The Story of…Mitaam Hermitage and Hwaeomsa Temple

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The parking lot on the mountain where my near death experience started at Mitaam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

This will be my last posting on the website until early September. I’ll be headed out on vacation. It’s the first time in two and a half years that there won’t be a weekly posting, but hopefully there’s enough already up on the site to keep everyone busy. Have a great August, everyone!

So in this posting, I thought I would talk about the near death experience I had while visiting Mitaam Hermitage and Hwaeomsa Temple in Yangsan (not to be confused with the much more famous one in Jirisan National Park).

A lot of the time I visit temples and hermitages way off the beaten trail. Not just a little, but waaaaay off. I’m so far off, sometimes, that Korean hikers have asked me how I even found the hermitage or temple in the first place. When I do visit these places, often the road can be quite hazardous in my two-wheel drive KIA Pride. Such was the case when I visited these two mountain temples.

The initial climb up in the car was rather smooth. Then I switched it over to low gear just to be sure. Eventually, I came to a parking lot that had quite a few vendors. At first, I was going to park my car here, but then I realized that the road continued and Mitaam Hermitage was a further kilometre away. At this point, I was completely ignorant of just how much the road conditions would change.

Continuing, the road’s gradient quickly change. No longer was it a respectable 15 degree angle; instead, it had become a 30 degree angle (at best). Finally, nearing the point where the road ends, there’s a narrow plateau where two or three cars can park. Unfortunately, all of these spots were taken up. This is also the place where the trail for Mitaam Hermitage begins. Having not found a place to park, I decided I would continue up the road and visit Hwaeomsa Temple first. Then, I would backtrack and have a look at Mitaam Hermitage later. The only problem with this plan is that the road abruptly becomes a 40 degree angle and it’s at a bend.

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The trail that leads up to Mitaam Hermitage. It’s also on the neighbouring road that I skidded and slipped down the side of a guardrail-less mountain road.

So I revved up my car and attempted to take the angle and gradient with a bit of speed. Unfortunately, I didn’t take it with enough speed because my tires started to spin. Then, my car started to roll back because of the incline. I got to a point where I was nearing the edge of the road: a road that has no barriers or guard rails. Instead, all that awaits you is a steep kilometre long drop-off. I thought, so this is how it’s going to end. Fortunately, my wheels finally did gain traction and stop spinning, and my car eventually did stop rolling backwards. It was a bit touch and go as I turned my car around, but I was finally able to do it. With my emergency brake on, and my car parked at a 30 degree angle, I explored Mitaam Hermitage, which lies 400 metres up the trail.

It wasn’t until much later that I finally plucked up enough courage to make my way back up to Hwaeomsa Temple and the steep and dangerous mountainside road. It should be said that the second time did the charm and the beauty of Hwaeomsa Temple was nearly worth risking my life.

For more on Mitaam Hermitage, follow the link.

And for more on Hwaeomsa Temple, follow this link.

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The beauty of Hwaeomsa Temple on Mt. Cheonseongsan in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Mangwolsa Temple – 망월사 (Gyeongju)

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The temple buildings to the right of the main hall at Mangwolsa Temple in Gyeongju on Mt. Namsan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just to the right of Sambulsa Temple, and standing at the Mt. Namsan parking lot, you’ll notice a temple a mere minute to the right. This temple is Mangwolsa Temple. And you can see it over the four foot high wall that separates it from the rest of the world.

As you approach, you’ll pass through a beautiful gate with fierce looking guardians painted on the doors that protect the temple from evil spirits. Passing through the temple gate, you’ll instantly notice the monks’ facilities to the left and the dorms to the right. These long structures frame the main hall that lies in the middle.

The exterior walls of the main hall are adorned with Shimu-do murals. The monk that’s portrayed in this collection is more Asian than most. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the left, and still on the main altar, is a mural for Wonhyo-daesa. And a bit further to the left is a shrine for the dead. To the right, and next to the main altar, is an older looking guardian mural.

Adjacent, and to the right, is a beautiful pagoda that sits in the elevated centre of a lily pond. The pagoda is simple in design, but it accents the colourful beauty of the pink water lilies when they are in full bloom.

Behind this pond, and situated on the second tier of the temple grounds, are two additional halls. The larger one to the left is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine. The exterior walls are adorned with paintings of the Shinseon (The Daoist Immortals). As for the interior, and sitting in the centre of a collection of three paintings, was a rather standard Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. To the right of this mural is an amazingly descriptive painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Uniquely, and to the left, is what looks to be a painting of Ilgwang-bosal (The Sun Bodhisattva). I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen this triad housed inside a Samseong-gak before.

And to the right of the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is a memorial hall. Inside this small octagonal hall is a black wooden memorial tablet for the dead. To whom and for whom, I’m not all that sure. Potentially, it could be a memorial hall for Wonhyo-daesa, but that’s just a guess on my part.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Mangwolsa Temple, on Mt. Namsan, you’ll first have to get to Gyeongju. Once in Gyeongju, and at the Intercity Bus Terminal, you can catch either bus #502 or #504 across from the terminal. Just make sure with the driver that they’re heading in that direction. So simply ask, “Namsan Mangwolsa,” in Korean. You can either take the bus or you can get a taxi to take you. Again, simply say, “Namsan Mangwolsa,” and the driver will do the rest. In total, the trip should cost you about 8,000 won. From where both the bus or the taxi drops you off at the parking lot, the large trail head to Mt. Namsan is straight ahead. Veering to the right at the outdoor bathroom, you’ll see a small trail. Take this trail for 50 metres, and you’ll be standing outside the Mangwolsa Temple gates.


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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. For its originality alone, Mangwolsa Temple gets this sort of rating. From the pagoda water lily pond, to the potential Ilgwang-bosal mural inside the Samseong-gak, to the octagonal memorial hall, this temple is definitely well worth a visit, especially if you’re either visiting Sambulsa Temple or Samneung-gol Valley.

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The trail that leads to Mangwolsa Temple from the neighbouring Sambulsa Temple.

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The gate that leads into the temple courtyard.

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A look up at the main hall at Mangwolsa Temple.

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The exterior walls to the main hall are adorned with these unique looking Shimu-do murals.

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Sitting on the main altar inside the main hall is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul in the centre joined by Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal.

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The guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

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The floating pagoda at Mangwolsa Temple.

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These beautiful water lilies were in full bloom all over the pagoda pond.

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A look at the two buildings on the upper tier of the temple grounds. On the left is the Samseong-gak and to the right is a memorial hall.

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The beautiful Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) painting inside the Samseong-gak.

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He’s joined by the unique painting of what looks to be Ilgwang-bosal (The Sun Bodhisattva).

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The memorial hall.

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The black wooden memorial tablet inside the memorial shrine hall.

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One last look at the temple courtyard before I was off to yet another temple in Gyeongju, and on Mt. Namsan.

The Story of…Jeongchwiam Hermitage

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A foggy summer day at Jeongchwiam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

The entire purpose of visiting Jeongchwiam Hermitage in Sancheong, Gyeongsangnam-do in the summer of 2012 was to see the beautiful Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) painting and enjoy the views of the valley down below. However, the adventure to get there, and what awaited us, quickly overshadowed expectations.

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The winding road, and wrong turn, that leads up to the hermitage.

Jeongchwiam Hermitage is a bit difficult to find, as it’s a bit off the beaten path. So I took the turn that I thought led into Jeongchwiam Hermitage. Boy was I wrong. Like most mountain roads, there’s only one way in and one way out, so it’s next to impossible to turn around. Most of the time, you just have to keep heading straight and hope that your destination lies somewhere further up the road. Unfortunately for this turn off, there was no ultimate destination; instead, the gravel road quickly turned into a mud bogging road. With the aid of my wife, I was finally able to turn the car around, but not before almost flipping it in the process.

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The welcoming committee at Jeongchwiam Hermitage.

Finally, with a few frayed nerves, we arrived at Jeongchwiam Hermitage. When we arrived, it was really foggy from a previous night’s rainfall. When we finally did start to explore the hermitage grounds, we were greeted by a Jindo pup. A Jindo dog originated on the island of Jindo in South Korea. It’s white in colour and it’s known for being both loyal and brave in nature. This puppy was extremely playful in nature. It seemed happy to see us.

As we continued to explore, the Jindo pup followed us around nipping at our heels (literally), as we explored the hermitage grounds. And when we attempted to visit the main hall, the Jindo attempted to follow us in. Perhaps this puppy does this on a regular basis with the monks at the hermitage, but it was strange for me, so I physically had to bar it from the main hall.

And then when we went on to explore the rest of the grounds, and as we carefully made our way up to the cliffside halls, the sure-footed Jindo nearly tripped me up on the rain soaked stairs. It was just so excited to see a visitor.

Finally, when it was time to go, this free-roaming puppy sat patiently in the parking lot to see us off as we left. But before we drove away, we said our good-byes. Strangely, it felt as though this puppy had been our tour guide, and was now sadly saying good-bye to us.

For more information on Jeongchwiam Hermitage, please follow this link.

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And a good-bye. Until next time…

Sambulsa Temple – 삼불사 (Gyeongju)

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 The shelter that houses the three Buddhas at Sambulsa Temple in Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Ever since visiting the neighbouring Samneung-gol valley on Mt. Namsan in Gyeongju, I wanted to visit Sambulsa Temple. The only reason that I didn’t the day that I had visited Samneung-gol valley is that I was exhausted after reaching the summit this past winter vacation. So with all that being said, I finally made amends and visited Sambulsa Temple this past weekend.

When you first get to the temple, you’ll arrive at the parking lot for the trail head for a part of Mt. Namsan. A mere 200 metres up the trail, and you’ll come to the entrance of Sambulsa Temple, which means Three Buddhas Temple in English, to your left.

Arriving at the temple courtyard, you’ll first be greeted by a strangely constructed four tier pagoda. It appears as though the final tier on top, as well as the finial are older in construction compared to the body and base of the pagoda. Straight ahead is a diminutive main hall. Surrounding the exterior walls are beautifully painted flowers as well as paintings of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). As for the interior of the main hall, and sitting all alone on the altar, is a large statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the right of the main altar is a guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall are the monks’ quarters. And to the immediate right of the main hall is the Sanshin-gak. Inside this hall hangs a beautiful, and white-clad, Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural. And to the left of this mural is a very unique painting of a tiger smoking, what looks to be, a pipe that is being held up by two rabbits.

But the real highlight to this temple, and the reason that the temple has the name that it does, are the three statues that stand a little further to the right of the Sanshin-gak. These three Buddhist statues, which stand inside a wooden pavilion, were first moved to Sambulsa Temple in 1923 from the Seonbong temple site. The statue in the middle is believed to be Seokgamoni-bul, and it stands 2.6 metres in height. The statue that stands to the left is believed to be Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This statue stands out for the intricacy of the nimbus that surrounds the statues head. And the statue that stands to the right is believed to be Bohyun-bosal. Both of the accompanying statues stand 2.3 metres in height. All three are believed to date back to the 7th century during the Silla Kingdom.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Sambulsa, on Mt. Namsan, you’ll first have to get to Gyeongju. Once in Gyeongju, and at the Intercity Bus Terminal, you can catch either bus #502 or #504 across from the terminal. Just make sure with the driver that they’re heading in that direction. So simply ask, “Namsan Sambulsa,” in Korean. You can either take the bus or you can get a taxi to take you. Again, simply say, “Namsan Sambulsa,” and the driver will do the rest. In total, the trip should cost you about 8,000 won. From where both the bus or the taxi drops you off at the parking lot, the large trail head to Mt. Namsan is straight ahead. Just to the left, and only 200 metres in, you’ll see Sambulsa Temple.


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OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. Without a doubt, the three statues of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas are the highlight to the temple. How often can you simply go for a hike and come across statues that date back to the 7th century. Not too often, at least not where I’m from. And to top it off, they are beautiful and expertly executed. Add to this the unique Sanshin-gak paintings, and you’ll have a great reason to stop by Sambulsa Temple during your travels around Gyeongju, and Mt. Namsan in particular. Also, the close proximity to Samneung-gol valley makes for quite a nice day trip.

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The entrance at Sambulsa Temple.

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The four tiered pagoda and main hall that lies beyond the trees.

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A clearer look at the older looking main hall at Sambulsa Temple.

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And a better look at the four tiered stone pagoda.

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Inside the main hall, and all alone on the main altar, sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).

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To the right of Seokgamoni-bul is this guardian mural.

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To the right of the main hall is this compact Samseong-gak.

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Inside this hall hangs a very unique, and white-clad, Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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To the left of the main altar, and painted on the wall, is this tiger picture. Note the tiger smoking a pipe, while two rabbits assist him.

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Now, the real highlight to this temple are the three large stone statues that date back to the 7th century.

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The three stone statues. In the centre is Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined to the right by  Bohyun-bosal and to the left by Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A closer look at Seokgamoni-bul.

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A closer look at Bohyun-bosal.

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And a closer look at Gwanseeum-bosal and the beautiful nimbus that surrounds her head.

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 One last look at the temple grounds before it was time to visit yet another temple on Mt. Namsan.

The Story of…Samgwangsa Temple

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The amazing Samgwangsa Temple in Busan during Buddha’s birthday.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I think Samgwangsa Temple, in Busan, was the third Korean temple I ever visited way back in 2003. The first two were Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do and Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju. And throughout the years I’ve visited all three a countless amount of times.

It’s from these countless amount of trips that so many stories come back to me about Samgwangsa Temple. However, there really are three stories that really stick out in my mind about Samgwangsa Temple.

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Near where I was approached by a crazy lady in the fall of 2004.

The first, and perhaps strangest, was when I visited Samgwangsa Temple back in the fall of 2004. I was just wandering around the temple grounds taking pictures of the bronze bell and the massive nine tier pagoda. When I approached the main hall, I was accosted by someone a little off their rocker. She started yelling at me, in Korean, not to take pictures. At first, I wasn’t sure what she was going on about, so I just wandered away and took pictures of Samgwangsa Temple away from her gaze. Well, it wasn’t far enough, or she simply followed me, because she started yelling at me again to not take pictures. This had never been a problem before around temple grounds just as long as you don’t take them inside temple halls (or so I thought). She kept going on and on until an older lady exited the main hall and told her to leave me alone. Now, it was her turn to be confused, as she disappeared from the temple grounds with a bewildered look on her face. And ever since then, in nine plus years of returning to the temple, I have yet to see her again.

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Buddha’s birthday in 2006.

The second story comes from 2006, when I first visited the temple during Buddha’s birthday. By far, Samgwangsa Temple is not only the best temple to visit in Busan during Buddha’s birthday; but in my opinion, it’s the best temple to visit during this time in all of Korea. The entire grounds are canopied by a ceiling of beautiful and colourful paper lanterns. Also, there are twin dragons, a few statues of the Buddha, and a car that drives around with Buddhist imagery on it. Words simply don’t do this temple justice during Buddha’s birthday, and it’s even more the case at night, which I finally explored in 2013.

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A picture of the canopy of paper lanterns during Buddha’s birthday in 2013.

So come this past Buddha’s birthday, my wife and I made our way over to Samgwangsa Temple. For the longest time, I knew that there was this angle that I wanted to capture of the colourful paper lanterns at night. So from the main auditorium that houses over 10,000 people at one time, I was able to get a great vantage point. As I climbed the stairs to gain the greatest angle, I passed by this older woman that was in a deep trance chanting “Gwanseeum-bosal” (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). But as she was saying these words she would start soft and then shout almost like an ambulance, “gwanseeum-bosal, GWANSEEUM-BOSAL.” Even after I couldn’t see her, I could hear her. And while we got there early, there were a few others that had the same idea as I did to see and take pictures of Samgwangsa Temple at night. So I had to crawl through a window and out onto a guardrail-free perch that looked out over the colourful temple courtyard. There were a dozen of us up there huddled together snapping pictures of the most beautiful Korean Buddhist temple during Buddha’s birthday.

So while Samgwangsa Temple often gets overshadowed by the other major temples in Busan like Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and Beomeosa Temple, Samgwangsa Temple is a must see, especially during Buddha’s birthday, just beware of a possible local crazy.

For more on Samgwangsa Temple, please follow this link.

Botaam Hermitage – 보타암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The beautifully manicured courtyard at Botaam Hermitage at Tongdosa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

There are still a few hermitages in and around the famed Tongdosa Temple that I have yet to post here on the website. And one of those hermitages, and the closest one to the temple grounds, is Botaam Hermitage.

Botaam Hermitage is a nunnery. In 1927 two nuns named Jaedeok and Hojeon built the hermitage. And in 1935, two nuns named Jeongun and Hojeon helped to enlarge the hermitage to its present size, which is a handful of hermitage buildings.

As you approach the hermitage off the main Tongdosa Temple road, you’ll notice two entrances to the hermitage. To the left is the wider entry to the hermitage. However, this entry is for hermitage workers and nuns that live at Botaam Hermitage. Head to the right, and you’ll come across the beautiful entrance gate to the hermitage. As you pass through the Iljumun Gate, you’ll first see the main hall directly in front of you.  And to its immediate right is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine halls. These are the only two buildings that people can visit at the hermitage.

Sitting on the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s flanked on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This triad is joined to the side by a beautiful guardian mural and thousands of tiny statues of the Buddha. As for the exterior walls, there are two sets of paintings lining the walls. The ones on top are beautifully illustrated Shimu-do murals (Ox-Herding murals). And below these murals are murals dedicated to the divinity and helpful acts of an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Next to Unmunsa Temple in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do, this collection of Gwanseeum-bosal are truly unique and stunning.

Walking across the perfectly manicured courtyard, past flowers that are in bloom during the springtime months, you’ll next notice Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Adorning the altar inside the shrine hall are three beautiful paintings. In the centre is a large black backed Chilseong (Seven Stars) painting. To the right is a rather elaborate Dokseong (The Recluse) painting, and to the left is a rather common looking Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Yangsan; and more specifically, Tongdosa Temple. To get to Tongdosa Temple, you can take an intercity bus from Busan, Eonyang or Ulsan. Specifically from Busan, you can take a bus or subway to Nopo-dong intercity bus terminal. There, you can get a ticket for Tongdosa Temple. It leaves every 20 minutes.  Once you arrive in Yangsan, and facing the very small bus terminal, you should walk left and then turn right at the first corner. The temple entrance is past the numerous restaurants and shops.  Walk up a 1.5 km path, sprinkled with ancient graffiti, and you will eventually arrive at the outskirts of the temple grounds. Admission for adults is 3,000 won. Botaam Hermitage is actually the easiest hermitage to get to on the Tongdosa Temple grounds.  If you continue walking straight past Tongdosa Temple’s parking lot, along the main road, for about 309 metres, you’ll see a compact hermitage to your left: this is Botaam Hermitage.


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OVERALL RATING: 5/10. The highlight of Botaam Hermitage, at least in my mind, is the beautifully manicured courtyard and the flowers that were in full bloom next to a small tree. Added to this are the well cared for hermitage buildings and the paintings that adorn them both inside and out, and you have a beautiful hermitage to visit.  Also, the hermitage is rather easy to get to, that is, if you still have enough energy after visiting Tongdosa Temple. If you do, the hermitage is worth the short walk.

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The sign that greets you at Botaam Hermitage.  It reads 보타암: The name of the hermitage.
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The beautiful view of the main hall through the right entrance gate.
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A better view of the main hall at Botaam Hermitage.
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The triad of statues inside the main hall at Botaam Hermitage. Seokgamoni-bul is in the centre, and he’s joined to the left by Jijang-bosal and to the right Gwanseeum-bosal.
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The guardian mural inside the main hall at Botaam Hermitage.
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Just one of the beautiful paintings on the exterior walls of the main hall.
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Another of the white Buddha’s helping those in need of assistance on the outside of the main hall.
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 A combination of a ox-herding mural as well as a white Buddha and tiger mural.  It’s another of the beautiful paintings on the back of the main hall walls.
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The shrine hall to the right of the main hall.
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A beautiful Dokseong painting.
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The painting of Sanshin inside the Samseong-gak.
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The view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
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A better look at a pink water lily.  The flowers were in full bloom in and around the courtyard at the hermitage.

The Story of…Jajangam Hermitage

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The painting at Jajangam Hermitage, near Tongdosa Temple, of Jajang-yulsa and the golden frog.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I first went to Jajangam Hermitage back in 2004, and it was one of the first hermitages I visited directly associated with Tongdosa Temple. Ever since then, I’ve regularly visited this hermitage throughout the years.

With only a handful of hermitage buildings, Jajangam Hermitage isn’t the largest you’ll find; however, it is purportedly the staging ground where the monk, Jajang-yulsa, planned and created the famed Tongdosa Temple.

However, the most curious part of the hermitage is the golden frog that takes up residence behind the main hall at Jajangam Hermitage. So the story goes, that during the creation of Tongdosa Temple, there were numerous golden frogs around Jajangam Hermitage. As Jajang was washing his rice, the frogs were muddying the water. So twice, he removed the frogs and twice they returned. Upon closer inspection, he realized that the frogs were golden and were an auspicious sign. So when winter came, he created a home for the frogs at the hermitage by driving a finger into solid rock. This very hole, which is called the Geumwangong, is where a golden frog now takes up residence at Jajangam Hermitage.

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The white arrow pointing to the pinprick of a hole where the golden frog sometimes takes up residence at Jajangam Hermitage.

However, this golden frog is pretty elusive. It’s believed that only the most devout Buddhist can see this golden frog. I’ve been to the hermitage a countless amount of times, and it was only recently, on a field trip with teachers at my school, that I finally saw one.

As I approached the hole, and I was the first, I looked in very carefully. At first, I couldn’t see a thing. But looking a little closer, I could see in the darkness these tiny little eyes looking back at me. A few more teachers attempted to see what I had seen, but only one other saw it.

While we were leaving, the head monk at the hermitage asked me if I had visited the golden frog. I said I had. He seemed a bit surprised, almost as though it wasn’t true. Quickly, he made a b-line for the Geumwangong from the courtyard. Not long after, he came back. The Korean teachers that were with me asked him if he had seen the golden frog; but from his face, I could tell that he hadn’t.

Sometimes, real life is stranger than fiction.

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

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The temple courtyard and main hall in the background at Jajangam Hermitage.

Yeongheungsa Temple – 영흥사 (Gyeongju)

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 The beautiful lotus pond and main hall at Yeongheungsa Temple in Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

The next place we visited on Seondosan, because we must have visited eight or nine different temples, shrines, or tombs, was Yeongheungsa Temple. This temple was a bit larger than the two previous, Geumseonsa Temple and Seonwonsa Temple, and like the other two, it certainly didn’t disappoint.

When you first arrive at the temple, the first thing you’ll realize is just how well the grounds at Yeongheungsa Temple are kept. As for a building or a structure, the first thing to welcome you to the temple is a beautifully painted Iljumun Gate. Up the set of stairs that lead to the temple courtyard, and through the Iljumun Gate, you’ll see the monks’ facilities to your right. And to the left is a compact bell pavilion with a large bronze bell. This bell is joined by a Cloud Gong.

Straight ahead lie three temple buildings. The first, and the one in the centre, is the main hall. Out in front are twin four story pagodas. Surrounding the exterior walls are some rather unique murals of the Bodhidharma, King Sejo, and Euiseong-daesa. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad centre by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). To the left sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And to the right is Locana-bul. To the far left sits a beautiful golden statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). To the far right is an equally beautiful statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And on the right wall hangs a unique guardian mural. It’s unique because there are so few guardians and the figures in the mural seem to be arranged in any order.

To right of the main hall is a large sized Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. To the left, and still outside this hall, you’ll see a beautiful orange tiger. And to the rear of the hall is a pirate-looking Nahan. As for inside the hall, you’ll be nicely surprised with a painting of a female Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Strangely, she looks older in age, and she’s not youthful looking. Also, the Dokseong (The Recluse) is joined by a library of books and colourful scrolls.

To the left of the main hall is a tall stone statue of the Buddha. And next to this statue is the Yongwang-dang. Inside this hall, which also acts as the Josa-jeon, is a vibrant painting of Yongwang (The Dragon King) on the main altar. And to the right, and still inside this hall, is a portrait of a deceased monk and a patron of the temple. As for the exterior, it’s beautifully adorned with a set of murals. One is the elaborate painting of an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal. To the rear are two intertwined dragons. And to the left is a green dragon with what looks to be a Nahan on its back.

The only other things at the temple is a budo to the far left, as well as a lotus pond out in front of the Yongwang-dang.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take bus #30 to get to Yeongheungsa 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 a kilometre south to get to the temple. There is a large stone sign that reads – 영흥사 – to your right. The temple is directly off the main road.


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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. The most distinct thing about this temple are the paintings, whether they are inside or outside of the temple. The paintings that adorn the exterior walls of the main hall and the Samseong-gak are two definite highlights, as is the female Sanshin inside the Samseong-gak. In combination with the beautiful buildings, this little known temple is a must for those that enjoy temples off the beaten trail.

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 The Iljumun Gate at Yeongheungsa Temple.

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 The compact bell pavilion that houses a large sized bronze bell.

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 The beautiful main hall with the four tier pagodas out in front and the Samseong-gak to the right.

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 Inside the main hall sits Birojana-bul in the centre. He’s flanked by Seokgamoni-bul and Locana-bul.

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 To the left of the main altar is this shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

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 And to the right is this ornate golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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 On the right wall is this rather atypical guardian mural.

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 The beautiful tiger that adorns the left side of the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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 The pirate-looking Nahan behind the Samseong-gak.

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 The elderly looking female Sanshin inside the Samseong-gak.

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 The scholarly Dokseong.

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 To the left of the main hall is this Buddha statue and the Yongwang-dang.

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 To the left is this beautiful mural on the Yongwang-dang.

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 Inside the Yongwang-dang, which also acts as a bit of a Josa-jeon, are these two paintings.

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 And to the far left of the Yongwang-dang is this budo, presumably of the monk in the former painting.

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 The lotus pond at Yeongheungsa Temple.

The Story of…Seonjisa Temple

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The main hall and Sanshin-gak at the very unique Seonjisa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I first visited Seonjisa Temple a year and a half ago, and I invited people to visit this unique temple on the west side of Gimhae in Gyeongsangnam-do. I’m not sure if anyone really took me up on this offer, but I hope a few of you did just to meet the head monk.

I first heard about Seonjisa Temple while watching a Korean documentary about the temple. There are quite a few unique aspects to this temple like the Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) statue that dates back to 1605, as well as the 500 Nahan (The Disciples of the Buddha) statues that reside inside the main hall at Seonjisa Temple. And until I met the head monk at the temple, I thought the most unique feature to the temple was having Jesus in the main hall alongside Buddhist figures and paintings.

My wife and I were preparing to leave when the head monk, and only monk at the temple, waved us over for tea. He’s a very nice man that has a lot of followers that come to the temple. It was only when he started talking that I really understood that not only was he kind, but that he was a bit odd in his personal beliefs, as well.

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Jesus front and centre inside the main hall at Seonjisa Temple.

At first, he simply talked about some of the Buddha’s teachings, as well as Korean history. Then, the conversation turned left as he hit upon a few other topics. A couple things really stood out during our 45 minute conversation like how Jesus is a disciple (a Nahan) of the Buddha. Now, that’s not all together surprising as a few of their philosophical ideologies overlap; but what surprised me was when he said that Jesus visited China to learn the Buddha’s teachings and that there is actually physical proof at one of the monasteries there. And how does he know this? Well, he went and visited this monastery during one of his trips to China.

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Old or new technology? You be the judge.

Okay, a bit of a stretch, but what was to follow really threw me for a loop. He claimed that the continents separated, not from geological or seismic activity, but from nuclear bombs. He claimed that nuclear bomb technology is an old idea. In fact, if true (according to him), nuclear bomb technology is over 200 million years old. This is quite extraordinary being that homo sapiens date back to a mere 200,000 years ago. And how could he be so sure of this? According to him, he learned all of this through his studies.

As I said, while the head monk is really nice, some of his ideas are a bit out there. He only speaks a little English, so you’ll either have to speak Korean for yourself or bring a Korean friend along, if you want to hear his ideas on world and religious history. I can guarantee you, your trip to Seonjisa Temple will be well worth it.

For more on Seonjisa Temple, please follow this link.

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A broader look at the 500 Nahan statues inside the main hall at Seonjisa Temple.

Video: Jikjisa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

It had been five years since I last visited Jikjisa Temple in the summer of 2008. Wanting to go back for a while, I finally decided to go back this past weekend. Jikjisa Temple is one of the oldest temples in all of Korea, and it has a lot of natural and Buddhist beauty. So follow me as I explore not only one of the oldest temples in Korea, but also one of its most beautiful.