Okryeonseonwon Temple – 옥련선원 (Suyeong-gu, Busan)


A man prays to the massive Mireuk-bul statue at Okryeonseonwon Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Okryeonseonwon Temple is located in the heart of Suyeong, in Busan, just outside Haeundae and Gwangalli beaches. It has a commanding view of the ocean and trendy neighbourhood apartments.

You first approach Okryongseonwon Temple up a steep road that seems to be popular with mountain hikers. You’ll know that you’re getting closer and closer to the temple because you’ll see an extended three metre high wall made completely of roof tiles. When you do eventually arrive at the temple grounds, the first structure to welcome you is the Iljumun Gate that is decorated with a pair of guardian murals: Heng and Ha.

Passing through this gate, you’ll see the nuns’ quarters straight ahead. The lovely grass path is bordered on all sides by tall, lush hedges. The bell pavilion hovers over the hedges on the far end of this lower temple courtyard.

At the end of the path, and just before the bell pavilion, are a pair of stone lanterns with an assortment of figurines stuffed in all crevices and cracks. Just up the stairs, and you’ll finally arrive in the upper temple courtyard. Straight ahead is the compact main hall. Inside the main hall, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues. In the centre sits a slender statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by two equally slim-looking statues of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of the main altar is a mural of the multi-eyed Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

Just to the left of the main hall, and up a set of stairs, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. You’ll get some more amazing views of the neighbouring cityscape from here. As for inside this shaman shrine hall, and unusually resting in the centre of the three, is a life-sized statue of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). He’s joined to the left by an unassuming Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and a pair of paintings to the right. The first is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), while the other is a rather atypical painting of Yongwang (The Dragon King) joined by Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings). Just to the right of the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, and behind the main hall, is a solitary three-tier pagoda.

The real highlight to this temple, and to the far left of the temple halls, is the massive 20 metre tall statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). Mireuk-bul, from his commanding vantage point, looks out protectively over Busan. As you make your way back down to the lower courtyard, you’ll make your way past some beautiful landscaping. There are a combination of red roses, purple irises, and an assortment of flowers in bloom along the way. Make sure you visit either in summer or spring to this temple. You’ll be amazed by the landscaping if you do.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways in which you can get to Okryeonseonwon Temple. Both require that you first take the subway to Millak subway stop, #207. From there, you exit out exit #1 and catch a taxi. The ride should only take about 5 minutes, over 1.4 kilometres, and it should cost you 2,800 won. The other way that you can do it is by simply walking. Again, you’ll need to go out exit #1. Head towards the ocean and towards the second bridge to the south. Once you get to the bridge, hang a right. Head in this direction for about 300 metres. Then, hang another right towards the Millak Elementary School. Head up this road, which has a bit of an incline, for another 300 metres until you arrive at Okryeonseonwon Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. This has to be one of the most beautifully kept temples that you’ll visit in all of Korea. It’s beautiful lawns and amazing landscaping with an assortment of flowers and hedges make Okryeonseonwon Temple an amazing escape from the daily grind, especially if you’re in the Suyeong area of Busan. Add into the mix the view and the massive statue of Mireuk-bul, and you have plenty of reason to visit this little known gem.


The road that leads up to the temple.


Just one of several guardians that greet you at the temple entrance.


The Iljumun Gate at Okryeonseonwon Temple.


The beautiful hedges that welcome you to the temple grounds.


 The view of the temple halls at Okryeonseonwon Temple.


The bell pavilion that hovers over top of the tall hedges.


 A look up towards the main hall.


A closer look at the compact hall with the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall just to the left.


A look inside the main hall at the main altar. Sitting in the middle is Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal. To the far right, you can see the elaborate mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.


 The amazing view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.


The life-sized statue of Sanshin.


He’s joined to the right by these two murals dedicated to Chilseong and Yongwang.


The solitary pagoda behind the main hall.


And through the forest, you’ll catch your first glimpse of Mireuk-bul.


A closer look at the masterful statue of the Buddha.


And a look over his shoulder at the view he gets to enjoy.


Just some of the amazing landscaping at the temple.


A beautiful stone lantern surrounded by nature on all sides.


 And lastly, some beautiful red roses that were still in full bloom at Okryeonseonwon Temple.

My All New Book!!!


The Cover to my All New Book!

Hello Again Everyone!!

I’m very happy and proud to announce the publication of my very first temple book, Korean Temples: From Korea’s Southeast Corner.

This book is a culmination of three years of passion and hard work. With over 400 pictures and 50 temples, Korean Temples: From Korea’s Southeast Corner is the definitive coffee table/guide book for one of the lesser traveled and known parts of Korea. It includes such historic temples as Tongdosa Temple, Haeinsa Temple and Beomeosa Temple, as well as quite a few hidden gems. In addition to the temples, there are sections on Korean Buddhist history and artwork. With vivid, full-color images, directions, and ratings, Korean Temples: From Korea’s Southeast Corner is a must read!

You can order Korean Temples: From Korea’s Southeast Corner through Amazon.com either in hard copy or as an e-book.

You can order the book here.

Also, if you live in Korea, you can now order it from “What the Book?”

Order your copy from them here.

If you’d like a signed copy for $50 dollars (plus shipping and handling) of my book, please contact me at: dostoevsky_21_81@yahoo.com   We can discuss the details.

Please support the website and order your copy today!



Samyeong-daesa – 사명 대사 (1544-1610)


A picture of Samyeong-daesa from Jikjisa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

This is the fifth installment on prominent Buddhist monks in Korean history. And this time, I thought I would talk about Master Samyeong-daesa, who I have long found very interesting for a number of reasons. So keep reading and find out why, as you learn a bit more about the Joseon Dynasty monk, Samyeong-daesa.

Samyeong was a Seon master with the Buddhist name, at least during his lifetime, of Yujeong; however, he became posthumously known as Samyeong-daesa. Samyeong-daesa was born at a time in the mid-Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) where there was a lot of upheaval. It was a period that included the Imjin War from 1592 to 1598. Samyeong-daesa would become one of the leading warrior monks during this hellish period in Korean history.

Samyeong-daesa was born in the city of Miryang in Gyeongsangnam-do Province. Tragically, his mom would die in 1558, which was followed by the death of his father in 1559. Shortly after their deaths, Samyeong became a monk at the famed Jikjisa Temple in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. During his studies, he studied both Buddhist and Confucian texts. Later, in 1575, Samyeong was nominated to become the head of the Seon Order; however, he refused. Instead, he chose to travel to Mt. Myohyangsan instead. It was here that he became the disciple of Master Seosan.

Samyeong-daesa was one of the leading disciples of Master Seosan. And it was through Seosan’s influence and instruction that Samyeong-daesa took up arms against the invading Japanese during the Imjin War. In fact, and after joining forces with Seosan, Samyeong helped defend Haeinsa Temple, Gounsa Temple, and the Haenam region of Jeollanam-do from the Japanese.

After the war, Samyeong was appointed as the royal envoy. During his negotiation with the Japanese, to which he traveled to Japan, Samyeong successfully negotiated a peace agreement. After the war, Samyeong returned to Korea with Korean prisoners of war, as well as priceless religious artifacts.

Not long after the Imjin War, Samyeong retired. As a sign of appreciation, the king built Hongjeam Hermitage near Haeinsa Temple. With failing health, Samyeong-daesa passed away in 1610. His stupa and stele remain at this hermitage to this very day. After his death, special shrines were built at Pyochungsa Temple, Jikjisa Temple, and Daeheungsa Temple. To this very day, Samyeong-daesa continues to be remembered as one of Korea’s greatest heroes, and his writings are preserved in the Samyeong-daesa-jip.


 Samyeong-daesa: The warrior monk

Daeunam Hermitage – 대운암 (Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do)


The spectacular view of the city of Cheongdo from Daeunam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Whenever I’m short of inspiration, or the list of temple’s is getting a bit dry, I always check out a few Korean blogs to get some inspiration. With all that in mind, I found Daeunam Hermitage in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do on one of these blogs; and the hermitage didn’t disappoint, either.

You first approach Daeunam Hermitage up a long and winding mountainside road that runs about four kilometres in length. This drive allows for some pretty remarkable views of rural Cheongdo down below.

At the entrance of the temple, you’ll climb a steep road that’s lined with tall red pines. When you finally crest the mountain, you’ll be welcomed by the monks’ dorms that lay straight ahead. Slightly to the right, and placed precariously on the mountain’s face, is the Dokseong-gak. Inside this hall is a colour, solitary painting dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

Slightly to the left of these two buildings, and still in the same area, is another hall. This hall is the visitors’ centre, which has an amazing view of the valley down below. If you’re lucky enough, a monk will invite you in for a cup of tea.

Directly behind the visitors’ centre, and up a steep and uneven set of stairs, is the temple’s main hall. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with green-tinged Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, a solitary statue of Gwanseeum-bosal that dates back about three hundred years sits on the main altar. Under a beautiful canopy with a manja (swastika) symbol front and centre, Gwanseeum-bosal is backed by a beautiful black mural of herself. To the right of the main altar is a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the right is a collection of artwork. The first is a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Next to this is a golden guardian relief. The final mural is dedicated to the founding monk at Daeunam Hermitage.

To the left of the main hall, and still on the same upper courtyard, is a miniature main hall. Yep, you heard me right, a Barbie house for Buddhism. Inside are three diminutive Buddhist statues, as well. Not sure of its meaning, but it definitely surprised me. As you walk in this direction, you’ll notice another hall with an intense yellow tiger painted on it. Figuring this to be the Sanshin-gak, I was surprised when I wasn’t able to open it. It seems to be in the process of being converted into another type of temple hall. However, you can get some more great views of Cheongdo in the valley below.

So if the old Sanshin-gak is being converted, where is the new one, you might be asking. Squeezed between the main hall and a row of monks’ dorms is a stone staircase that leads up towards the peak of the mountain. Crowning the hermitage grounds is a plainly appearing Sanshin-gak that looks to have just been completed. Perhaps the most spectacular views can be seen from this shrine hall. In fact, the painting of Sanshin has a birds-eye-view of the beautiful landscape because the front of the hall simply has a window instead of a wall. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is an amazing male and female painting of Sanshin. This pair is quite rare in a Sanshin Taenghwa mural. So enjoy both the painting and the view when visiting the Sanshin-gak.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Cheongdo Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a taxi to the mountainside hermitage. It’s 16 km, and 30 minutes, so it’ll cost you 15,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. I wasn’t sure what to expect when visiting Daeunam Hermitage, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The amazing views are second to only a handful of hermitages in Korea. Add into the mix the very rare Sanshin mural, as well as the historic statue of Gwanseeum-bosal, and you have more than enough reason to visit rural Cheongdo.


The final part of the road that leads up to Daeunam Hermitage.


A headstone just outside the hermitage entrance.


The hermitage as it first greets you.


The cliff-side Dokseong-gak.


The colourful painting of Dokseong inside the shaman shrine hall.


 A look up at the main hall at the hermitage.


The first in the set of Shimu-do murals.


 A look inside the main hall at the historic Gwanseeum-bosal statue on the main altar.


The Chilseong mural to the left of the main altar.


The golden guardian relief inside the main hall.


The amazing view just behind the main hall out onto the rural countryside.


The spectacular view that both Sanshin and visitors get to enjoy from the Sanshin-gak.


The Sanshin pairing that takes up residence inside the Sanshin-gak.


The cave just to the rear of the Sanshin-gak. Enter at your own risk!


As you make your way back to the entrance, and to the left of the main hall, is this smaller sized hall.


The former Sanshin-gak.


 Once again, another amazing view from Daeunam Hermitage. This time, from the former Sanshin-gak.

Naong Hyegeun – 나옹 혜근 (1320-1376)


Meditation Master, master Naong Hyegeun (1320-1376)

Hello Again Everyone!!

In the fourth installment of leading luminaries in Korean Buddhism, I thought I would talk about the meditation master, Master Naong Hyegeun. He was a master of the Imje Seon lineage, and he taught and lived during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). It was a period of increasing negativity towards Buddhism due to the corruption that was rampant in the religion at that time. He is best known for laying the foundation for Buddhism in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Naong was believed to have been born as Gang Wolheon in the city of Yeonghae. At the age of 20, he became an ordained monk, which happened after the death of a close friend. At the age of 27, Naong traveled to Tang China to further his Buddhist education. Uniquely, he was the student of the Indian master, Jigong. He was later to further his studies when he traveled to China and studied under various masters while in the southern part of China. While there, he learned under the most prominent monk teaching in China at that time, Master Dhyanabhadra at Wutai-shan.


The Gwaneeum-jeon Hall at Songgwangsa Temple.

Upon his return to the Korean peninsula, he became the abbot (juji) of the famed Woljeongsa Temple in 1360. It was during this time that he had a mystical experience with Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). He also became the primary teacher of Muhak, who he had met in China, and would go on to become prominent in his own right within Korean Buddhism. And then, in 1371, not only did he become the abbot at Suseonsa Temple (now the famed Songgwangsa Temple), but he also became the Royal Preceptor. Eventually, he became the abbot of Hoeamsa Temple.

In 1376, Naong Hyegeun passed away while in the process of moving to Yeongwosa Temple in present day Miryang. He died at Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju on May 15th. In total, he had over 2,000 disciples, the most famous being Muhak Jacho (1327-1425), who helped contribute to the foundation of the Joseon Dynasty.

Picture-066Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan, which Naong Hyegeun founded.

Singwangsa Temple – 신광사 (Geoje-do, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The amazing water shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal at Singwangsa Temple on Geoje-do Island.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Having wanted to explore neighbouring Geoje-do Island for quite some time, I finally got the opportunity this past weekend. And it certainly didn’t disappoint, especially when it came to Singwangsa Temple.

You first approach the temple up a set of side-winding back roads, until you see the well-worn Iljumun Gate and a collection of stupas. In an elbow in the road, you’ll finally arrive at the temple parking lot. Just over a grassy bump in the landscape, and a collection of beautifully maintain cedar trees, you’ll be able to see the large main hall.

The exterior walls to the main hall are decorated with some quickly fading Palsang-do murals, which are dedicated to the eight scenes from the Buddha’s life. In addition to this artwork, there is some beautiful latticework of dragons swirling in their wooden frames and Nathwi at the base of the doors. There are three larger, dark wooden coloured, statues sitting on the main altar. They look to be centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). These three statues are then joined by four smaller, standing statues. They look to be, starting from the left, Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom), Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The interior to this massive main hall is cavernous.

Just out in front of the main hall is the temple’s bell pavilion. Surrounding the pavilion on strings are folded letters of peoples’ hopes and dreams. One of the main highlights to this temple lies just to the right of the temple’s bell pavilion. Past a mature tree, and through an opening, you’ll come to an island with Gwanseeum-bosal standing on the second floor of a two tier concrete island. There are two walkways you can gain entrance to this shrine. Also, you can get some pretty amazing pictures of both the shrine, the green water that surrounds this island shrine, and the temple itself.

Just to the right of the main hall, and as you climb a set of stairs to arrive at the upper courtyard, you’ll see a glass shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). It’s just past this shrine, and up a hedge-row pathway, that you’ll come to the artificial cave at Singwangsa Temple. Inside this cave are eight bronze plaques that depict various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Passing by these, you’ll next enter the large cave chamber. Seated in the centre of the chamber is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul that dates back to the early Goryeo Period (918-1392). He’s surrounded on all sides by Buddhas that reside inside the wall.

Up past this cave, and up another set of stairs, you’ll come to a shaman shrine hall that houses both Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Besides being large in size, they are rather plain in design.

Just behind the artificial cave, and to the left of the shaman shrine hall, you’ll come to another clearing. This time, in the centre of it all, is a beautiful stone sculpture dedicated to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). He’s joined in this area by the Nahan-jeon hall, which houses 500 beautiful, stone sculptures of the Nahan. Just to the rear of this hall is the Myeongbu-jeon, which is unadorned on its exterior like the Nahan-jeon; however, inside this hall is a beautiful painting of Jijang-bosal, as well as a granite sculpture of the Bodhisattva, as well. Rather strangely, pictures of the deceased are hanging all around the front altar, instead of to the side.

HOW TO GET THERE: Because Singwangsa Temple is actually located closer to the the Tongyeong Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to go to the city of Tongyeong first. And from the Tongyeong Intercity Bus, you’ll need to take a taxi because there’s no bus that goes directly to Singwangsa Temple. The taxi will take about 25 minutes and cost you about 13,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. While it costs a fair bit to drive from Geoje-do Island from Busan, especially when you use the underwater Gadeok Tunnel, Singwangsa Temple certainly didn’t disappoint. The temple is littered with a handful of beautiful shrine halls. And when you add into the mix the artificial cave and the island shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal, and you have more than enough reason to visit the rather special Singwangsa Temple.


 The ocean-side view from Geoje-do Island.


 The beautiful landscaping at Singwangsa Temple.


The large main hall that welcomes you to the temple.


 The bell pavilion out in front of the main hall.


 A look across the massive front facade at Singwangsa Temple.


A look at the main altar inside the main hall.


 The spectacular green water shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.


 The bridge that allows you access to the Bodhisattva.


 A shrine painting dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).


 The entryway to the artificial cave.


 Your first look as you enter the artificial cave.


 The ancient statue dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul that sits front and centre inside the cave.


 The beautiful view and trail that lead you to the upper courtyard.


 The shaman shrine hall at Singwangsa Temple.


 The rather plain, but large, Sanshin mural inside the shaman shrine hall.


 Both the statue dedicated to Mireuk-bul and the Nahan-jeon hall together.


 A look inside the Nahan-jeon at the stone sculptures.


 The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon.


 And the peaceful view from the Myeongbu-jeon.

Doui-guksa – 도의 국사 (? – 825)

Picture 118

A picture of Master Doui-guksa, who was the first monk to transmit Seon Buddhism throughout Korea.

Hello Again Everyone!!

In this third article, I thought I would talk about Doui-guksa, who was the first Korean monk to transmit patriarchal Seon Buddhism, which became an integral part of Buddhism throughout the Korean peninsula.

Doui was born in Bukhan-gu, which is present day Seoul. His surname was Wang. Before Doui was born, and according to the “Doui Jeon” (Biography of Doui), in the 17th Volume of the Jodangjip (Records of the Ancestral Hall), Doui’s father and mother had a dream of his impending birth. While Doui’s father dreamt of a white rainbow across the sky which entered their room, his mother had a dream that she had slept with a monk. About a month and a half after this dream, Doui’s mom started showing signs that she was pregnant. Strangely, she didn’t give birth for another 39 months. Talk about a long pregnancy!

In 784, Doui made his way to Tang China by ship, which was pretty standard for Korean monks at that time. When he first arrived, he visited Mt. Wutai-shan. While there, he was ordained a monk at Baotan-si Temple in Guangfu. After becoming ordained, Doui headed south for Mt. Caoxi-shan (or Mt. Jogye in Korean). There, he paid his respects to the sixth patriarch of Seon Buddhism, Huineng, who is still enshrined there to the present day. According to legend, when he arrived at this temple, the temple doors mysteriously opened for him on their own accord. After his visit to Mt. Caoxi-shan, he traveled to Kaiyuan-si Temple next to help further his studies under Master Zhizang, who was a fourth generation disciple of Huineng. Doui attained enlightenment under Master Zhizang’s guidance.


Borimsa Temple in Jangheung, Jeollanam-do.

Eventually, Master Doui returned to the Korean peninsula in 821, where he established a small temple to teach. This temple was located in Jangheung, Jeollanam-do; and while there, he started to transmit the little known Seon doctrine of meditative Buddhism. Doui was also known as a strong critic of scholastic-driven Buddhist practices, which were prevalent during his lifetime.

Doui’s main disciple was Yeomgeo, whose main disciple was Chejing (804-880). Master Chejing was to later expand the little known temple that Doui had founded. This temple is still around today, and it’s known as Borimsa Temple. In doing this, Chejing founded the Gaji-sanmun (Buddhist Wisdom Sect), as the first of the nine Gusan-seonmun (Korean Seon’s Nine Original Sects). As a result of this lineage and his efforts, Master Doui is held in high regard as one of the key founders of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, which is the largest sect of Buddhism throughout South Korea.

In 825, after retiring to Jinjeonsa Temple in Mt. Seoraksan, Doui-guksa passed away. Master Chejing put it best when he wrote about Doui’s brand of Buddhism that it was “the tenant of unconditioned spontaneity,” which sums up the new brand of Seon Buddhism that he brought to the Korean peninsula. Doui-guksa’s budo, which houses his earthly remains, can be found at Seoknamsa Temple in Eonyang, Gyeongsangnam-do.


Doui-guksa’s budo from Seoknamsa Temple in Eonyang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Haeinjeongsa Temple – 해인정사 (Saha-gu, Busan)


The beautiful view of the Boje-ru pavilion from Haeinjeongsa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Haeinjeongsa Temple is a newly rebuilt temple that hugs Mt. Gudeoksan in Saha-gu in Busan. To get to the temple, you’ll need to ascend the steep road that leads to the temple parking lot. You’ll first pass under the high vaulted ceiling of the Boje-ru pavilion. The ceiling is painted with beautiful dragon and Biseon murals.

Finally level with the temple grounds, you’ll pass by the temple’s visiting centre and kitchen. Ascending a set of stairs, you’ll enter the main temple courtyard. As you look up at the elevated main hall, you’ll notice the bell pavilion to your back. This is the upper portion of the Boje-ru pavilion that you first passed through to gain entrance to the temple. There are some amazing views of the west-end of Busan from these heights.

As for the main hall itself, it’s adorned with some of the more unique paintings you’ll see in Korea. These golden hued murals depict various episodes from the various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in Buddhism. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are seven golden statues. The central figure is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s flanked by two large seated statues of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) to left and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Body Buddha) to the right.

To the left of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon. The exterior walls are adorned with various murals, but none as frightening as the judgment murals of Agwi and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the left side of the hall. The interior of the hall is rather cavernous, and plain, because there is only a golden haired statue of Jijang-bosal with a golden scroll in his hand. Of note, the Ten Kings of the Underworld, which are so common in this type of hall, are absent.

And to the right of the main hall, and joined by the monks’ dorms to the extreme right, is the Gwaneeum-jeon. All of the exterior walls are adorned with various murals of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). There are various incarnations of the 33 forms that this Bodhisattva can appear like to people. As for the main altar inside the Gwaneeum-jeon, and much like the Myeongbu-jeon, the only thing taking up residence inside this hall is a large golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

The only other two shrine halls left to see at the temple are to the left of the main temple grounds. These halls are some of the most underwhelming halls dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that you’ll see in all of Korea, especially after seeing the newly constructed halls in the main temple courtyard. These Korean War-looking bunkers house a statue of Yongwang and a painting of Sanshin in their respective shrine halls. If you don’t feel like being depressed, simply pass by these halls after visiting the three buildings in the main temple courtyard.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Haeinjeongsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to Goejeong Subway Station #105 on line one in Busan. From there, you should take a taxi, because the roads that lead up to the temple are confusing and steep. It should only cost you 2,800 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. This temple is a tough one to rate. It’s not the easiest to get to and it has the two dilapidated buildings dedicated to the two shaman deities to the side of the main temple grounds. However, the newly constructed buildings dedicated to Jijang-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal, as well as the main hall, largely make up for most short-comings. Also, the spectacular views of western Busan are pretty amazing. So a mixed bag of sorts will greet you at Haeinjeongsa Temple.


The steep road that leads up towards the temple.


A look through the Boje-ru pavilion.


And a look up at the bell pavilion with a beautiful blue sky surrounding it.


A look inside the bell pavilion.


The amazing view of western Busan from the Boje-ru pavilion.


The main hall and Myeongbu-jeon at Haeinjeongsa Temple.


The golden paintings that adorn the main hall that depict Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.


A look inside the main hall at the elaborate main altar.


One of the paintings that adorns the exterior walls of the Myeongbu-jeon.


And inside the Myeongbu-jeon is a solitary statue of Jijang-bosal.


To the right of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon.


Just one of the beautiful paintings of Gwanseeum-bosal that adorns the hall’s walls.


The golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal that sits all alone inside the Gwaneeum-jeon.


The amazing view of both Haeinjeongsa Temple and Busan down below.


The bomb-shelter-like Sanshin-gak.


The rather plain looking painting of Sanshin inside the Sanshin-gak.

Doseon-guksa – 도선 국사 (826-898)


Seon master, Doseon-guksa, who founded Korean feng-shui (pungsu-jiri).

Hello Again Everyone!!

In my second article on famous or prominent monks, I decided to write about the great master of meditation: Doseon-guksa. And while Doseon was a great master of meditation in Seon Buddhism, he is best remembered for his creation of Korean feng-shui (geomancy or pungsu-jiri in Korean).

Doseon was born in Yeongnam-gun, Jeollanam-do. It’s believed that his surname was Kim. And he was first introduced to Buddhism at an early age when he learned chants and basic sutras soon after he was able to speak. Doseon also spent a part of his childhood, around 835, at Munsuam Hermitage. He first officially started to study Buddhism at Dogapsa Temple in the city of his birth. He became an ordained monk at the age of 15 in 841. Doseon was then accepted to study at the famed Hwaeomsa Temple. Later, Doseon was to study under the great Master Hyecheol at Taeansa Temple.


Dogapsa Temple, the temple where Doseon-guksa first started to study Buddhism.

Doseon was like most monks of his day, he traveled to Tang China to further his Buddhist studies in 850. While there, he focused on esoteric Taoist and Buddhist teachings. He especially enjoyed the geomantic ideas of Master Ihsing (673-727).

Finally, when Doseon returned to the Silla Kingdom, he traveled extensively throughout the Korean peninsula. During his travels he focused on observing its geography. Doseon adapted Chinese feng-shui (or pungsu-jiri in Korea) to the Korean landscape. It focused on harmony with nature, while placing a great emphasis on the spiritual and material energies that flowed from the mountains and what effect this had on a community or the nation as a whole. So instead of simply focusing on the house, like Chinese feng-shui did, Doseon broadened it in the Korean context of pungsu-jiri.


Hwaeomsa Temple, where Doseon-guksa trained after becoming an ordained monk.

Doseon was later to found Okryongsa Temple (Jade Dragon Temple) in the city of Gwangyong. He did this after determining that the site had an auspicious geomantic location. He taught at this temple for the next 35 years of his life with the occasional trip outside its four walls to travel the Silla Kingdom.

During his lifetime, Doseon purportedly helped hundreds of monks and lay people achieve enlightenment. Later on in his life, Doseon was made Silla’s leading Master monk for his wisdom by King Heongang (r. 875-886). In total, around 70 temples and hermitage are claimed to have been founded by him. And most of them still thrive to this very day. In addition to these 70, there are dozens more that were re-constructed or renovated under his geomantic ideals.


The Dogapsa-doseon-sumi-bi at Dogapsa Temple dedicated to both Doseon-guksa and the monk Sumi.

Interestingly, a lot of Doseon’s fame comes from his influence as an advisor to King Taejo (r. 918-943), who founded the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). What’s interesting is that they never met. But as a result of Doseon’s geomantic principals, the capital of Seoul was selected for its auspicious location. So if you’ve ever wondered why Seoul became the capital, and it’s located where it is, you now know the answer to those questions.

Finally, in 898, Doseon died. He died while in the lotus position in front of his many disciples at Okryongsa Temple. After his death, a budo was erected in honour of this master; unfortunately, it no longer exists. The great influence of Doseon was justifiably rewarded, posthumously, when Goryeo King Sukjong promoted Doseon to the rank of Wangsa (Royal Preceptor). This was only furthered by King Injong, when he promoted Doseon to the highest possible rank that a monk can hold in Korea when he named him a National Master: a Guksa. Ever since, Doseon-guksa remains a prominent figure in Korean Buddhism.


The portrait of Doseon-guksa from Dogapsa Temple.


Seongjusa Temple – 성주사 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The hundreds of stone statues inside the Seolbeop-jeon at Seongjusa Temple in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seongjusa Temple, in English, is a combination of two words. In English, “Seong” means “holy,” while “Ju” means “live.” So together it means Holy Live Temple. It was named like this because it’s believed that a holy man lived here. During King Heungdeok’s reign from 826 to 836 A.D., the monk Muyeom was the king’s advisor. Because King Heungdeok was able to defeat the Japanese due to the monk Muyeom’s mystic powers, the king gave monk Muyeom a temple and land. This temple became known as Seongjusa Temple. Unfortunately, the temple was destroyed during the Imjin War. The temple was later rebuilt and expanded between 1674 and 1834. The temple is also called Ungsinsa Temple, or Bear Saint Temple, in English, because of a legend that surrounds the temple. The legend states that a bear appeared and helped move all the wood required to rebuild the temple in its current location. That’s why you can see at least three different murals at the temple of bears helping rebuild Seongjusa Temple. Seongjusa Temple is located on the north-west foot of Mt. Bulmosan.

You can first approach the temple up a beautiful forested path. It’s not that long, perhaps a couple hundred metres in length. Also during this walk, you can see a small stupa field and some ancient graffiti adorning the faces of several rocks. As you emerge on the other side of the trail, you’ll be welcomed to the temple by a smaller sized bell pavilion to your left. The bronze bell that’s housed inside this pavilion is equally small in size. Just to the right of this pavilion, and slightly up the hill, is a five-tier stone pagoda that’s framed by a twin pair of stone lanterns. Framing this entire scene is a pond and water fountain that shoots water several metres in the air.

Just to the right of the pond and water fountain is the main entrance to the temple. Uniquely, it seems as though they’ve filled-in the area where you were formerly able to enter Seongjusa Temple under the Boje-ru Pavilion. Now, you pass to the right of the Boje-ru to gain admittance to the spacious temple courtyard.

Straight ahead are three smaller sized halls. In the centre of the three is the Daeung-jeon, main hall. The exterior walls are largely unadorned all but for a couple paintings dedicated to the saintly bear that helped raze the wood for the re-building of the temple. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This slightly atypical statue is joined on either side by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha).

To the left of the main hall is one of the most unique Samseong-gak shaman shrine halls that I have seen in Korea. Immediately when you step into this hall, you’ll be greeted by an older looking mural of Dokseong (The Recluse). This older painting of Dokseong has a pig-like face with a stout nose. He’s joined to the left by two rather traditional paintings of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). What truly sets this hall apart are the murals that adorn the interior walls. Yongwang (The Dragon King), saints, Heng and Ha, and dragons, adorn every square inch. As for the exterior walls, there are ferocious guardians, while quickly fading, scaring away any evil spirits.

To the right of the main hall is a newly constructed Nahan-jeon. This plain appearing hall looks to have replaced the older Jijang-jeon. The exterior walls have yet to be painted with dancheong colours or Buddhist style paintings. However, inside this hall, and resting on the main altar, is a statue centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined by some rather traditional looking Nahan statues. But the real highlight to this temple building are the masterful paintings of the Nahan that back the statues of themselves.

The other hall in the main temple courtyard is the Seolbeop-jeon. Housed inside this long hall are rows upon rows of granite statues of the Buddha. In the middle of them is Amita-bul. He’s fronted by a triad of statues centred by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

Just to the right of the Seolbeop-jeon, and in a courtyard of its own, is the Myeongbu-jeon. This hall houses a large statue of a green-haired Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s joined on all sides by equally large-sized statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. The most interesting thing about this hall is the ancient Gamno-do painting that hangs on the far right wall. It’s Local Tangible Cultural Asset #336. The exterior walls of this hall are adorned with beautiful murals like the Dragon Ship of Wisdom and a peculiar Gamno-do painting that has murder, drinking, and a car accident painted on it.

Above the Myeongbu-jeon sits another new building. This is a plain-looking hall that houses a stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. The standing stone statue of this Bodhisattva is Local Tangible Cultural Asset #335. And rather strangely, there are a pair of large sized floats to the right of this hall; perhaps, for Buddha’s birthday.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways to get to Seongjusa Temple. The first is to take a taxi from the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal. The drive should take about 20 minutes, depending on traffic, and cost about 10,000 won. The other way, if you’re travelling by train, is to go to the Seongjusa Train Station. From there, you can get a taxi to the temple. It’ll take about 13 minutes and set you back about 4,500 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. This temple actually surprised me in how good it was. I wasn’t expecting much, for no particular reason, and it exceeded my expectations. The artwork inside both the Samseong-gak and the Myeongbu-jeon are second to none. And the unique painting of the bears around various halls at the temple, as well as the statue of Gwanseeum-bosal are two more highlights to this temple. There seems to be a lot of newer construction going on at the temple, so have a look and be prepared to be impressed.


The beautiful little trail that leads up to the temple.


The compact bell pavilion.


And the equally diminutive bell housed inside it.


The Boje-ru Pavilion from a distance.


A little closer with the five story pagoda in the foreground.


The spouting water fountain with the beautiful Boje-ru Pavilion as a backdrop.


As you first enter the Seongjusa Temple courtyard.


A better look at all the buildings with the main hall front and centre.


A better look at the beautiful Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.


Probably one of the most unique paintings of Dokseong that I’ve laid my eyes on.


Yongwang, the Dragon King, who adorns one of the interior walls of the Samseong-gak.


One of the bear paintings that adorns the main hall.


The plain looking Nahan-jeon.


A look inside the Nahan-jeon.


A closer look at one of the masterful Nahan paintings inside the Nahan-jeon.


The main altar inside the Seolbeop-jeon.


The Myeongbu-jeon in the lower courtyard.


The peculiar Gamno-do painting that adorns the Myeongbu-jeon’s back wall.


 The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon with Jijang-bosal front and centre.


Just five of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.


The pond next to the Myeongbu-jeon.


The front door to the newly built hall that houses the standing stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.


And the stone statue in question.


 The bear and elephant floats for Buddha’s birthday?