The beautiful compact courtyard at Seongjoam Hermitage in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.
Hello Again Everyone!!
Seongjoam Hermitage was yet another hermitage I wanted to visit in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam. So adding to a list of a few temples I would be visiting in Gimhae, I made it the third and final one to visit in the day.
Seongjoam Hermitage, which is located on the face of a smaller sized mountain, is rather remote even though it’s near the downtown part of Gimhae. As you make your way up the winding road, and past the collection of burial mounds, you’ll finally arrive at the foot of a long set of uneven stairs. These stairs lead up, and under, a set of beautifully arranged paper lanterns. Having finally climbed up these uneven set of stone stairs, you’ll be greeted by a pair of gorgeous purple Jacaranda tree flowers. So the best time to visit this hermitage is in the springtime.
To the right of these trees, and the first thing to welcome you to the hermitage, is the monks dorms and kitchen. A little further east, and you’ll be greeted to the hermitage by the hermitage’s main hall. This main hall is average in size, but the paintings that adorn the exterior of this main hall are anything but average. There are numerous Daoist figures in the paintings, as well as the Shimu-do paintings, and other highly original paintings like the Big Dipper stars paired with the moon and a fish standing vertically. This painting is at the rear of the main hall. As for the interior of this hall, and sitting on the main hall, is a unique triad. It’s not unique because of the figures that sit on it, like Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre, Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right, and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left; instead, what makes this triad so different is that Jijang-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal are white, while Seokgamoni-bul is gold. The only other painting inside of this main hall is the guardian painting that rests on the right side of the hall.
The other main attraction in the hermitage courtyard is a newer looking sculpture of Yongwang (The Dragon King) etched into the face of the neighbouring mountain face. This beautiful stone sculpture is joined by an altar out in front of it, as well as a smaller wooden statue of Yongwang.
Up the mountain, and down a trail, you’ll encounter the first of two San shin-gaks. You’ll realize, after seeing the first, why they built the second. The older San shin-gak is missing half of its roof on the right side. Also, the walls are peeling both of their paintings that adorn them, as well as the walls themselves. In both cases, the dirt interior of the roof and walls are revealed. The paintings that adorn the three exterior walls are beautiful pastoral paintings, but they have nearly faded into oblivion. As for the interior of the older hall, there is an older looking painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) inside the diminutive older hall.
A bit further up the mountain trail, and across a somewhat treacherous tree rooted path, is the newer San shin-gak. I think this is a first for me. A temple usually tears down the older shrine hall, replacing it with a new one. The newer San shin-gak is brightly adorned with San shin related motifs around the exterior like the tiger that sits on the right side of the shrine hall’s wall. As for the interior of the hall, a typical painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) sits on the left, while a painting of Dokseong (The Recluse) sits on the right. It’s from this shrine hall that you get a nice view of the hermitage’s courtyard and the purple Jacaranda flowers down below.
HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways that you can get to Seongjoam Hermitage from Busan. The first way is from Gupo Sijang (Market). You can board Bus #63 and ride it for 33 stops until it comes to Seongjoam Hermitage. This is the quicker of the two routes. The other way you can get to Seongjoam Hermitage is to take the subway to Deokcheon St., on the second line, and get off there. From this subway station, you can take Bus #8-1. You’ll have to ride the bus for 37 stops and get off at Yaksuteo (Mineral Springs) Stop. From this stop you’ll have to walk 350 metres, or 5 minutes, to the entrance of the hermitage. Complicated, but possible.
OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Definite highlights at this hermitage are the two San shin-gak shrine halls at Seongjoam Hermitage. Even though the one has seen better days, and is being reclaimed by the mountain, it is still something unique to see. Additionally, the paintings around the main hall and the white statues of Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal are two more highlights to this hermitage. And probably the most beautiful aspect to this hermitage are the twin Jacaranda trees that have purple flowers that bloom in the springtime.