Cheongryeonam Hermitage – 청련암 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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Cheongryeonam Hermitage to the east of Namjijangsa Temple in southern Daegu.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Cheongryeonam Hermitage is located east of its affiliated Namjijangsa Temple. Both are located in southern Daegu on the south side of Mt. Choijeongsan (905m). Like Namjijangsa Temple, Cheongryeonam Hermitage was first constructed in 684 A.D. by a monk named Yanggae. Both were constructed on the behest of the Silla king, King Sinmun (r. 681-692). Like Namjijangsa Temple, Cheongryeonam Hermitage was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-1598). Cheongryeonam Hermitage, during the Imjin War, was used as a training centre for warrior monks. The hermitage was rebuilt several times from 1653 to 1714. Once more, the hermitage was destroyed by fire in 1806. The current hermitage structures date back to 1808.

Cheongryeonam Hermitage is situated just 200 metres to the east of Namjijangsa Temple through a beautiful lush forest. Past a hillside full of picnic benches, and along the dirt trail, you’ll finally come to the outskirts of the hermitage grounds.

The first thing to greet you, as you make your way towards the eastside entry gate, is a tall traditional stone fence. Upon entering the squeaky three door gate, you’ll be welcomed by an “L” shaped main hall, which also acts as the monks’ dorms.

To the right of the main hall is a storage shed, which is joined by a biseok statue. As to the left of the main hall, there is the hermitage’s garden from which the monks draw sustenance. It’s also joined by another storage shed.

To the rear of the main hall, and the real highlight to this temple, is the unpainted Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The shaman shrine hall is surrounded on all sides by dense shrubs and hydrangeas. On the front side of the Samseong-gak are four fading paintings of guardians. As you step inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, you’ll be welcomed by a collection of paintings dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). These paintings are joined on the far right wall by an older, yet beautiful, guardian mural. Also, have a look at the low-lying beams inside this shaman shrine hall. In particular, look for the vibrant murals of the blue dragons.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Daegu train station, walk about 15 minutes (930 metres), to get to Chilseong market (where the NH Bank is located) bus stop. Take the bus that reads “Gachang2” on it. After 50 stops, or one hour, get off at the “Urokri” (last stop) and walk about 2.7 km, or 41 minutes, to get to the temple. When at Namjijangsa Temple, head right while travelling through the temple parking lot. Head up a dirt road for about 200 metres until you come to Cheongryeonam Hermitage.

You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Daegu train station. The ride takes about 50 minutes and costs 23,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. Cheongryeonam Hermitage is beautifully located on the southern side of Mt. Choijeongsan. The trail leading up to the hermitage is one of the more beautiful you’ll find in this area. But without a doubt, the real highlight to this temple is the unpainted Samseong-gak; and rather strangely, the tall stone wall that acts as a barrier between the outside world and Cheongryeonam Hermitage is a highlight, as well.

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The dirt road that leads up to the hermitage.

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The beautiful vista along the way.

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The dirt road and forest as you near Cheongryeonam Hermitage.

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The entry gate to the diminutive hermitage.

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The main hall and monks’ living quarters at Cheongryeonam Hermitage.

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The hermitage’s garden and storage shed.

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The path that leads up to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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A look up at the camouflaged Samseong-gak shaman shrine.

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Rather uniquely, the Samseong-gak is unpainted all but for the four guardians at the entries.

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One of the decorative guardians.

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As well as another.

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The Sanshin mural housed inside the Samseong-gak.

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The older guardian mural housed inside the Samseong-gak, as well.

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This blue decorative dragon adorns one of the Samseong-gak’s roof beams.

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And the view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

Namjijangsa Temple – 남지장사 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The view from the Samseong-gak at Namjijangsa Temple in southern Daegu.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Situated south of the Daegu city centre, and south of the towering Mt. Choijeongsan (905m), is Namjijangsa Temple. The name of the temple means “South Bodhisattva of the Afterlife,” which shouldn’t be confused with Bukjijangsa Temple to the north of the Daegu city centre.

Namjijangsa Temple was first established in 684 A.D. by the monk Yanggae. Eventually, Namjijangsa Temple would grow to eight shrine halls, as well as a bell pavilion and the Cheonwangmun Gate. However, in 1592, like much of Korea, the temple was completely destroyed by the Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Afterwards, from 1652 to 1769, the temple underwent an extensive rebuild. Historically, the famed warrior monk Samyeong-daesa used Namjijangsa Temple as the staging site for battles against the Japanese during the Imjin War. The temple functioned as a headquarters for the Yeongnam region. Also, it was home, at one point in his life, to the monk Muhak, who would help advise the Goryeo Dynasty founding king, King Taejo.

You first approach Namjijangsa Temple down some country roads, until you eventually arrive at the temple parking lot. It’s next to a beautiful large water fountain that you’ll climb a set of stone stairs on your way through the temple entry gate. The entry gate, rather uniquely, houses the temple bell. At some temples, the temple bell is housed on the second floor, but not at Namjijangsa Temple. As you pass through the entry gate, you’ll see the bell to your right through wooden slats.

Finally entering the main temple courtyard, you’ll notice the monks’ quarters to your left and the visitors’ centre to your right. Straight ahead rests the Daeung-jeon Hall. In front of the main hall stands a five tier stone pagoda that’s adorned with various trinkets that visitors have left behind as a sign of devotion. Adorning the exterior walls to the main hall is a beautiful set of Palsang-do murals, which depict the eight scenes from the Buddha’s life. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on both sides by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). Rounding out the interior of the main hall is a massive guardian mural hanging on the far right wall.

To the right rear of the main hall is the temple’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Both the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) murals are of a red hue, but it’s the angry tiger tail holding Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that is the main highlight to this shaman shrine hall.

To the left of the main hall sits the newly constructed Geukrak-jeon Hall. As you enter the hall have a look at the amazing dragon doors. At the base of these doors are some amazing Nathwi (Monster Masks). As for the interior, and resting on the packed main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul).

And just left of the Geukrak-jeon Hall, in an open pavilion under a canopy, is a shrine for Yongwang (The Dragon King). The large painting dedicated to Yongwang is joined by a spring.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Daegu train station, walk about 15 minutes (930 metres), to get to Chilseong market (where the NH Bank is located) bus stop. Take the bus that reads “Gachang2” on it. After 50 stops, or one hour, get off at the “Urokri” (last stop) and walk about 2.7 km, or 41 minutes, to get to the temple.

You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Daegu train station. The ride takes about 50 minutes and costs 23,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Without a doubt, the biggest highlight to this temple is the curmudgeonly Sanshin painting in the Samseong-gak. Adding to the temple’s overall appeal is the large guardian mural inside the main hall, the Yongwang mural, as well as the temple’s beautiful location.

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The entry to Namjijangsa Temple.

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The temple bell that’s housed inside the entry gate.

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The slender five-tier pagoda with the Daeung-jeon Hall behind it.

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One of the Palsang-do murals that depicts the Buddha’s life.

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The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall with Seokgamoni-bul front and centre.

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The view from the Daeung-jeon Hall out towards the main temple courtyard.

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The visitors’ centre at Namjijangsa Temple.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at the temple.

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An all-red Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) mural.

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Joined by this angry looking Sanshin inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The beautiful view at Namjijangsa Temple.

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The Geukrak-jeon Hall to the left of the main hall.

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This amazing Nathwi adorns one of the Geukrak-jeon Hall’s doors.

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The main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall with Amita-bul sitting in the centre.

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And to the left of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is this shrine for Yongwang (The Dragon King).

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An up close of the Yongwang mural.

Geumsuam Hermitage – 금수암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The entry to Geumsuam Hermitage on the Tongdosa Temple grounds in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Geumsuam Hermitage, which is located on the north-western portion of the Tongdosa Temple grounds in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, means “Golden Water Hermitage,” in English.  Geumsuam Hermitage is a hermitage meant for the daily worship practices of the Buddhist monks. With that in mind, Geumsuam Hermitage is a place to be on your best behavior.

When you first approach Geumsuam Hermitage up a winding road that twists and turns through the Korean countryside, you’ll finally arrive at a car bridge at the base of the hermitage. There is a newer looking white building as you approach. The road will lead to the right, which circumnavigates around the large garden that supports the monk population at the hermitage.  At the entrance is a cute looking younger dog that can be a bit rabid at times, so try not to pet it (just in case you were thinking of petting it).

As you approach the hermitage, you’ll see a beautiful gate that is usually closed to the public for the purpose of maintaining peace and quiet for the monks. Fortunately, it was open when we visited.  As you pass through the hermitage gate, you’ll see a beautiful metal dragon crest holding the ringed door knob. Decoratively, the gate is adorned with paintings of monster masks. The Korean name for these masks are “nathwi”. “Nat” means face, while “hwi”, in Chinese characters, means multi-coloured. These monster masks are placed on Korean Buddhist structures as guardian spirits. And depending on their gaze, that is the direction they are protecting.

After passing through the gate, you’ll enter into the simple and compact courtyard at the hermitage. There are only two hermitage structures in the courtyard at Geumsuam Hermitage. To the right, is the main hall, and to the left is a meditation pavilion. The highlight of the hermitage is a tranquil Koi pond in front of the meditation pavilion. There are two smaller sized pagodas on either side of the meditation pavilion. There are also numerous atypical statues of Bodhisattvas in the courtyard.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Yangsan; and more specifically, Tongdosa Temple. To get to Tongdosa Temple, you can take an intercity bus from Busan, Eonyang or Ulsan. Specifically from Busan, you can take a bus or subway to Nopo-dong intercity bus terminal. There, you can get a ticket for Tongdosa Temple. It leaves every 20 minutes. Once you arrive in Yangsan, and facing the very small bus terminal, you should walk left and then turn right at the first corner. The temple entrance is past the numerous restaurants and shops. Walk up a 1.5 km path, sprinkled with ancient graffiti, and you will eventually arrive at the outskirts of the temple grounds.  Admission for adults is 3,000 won. From Tongdosa Temple, you’ll have to continue up the main road for another 700 metres until you come to a fork in the road.  Instead of heading straight, turn right and continue heading in that direction for one kilometre.  There are a cluster of hermitages. Follow the signs the rest of the way to Geumsuam Hermitage.

OVERALL RATING:  2.5/10. Because Geumsuam Hermitage really isn’t meant for the public to visit, like Jajangam Hermitage or Biroam Hermitage, there is very little to actually see and enjoy at Geumsuam Hermitage. While there are a couple highlights, like the compact Koi pond, the meditative pavilion, and the atypical Buddhist statues, this hermitage should be saved for all but the greatest of Korean temple adventurers.

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As you first approach the hermitage grounds.

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The fields at Geumsuam Hermitage used by the monks for sustenance.

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As you approach the hermitage entry gate.

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The guard dog that welcomes you to the hermitage.

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The view through the hermitage gate.

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The ornamental door knocker at Geumsuam Hermitage.

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A decorative Nathwi painting that adorns the entry gate at the hermitage.

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The main hall at Geumsuam Hermitage.

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A statue of Yaksayore-bul outside the main hall.

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And the tiger riding Munsu-bosal in statue form.

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A fish designed wind chime that hangs from the main hall.

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The hermitage’s beautiful meditative pavilion.

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Colourful Koi swim in the pond.

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Protective guardians at the entry of the pavilion.

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One of the twelve Zodiac Generals.

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A slender statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.