The Story of…Anjeokam Hermitage and Jogyeam Hermitage

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The beautiful Naewon Valley in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

With hundreds of successful temple adventures, there have been a handful of times that I haven’t succeeded for one reason or another. Other than the famed failure at Buljosa Temple in Gimhae, because of a crazed monk, my other failure came at Anjeokam Hermitage and Jogyeam Hermitage in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

It had been my intention, when setting out for Anjeokam Hermitage and Jogyeam Hermitage, to enjoy a crisp fall morning hike in the Naewon valley. I knew that the trek up to the two hermitages would not only be long (9 kilometres) and arduous (up and down mountains and valleys), but that they might also be a bit hard to find. I knew the area well, having traveled the valley numerous times both in groups and by myself. I knew once I passed Nojeonam Hermitage, which is a couple kilometers into the valley, that I would have to keep my eyes peeled for the sign marker pointing me north towards Anjeokam Hermitage and Jogyeam Hermitage.

I’m pretty good at reading maps, but when I came to the map on the trail, I completely misread it. I blew past the trail head that would have led me to the two remote hermitages. This mistake would take me halfway up Mt. Cheonseongsan, in the wrong direction, and four kilometers out of the way. Backtracking, and after asking a couple Korean nuns, I finally found the trail head that I was initially looking for. When I finally did arrive at Anjeokam Hermitage, the first of the two nestled beside the other, I had already traveled 8.5 kilometres (with another four and a half to get back to my car), up and around mountains and valleys.

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The not so nice monk at Anjeokam Hermitage, who is highlighted by the arrow.

However, the story doesn’t end there. There were a couple times when I was going to give up along the way, so as you can imagine, I was pretty happy to finally arrive at Anjeokam Hermitage. I started to explore the smaller sized hermitage grounds, having a look inside the rather atypical main hall and the stately Iljumun Gate. I had noticed, what I believed to be, the head monk at the hermitage talking to an older Korean man. When I came out from the main hall, the head monk was no longer joined by the Korean man. Perhaps this is when he noticed me for the first time, as I made my way towards the Samseong-gak. I thought it was pretty harmless, in my near delirious state, to explore the shaman shrine hall. Well…I couldn’t have been more wrong. He told me no, in Korean, and pointed me towards the exit. As I said, being nearly delirious with exhaustion, I simply said good-bye to the hermitage and made my way towards the neighbouring Jogyeam Hermitage. With another hermitage to see, which turned out to be stunning, and another four and half kilometers to hike, it wasn’t until a couple days later that I realized that I had been shooed from a hermitage.

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The much nicer, and more beautiful, Jogyeam Hermitage.

This would be my first, of just two, temples that I’ve been asked to leave or simply barred from entering. Fortunately, in the over three hundred temples and hermitages that I’ve visited in Korea since 2003, it’s been nothing more than an isolated incident. More often than not, Buddhist temples and hermitages are among the friendliest places you’ll visit in Korea. So don’t be deterred, I haven’t been.

For more information on Anjeokam Hermitage.

For more information on Jogyeam Hermitage.

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A beautiful water cascade in the Naewon Valley.

Gimryongsa Temple – 김룡사 (Mungyeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)


 The beautiful scenery at Gimryongsa Temple in Mungyeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gimryongsa Temple was first founded in 588 A.D. by the monk, Undal-josa. The temple was completely destroyed, like much of Korea, during the Imjin War of 1592 to 1598. It was later rebuilt in 1624 by the monk, Hyechong-seonsa. And it was further renovated in 1649 by three masters: Eoryun, Mujin, and Taehyu. The entire temple complex, all except for the main hall, were burnt down, once more, in 1998.

Gimryongsa Temple has to be one of the more mysterious temples I’ve been to. It’s secluded, all but for one sign that guides you a kilometres out, to the little traveled Gimryongsa Temple.

You first get to the temple up a dusty road that’s joined by towering trees. Suddenly, you’ll come to the end of the road, which is Gimryongsa Temple. The first thing to greet you at the temple is the Iljumun Gate with a pair of ferocious paintings of Heng and Ha. Past this first gate, and another low-ceilinged bathroom, you’ll next be greeted by the Cheonwangmun Gate. Uniquely, and a first for me, the gate houses Four Heavenly Kings that are made from stone. The eyes are literally popping out of their eyes with intensity.

Just past the Cheonwangmun Gate is a small pond that has a small stone dragon the size of a snake to greet you. To the immediate left of this pond is a crude carving of the Buddha on a small stone. And to the far left is the temple’s bell pavilion. All of this is backed by a large natural wood building called the Eunghyang-gak.

It’s past these halls to the left and a large pavilion, called the Bojae-ru, to the right that you enter the temple courtyard. Straight ahead is the main hall at Gimryongsa Temple. The main hall, the Daeung-jeon, dates back to 1649. There are very few paintings that surround the exterior walls of the main hall; however, there are a pair of masterfully painted murals of dragons on either side of the flanking walls. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This statue is flanked by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). Backing this set of statues is a mural called the Yeongsanhoi Gwaebul-do. The painting dates back to 1703, when it was originally painted at Unbongsa Temple on Mt. Undalsan. Have a close look at this expertly rendered masterpiece. To the left of the main altar is a well populated guardian mural. The ceiling to the main hall is intricately painted both with floral designs and floating Biseon.

Just to rear of the main hall, and to the right, are three more halls that visitors can see. The first of these halls is the Geumryun-jeon shaman shrine hall. Inside this hall are housed three beautiful old paintings. The most amazing of the three is the painting of Sanshin, who sits on a throne and is joined by a cartoonish-looking purple tiger.

To the right of this hall is the Geukrak-jeon. Sitting on the main altar is a squat looking statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And this statue is backed by a beautiful red painting of Amita-bul.

The next hall is the Eungjin-jeon, which is dedicated to the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). Sitting on the main altar inside this hall are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. This triad is backed by a vibrant mural that is well populated with Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and guardians. To the right and left of the main altar are both beautiful statues and murals of the Nahan. The murals especially stand out for their artistry. On the far right wall is yet another painting of Dokseong (The Recluse). And to the far left is another guardian mural. The ceiling to this hall is littered with wooden sculptures of fish and a vibrant dragon mural just above the main altar. So look skywards when you’re in this hall. And between both the Eungjin-jeon and the Geukrak-jeon is the monks’ quarters.

The final things that you can see at Gimryongsa Temple, and just to the right of the Eungjin-jeon, are a pagoda and a statue. The first of the two is a stone pagoda that lies just a little up the mountain and overlooks the entire temple grounds. Just a little further along, and up a well kept path, is an ancient stone statue of Yaksayore-bul. There is no sign indicating just how old the statue is, but it’s obvious from looking at the statue, that it’s quite ancient. With one hand above the other, and with what looks to be a bottle in hand, Yaksayore-bul smiles out over Gimryongsa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Gimryongsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Jeomchon Train Station. From Busan, you can get to this small station from the Busan Train Station. Once you arrive at the Jeomchon Train Station, you’ll need to walk 1.1 kilometres to the Mungyeong Town Bus Terminal. The bus that goes to Gimryongsa Temple has no name; instead, look for the bus that says “점촌 – 김용사.” The bus ride will last about one hour, or 24 stops, and it’ll drop you off at the entrance to Mt. Undal. From the bus stop, you’ll need to walk for an additional 1.5 kilometres, or 20 minutes, to the temple.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. I really enjoyed visiting Gimryongsa Temple. I wasn’t sure what to expect, since there is very little out there on this temple. However, the temple delivered in spades from the main hall (and all it houses), to the three other halls and the ancient statue of Yaksayore-bul. While Gimryongsa Temple is hard to get to, I would highly recommend it to anyone that can find it.


The Iljumun Gate at Gimryongsa Temple.


The guardian Heng protecting one of the entrance gate doors.


 The rather strangely constructed, and rather old, bathroom at Gimryongsa Temple.


 A look up at the Cheonwangmun Gate at the temple.


 A look inside reveals one of the stone sculpted Heavenly Kings.


 The diminutive bell pavilion at the temple to the left of the Cheonwangmun Gate.


 The front facade of the Eunghyang-gak that welcomes you to the temple courtyard.


 And a look up at the Bojae-ru pavilion to the right just outside the temple courtyard.


 Just below the Bojae-ru is this small pond with a stone dragon that almost looks like a snake in the midst of the water.


 The set of stairs that lead you towards the temple courtyard.


 The main hall, the Daeung-jeon, at Gimryongsa Temple that dates back to 1649.


The dragon that adorns the outer wall of the main hall.


The main altar inside the main hall with the Yeongsanhoi Gwaebul-do painting that dates back to 1703.


A look up at the Geumryun-jeon.


Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) sitting on a throne and joined by a purple tiger.


The Geukrak-jeon hall at Gimryongsa Temple.


The main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon.


The beautifully situated Eungjin-jeon at the temple.


The altar inside the Eungjin-jeon with a dragon mural overhead and a triad of bronze statues down below.


One of the beautiful murals that illustrate some of the Nahan, as well as individual statues of the Historical Disciples of the Buddha.


The solitary pagoda that rests halfway up the mountain.


The path that brings you to the ancient stone statue of Yaksayore-bul.


A good look at the outdoor pavilion that houses The Medicine Buddha.


 A beautiful sky, a lush forest, and the face of serenity, make for quite the nice picture.

The Story of…Mt. Namsan in Gyeongju


A successful climb of Mt. Namsan in Gyeongju.

Hello Again Everyone!!

In total, I think I’ve explored Mt. Namsan, in Gyeongju, four or five times. I’ve explored the north, south, east, and west sides of the mountain; and most of them have been highly enjoyable. In fact, I enjoyed exploring Samneung-gol Valley so much that I thought I would explore the south side of the mountain a couple weeks later.

Well, let’s just say that exploring the south side of Mt. Namsan wasn’t as successful as hiking Samneung-gol Valley. Each little adventure isn’t always a success, and the south side of Mt. Namsan on this day was certainly added to that list.

So I took a turn down a country road, where the houses are literally placed right on the road without a curb or a milimetre of room for error. I wasn’t the least bit surprised as I made my way towards my next temple adventure with my map in hand. I’ve been up more remote roads in my travels.


The view from Mt. Namsan in Gyeongju.

Then the road gave way, and I was next to a pig far; but the road kept going. Finally, the road gave way once again, and I was on a dirt road (which is putting it nicely). There was grass growing between the ruts in the dirt road with trees jutting out from the neighbouring mountain’s face. I thought, “Okay, any minute I’ll arrive at the temple, and everything will be okay…”

Well, my “okay” turned out to be a truck that was blocking the only lane as the occupants loaded their truck with rocks. I thought, “Okay, what do I do now?” One foot off the grassy road on either side would land me in a rice paddy. I didn’t want to do a U-turn into the unknown. So I decided to reverse my car back from where I came. In the process, I was giving up on seeing the temple that I thought once lay up the road. But at this point, as I switched into reverse, I’m pretty sure no temple ever existed up the road I was attempting to explore.

With tree branches whipping off my window with a twang, and my parking sensor beeping every two seconds warning me about any and all potential rocks, weeds and mountains, I made my way slowly back to the pig farm. Finally arriving, in what I hoped was in one piece, I got out to take a look at the damage. I had to get down on all fours to pick out the grass from both my front and back bumper, and I also had to bend my driver’s side mirror back into place. Not the best of situations, but it could have been a lot worse, too.

The lengths I sometimes go to to see the next amazing temple or hermitage in Korea.


The stony face of Mt. Namsan on a more successful day.

Yongmunsa Temple – 용문사 (Yecheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)


 The main hall at Yongmunsa Temple in Yecheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yongmunsa Temple, which means “Dragon Gate Temple,” in English, is situated in Yecheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do, which is just north-west of Andong. Yongmunsa Temple was first established in 870 A.D. by the monk, Duun. Initially, the Daejang-jeon hall at the temple was first built in 1173 to house part of the famed Tripitaka Koreana that is now housed at Haeinsa Temple.

From the temple parking lot, and after making your way up the winding road that leads to the temple, you’ll make your way towards the temple courtyard up an unevenly laid path. This path skirts Yongmunsa Temple’s museum. Finally, after getting a gorgeous view of the valley below, you’ll emerge on the far side of the temple courtyard. The first thing to greet you are two stately looking five tier pagodas. The one on the left is adorned with Buddhas and guardians, while the one on the right is left plain and without adornment. Behind these two pagodas sits the main hall at Yongmunsa Temple. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with a set of Palsang-do and Shimu-do murals. While not the most amazing in style, they are rustic like much of the area that surrounds the temple. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, rest a triad of statues. In the centre sits the much larger Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy).

To the right of the main hall rests a large bronze statue of Podae-hwasang. And next to it is the most famous structure at the temple: the Daejang-jeon hall. The exterior walls are plainly painted pink, while the rafters are adorned with wooden Nathwi carvings. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, sit a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Amita-bul is joined by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). Behind the triad of statues hangs a golden wooden relief that is the oldest of its kind in all of Korea. Flanking the main altar on either side are two uniquely designed bookshelves that date back to 1173, and they were later renovated in 1625. The doors to these bookshelves are beautifully adorned with various kinds of floral patterns.

To the right of the Daejang-jeon hall are a collection of buildings. The first set are the halls where the Korean Temple Stay program takes place at Yongmunsa Temple. Behind these is the Myeongbu-jeon hall. This newly constructed building is colourfully adorned with various Nathwi on the exterior doors. As for inside this hall, there is green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) that takes up residence on the main altar. He’s surrounded on all sides by ten large statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. Another building in this area is the Nahan-jeon hall with a collection of emaciated statues of both the Buddha and all of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha).

At an elbowed-bend in the path, in which the monks’ quarters lie a little up the mountain in a well manicured corner of the temple, you’ll make your way to the upper courtyard at Yongmunsa Temple. Currently, they are constructing the Gwaneum-jeon that will house Gwanseeum-bosal. For now, there are two other halls in this area. First, there is the large sized Cheonbul-jeon hall, which houses a collection of 1,000 white Buddhas and a large golden statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in their centre. If you look up at the ceiling, you’ll see some amazing paintings of a blue haetae, a pair of white elephants, and various Biseon flying all around the hall. Just in front of the Cheonbul-jeon is the Sanshin-gak. Inside this hall sits a large painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). And on the left exterior wall, you’ll see a nicely painted picture of a tiger sitting all by itself on a mountainous look-out.

The final collection of buildings at Yongmunsa Temple are just out in front of the main hall. The first is the Cheonwangmun Gate that welcomes you to the temple at the base of the temple courtyard. Unfortunately, this gate is off-limits for the time being as it’s under renovation. However, housed inside this hall are four vibrantly painted Heavenly Kings. Just a little further up the introductory path, and you’ll next come to a pavilion that is currently under renovation. It’s to the right of this pavilion, and while standing in the temple courtyard, that you’ll see the understated bell pavilion; however, one of the most impressive wooden fish gongs takes up residence inside this bell pavilion.

As you can tell, Yongmunsa Temple is currently under a lot of new renovation and construction. Also, it’s a well populated temple with a wide range of temple halls. So be aware, but also, enjoy!

HOW TO GET THERE:From the Busan Central Bus Terminal in Nopo, subway stop #134, you’ll need to take a bus that goes to the Daegu bus terminal. These buses leave every 30 minutes and they cost 6,700 won. The bus ride lasts about an hour and thirty minutes. Then, from the Daegu bus terminal, you’ll need to catch a bus to the city of Yecheon. The ride lasts about two hours and thirty minutes. Once you arrive at the Yecheon Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take one more bus to Yongmunsa Temple. The bus ride takes thirty minutes. Buses to the temple leave at 6:10 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:50 p.m., and 7 p.m.

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OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. There is literally something for everyone at this temple. And if there isn’t, they are building it; either that, or you just don’t like visiting Korean Buddhist temples. But the true highlights of this temple are what reside inside the Daejang-jeon hall with both the oldest relief painting in all of Korea, as well as the twin bookshelves inside this hall that date back to 1173. This, in combination with all the halls at Yongmunsa Temple, is truly a temple adventurers dream come true.


 The beautiful fall colours at Yongmunsa Temple.


 The first buildings to greet you at the temple.


 The view from the temple courtyard with the main hall in the centre.


 The twin pagodas in the temple courtyard.


 With the main hall at Yongmunsa Temple behind them.


 The Shimu-do murals on the bottom with the Palsang-do murals on top.


 A look inside the main hall at Birojana-bul sitting on the main altar.


 The bronze statue of Podae-hwasang next to the main hall.


The famed Daejang-jeon hall that houses the temple’s most precious treasures.


 The main altar inside the Daejang-jeon hall with the oldest painting in Korea behind the triad of statues, as well as a bookshelf that dates back to 1173 A.D.


The Myeongbu-jeon hall at Yongmunsa Temple.


A look inside the well populated Myeongbu-jeon hall with Jijang-bosal front and centre on the main altar.


A look inside the Nahan-jeon hall at some of the more unique statues inside such a hall in all of Korea.


The view from the Nahan-jeon hall out and over the Temple Stay building.


The monks’ quarters at Yongmunsa Temple.


The beautiful view as you look up at the Cheonbul-jeon hall.


A better look at the upper terrace, and the Cheonbul-jeon hall, at Yongmunsa Temple.


A look inside the Cheonbul-jeon hall. There are literally a thousand tiny white statues of the Buddha inside this hall; thus, giving the hall its name.


The Sanshin-gak at Yongmunsa Temple.


A look at the large Sanshin painting inside the Sanshin-gak.


The view from the main hall.


The bell pavilion at the temple. And for such a large temple, it’s rather small in size.


A look at the Cheonwangmun Gate from a distance.


A look at just one of the uniquely designed statues of a Heavenly King inside the Cheonwangmun.

The Story Of…Unmunsa Temple


The amazing main hall at the beautiful Unmunsa Temple in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone,

I think one of the scariest movies I ever saw while growing up was The Birds, the 1963 film by Alfred Hitchcock. Ever since that day, I’ve had this phobia of any close encounter with our winged friends.


 The original poster for The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock.

With all that being said as a bit of a precursor, I visited Unmunsa Temple, in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do, this early fall season. The weather was still a nice 20 degrees during the daytime; and yet, the fall colours were out in full swing on the trees.

After visiting the neighbouring Naewonam Hermitage and Bukdaeam Hermitage, I found myself strolling up a path filled with these beautiful fall colours all around me. Because it was a weekday, and it was earlier in the day, I found myself enjoying the fall weather and colours at Unmunsa Temple all to myself.

Taking my time and snapping over a hundred pictures in total, I explored all that Unmunsa Temple had to offer. I especially enjoyed the massive main hall, the Mansye-ru pavilion with a painting of the Buddha with children, the Biro-jeon hall, as well as the other dozen halls that the temple has to offer a visitor.


Where things took a turn for the worse.

But it wasn’t until I got to the Cheonbul-jeon that things took an interesting turn for the worse. I was all by myself snapping a few pictures inside the hall, when I heard a scratching sound at the door. It creeped me out a bit, but I took a couple more pictures. Finally, a bird appeared out of nowhere and buzzed close by my head. Ducking, I thought, “God help me.” Then the bird buzzed by me again, and again, and then again. The fourth time was the charm. I immediately made for the door. It was only then that I realized that I had left the door slightly ajar, and a much bigger bird was waiting for its partner on the other side of the door.


Somewhere up there is where the bird was plotting against me.

In a near panic, or thinking I looked a little bit out of sorts after my perceived encounter with death, a nun at the temple greeted me with a bow as she made her way to the Cheonbul-jeon hall. Perfect. I hadn’t seen anyone the entire time of my tour of the temple; and just when I needed no one to be around, I was greeted with an “안녕하세요” (Annyeong hasyeyo). I returned this greeting with an “안녕하세요” of my own. The nun, whether it was because I was speaking Korean (which I hoped), or I looked scared out of my wits (which I think), she gave a little laugh and smile.

Either way, I found a tiny corner of my own at Unmunsa Temple, out of sight from everyone else, to both collect myself and to calm my rapidly beating heart.

All I can say is that you should keep your eyes peeled the next time you visit a temple, or the temple might just get you!

For more on Unmunsa Temple.


The beautiful view as I exited out of the Cheonbul-jeon a bit out of sorts.

Bongjeongsa Temple – 봉정사 (Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)


 The second oldest building in all of Korea, the Geukrakjeon hall at Bongjeongsa Temple dates back to 1363.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Bongjeongsa Temple, which is located in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do, was first built in 672 A.D. Fortunately, Bongjeongsa Temple was one of the very few temples in all of Korea to remain undamaged by the destructive Imjin War of 1592. Initially, it had been believed that Bongjeongsa Temple was in fact built by the famed monk, Uisang. The story behind the creation of the temple states that monk Uisang flew on a paper crane and landed at Bongjeongsa Temple after launching from the neighbouring Buseoksa Temple and subsequently established Bongjeongsa Temple. However, this myth was easily disproven when an inscription on the Geukrak-jeon hall was discovered stating that it was in fact Neungin-daedeuk, a disciple of Uisang, that established the temple.

You first approach Bongjeongsa Temple up a trail that winds its way through a mature pine tree forest. You’ll pass by the Iljumun Gate along the way, until eventually you’ll come to the temple parking lot with a bathroom that still has a traditional thatched roof. Just past the temple parking lot, and you’ll get your first amazing view of the temple: the Manseru pavilion. You’ll gain entrance to the temple grounds by passing through the entranceway at the Manseru pavilion. Entering on the other side, and up the uneven set of stairs, you’ll finally be in the temple courtyard. Just behind you, and on the second story of the Manseru pavilion, you’ll find the wooden drum, the fish gong, and the cloud gong.

Straight ahead lays the main hall, the Daeungjeon hall, which dates back to the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). This natural wood exterior has a heavily accented roof. Also, the wooden rail that skirts the wooden platform out in front of the main hall is rather unique as it’s usually missing from most modern main halls. 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 Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). To the right of the main altar hangs a painting of Jijang-bosal, and on the far right wall is the guardian mural. The Daeungjeon hall is designated National Treasure #55.

To the right of the main hall is the Muryanghaehoe, which is the monks’ quarters. And to the left of the main hall is the Hwaeom Gangdang, which is a study hall that dates back to 1588. This hall is treasure #448 in Korea. And through a pathway that leads from the Daeungjeon hall to the Geukrakjeon hall, you’ll find a weathered statue of Seokgamoni-bul.

Just past this statue, and you’ll find yourself in the presence of the second oldest wooden structure in all of Korea: the Geukrakjeon hall, second to only the main hall at Sudeoksa Temple, which was constructed in 1308. The Geukrakjeon hall at Bongjeongsa Temple dates back to 1363, and it’s National Treasure #15. This hall is plainly painted brown and yellow and the architecture is in sharp contrast in its simplicity to more modern Joseon halls. There is only one door that leads into the hall with slated wooden windows on either side of the hall’s entrance. As for the interior, and sitting all by himself, sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).

Out in front of the main hall is a three tier stone pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). To the left of the Geukrakjeon hall and the three tier stone pagoda is the Gogeumdang hall, which dates back to 1616, and it’s designated treasure #449.

To the left of this Geukrakjeon hall courtyard is a colourful bell pavilion that houses a rather large bronze bell. Just up the hill, and up an unmarked and little traveled trail, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. All but for the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting, the other two shaman paintings are rather common in their design.

Admission to the temple is 2,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Bongjeongsa Temple, you’ll first need to get an intercity bus to the Andong Intercity Bus Terminal. From the Andong Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take bus #51 to Bongjeongsa Temple. Bus #51 leaves at 6:10/8:25/10:40/12:50/14:50/17:20/19:00. In total, the bus ride should take about 30 minutes.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. The real attractions to this temple are the number of ancient halls housed at Bongjeongsa Temple. From the second oldest building in all of Korea, to the three additional treasure halls, Bongjeongsa Temple truly has a little bit of everything for the temple historian. While not that large in size, nor that vibrant in colour, you’re coming to Bongjeongsa Temple to see a part of Korea that very few people are able to witness.


The path that leads up to Bongjeongsa Temple.


The stately Iljumun Gate at Bongjeongsa Temple.


The thatched roof bathroom at Bongjeongsa Temple.


The amazing front facade at Bongjeongsa Temple.


The Manseru pavilion that you pass under to gain access to the rest of the temple.


The view as you climb towards the Manseru pavilion.


The rounded entrance to the temple just beneath the Manseru pavilion.


A look inside the second floor of the Manseru pavilion with the wooden drum and cloud gong front and centre.


The early Joseon era main hall at Bongjeongsa Temple.


The front facade at the Daeungjeon hall.


Next to the main hall, and through a corridor, lies this weathered statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).


A look at the ancient Geukrakjeon hall at Bongjeongsa Temple. Notice the unique design in sharp contrast to the neighbouring main hall.


A look inside the Geukrakjeon hall reveals the solitary Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).


The Goryeo era three tier pagoda out in front of the Geukrakjeon hall.


A look at both the ancient hall and pagoda at Bongjeongsa Temple.


The bell pavilion at Bongjeongsa Temple.


The hillside Samseong-gak.


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


And the rather ordinary looking Sanshin painting, as well.

Temple Stay: Yongjoosa Temple (Gyeonggi-do)

(Courtesy of the Yongjoosa Temple Stay website).

Hello Again Everyone!!

Introduction to the Temple:

Yongjoosa Temple (Dragon Jewel Temple) was first established in 1790 by King Jeongjo (r. 1752-1800) to honour his late father, Prince Sadosaeja (1735-1762). The temple was built on the former site of Galyangsa Temple, which was built in 854 A.D. The reason that the temple was built was to protect the royal tomb and to pray for King Jeongjo’s father’s soul, which were formally located in Yangju, Gyeonggi-do. The night before the opening ceremony to the temple, the King dreamed of a dragon holding a magic pearl in its mouth; and hence, the name for Yongjoosa Temple.

Very little has changed at Yongjoosa Temple since it was first established. However, modern development has changed the landscape surrounding the temple. As for the highlights at the temple, the trees leading up to the temple courtyard from the Iljumun Gate are certainly one of those highlights. Another is the Daeung-jeon Hall that dates back to 1790. Also, the bell at the temple is said to date back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

Yongjoosa Temple runs a variety of Temple Stay programs. The first two, the one night, two days, allows for a participant to get a full taste of what Korean Buddhism has to offer. You can enjoy a temple tour, make prayer beads, and a dharma talk. The other program, the day program at Yongjoosa Temple, allows participants to enjoy a talk with a temple monk, a tour, and even a meal at this historical temple for an optional two to four hours.

(Courtesy of the Yongjoosa Temple Stay website).


Take the #1 line on the National Railroad, and get off at Byeongjeom Station. After coming out through the rear exit of the station, you should take Bus #34 or #34-1 for about 15 minutes.

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General Schedule:

There are three programs at the Yongjoosa Temple Stay program. The first is a one night, two days program that runs during the weekdays. The second program is a one night, two days program that runs during the weekend. And the third is a one day retreat, where you can enjoy a two to four hour experience at the temple. Here are the three schedules for the Temple Stay program at Yongjoosa Temple.

A: One Night, Two Days Weekday Program:

Day One:
14:00~14:30 : Registration & Orientation
14:30~16:00 : Learning Temple Etiquette, Opening Ceremony and Self- Introduction
16:00~17:00 : Yongjoosa Temple Tour
17:00~18:30 : Learn Traditional Buddhist Meal
19:00~20:30 : Make 108 Prayer Beads or Finding Your True Self
20:30~21:00 : Ready for Sleep
21:00~ : Sleep

Day Two:
03:00~03:30 : Wake Up & Wash
03:30~04:00 : Dawn Service
04:00~06:00 : Chanting Sutra, 108 Bows and Seon Mediation
06:00~06:30 : Breakfast
07:30~08:00 : Communal Work
08:00~09:30 : Walking Meditation at Flower Mountain Dharma Talk
09:30~11:00 : Tea Ceremony and Dharma Talk with a Monk

(Courtesy of the Yongjoosa Temple Stay website).

B: One Night, Two Days Weekend Program:

Day One:
14:00~14:30 : Registration & Orientation
14:30~16:00 : Learning Temple Manners, Opening Ceremony and Self- Introduction
16:00~17:00 : Yongjoosa Temple Tour
17:00~18:30 : Learn Traditional Buddhist Meal
19:00~20:30 : Make 108 Prayer’s Beads or Finding True My Self.
20:30~21:00 : Ready for Sleep
21:00~ : Sleep

Day Two: 
03:00~03:30 : Wake up & Wash
03:30~04:00 : Dawn Service
04:00~06:00 : Chanting Sutra, 108 Bows and Seon Mediation
06:00~06:30 : Breakfast
07:30~08:00 : Communal Work
08:00~09:30 : Walking Meditation at Flower Mountain Dharma Talk
09:30~11:00 : Tea Ceremony and Dharma Talk with Monk

C: One Day Program:

Participation Fee:
-2hr: 20,000 Won
-3hr: 30,000 Won
-4hr: 40,000 Won
* Pricing for teenagers will be decided after consulting

-Temple Tour (including a guided of national treasures)
-Tea Ceremony or Conversation with a Monk
-Barugongyang (monastic formal meals, which is optional)

(Courtesy of the Yongjoosa Temple Stay website).

Yongjoosa Temple Information:

Address : 188, Songsan-dong Hwaseong-si Gyeonggi-do
Tel : +82-31-235-6886 / Fax : +82-31-234-2818
homepage :
E-mail :


Adults: 70,000 won; Teens: 50,000 won; Under 13: 0 won (One Night, Two Days Weekdays Program).

Adults: 50,000 won; Teens: 40,000 won; Under 13: 0 won (One Night, Two Days Weekend Program).

Adults: 20,000 to 40,000 won; Teens: 20,000 to 40,000 won; Under 13: 0 won (One Day Program)


Reservations for the One Night, Two Day Weekday Temple Stay Program at Yongjoosa Temple.

Reservations for the One Night, Two Day Weekend Temple Stay Program at Yongjoosa Temple.

Reservations for the Day Program at Yongjoosa Temple.

(Courtesy of the Yongjoosa Temple Stay website).

Temple Stay: Geumsansa Temple (Jeollabuk-do)


The three story Mireuk-jeon pagoda at Geumsansa Temple (courtesy of Wikipedia).

Hello Again Everyone!!

Introduction to the Temple:

Geumsansa Temple (Golden Mountain Temple) was first established in 599 A.D., and the temple was built to pray for the Baekje king’s, King Beop’s, prosperity and good fortune. The temple is beautifully perched on the western foothills of Mt. Moaksan. Mt. Moaksan is known as the “Mother Mountain,” because it’s the cradle of many indigenous religions in Korea. Additionally, the mountain also looks like a mother cradling her baby. Later, in 766 A.D., the temple was further expanded by the monk, Jinpyo. In fact, the temple, at this time, became the head temple for the worship of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). The temple is best known for its beautiful three story Mireuk-jeon Hall, which is the only one of its kind in Korea. The other highlights at this temple are the Noju building divider, Seogyeondae lotus-based stone pedestal, Ocheung Seoktap five-story pagoda, and the Yukgak Tachung Soktap, which is a hexagonally shaped pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). There are simply too many highlights at this temple to see and experience to mention them all.

In total, Geumsansa Temple runs three different types of programs at its temple. The first is “Templestay: Whispering Together…”, which is a one night and two days program. The other program is the “Seon: Understanding Myself,” program that is a one week program that focuses on practicing Buddhism on a daily basis. And the third program is the yearly Temple Stay, where former participants gather to enjoy the program once more. This program is called “Memories of Templestay.”

The most common, and popular, program is the one night and two days program. Because of the number of monks and volunteers at the Geumsansa Temple Stay program, participants can interact more freely with monks at any given time. Also during this program, it features Seon meditation, 108 bows, a tea ceremony, and a walking meditation. It truly has something for everyone.

For more information on Geumsansa Temple.

(Courtesy of the Geumsansa Temple Stay website).


There are two ways to get to Geumsansa Temple from Seoul. First, you can take subway line #2 to the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, and get a bus for Gimjae (about 2 hours 50 minutes). Across the street from the Gimjae Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take a bus directly to Geumsansa Temple (50 minutes), and then walk for 10 minutes to get to the temple.

And the second way you can get to the temple is you can take subway line #3 to the Nambu Bus Terminal, and then get a bus to Jeonju (about 2 hours 30 minutes). There’s a bus stop for Geumsansa Temple directly in front of the Jeonju Express Bus Terminal (about 50 minutes), and then you’ll need to walk 10 minutes to get to the temple. 

General Schedule:

Geumsansa Temple Stay features three different programs. It features a one week program that focuses on an authentic experience as a practicing Buddhist. The second is a yearly Temple Stay program, where past participants enjoy the Temple Stay experience all over again. And the final one is the one night, two days Regular Schedule program. Here is a sample schedule of what you might experience during this program:

Day One:

15:00~16:00 : Registration & Free Time
17:00~18:00 : Orientation (Learn About Temple Etiquette)
18:00~18:50 : Traditional Buddhist Meal
19:00~19:30 : Striking the Temple Bell & Evening Service
19:30~20:00 : Walking in Peace (Walking Meditation)
20:00~21:00 : Down Time
21:00~ : Sleeping

Day Two:
03:30~04:00 : Early Morning Service (Optional)
04:00~04:30 : 108 Prostrations (Optional)
04:30~05:00 : Seon Meditation
05:00~06:00 : Walking Along a Tranquil Forest Path
06:00~07:00 : Temple Breakfast
07:00~07:30 : Communal Work (Sweeping the Grounds)
07:30~09:00 : Making 108 Prayer Beads
09:00~10:30 : Tea-time with a Monk
10:30~11:30 : Temple Tour
11:30~12:00 : Comments and Feedback
12:10~13:00 : Temple Lunch
After lunch : Departure

*Bring your own toiletries (toothbrush, towels), T-shirts, running shoes and an umbrella.

* If you want to use your own room (only for you or with family or with friends), then +20,000 won per night.


(Courtesy of the Geumsansa Temple Stay website).

Geumsansa Temple Information:

Address : 39, Geumsan-ri, Geumsan-myeon Gimje-si Jeollabuk-do
Tel : +82-63-542-0048 / Fax : +82-63-548-1390
homepage :
E-mail :


Adults: 50,000 won; Teens: 30,000 won; Under 13: 30,000 won (Regular Schedule)

*Add 20,000 won if you want your own room.


Reservations for the Geumsansa Temple Stay program.


(Courtesy of Wikipedia).

Geumsusa Temple – 금수사 (Dong-gu, Busan)


 The beautiful view from the main hall at Geumsusa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Another temple I explored in the Seodaeshin-dong part of Busan was Geumsusa Temple. A bit further to the west and a bit larger in size, Geumsusa Temple was also a bit harder to find. Nestled between a large apartment complex and a forest, the long set of stairs that lead up to Geumsusa Temple can be a bit hard to find. It actually took me three passes until I finally found it.

Climbing the stairs, the first thing to greet you to the temple, and just outside the temple courtyard, is a stoic statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Just above the statue of Jijang-bosal, and up a set of stairs and to the right, are the stupa and stele of former monks at Geumsusa Temple. Next to this area, and a little to the left, is the Cheonwangmun Gate. Housed inside of this gate are some of the cuter Heavenly Kings that you’ll see in Korea. However, this is off-set by some grotesquely demonic demons that are being trampled under foot by the Cheonwang.

Having passed through the Cheongwangmun Gate, and entering into the temple courtyard, you’ll be greeted by a pavilion and courtyard that are heavily under construction. The entire grounds are extensively being landscaped with the end goal being water ponds and gardens all around the Geumsusa Temple courtyard.

The first temple hall to greet you at Geumsusa Temple is the Cheonbul-jeon hall. Sitting on the main altar of this hall are three golden statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. The three are then joined by the one thousand golden statues of Buddha. This hall is still unpainted and enjoys its natural wood colour. Off in the distance, and to the west, you can see Jungang Park and Chunghon Tower that stands 70 metres above the tree line. The tower is dedicated to the loyal police and military of Busan that fought for Korea’s independence.

Under the shadow of the tower stands the very strange looking three-tier, perhaps, wooden pagoda at Geumsusa Temple. Inside this pagoda rests the temples bell (perhaps the most unique combo in Korea: a pagoda/bell pavilion combo).

To the right stands a more typical three-tier stone pagoda with an intricate finial adorning the top of the pagoda. Behind this pagoda lies the main hall at Geumsusa Temple. The main hall has some of the more unique latticework adorning its doors, especially the brown trees being backed by an all white backing. The exterior walls to the main hall are a mish-mash of assorted paintings starting with an Ox-Herding mural and combining guardian and Buddha murals.

As for the interior of the main hall, and sitting on the main altar, are seven statues (three larger statues and four smaller sized statues). Sitting in the centre of the three large statues sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the far left of the smaller sized statues sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined by both Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) and an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal. On the left wall is a memorial for the dead with Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) in its midst. And to the right hangs the older looking Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian mural).

To the left of the main hall stands the monks’ dorms, the visitors’ centre, and the temple’s kitchen; while to the right stands the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The left exterior wall is adorned with a colourful, but fading, Sanshin mural. When you step inside the Samseong-gak, you’ll be greeted by an array of paintings and statues. On the main altar, and hanging in the centre, is a simplistic Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. To the left rests both a painting and statue of Dokseong (The Recluse); while to the right rests both a statue and painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). The tiger inside this painting is really something to see. Placed on the right wall, and on an altar of its own, are two Yongwang (The Dragon King) statues; while to the left are three white statues (two Nahan and one Jijang-bosal statues).

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Geumsusa Temple, you’ll first need to make your way to Choryang Subway Station, on the first line, stop #114. From this subway station, exit out exit #3. You’ll need to take a taxi, which should take about 7 minutes (or 1.3 k.m.). And the taxi ride should cost you under 3,000 won. You can do that, or walk, which should take about 25 minutes. You should exit out exit #3 and head west towards the Busan Bank. Continue on this zig-zagging road until you get to the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. This temple is undergoing extensive renovations and landscaping, so be warned. But the after product looks like it’ll be something special if they can execute on the plan. Like the other temples in the area, the view is the main highlight to Geumsusa Temple both of Jungang Park and Chunghon Tower, as well as the Busan harbour. Additionally, the Sanshin painting, the statues inside the main hall, and the pagoda/bell pavilion combo are other things to look for when visiting Geumsusa Temple. Again, in combination with other temples in the area, it can make for quite a nice day trip to the Busan Station area of town.


 The stairs that lead up to Geumsusa Temple.


 The statue of Jijang-bosal, who is joined by the Cheonwangmun Gate, as well as the stupas and steles at the entrance of the temple.


 A better look at Jijang-bosal.


 And a better look at the stupa and stele at the temple.


 Just one of the great views at Geumsusa Temple.


Jungang Park and Chunghon Tower off in the distance.


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


 The all natural Hall of 1,000 Buddhas


 A look inside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas.


 The view from the temple courtyard.


 The rather strange three-tier wooden pagoda/bell pavilion.


A better look at the temple bell.


The main hall at Geumsusa Temple.


The unique latticework at the temple.


 A guardian painting that adorns the main hall.


A look at the extensively adorned main altar inside the main hall.


The older looking Shinjung Taenghwa inside the main hall.


The amazing view from the main hall out onto the Busan harbour.


The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.


The Sanshin mural at Geumsusa Temple.


The double Yongwang statues.


A great view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.