Seongjoam Hermitage – 성조암 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)


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.

A look past a collection of burial mounds reveals Gimhae down in the valley below.
The view that welcomes you to Seongjoam Hermitage when you first arrive.
A closer look at the beautiful Jacaranda trees that were in full bloom.
A collection of paintings that adorn the exterior walls of the main hall. The two bottom ones depict the Shimu-do murals, while the one on top depicts a group of monks.
A couple more paintings from the Ox-Herding mural set, with a rather unique painting of the Big Dipper on top of the two other murals around the exterior walls of the main hall.
The unique triad of statues that sit on the altar inside the main hall. In the centre sits a golden Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), while on the right is a white clad Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and an equally white clad Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the left.
A look across the beautiful front facade of the main hall.
The newly sculpted stone sculpture of Yongwang (The Dragon King).
And the wooden Yongwang that sits on the altar in front of the stone sculpture of himself that rests on the neighbouring mountain’s face.
The first, and older, San shin-gak.
A better look at the shrine hall that is being slowly reclaimed by the mountain.
The fading pastoral painting on the rear side of the San shin-gak shrine hall. Still beautiful.
And the older San shin (The Mountain Spirit) painting that is located inside the older San shin-gak shrine hall.
A look down at the temple buildings from the bend in the trail that leads up to the newer San shin-gak shrine hall.
The densely rooted trail that leads up to the new San shin-gak.
The view from the new San shin-gak of the hermitage courtyard and main hall down below.
A good look at the new, and compact, San shin-gak.
A tiger mural that adorns the right exterior wall of the new San shin-gak.
And the pair of murals that reside inside the new San shin-gak. On the left is the mural and statue of San shin (The Mountain Spirit), while on the right is a statue and mural of Dokseong (The Recluse).

4 thoughts on “Seongjoam Hermitage – 성조암 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

  1. Real good post, Dale. Interesting that they left the crumbling old Sanshin-gak there, yes — as if they don’t care to preserve its painting (which isn’t very old itself). Having Sanshin & Dokseong paired in a shrine was a transitional step from separate shrines to the Samseong-gak (adding Chilseong), popular in the 1970s or so…


  2. I thought you would like it Mr. Mason. I had been sitting on it for a couple of weeks because there were a couple of other temples on the list before it. But I knew once I published it that you would enjoy seeing it. As you said, it’s strange that they’ve just let it crumble.

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