Myeongjeokam Hermitage – 명적암 (Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The view from the main hall at Myeongjeokam Hermitage near Jikjisa Temple in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Myeongjeokam Hermitage is directly associated with the famed Jikjisa Temple in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. In fact, the hermitage is situated just west of the famed Jikjisa Temple by about 400 metres.

To get to Myeongjeokam Hermitage, you’ll follow one of several hermitage roads until it breaks off. Finally, you’ll find a path that is shaded by rows of mature trees. And eventually, a crowning two story pavilion will appear. This is the first indication that you’re nearing the hermitage.

Up a set of a few dozen stairs, and under the pavilion that also acts as the hermitage’s entry gate, you’ll finally find yourself squarely in the centre of Myeongjeokam Hermitage’s main courtyard. Straight ahead is a squat three tier stone pagoda. It almost looks as though someone took a giant hand and pressed down on the top of it. Out in front of this pagoda is a Bodhisattva, reminiscent of the one at Woljeongsa Temple, that is praying to the pagoda with a flower in hand. And rounding out this set, on the west end, are two additional stone lanterns.

The only building that a visitor can explore at Myeongjeokam Hermitage is the main hall, which lies just beyond the beautiful stone Bodhisattva. Entering the rather long main hall, you’ll notice a main altar that’s comprised of five statues. In the centre sits Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy).

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Myeongjeokam Hermitage, you’ll first need to get to Jikjisa Temple. And to get to Jikjisa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Gimcheon train station. When you arrive at the Gimcheon train station, you can catch local buses #11, #111, or #112 from the intercity bus terminal that is right next to the train station parking lot. The bus ride is 1,300 won and lasts about 10 to 20 minutes. You can also take a taxi from just out in front of the train station, as well. If you’re travelling in a group, this may be an easier way to go, as the ride costs about 7,000 to 10,000 won. The bus will drop you off at the bus stop which is a nice 15 minute walk to Jikjisa Temple. From Jikjisa Temple, you’ll need to continue west. The hermitage signs along the way should do the rest.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. Myeongjeokam Hermitage has a beautiful view of the valley down below where Jikjisa Temple is situated. Also, the stone Bodhisattva that prays next to the stout pagoda is another highlight to this little hermitage west of the famed Jikjisa Temple.

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The long walk up towards the hermitage grounds.

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The two story pavilion that welcomes you to Myeongjeokam Hermitage.

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The pavilion also acts as an entry gate.

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The view from the hermitage’s pavilion.

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The compact pagoda with a stone Bodhisattva praying out in front of it.

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A closer look at the flower holding Bodhisattva.

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One last look at the pagoda with the pavilion in the background.

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Myeongjeokam Hermitage’s courtyard.

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The main hall at Myeongjeokam Hermitage.

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The entry to the hermitage’s main hall.

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The main altar inside the main hall.

Gulamsa Temple – 굴암사 (Eonyang, Ulsan)

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The view out onto Eonyang in Ulsan from Gulamsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On the southern side of Mt. Neungsan lies the unique Gulamsa Temple in northern Eonyang-eup, Ulsan. In fact, as you make your way towards the temple, and around Mt. Neungsan, you’ll notice that the mountain has been damaged by fire in its recent past. But it’s also from the same heights that you get beautiful views of Eonyang down below.

After summiting the mountain, and making a partial decent down the south side of the mountain, you’ll first notice the modern looking visitors centre at Gulamsa Temple. It’s just past this that you round the corner and get some more amazing views of the city down below from the observation deck at Gulamsa Temple.

But it’s to your back that you’ll find the entry to the highly unique main hall at Gulamsa Temple. Up a set of stairs and past some beautifully manicured shrubs, you’ll notice the entrance to the main hall, which also just so happens to be housed inside a cave. This mid-sized cave houses a solitary granite statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) on the main altar. Book-ending the main altar statue of Seokgamoni-bul are two stunning jade pagodas that stand about four feet in height. To the right of the main altar are two more stone statues. The first, on the left, is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And she’s joined to the right by Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

Outside the cave shrine hall, and to the far left, is a stone relief of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), carved into the face of the mountain. And littered throughout the cracks and crevices of the mountain are various statuettes of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas left behind by temple devotees.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Gulamsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Eonyang Intercity Bus Terminal. From here, you’ll need to take a taxi to the temple. The taxi ride will cost around 5,000 won and take 15 minutes. From where the taxi drops you off, you’ll need to walk an additional 300 metres to Gulamsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. This is another hard temple to rate. While Gulamsa Temple has one of the more unique main halls, as well as some pretty amazing views, the temple only consists of a cave shrine hall.

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The view from the scenic mountain.

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Part of the fire scorched mountain where Gulamsa Temple is located.

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The trail that leads towards the temple.

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A look down upon Eonyang and Gulamsa Temple.

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The entry to the cave that houses most of what Gulamsa Temple has to offer.

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An inscription on the mountain’s rock face.

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Some of the icons left behind by devotees.

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To the left of the cave entry is this beautiful stone carving.

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The entry to the cave main hall at Gulamsa Temple.

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A look inside the cave shrine hall with a stone statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) front and centre.

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To the right of the main hall are these statues of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit)

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One last look down at Eonyang from Gulamsa Temple.

Yangdeoksa Temple – 양덕사 (Eonyang, Ulsan)

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A look inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall at Yangdeoksa Temple in Eonyang, Ulsan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yangdeoksa Temple is located next to the turn off from Highway 1 that heads towards Ulsan along Highway 16. This newer temple that belongs to the smaller Cheontae Order lies just east of Eonyang-eup in Ulsan.

After making your way through a few highway underpasses and next to several rice fields, you’ll finally stumble across Yangdeoksa Temple next to a part of the Eonyang River. The first building to greet you is the two storied main hall. On the first floor rests the temple’s visitors’ centre and kitchen. It’s up a flight of stairs to the left that you’ll see the signs pointing you towards the second story Beopdang (or main hall). Wrapped around the exterior walls to this hall are various Buddhist motif murals. But it’s stepping inside this hall that you get to be greeted by a rare occurrence. Resting on the main altar is a fiery framed picture of Sangwol Wongak (the founder of the re-established Cheontae Order). Outside of having Buddhas or Bodhisattva on the main altar, excluding Tongdosa Temple with the window that looks out onto a stone lotus bud that actually houses the partial remains of the Historical Buddha, I’ve never seen this before. To the right of this main altar picture is a guardian mural, as well as a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the left of the main altar picture is the scepter symbol, in painted form, that embodies Cheontae Buddhism in Korea.

Stepping outside the main hall, and making your way to the left of the two storied main hall, you’ll notice ceramic pots. Inside these pots are soy bean products that the temple sells. But it’s to the left of the main hall, and the newly constructed Gwaneum-jeon Hall that’ll draw your attention. Housed inside this pagoda like shrine hall is a regally adorned statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). She’s joined to the left by a statue of Sangwol Wongak, once more. The entire interior to this hall is lined with murals of the 33 incarnations of Gwanseeum-bosal, and they’re really quite striking.

HOW TO GET THERE:

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Yangdeoksa Temple has a couple of really unique features that largely centre around Sangwol Wongak, the founder of the re-established Cheontae Order. I’ve never seen a picture of a non-Buddha or Bodhisattva on the main altar of a main hall. And yet, Yangdeoksa Temple has just that. Added to this uniqueness is the beautiful new Gwaneum-jeon Hall at Yangdeoksa Temple.

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A look up at the main hall at Yangdeoksa Temple.

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A few rice pots in preparation for Buddha’s birthday.

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The stairs that lead up to the Beopdang main hall.

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Some of the beautiful lanterns at this Cheontae Order Buddhist temple.

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A look towards the newly constructed Gwaneum-jeon Hall from the temple’s main hall.

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Some of the soy pots at Yangdeoksa Temple.

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Inside the very unique Beopdang main hall.

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The main altar inside the Beopdang with a picture of the revered Sangwol Wongak front and centre.

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The large guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

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It’s joined by an equally large mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

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The painting to the left of the main altar that lets you know that the temple is part of the Cheontae Order.

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Lining the interior of the main hall were some murals, like this one, of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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The view from the rear of the main hall towards the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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One of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall’s murals that adorns the exterior walls with Munsu-bosal making a presence in the top right.

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The view as you make your way towards the Gwaneum-jeon from the main hall.

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Under a canopy of paper lanterns in preparation for Buddha’s birthday.

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A look up towards the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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A grassy dongja with some dangling paper lanterns above him.

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A look inside the Gwaneum-jeon with Gwanseeum-bosal sitting in the centre of the main altar. He’s joined by Sangwol Wongak to the left.

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The tall guardian mural inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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As well as another mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

Seongbulsa Temple – 성불사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The Baenaegol Valley where Seongbulsa Temple is located in northern Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seongbulsa Temple is located at the base of Mt. Hyangrosan, and next to the flowing Lake Miryang. It’s beautifully situated in the very scenic Baenaegol Valley. Seongbulsa Temple is on the very outskirts of the Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do city limits. Just to the north and west lie the cities of Ulsan and Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

In an elbow of the lake, and past a few pensions, you’ll make your way towards Seongbulsa Temple up a country road. The first thing to greet you is an elevated golden statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). In front of this elevated statue are three smaller stone statues of the Buddha enacting the hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil motif, as well as a stone statue of Podae-hwasang.

To the left of this elevated statue is the Gwaneum-jeon. Housed inside a cave, the Gwaneum-jeon Hall houses a maroon clothed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the main altar. She’s joined to the left by a statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King). Painted on the rock face to the right is a mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal and Yongwang. And to the left of the main altar are rows of jade-like statues of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

To the right of the golden statue of Mireuk-bul, and under the temple’s Iljumun Gate, is a set of cement stairs. These stairs lead up towards the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Seongbulsa Temple. The entrance to the left reveals rows of bronzed coloured Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on the exterior walls. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll be welcomed by a rather spacious interior for devotees. Resting on the main altar is a uniquely clothed statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) sitting in the centre of a triad of statues. He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the left of this main altar is a darkened mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), as well as a guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

Stepping outside the Geukrakbo-jeon and past the graffiti written on the walls of the main temple courtyard (yes, a first), you’ll notice a tall stone statue dedicated once more to Gwanseeum-bosal. Somewhat camouflaged by the neighbouring folds of the mountain, Gwanseeum-bosal is cradling a baby in her hands.

It’s to the left of this statue that you’ll find the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are three rather plain murals dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

And it’s to the left of this shaman shrine hall, and up an overgrown forested pathway, that you’ll find a mountainside shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). If not for the blue sign pointing me in this direction, I would have missed the emaciated statue of the Buddha.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a taxi out to Seongbulsa Temple because there is no public transportation out to this remote area. The taxi ride should last 40 minutes and cost 22,000 won one way.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Seongbulsa Temple is a bit of a tough one to rate. While it’s beautifully situated next to Lake Miryang in Baenaegol Valley, the temple itself almost seems abandoned. In fact, I thought it might have been abandoned all but for the monk that greeted me as I was leaving. As for the temple itself, the Gwaneum-jeon cave hall, as well as the beautiful granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal to the rear of the temple grounds are a couple highlights at Seongbulsa Temple.

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The entry to Seongbulsa Temple.

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A stone statue of Podae-hwasang in the foreground with Mireuk-bul in the background.

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A closer look at Podae-hwasang.

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And a closer look at the golden Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

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The view that Mireuk-bul gets to enjoy.

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The Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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A painting of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the side of the main hall.

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The main altar inside the Geukrakbo-jeon

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The view of the valley from the temple’s main hall.

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The granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal with the Geukrakbo-jeon Hall.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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The painting of Dokseong that adorns the exterior wall to the Samseong-gak.

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A look inside at Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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Who is joined by this close-up of Dokseong.

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A shrine to the left rear of the Samseong-gak.

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The shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul that’s up an overgrown pathway.

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The Gwaneum-jeon cave hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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A look inside reveals a haunting atmosphere.

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The main altar inside the Gwaneum-jeon cave hall.

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One more amazing view of the Baenaegol Valley where Seongbulsa Temple is located.

Daewonam Hermitage – 대원암 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The view from Daewonam Hermitage near Pyochungsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Daewonam Hermitage is located to the west of the famed Pyochungsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do. When you first approach the compact courtyard to Daewonam Hermitage, you’ll notice a uniquely designed entrance gate. There are two fading murals of a dragon to the left on the exterior walls of the gate. The interior has some fiercely painted guardians on either side of the gate as you first enter it. And as you pass into the courtyard, you’ll notice, what seems to be, two of the ten Ox-Herding murals.

Having passed through the uniquely illustrated gate, you’ll notice the kitchen complex to the left and the nuns’ dorms to the right. Strangely, the main hall appears more like a dorm than it does like a main hall. Stepping up onto the hallway that rests just outside the entrance of the main hall, you’ll be able to see the older-looking guardian painting tucked away in the corner on the far left. I slid the doors open nervously, not knowing if I was opening a nuns’ dorm or the main hall. Fortunately, I was opening the door to the main hall. Resting on the walls next to the main altar are a pair of stars: one pink and one gold. This is combined with a ceiling full of pink paper lotus flowers.  And sitting on the main altar is a centralized Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s flanked by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right. Other than this, there’s an altar on the far right wall for the deceased and nothing else inside the main hall.

Passing by the kitchen to your left, on the way up to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine, you’ll notice a door opening to your right. This opening is attached to the main hall, and looks to be a storage area. Resting on the wall, above a make-shift altar, is a painting of Jowang (The Fireplace King Spirit).

Continuing, you’ll walk up an uneven set of stone stairs on your way towards the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The paintings of the three shaman deities inside this hall are beautiful. Both the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), as well as the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) paintings are newer looking, while the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting in the centre is definitely older in appearance. The exterior of this hall is painted with murals that are related to these three shaman deities.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Pyochungsa Temple, take an intercity bus to the Miryang bus terminal.  From there, you can catch a bus to Pyochungsa Temple which runs from 7:35 a.m. to 8:20 p.m. every 40 minutes.  The ride will take you between 40 to 50 minutes. Instead of heading straight towards the Iljumun Gate, head right at a road that heads towards the hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. This hermitage will certainly not blow you away with its splendour. With that being said, there are a few highlights to Daewonam Hermitage. One highlight is the fierce looking guardians inside the entrance gate. Another is the decorative main hall and the Jowang mural in the adjacent storage area. Finally, the older looking Chilseong painting inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is another highlight that shouldn’t be overlooked at this hermitage. In combination with Pyochungsa Temple, it can make for a nice little outing in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam.

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The gate that welcomes you to Daewonam Hermitage.

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A dragon mural that adorns the outer walls of the entry gate.

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A look through the entry gate towards the main hall at the hermitage.

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One of the guardian murals that adorns the entry gate.

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As well as another guardian mural.

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One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the inner portion of the entry gate.

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The diminutive main hall at Daewonam Hermitage.

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The view of the neighbouring mountains from the main hall.

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The guardian mural that hangs just outside the main hall entrance.

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The colourful main hall interior.

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The extremely rare kitchen guardian, Jowang, at Daewonam Hermitage.

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The fierce tiger that adorns the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The older and elaborate Chilseong mural inside the shaman shrine hall.

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As well as the accompanying Dokseong mural.