Hongjeam Hermitage – 홍제암 (Nearby Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The stele dedicated to the famous monk Samyeong at Hongjeam Hermitage near Haeinsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

After visiting the neighbouring Haeinsa Temple, and knowing a bit about the hermitage’s history, we decided to visit Hongjeam Hermitage. And with the added bonus of knowing that Hongjeam Hermitage is the closest hermitage to Haeinsa Temple, it was a bit of a no brainer.

Hongjeam Hermitage (홍제암) was first built in 1608 for High Priest Samyeong by King Seonje. The King did this in appreciation for the Buddhist priest’s contribution in defending the country from the Japanese during the Imjin Invasion of 1592 by raising a Buddhist monks army. The famous priest would spend the remaining years of his life at Hongjeam Hermitage. And when he died a stupa and stele were made in 1610. The biography of the great priest is written on his stele, and the adjacent hillside stupa contains the sarira (remains) of Samyeong. Stupidly, the stele was damaged by the Japanese police chief in Hapcheon during Japanese colonial rule in 1943. Fortunately, it was repaired in 1958.

Inside the main hall are portraits of High Priest Samyeong, as well as Seosan and Yongkyu, who helped aid in the defence of Korea against the Japanese. The hermitage has been rebuilt seven times throughout the years; the most recent being 1979, when the hermitage was completely dismantled under the patronage of then president, Bak Chung Hee.

When you first approach the hermitage from Haeinsa, you’ll come across the area of the hermitage that houses a row of nine stupas and steles  with the turtle based stele in the centre that belongs to Sa-myeong’s. You’ll easily be able to recognize it because the body of the stele has been broken at the centre into four pieces. Amazingly, it was able to be repaired. To the right of this courtyard, and up a set of stairs, is another hillside courtyard that houses the remains of Samyeong inside the larger sized stupa. This hillside cemetery (budowon) overlooks Haeinsa Temple.

Adjacent to the cemetery that holds Samyeong’s stele, as well as many others, is the main courtyard to Hongjeam Hermitage. The main entrance to the hermitage has a beautiful gate. There are beautiful paintings adorning the flanking sides of the entrance. As you step inside the courtyard, you’ll instantly be greeted by row upon row of monk dorms. To say that this hermitage is active is an understatement. I was unable to enter any further into the hermitage because it was so busy when I visited, but the main hall is to the far left.

Admission to the hermitage is free as long as you pay your 3,000 won entrance fee to get into Gaya-san National Park.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Hongjeam Hermitage, you’ll first have to get to Haeinsa Temple. And to get to Haeinsa Temple from Busan, you’ll first have to get to Seobu Bus Terminal. The easiest way to get to Seobu is from Sasang subway stop, which is #227 on the second line. Once you get to the Hapcheon Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll have to get on another bus for Haeinsa Temple, which is about 4,000 Won. From where the bus lets you off, you’ll have to find the trail that leads up to Haeinsa Temple for about a kilometre, which starts to the left of temple museum. From the Iljumun Gate, which is the first gate at Haeinsa Temple, you’ll have to continue left as you face this gate. Head towards the parking lots on your left and cross the narrow stone bridge where you’ll catch your first glimpse of the monk cemetery at Hongjeam Hermitage. In total, it’s about 300 metres from the Iljumun Gate at Haeinsa Temple to get to Hongjeam Hermitage.

View 홍제암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. This hermitage doesn’t have the most for a visitor to see. The reason may be that it’s probably not meant for visitors, but that it’s more for the daily life of a Buddhist monk. With that being said, Hongjeam Hermitage has a lot of historical value with it being the final resting place of one of Korea’s most famous monks: Samyeong. Additionally, the entrance gate to the hermitage, as well as the beautiful views of Haeinsa from the hillside cemetery are another highlight to this small hermitage. So if you want a little Korean Buddhist history lesson, be sure to visit Hongjeam Hermitage.

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The Iljumun Gate at Haeinsa Temple that you’ll have to pass by to get to Hongjeam Hermitage.
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The road that leads into the historical hermitage.
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A view of the icy ravine as you cross over the bridge.
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A hiking trail and stele just east of Hongjeam Hermitage.
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The cemetery (budowon) at Hongjeam Hermitage that is just to the right of the hermitage. In the centre, you can see the stele dedicated to the famous monk: Sa-myeong-daesa.
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A better look at the row of stupas and steles.
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A view of the cemetery (budowon) on the hill that houses Sa-myeong’s stupa as it looks out on to Haeinsa Temple and Gaya-san Mountain.
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The main entrance gate to Hongjeam Hermitage.
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The intricate and original design that adorns the main entrance gate.
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And a look out upon some of the hermitage buildings at Hongjeam Hermitage.

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