Bulgwangsa Temple – 불광사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam)

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One of the monks at Bulgwangsa Temple out for a morning walk with the temple’s duck.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Bulgwangsa Temple is located in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. And Bulgwangsa Temple is really nothing more than a visitors’ centre, the monks’ facilities, and the main hall. When you first enter the gravel courtyard, you’ll be greeted by the visitors’ centre to your immediate left. Straight ahead are the monks’ facilities, which includes the monks’ dorms and kitchen

The only real place that a Korean temple adventurer would be interested in is the rather long main hall at Bulgwangsa Temple. To the left of the temple’s main watering hole is a display case with a statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King) inside. He is stoically sitting on a throne with a flaming pearl in his right hand and a root in his left. Backing this watering hole is a larger stone statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). He is joined by a square stone engraving of a triad of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The triad seems to be centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).

Surrounding the exterior of the main hall are some beautiful murals. There are a variety of them like Wonhyo-daesa’s awakening, the Dragon Ship of Wisdom, as well as various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. At the rear of the main hall is a bricked pagoda that is used for ceremonies for the dead as is made evident by the neighbouring Judgment painting along the exterior of the main hall.

I was surprised when I visited the left side of the main hall to see a red beaked duck that all the workers at the temple, as well as the monks, greeted the duck with a revered “hello.” I’m not sure what this means, but since the monks walk and pet the duck, and the workers feed it, it must have some unexplained meaning.

Inside the elongated main hall, which can obviously accommodate a few hundred worshippers, is an equally long main altar. In the centre is a statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Light), and he’s flanked by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) to the left and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Buddha Body) to the right. There is a gorgeously designed statue of the multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the left. In front of this statue is a picture of a white tortoise. This picture ties into both Gwanseeum-bosal and the aquarium next to the monk lectern in front of the main hall. According to Buddhist scripture, Gwanseeum-bosal will return as a white tortoise. And on the far right is a statue of a glass encased Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He is fronted by a beautiful brass statue of the contemplative Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

Finally, the left side wall has a rather large guardian painting that must have over one hundred guardians. Surrounding this mural, much like the right side, are dozens of smaller sized statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas like Jijang-bosal.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Bulgwangsa Temple in one of two ways. First, you can catch a bus to Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal and catch city bus #2000. The bus ride will take you about 40 minutes, and you’ll have to get off at Jujin Village in Soju-dong. Either that, or you can catch city buses # 247 or #301 from the Busan City Bus Terminal in Nopo-dong. You’ll then have to get off at Jangheung. Before ascending the mountain, you’ll see a Buddhist temple to your left. This is Bulgwangsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. This is a temple that should be seen with a more prominent temple. And fortunately for you, Bulgwangsa Temple is perfectly situated at the base of Mt. Cheonseongsan just before you make your way towards either Mitaam Hermitage or Hwaeomsa Temple. Besides filling up on water and taking a rest before the hardy climb, Bulgwangsa Temple has a few highlights like the temple duck, the main altar aquarium, and the multi-armed and faced Gwanseeum-bosal statue.

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The main hall at Bulgwangsa Temple with Mt. Cheonseongsan looming in the background.

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A collection of statues at the temple.

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A statue of Yongwang near the temple’s watering hole.

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The beautiful Wonhyo and Uisang painting that adorns the exterior wall to the main hall.

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The brick pagoda to the rear of the main hall.

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The well-loved duck at the temple.

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The temple’s abbot feeding the red-beaked duck.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar.

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Surprisingly, there’s an aquarium inside the main hall with this albino turtle inside it.

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The guardian mural inside the main hall.

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The triad of statues that rest on the main altar with Birojana-bul in the centre.

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To the left of the main altar is this elaborate statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

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And to the right of the main hall is this statue of Mireuk-bul and Jijang-bosal.

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