Colonial Korea: Geojoam Hermitage – 거조암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The hermitage grounds at Geojoam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do in 1933.

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Geojoam Hermitage, which is located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Palgongsan in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do, is directly associated with the much larger Eunhaesa Temple. While the exact date of Geojoam Hermitage isn’t exactly known, it’s believed that Geojoam Hermitage predates Eunhaesa Temple, which was first founded in 809 A.D. by the monk Hycheol. Some think that Geojoam Hermitage was first founded in 738 A.D. by the monk Woncham. Others believe that the temple might have first been constructed during the reign of the Silla king, King Gyeongdeok (r. 742-765). Originally, the hermitage was known as Haeansa Temple.

Throughout the years, Geojoam Hermitage has been destroyed numerous times by fire. And in recent years, the hermitage has fallen under the administrative lead of the neighbouring Eunhaesa Temple.

Geojoam Hermitage’s greatest claim to fame, and in fact one of only two temple shrine halls at the hermitage, is the Yeongsan-jeon Hall, or the “Vulture Peak Hall,” in English. According to records found during one of the shrine halls reconstructions, the Yeongsan-jeon Hall dates back to 1375. This makes it one of the oldest wooden structures behind Sudeoksa Temple’s Daeung-jeon Hall, which dates back to 1308; but older than the Muryangsu-jeon main hall at Buseoksa Temple, which dates back to 1376. Inside the Yeongsan-jeon Hall are 526 stone statues of the Nahan.

The Yeongsan-jeon Hall at Geojoam Hermitage is Korea’s National Treasure #14. With only a handful of mid-Goryeo Dynasty buildings still in existence in Korea, it’s no wonder that the main hall at Geojoam Hermitage is a national treasure.

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The 14th century Yeongsan-jeon main hall at Geojoam Hermitage. The picture dates back to 1933.

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The front facade to one of the oldest wooden structures in Korea: The Yeongsan-jeon Hall.

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A closer look at the 1375 structure.

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As well as the simplistic Goryeo architecture on display at Geojoam Hermitage.

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Inside the amazing main hall at Geojoam Hermitage.

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The main altar and some of the Nahan statues on display inside the Yeongsan-jeon Hall. This picture, also, dates back to 1933.

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A more modern look at the Yeongsan-jeon main hall. This picture dates back to 2011.

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The front view towards the 1375 building.

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The Goryeo architecture, which is rarely on display in Korea, is in sharp contrast to the Joseon Dynasty designs.

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A look up at the wooden eaves of the main hall.

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Inside the Yeongsan-jeon Hall with a look around its interior at some of the stone Nahan statues.

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One more expansive look from 2011 inside Korean National Treasure #14.

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