Haegwangsa Temple – 해광사 (Gijang, Busan)

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The East Sea Yongwang-dang at Haegwangsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

This is only the second time in over five years that I’ve done this, with the first being Hongjeam Hermitage in Jirisan National Park; but like the first, I don’t think I fully explored this temple. So without further ado, here’s a follow up to Haegwangsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Like its close coastal cousin, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Haegwangsa Temple is one of the rare temples in Korea that’s situated next to the East Sea.

You first approach the temple up a bit of a side street, where an upright brown stone marker reads “해광사.” With the East Sea to your left, you’ll first approach Haegwangsa Temple through a pair of buildings that slightly obscure the temple grounds. It’s through this opening that you’ll notice the Daeung-jeon main hall straight ahead of you. Wrapped around the exterior walls to the temple’s main hall are an eclectic set of murals which include the Ox-Herding mural set, the Palsang-do mural set, a mural dedicated to Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa, as well as the Bodhidharma and several other Buddhist inspired motifs. As for the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall, the first things you’ll notice are the row upon row of tiny jade statuettes of the Buddha. As for the main altar itself, a triad of statues sit upon it. Sitting in the centre is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).

To the left of the main hall and past a ten metre tall white statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) is the temple’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. On the right exterior wall is one of the most beautiful floral paintings you’ll see on any temple shrine hall in Korea. The purple lotus flowers are simply amazing. As for inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, you’ll find a set of shaman murals that includes Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). But it’s the mural to the far left of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) with his eyes wide apart that’s the most intriguing of the set.

To the right of the main hall and past the replica of the Dabo-tap pagoda from Bulguksa Temple is Haegwangsa Temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to this hall are painted with various hellish and redemptive murals. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, is a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Jijang-bosal is joined on both sides by two rows, five statues each, of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

Making your way back towards the temple parking lot and hanging a right, you’ll need to make your way towards the East Sea to enjoy the main highlight at Haegwangsa Temple. A simple one hundred metre stroll will bring you to the crashing blue waves of the sea. And perched on a jagged, black rock outcropping is the temple’s Yongwang-dang. This shaman shrine hall is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Carefully following the somewhat slippery rocky path, you’ll climb a set of stairs and enter the diminutive shrine hall. An orange robed statue of the Dragon King sits squarely on a dragon themed throne. There are numerous pigeons enjoying the seaside air. Also, you can get some great angles of the Yongwang-dang and the East Sea together if you take your time in search of the perfect coastal snapshot.

HOW TO GET THERE:  To get to Haegwangsa Temple, you can simply walk the kilometre from Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Turn right, and then walk straight down the highway you first approached the temple from. You’ll notice a large brown rock with the Korean words for Haegwangsa Temple carved into it. Also, you could simply get a taxi from Haedong Yonggungsa Temple to drive you to the temple. It shouldn’t cost you any more than 3,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. While smaller in size, and not quite as impressive as the neighbouring Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Haegwangsa Temple has a unique charm all of its own. The paintings around all three of the temple shrine halls are beautiful; but without doubt, the most impressive feature to the temple is the seaside Yongwang-dang with waves crashing up against it. The location of the Yongwang-dang is a one-off in all of the temple’s I’ve visited throughout the Korean peninsula.

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The front entrance as you first approach the temple grounds at Haegwangsa Temple.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall with the towering statue of Mireuk-bul next to it.

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A better look at the all-white Mireuk-bul.

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The purplish-blue lotus flowers painted on the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak Hall.

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Inside the Samseong-gak with Chilseong to the left and Sanshin to the right.

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The sad eyes of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

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The Myeongbu-jeon Hall at Haegwangsa Temple with the Dabo-tap replica out in front of it.

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Inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall with Jijang-bosal front and centre.

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One of the underworld paintings that adorns the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

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An early morning sunrise at Haegwangsa Temple.

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A better look at the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Wonhyo and Uisang mural on the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A temple stupa on the way towards the Yongwang-dang.

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The first amazing glimpse of the seaside Yongwang-dang.

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The coastal waters that flow in and around the shaman shrine hall.

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A better look at the crowning Yongwang-dang.

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An even closer look at the one-off shaman shrine hall.

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The main altar inside the Yongwang-dang with the Dragon King front and centre.

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One final look at this truly amazing place.

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