of its location, it was freezing cold with the wind; probably -10 with the windchill. In the course of five years, the temple had changed a fair bit. Unlike the last time I had visited, there was now a nice shrine for Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) just outside the main hall. Also, there was a brand new shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). Large in size, the row of beautiful granite statues was/is a nice little addition to the temple grounds. This, in combination with the Geukrak-jeon Hall and the large three story wooden pagoda, froze me to the bone.

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Inside the main hall where a group of ajummas decided to warm me up on a freezing day with mats.

The coldness, in combination with having no gloves, froze my fingers. With the main hall being the only hall at the temple I had yet to visit, I decided to warm my fingers in there. Only then would I continue to capture a few more pictures. So grabbing a mat, I sat down with a couple dozen ajummas (older Korean women). With the heat not being on in the main hall, I was still shivering quite a bit. I guess one of the neighbouring ajummas realized this, so she grabbed a mat off the stack and placed it over my lap. It definitely helped, but I was still cold. So yet another ajumma grabbed yet another mat and placed it on my side. It seemed to be working, but I was still shivering. So a third ajumma grabbed yet another mat and placed it on my other side. After each mat they placed on me they would smile and bow in a motherly fashion. Finally, the third mat seem to do the trick, as I was no longer cold.

It’s these little acts of kindness that I really enjoy when visiting Korean temples. It’s not the first, and I’m sure it won’t be the last during my stay in Korea.

For more on this temple, please follow this link.

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Out in front of the main hall is this granite row of Nahan statues.

Pagyesa Temple – 파계사 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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A beautiful blue sky at Pagyesa Temple in Daegu.

Hello Everyone!

I first visited Pagyesa Temple back in 2005 on a rainy day, and I had long wanted to re-visit this temple ever since. So this past weekend, I made my way back to Daegu and Pagyesa Temple.

Pagyesa Temple dates back to 804 A.D. when it was built by the monk Shimji. It was later re-constructed in 1605 and then again in 1695. In total, there are presently 17 temples buildings at Pagyesa Temple. The name of the temple, Pagye, is in reference to stopping the energy of the earth from running away through the streams that run through the valley on both sides of Pagyesa Temple.

You first approach the secluded temple up a long winding road that is surrounded by beautiful and lush trees on all sides. You’ll know you’re getting closer to the temple when you see a pond to your left. Just a little bit further and you’ll come to the first, of two, temple parking lots.

Up the side winding road, you’ll first be greeted by a large visitor’s centre that’s rather new in age. Next to it sits the temple’s bell pavilion that has a beautiful collection of percussion instruments. And to the left of the bell pavilion is the Jindong-nu. This hall, that you’ll pass under to gain admittance to the temple courtyard, is used for grand Buddhist ceremonies. It was constructed in 1715. The reason that this hall was built where it is was to suppress bad energy.

Stepping into the flagstone courtyard, you’ll immediately be greeted by the beautiful Wontong-jeon main hall at the temple. This is a bit atypical for a temple of this size and importance, but not unheard of. Sitting on the main altar is a solitary statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the right of this statue is a rather large guardian mural. And surrounding all the walls inside this hall are paintings of the various Nahan. As for the exterior, and up near the under part of the ceiling on both sides of the hall, are very uniquely painted patterns.

The main hall is joined on either side of the courtyard by two buildings. The building to the right is the Jeongmuk-dang, which was first built in 1602. And it’s presently used for the monks; while the temple building to the left is the Seolseon-dang, and it’s presently used as a restaurant and a place for training. It was formally used as auditorium for monk lectures.

Behind the main hall lie two more temple buildings. The first is the Sallyeong-gak, which is better known as the Sanshin-gak at other temples, which houses a beautiful old painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). The exterior of this hall is adorned with two of the more unique set of tiger paintings. And behind this hall is the Giyeong-gak, which was built in 1696. The name of this building literally means “Pavilion to pray” in English. It was built for the monk, Hyeoneung, to pray in for the successful birth of an heir to King Sukjong (r.1674-1720). He was directly asked by the king to pray for a boy. Inside this hall sits a collection of statues on the main altar centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And it’s surrounded by seven individual paintings of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). On the right wall sits a painting of Dokseong (The Recluse).

The other two buildings found at Pagyesa Temple are the Jijang-jeon and the Geukrak-jeon, both of which lie to the left of the main temple courtyard. Both buildings are rather plain all except for the beautiful statues that sit on the main altar inside both of these halls. But be warned that during the summer months there is a rather rancid smelling bathroom before both of these halls.

Admission to the temple is a very reasonable 1,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Pagyesa Temple, you’ll need to take Line 1 on the Daegu subway system to get to Ayanggyo Station. After taking exit #2, and making your way to the neighbouring bus stop, you can either take bus #101, 101-1, or Express Bus #1, all of which bring you to the bus parking lot at the base of Palgongsan Provincial Park. From the bus parking lot, it’s a rather steep 1.1 kilometre hike to the entrance of Pagyesa Temple. 


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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed by my return to this temple. Sometimes, a fond memory takes precedence over reality. With that being said, there are a few definite highlights to this temple like the beautiful Sanshin-gak and its accompanying murals. Also, the multi-Chilseong paintings and the interior of the Wontong-jeon are a few more highlights, as is the ancient Jindong-nu. And with the close proximity of Donghwasa Temple, Buinsa Temple, and Songnimsa Temple, the Palgongsan area, and Pagyesa Temple in particular, make for a nice day trip to Daegu.

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The visitors’ centre at Pagyesa Temple with the bell pavilion to the left.
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The Jindong-nu hall.
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Underneath the Jindong-nu, and you’ll finally enter the temple courtyard.
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The Wontong-jeon, or main hall, at Pagyesa Temple.
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The view from the Wontong-jeon out onto the temple courtyard.
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Some of the unique lattice artwork that adorns the main hall.
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Inside the Wontong-jeon, and sitting on the main altar, is this solitary statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.
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Behind the main hall is the Sanshin-gak.
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Inside the Sanshin-gak is this older, yet beautiful, Sanshin mural.
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Outside, and to the left, is this unique tiger painting on the Sanshin-gak.
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A look at the Giyeong-gak at Pagyesa Temple.
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A look inside the Giyeong-gak at the seven Chilseong murals and the main altar.
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Over the knoll, and to the left of the temple courtyard, is the Jijang-jeon.
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And even further left is the Geukrak-jeon.
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Inside, and sitting on the main altar, is a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).
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When I visited, all these beautiful red roses were in bloom.

The Story of…Unheungsa Temple

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A picture of the nun leading the funeral service at Unheungsa Temple in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

After already having visited both Bohyunsa Temple and Munsuam Hermitage in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do in the winter of 2013, I decided to visit Unheungsa Temple, as well. After all, I hadn’t driven all the way to Goseong to see just a couple temples.

About thirty minutes away, and up an icy valley that gets just a bit of sunlight during the day, I finally found Unheungsa Temple. When I visited, the temple was under a fair bit of construction, as the front façade of the temple was being re-organized and re-constructed.

Not knowing where I should park, I continued up the road that I first entered the temple grounds on. I had no idea that this road would become a dead end near the temple buildings. I had wanted to turn around a couple of times, finally realizing where I was headed, but there was nowhere to turn until I got to the temple. It goes without saying that I got a few dirty looks even though I never intended to park in the temple courtyard. Quickly, I made my way down the hill to get a better parking spot.

After parking, I made my way around the beautiful temple grounds. There are numerous halls like the Daeung-jeon, the Myeongbu-jeon, and the Sanshin-gak just to name a few. At first, I only peaked my head into the main hall, the Daeung-jeon, because I could hear, what I thought, was the morning prayers. I try not to interfere with people’s prayers, and I never take pictures of people while they are praying inside halls. However, I did want to at least see how the main hall looked inside.

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The beautiful and large main hall to the left at Unheungsa Temple.

Seeing my hesitation after having seen inside the beautiful main hall, an older lady invited me in. I wasn’t sure, but she insisted; so I decided to at least sit and enjoy the morning prayer. However, as soon as I stepped inside the expansive main hall, I realized that a morning service wasn’t taking place; instead, it was a funeral service. I was later to learn that the temple is quite famous for holding funeral ceremonies. If I wasn’t already uncomfortable, I definitely was now. Getting up to leave, and wanting to make as little noise as possible upon my exit, the older lady noticed me again, and waved me to politely sit. Like me, I realized, she was attending the funeral service. Not wanting to bother anyone, I sat through my first Buddhist funeral service as an attendee.

All I can say is that it was a beautiful and enlightening experience, and it was a long way from how I first started off seeing Unheungsa Temple.

For more information on Unheungsa Temple, please check out this link.

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A look up at the main altar from my cushion during the funeral service.

The Story Of…Buljosa Temple

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The view from Buljosa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do before the incident.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I’ve literally been to hundreds of Korean temples and hermitages during my time in Korea. And in all that time, I’ve only ever been denied entrance to one temple. I’ve been restricted from seeing certain halls that were off-limits, but never been told that I couldn’t see an entire temple. That all changed when I visited Buljosa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do in the summer of 2012.

Before visiting a good friend in Gimhae at 5 p.m., I decided to visit Buljosa Temple in northern Gimhae. I had driven by it a couple times, so I decided to do a little research online to see what the Korean blogs were saying. Simply put, I liked what I saw, so I decided to visit Buljosa Temple the next time I was in the neighbourhood.

Having parked my car just outside the long staircase that led up to the temple courtyard, I decided to take a few pictures of the beautiful valley down below. And as I made my way up the stairs, I decided I would take a video of the climb.

At first, I didn’t even notice him. It wasn’t until I got near the top that I finally noticed a monk. Right away, I could tell, as he stood by a white dog, that something was a bit off. Immediately, I could tell that he had some sort of brain surgery, as his head was a bit misshapen. He had a strange look in his eye, with his shoulders slumped over, as he told me, in Korean, “안돼요! 들어오지 마세요!” (or “No! Don’t come in here!”,  in English). So in Korean, I asked him why?

A short video of the head monk at Buljosa Temple in Gimhae.

He looked a bit surprised that I would ask him why. I guess his word was gospel. He simply said no again. So I asked him if he was a monk, because he wasn’t dressed like one. He told me that he was. So I then asked again why I couldn’t come in. He simply said no and pointed me back towards my car.

Perplexed, I decided to call my wife and ask her to talk to the monk. Unfortunately, he had disappeared as soon as he had appeared. So my wife phoned the temple some time after I left.

The same monk answered my wife’s phone call. She asked him why he had denied me access to Buljosa Temple. His first response was that he hadn’t. Then he said I misunderstood him because I couldn’t speak Korean, even though I was conversing with him in broken Korean. Finally, he came clean and rather strangely answered that people had been spying on him. He never said who, but I would assume it was Koreans. So it was strange that he would deny the only non-Korean to ever visit the temple. My wife then explained to him that I had the Jogye card, which is a card that gains you access to any temple under the largest Buddhist sect in Korea, which just so happens to be Jogye, to which Buljosa Temple falls under. This went on for a bit longer, until he finally apologized for not allowing me to see the temple. He invited me back to his temple, but it would take another year until I finally decided to see this beautiful temple. However, this second time, I was able to avoid him and see the temple unhindered from his strange and paranoid gaze.

Please check out here for more information on Buljosa Temple.

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Almost a year later, I was finally able to see Buljosa Temple…without incident.

Biroam Hermitage – 비로암 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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A look at the three tier stone pagoda that dates back to 863, as well as the main hall in the background, at Biroam Hermitage in Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

You first make your way towards Biroam Hermitage up a paved road for about 50 metres. This paved road merges with the Donghwasa Temple parking lot, so it’s a pretty easy location to find.

Biroam Hermitage is compactly filled with various buildings on the hermitage grounds. Unfortunately, the only hall that you can enter is the main hall. The main hall itself is painted in the traditional Dancheong colours. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, is a well preserved stone statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). This stone statue dates back to around 863 A.D., and it’s the only object of worship inside the rather small hall. This statue of Birojana-bul is a good example of the popular Buddha during the ninth century. It’s believed that this specific statue was created to commemorate King Minae (r.838-839) during the reign of King Gyeongmun (r.861-875). Around the Buddha’s entire body is an equally well preserved nimbus. Fortunately for us, they’ve striped the statue of its garish white paint and returned it to its natural stone colour.

Out in front of the main hall is a newer looking stone lantern. And it’s in front of this stone lantern that you can see the three storied stone pagoda. This stone pagoda dates back to around 863, much like the stone statue of Birojana-bul inside the Daejeokgwang-jeon. And while it’s simple in design; for its age, it’s well preserved.

All the other buildings or halls are off-limits to temple travelers. In front of the main hall, and the pagoda, are the monks’ quarters. And to the immediate right of the main hall are the monks’ facilities like the kitchen.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Seobu (west) Intercity Bus Terminal in Daegu, you’ll need to take the subway, line 1, that heads towards Anshim and get off at Ahyanggyo Station. From here, take Express Bus #1. The ride will take you about 35 minutes, and it brings you right to Donghwasa Temple. Past the main gate, and up the temple road, you’ll get to the temple parking lot. From the temple parking lot, instead of heading straight towards Donghwasa Temple, hang a right towards a paved pathway. There are a couple small signs pointing you towards Biroam Hermitage.


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OVERALL RATING: 4/10. After visiting Donghwasa Temple, you’ll be a bit underwhelmed by Biroam Hermitage. However, with that being said, there are a couple reasons why you should visit this small hermitage. The first reason is to see the well-preserved statue of Birojana-bul inside the main hall. And the second reason is to see the three tier pagoda inside the temple courtyard. Both objects date back to 863 A.D., and they are a good glimpse into Korea’s past.

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The road that leads to Biroam Hermitage.

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The hermitage courtyard.

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A look at the three tier stone pagoda that dates back to 863 A.D.

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The main hall at Biroam Hermitage.

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A cute little stone ornament outside the main hall.

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A look inside the main hall at the stone Birojana-bul statue that dates back to around 863 A.D.

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The view from the main hall out onto the hermitage.

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One last look at the ancient pagoda before heading home.