Yonggungsa Temple – 용궁사 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The temple courtyard at Yonggungsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just south of the more prominent Cheongyeongsa Temple, as well as the Miryang River, is the hillside Yonggungsa Temple, which means Dragon Palace Temple, in English. While certainly not as famous as its namesake in Busan, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, the Yonggungsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do has a unique charm of its own.

When you first approach the temple up a small country backstreet, you’ll be greeted by the temple’s main gate. Adorning the gate doors are a pair of peeling guardian murals. They’ve peeled so much that only their heads now appear. Inside the gate are a pair of statues that appear to be Dongjin-bosal (Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings). Not only have I never seen Dongjin-bosal housed inside an entry gate, but there are two of him. And both of them have one of their wings broken off from their helmet. It might be that while placing the temple’s lawn chairs inside this gate, which is also used for storage, that they snapped off.

Finally entering the temple grounds, one of the first things you’ll notice, which is unique to most Korean Buddhist temples, is that the temple courtyard has grass. Up on a knoll is where all of the temple shrine halls are located. Straight ahead is the main hall. Wrapped around its exterior walls are the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Uniquely, this set only has seven of the potential ten paintings. As for inside, 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 Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Hanging on the left wall is a set of murals. The first is the rather plain guardian mural. It’s joined by a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal, as well as the Dragon Ship of Wisdom. Additionally, the ceiling of the main hall is beautifully adorned with large paper lotus lanterns.

To the right of the main hall is a dharma-looking stone statue. However, this isn’t the dharma; instead, it’s Podae-hwasang.

To the left of the main hall is a peculiar shrine hall. Sitting on the main altar, and in the centre, is a stone statue dedicated to a Buddha (presumably Mireuk-bul). To the left of this statue is an older looking painting of Yongwang (The Dragon King). And to the right of the statue stand small statues of the twelve Zodiac Generals.

Between both the peculiar shrine hall and the main hall, and up a flight of granite stairs, is the rather large Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. While all the murals inside this hall are large in size, they are pretty ordinary in composition. However, the tiger painted inside the Sanshin mural does look possessed.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways you can get to Yonggungsa Temple. The first is from the Miryang train station. You can take either Bus #1-2, #7 or the “Gagok” bus. After 3 stops, you’ll need to get off at the KT&G stop. From there, follow the signs that lead you towards Yonggungsa Temple and Cheongyeongsa Temple. The walk should take about 10 minutes over 800 metres.

Or you could simply take a taxi from the Miryang train station. The ride should only take 6 minutes and cost you 2,800 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. While not as spectacular as the neighbouring Cheongyeongsa Temple, Yonggungsa Temple has a charm all its own. From its grassy temple courtyard to both of its spacious main hall and Samseong-gak, the lesser known Miryang Yonggungsa Temple has a fair bit to offer a visitor. In addition, the peculiar shrine hall and the Podae-hwasang stone statue are something to enjoy, as well.

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The view from the hillside next to Yonggungsa Temple.

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The front gate at the temple.

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The guardian mural that is slowly peeling away.

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The lawn chairs and Dongjin-bosal statue together in the entry gate at Yonggungsa Temple.

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The main hall at Yonggungsa Temple.

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The stone statue of Podae-hwasang to the right of the main hall.

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Strangely, only one of seven Ox-Herding murals adorning the main hall.

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The main altar inside the main hall.

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The guardian mural inside the main hall.

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As well as the Dragon Ship of Wisdom.

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The highly elaborate ceiling to the main hall.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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Inside is this mural and statue of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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To the left of the Samseong-gak is this unusual shrine hall.

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Inside is housed this statue of the Buddha (perhaps the Future Buddha, Mireuk-bul).

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The older looking Yongwang mural dedicated to the Dragon King.

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Four little figurines that a devotee left behind.

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As well as this lily pond.

Podae-hwasang – 포대화상

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Podae-hwasang at Jeongamsa Temple in Gohan, Gangwon-do

Hello Again Everyone!!

Until recently, I had no idea that Podae-hwasang even existed in Buddhism. It was only after researching him a bit more that I found out who the easily misidentified jovial figure was. Sometimes, he can be confused for the Buddha, but he’s in fact Podae-hwasang.

Podae-hwasang, who is better known as Budai or Pu-Tai in Chinese, is a disguised monk. Podae-hwasang is believed to be an incarnation of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). The name Budai, in Chinese, means “hempen sack” (more on that later).

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A very golden Podae-hwasang at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

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The tarnished belly of another Podae-hwasang at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Supposedly, if you rub the belly while pregnant, the statue will grant you a boy.

Podae-hwasang first appeared in 10th century Chinese folktales. It’s believed that Podae-hwasang was a monk from Huyang, China. He was born in Myeongju, Bonghwa in China (or Ch’i-t’zu, from Fenghua, in what is now Zhejiang province in Chinese). His name, at his birth, was Gyecha. At this time, there was a form of Buddhism in China called Mani, and his Buddhist name was Cha, even though he was also called Seodal. And his home temple was Akrimsa Temple.

Physically, Podae-hwasang appears to be chubby and has a belly like a balloon. He’s bald and wears a monk’s robe. Also, he’s always depicted as either smiling or laughing. He was known to wander around the countryside with a cane. It was from his cane that he hung a sack. The sack had a variety of things in it, so if people needed or wanted something, he could always offer things to them. Additionally, the sack carried sweets for children, so he’s often depicted in the presence of children.

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Babies crawling all over Podae-hwasang at Songgwangsa Temple in Wanju, Jeollabuk-do.

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The jovial Podae-hwasang at Manseongam Hermitage just outside Beomeosa Temple in Busan.

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And another baby-motif statue of Podae-hwasang at Yongmunsa Temple in Yecheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Not only could Podae-hwasang predict the weather, but he could also predict good and back luck. Amazingly, he was never wrong. In addition to his ability to predict things, he represents happiness and generosity. He also protects children, the poor, and the weak. It’s believed that by rubbing his belly that it brings wealth, good luck, and prosperity.

At his death in 916 A.D., Podae-hwasang entered nirvana. He left behind four poems/songs as he entered nirvana on a rock. It was at his death that he recited:

Maitreya [Mireuk-bul], true Maitreya
Reborn innumerable times
From time to time manifested among men
The men of the age do not recognize him.

 

It’s from these words that he revealed himself to be Mireuk-bul. So it’s from these final words that Podae-hwasang came to be associated with the Future Buddha.

At a Korean Buddhist temple, you can typically find Podae-hwasang either in painted or statue form. If he’s a statue, he’s usually rendered as plump, jovial and surrounded by children. He can be holding either prayer beads or a fan, and he has the iconic hempen sack nearby. Podae-hwasang also appears like this in paintings if he’s on his own; however, he can sometimes be seen in the final painting of the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals in the form of the master returning to a village or marketplace.

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A painting of Podae-hwasang at Unmunsa Temple in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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Another painting of Podae-hwasang; this time, from Seoknamsa Temple in Eonyang.

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The wooden carving of Podae-hwasang at Yongjusa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

You can find Podae-hwasang at such prominent temples as Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Gijang, Busan or Unmunsa Temple in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do; and at lesser known temples as Sudasa Temple in Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Yongmunsa Temple in Yecheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do, and Yongjusa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

So the next time you’re out at a Korean Buddhist temple, you might be lucky enough to find this chubby figure. And if you rub his belly or pray to him, you might be rewarded with wealth, good luck, and/or prosperity.

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The chubby stone statue of Podae-hwasang at the famed Golgulsa Temple in Gyeongju.

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The largest statue I’ve seen of Podae-hwasang at Sudasa Temple in Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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And a masterful rendering of Podae-hwasang at Cheontaesa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Cheongyeongsa Temple – 천경사 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The beautiful cave shrine at Cheongyeongsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on the southern banks of the Miryang River in the heart of Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do is the scenic Cheongyeongsa Temple. The temple is located on a hill that overlooks some neighbouring farms and is surrounded by numerous temples on the hill like Yonggungsa Temple and Sudosa Temple.

You first approach the temple through a forested trail from the south. Along the entire way, the Miryang River will be to your right. When you finally do arrive at the temple, the first thing to greet you, just out in front of the temple’s gate, is a five tier stone pagoda. The etchings on the pagoda are fading. Having stepped through the gate, and to your left, is one of the more unique pagodas you’ll find in Korea. The five tier concrete pagoda is crowned by a large stone statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Each wide tier is adorned with tiny jade statues of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife.

A little further along, and the pagodas give way to a network of subterranean buildings and corridors. On top of these buildings, like the monks’ dorms, kitchen, and visitors’ centre, are the temple’s shrine halls. It’s also from this part of the temple, standing on top of the subterranean buildings, that you get a great view of the Miryang River to the right. Rectangular paper lanterns line the hand-rail that runs the entire length of the temple look-out. To the left is the temple’s diminutive pond and a set of bronze coloured statues that over-look the pond on the neighbouring ledge. In the centre of these statues, and the largest of the set, is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). She’s joined to the left by a smaller golden statue of herself and to the right by Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

To the rear of the temple grounds is the temple’s main hall. Making up the back wall of the temple is the pock-marked stone face of the neighbouring hill. Sitting in the centre of the main hall is a statue of Amita-bul who is backed by a fiery nimbus. Standing on either side of Amita-bul, and housed inside their own hallowed out shrines, are Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul). Hanging on the right wall of the main hall is a uniquely designed guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall, and slightly elevated up the embankment, is the Samseong-gak. The shrine hall houses three rather ordinary shaman murals; but to the left of the main hall, and painted on the exterior wall, is a large, multi-stripped tiger.

But it’s down from this shaman shrine hall, and through a network of corridors, that you’ll find the temple’s true claim to fame: the cave shrine hall. To the left of a large meeting hall is the first shrine in the cave. Just outside the entry to the cave is an altar dedicated to Jijang-bosal. He is joined by a beautiful mural of Gwanseeum-bosal.

It’s to the left of the Gwanseeum-bosal mural where the mouth of the cave is located. The walls of the cave are beautifully lined with paper lotus lanterns that light up the darkness. These flowers are also joined by tiny white lights that line the entire length of the cave. Finally emerging on the other side, you’ll come to a cave with a radius of ten metres. The cave is lined with bronze metal plates. There are two altars inside the cave. The first of the two is centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Next to it, and standing squarely inside the rounded cave, is a triad, once more, centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal. The interior of the walls are lined by sixteen statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha).

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways you can get to Cheongyeongsa Temple. The first is from the Miryang train station. You can take either Bus #1-2, #7 or the “Gagok” bus. After 3 stops, you’ll need to get off at the KT&G stop. From there, follow the signs that lead you towards Cheongyeongsa Temple. The walk should take about 10 minutes over 800 metres.

Or you could simply take a taxi from the Miryang train station. The ride should only take 6 minutes and cost you 2,800 won.The distance is a mere 1.7 km in length.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. The second of two cave temples I’ve visited in Miryang, alongside Yeoyeojeongsa Temple to the south, Cheongyeongsa Temple certainly doesn’t disappoint. The cave shrine is beautifully lined with well-lit lotus lanterns. Adding to the temple’s overall beauty is the view and the shrines inside the main temple courtyard. While the grounds are a bit run down, there is more than enough, especially underground, for people to enjoy.

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The temple entrance at Cheongyeongsa Temple.

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The older pagoda and entry gate at the temple.

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The extremely unique five tier concrete pagoda with jade statues on each level.

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A look at the temple grounds.

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The triad of statues that stand in the main temple courtyard.

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The view with the unique rectangular lanterns hanging from the look-out platform.

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The above ground temple shrine halls at Cheongyeongsa Temple.

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The main hall’s main altar with Amita-bul front and centre.

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To the left stands Daesaeji-bul in his own cavernous shrine.

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The smaller sized guardian mural inside the main hall.

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A look inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left of the main hall. To the left sits Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and to the right sits Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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The fierce mountain tiger that adorns the exterior wall to the Samseong-gak.

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The pathway that leads down to the subterranean shrines.

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The first shrine is dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

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These beautiful paper lanterns line the pathway that leads up to the large cave shrine.

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A better look at the beautiful pathway lined with colourful paper lanterns.

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The view from inside the cave shrine with the second shrine to the right and a Nahan to the left.

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And the third shrine.

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A look at some of the Nahan statues that line the cave.

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And a couple more of these masterful stone statues.

Bogwangsa Temple – 보광사 (Ulju-gun, Ulsan)

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The temple courtyard and main gate at Bogwangsa Temple in Ulsan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

In the very southwestern part of Ulsan, and next to Tongdosa Temple under Mt. Yeongchuksan, is Bogwangsa Temple. Located in and amongst the small factories and one rooms is this assuming temple.

First approaching from a rural road, you’ll be welcomed to the temple by a beautifully adorned front gate. This gate is elaborately painted with two Biseon adorning the front gates. Both Biseon (Flying Angels) are making offerings.

Once you’ve entered the compact temple grounds, you’ll notice a small garden to your right and the first story of the main hall to your left. The first floor to the main hall is occupied with a visitors’ centre and the temple kitchen. It’s only up a set of stairs to the far right of the first floor that you’ll in fact find the main hall on the second floor of the two story structure.

Around the exterior walls to the main hall are a collection of beautiful murals. The first set, which is the largest, is the Palsang-do set which depict the eight scenes from the Buddha’s life. Above this set, and up near the eaves rather uniquely, are the much smaller Shimu-do, Ox-herding, murals. And spaced between these sets, and decorating the hall’s pillars, are the Four Heavenly Kings, as well as various guardians. Buttressing both ends of paintings are two elaborate paintings dedicated to an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). One other unique feature to the outside paintings are a pair of side-ward leaning Nathwi. Typically, the eyes to these Monster Mask murals are pointed sideways and not the entire mask.

Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll first notice a large, golden canopy that spans the entire length of the main altar. The triad sitting on the main altar is centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). To the left of the main altar is a large mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). While to the right hangs a beautiful mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). If you look closely, you’ll notice a dongja (attendant) offering Sanshin an immortal peach. The only other mural in this hall is a large guardian mural, which is somewhat unique in its composition.

HOW TO GET THERE: From Tongdosa Temple, you can catch a taxi to get to Bogwangsa Temple. It should take about 10 minutes, or 3.9 km, and cost you 4,500 won.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. The murals and paintings spread throughout the main hall, both inside and out, are what distinguish Bogwangsa Temple. From the Sanshin mural inside the main hall to the sideways Nathwi, the Four Heavenly Kings that are on pillars, and the sets of Palsang-do and Shimu-do murals, the intricacy and beauty of all these murals will be enough to keep you busy for some time. So take your time and enjoy their mastery.

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A look at both the entry gate and main hall at Bogwangsa Temple.

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The elaborately painted gate at the temple.

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One of the Biseon that adorns one of the entry gate’s doors.

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The garden at the temple.

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The dual exterior wall paintings on the main hall. The larger Palsang-do murals are on the bottom, while the much smaller Shimu-do murals are up near the eaves.

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A painting of Gwanseeum-bosal that adorns the exterior wall of the main hall.

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The uniquely painted dual masks of the Nathwi on the main hall.

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On each of the major pillars of the main hall are the Four Heavenly Kings.

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The elaborate and extensive golden canopy that hovers over top of the main altar of the main hall.

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The decorative mural of Bohyun-bosal that’s painted above the entry at the main hall.

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The large guardian mural housed inside the main hall.

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The beautiful Sanshin mural.

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And a better look across the main altar at Bogwangsa Temple.

Haeeunsa Temple – 해은사 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The neighbouring Bunsanseong Fortress near Haeeunsa Temple.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on top of Mt. Bunseongsan, which is just south of the Gimhae Gaya Park, is Haeeunsa Temple. Uniquely, the temple is perched on the peak of Mt. Bunseongsan, which measures a respectable 326.8 metres in height.

As you make your way up the mountain, and towards the temple, you’ll pass by one of the eastern walls of Bunsanseong Fortress. This fortress was first constructed in 1377 to guard against the Japanese. From the fortress walls you get some beautiful views of Gimhae down below. A little further up the trail and you’ll come to a clearing where Haeeunsa Temple is located.

To the left, and up a gravel trail that skirts a wall that obscures the temple courtyard from view, you’ll find an artificial pond with Yongwang (The Dragon King) in its midst. This stone image of the Dragon King sits in the centre of a lotus pond. And joining this shamanic deity to the left is a jolly stone image of Podae-hwasang.

Through the slender Iljumun Gate, you’ll finally enter the compact temple courtyard. Straight ahead is one of the more unique temple halls that you’ll find at any temple throughout the Korean peninsula. Housed inside this unadorned, and newly built, hall are two murals. One is dedicated to the famed Gaya king, King Suro (?-199). He’s joined to the right by an equally beautiful mural dedicated to his Indian wife, Queen Heo.

To the left of this shrine hall is the temple’s main hall. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with Palsang-do murals. As you first step inside the main hall, you’ll be welcomed by an elaborate guardian mural. Next to this mural, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues. In the centre of the triad sits a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the left sits a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).

To the right of the shrine hall dedicated to both King Suro and Queen Heo is a pathway that leads past an old tree. At the top of these stairs is the Sanshin-gak in a clearing. Housed inside this shaman shrine hall are two rather plain looking images: one of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and one of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left of this hall, and up on an elevated stone platform, is a stone altar with a stone stupa in the centre. This stupa is adorned with wildly elaborate images that are reminiscent of South-East Asia.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gimhae City Hall subway stop, you should catch a taxi to get to Haeeunsa Temple. The trip should last about 15 minutes and cost about 6,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. Haeeunsa Temple was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting anything more than the beautiful paintings of King Suro and Queen Heo, but there was so much more to this temple than these two foundational murals. Adding to the overall feel of this temple is the neighbouring Bunsanseong Fortress as well as the highly elaborate stupa at the summit of Mt. Bunseongsan.

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The mountainside trail that leads up to Haeeunsa Temple.

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The outskirts to the temple grounds.

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Yongwang in all his glory.

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Who is joined by Podae-hwasang to the left.

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The slender Iljumun Gate at Haeeunsa Temple.

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The shrine hall that houses the murals of King Suro and Queen Heo.

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A better look at King Suro.

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And his wife, Queen Heo.

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A look towards the main hall at Haeeunsa Temple.

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A look inside the main hall at the temple.

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The altar dedicated to Amita-bul.

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One of the Palsang-do murals adorning the main hall.

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The view from the temple courtyard.

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The trail that leads up to the upper courtyard at the temple.

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The view from the upper courtyard down towards Gimhae.

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The Sanshin-gak shaman shrine hall at Haeeunsa Temple.

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With Sanshin to the left and Chilseong to the right.

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The elaborate stupa at Haeeunsa Temple.