Geumgangam Hermitage – 금강암 (Busan)

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The cascading water that pools beside the trail that leads up to Geumgangam Hermitage near Beomeosa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Geumgangam Hermitage was the last hermitage I needed to see to have seen all the hermitages associated with Beomeosa Temple. And even though I hadn’t saved the best for last, that going to either Chungryunam Hermitage or Mireukam Hermitage, it certainly was one of the better hermitages. So waking up early, on what started off as a clear day, I made my way over to Beomeosa Temple.

Geumgangam Hermitage (Diamond Mountain Hermitage, in English) is named after the mountain that Beomeosa Temple, and this hermitage, reside on: Geumgangsan Mountain. Like Anyangam Hermitage and Daeseongam Hermitage, Geumgangam Hermitage is the closest group of hermitages to Beomeosa Temple. The only difference is that you can actually visit Geumgangam Hermitage, while the other two are strictly off-limits to visitors as they are study centres for Buddhist monks.

Trekking to the upper left side of the Beomeosa Temple grounds, you’ll come to an opening where there are a littering of large rocks. This area is called Dolbada, or “Sea of Rocks” in English. Continuing to head south-west, you’ll come to two wooden bridges; instead of going over them, in the direction of Wonhyoam Hermitage, hang a right at the white sign with black print that reads –금정암. The hermitage is a further 300 metres up a stairway of rocks that is situated beside a beautiful cascade of mini-waterfalls. You can take some really beautiful pictures from this area of the temple grounds. Walking up the uneven stairs, you’ll then see a sign with the temples name, as well as a bridge that spans that length of the cascading water. By now you should be able to see the Iljumun Gate for the hermitage. The gate is uniquely designed with a Korean name tablet written in Korean that reads the name of the temple: 금정암. Like Okryeonam Hermitage near Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, this feature is highly unique for a Korean temple or hermitage because these signs are almost always written in Chinese characters.

Passing through the uniquely designed and labeled Iljumun Gate, you’ll enter into a beautiful situated hermitage that has lush green grass for a courtyard. Straight ahead is the beautiful main gate that is flanked to the left by an administrative office, kitchen, and to the right by a study hall. Behind this study hall is a gate and monk quarters that is off-limits to visitors. However, there is a stunning lotus flower design on the front of the gate’s doors. The main hall itself is beautiful both on the inside and out. The outside of the main hall has the common pairing of the Palsang-do paintings (The Eight Stages of the Buddha’s Life) on top, with the Ox-herding murals on the bottom. The Palsang-do paintings have seem to have done better with the aging process than have the Ox-herding murals. Even though some of the Palsang-do paintings on the right side of the hall are fading, they are still visible enough to see the animated illustrations. The Ox-herding murals are mostly flaking in their circular framed renderings; however, there are still a few that are visible to see. Inside the main hall sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre of the triad. On either side of him sits, what appears to be Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). Behind this triad is a beautiful wood carving with the Buddha in the centre. To the right of the main altar is another stunning wood carving of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the left of the triad is yet another wood carving, this time, it’s a guardian painting with Dongjin-bosal  (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings) in the centre. On the far left wall is a painting that depicts a white clad Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

Around this main hall are some unique structures. Immediately to the right of the main hall is a somewhat non-descript pagoda with a beautiful incense dragon holder out in front of the pagoda. Above this pagoda is the Samseong-gak, which houses the three shaman gods. The outside of this hall is painted with various renderings of the three shaman gods. Inside, this hall is quite unique. The centre altar piece is a golden sculpture of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left is a painted wooden carving of San shin (The Mountain Spirit). Adjacent to this wooden statue is a beautiful rendering of San shin. To the right of Chilseong is another painted wooden sculpture, but this time it’s Dokseong (The Recluse). Once more, there’s a depiction of this god on the right side wall of this hall.

To the left of the main hall is a small bell pavilion. The bell inside is equally compact, but just as beautiful as a larger sized temple bell. Now, this is where the hermitage gets a bit interesting. Up the hill is an entrance way into a cave that’s called Yaksa-jeon (The Medicine Hall). Inside this cave is a statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine) pouring the mountain water from his bottle. Surrounding him are tiny white Buddha statues. Further up the hill, and only accessible by way of a Samseong-gak trail, is the Nahan-jeon. As the name of the hall states, in Korean, this hall is dedicated to the Nahan, which were the disciples of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The exterior of the hall is painted with various Nahan performing various tasks such as studying or teaching. Inside the hall, again, is a highly unique religious structure. The main altar is adorned with a smaller sized Seokgamoni-bul statue. And flanking him are Bohyun-bosal and Moonsu-bosal once more. Behind this triad is another stunning golden sculpture. Flanking this triad, in a row, are the fifteen Nahan. Behind these two sets of rows are two more painted wooden scultptures; however, this time, they depict Nahan. On opposing walls are two paintings that again depict the Nahan. Interestingly, there is one Nahan statue with his hands on his head. Look for it because it’s rather unique and cute.

HOW TO GET THERE: Like all the other hermitages at Beomeosa Temple, you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of Beomeosa Temple.  You can take a path that leads left of the Iljumun Gate. This trail will lead you to an opening with a wooden bridge that spans a stream. This area is the start of the Dolbada (The Sea of Rocks). Hang a left but don’t cross the bridge; instead, head up the stone staircase beside the cascading water for 300 metres. You’ll pass by Daeseongam Hermitage to your right.  The first thing to greet you will be a sign that reads –금정암. This sign is situated on a bridge that spans the length of the rolling rocks and water. Head up the path another 50 metres and you’ll see the Iljumun Gate for Geumgangam Hermitage.

View 금강암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Like Gyemyeongam Hermitage, there are some beautiful views of the neighbouring mountainsides and valleys below. The only difference between the two is that Geumgangam Hermitage has some beautiful halls. Whether it’s the unique decorated interiors of the Nahan-jeon, Samseong-gak, or the Yaksa-jeon Hall that is built inside a cave, the hermitage is beautifully built. Added to that is the elaborately designed and decorated interior and exterior, as well as the Korean writing that adorns all of the wooden structures at the hermitage.  That’s why this hermitage is one of the better hermitages to visit at Beomeosa Temple in Busan!

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Finally, a bit of beautiful blue sky over Geumjeongsan Mountain.
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Part of the Dolbada, Sea of Rocks, and the stone stairs that lead you up to Geumgangam Hermitage.
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And the still waters that cascade beside the stone stairs.
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The sign that directs you, and the bridge that helps you, towards Geumgangam Hermitage.Picture 010The first sign that you’ve arrived at the hermitage: Iljumun Gate.
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The main hall at the hermitage: Daejabe-jeon.
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A better look at the front door of the main hall and the Korean written name tablet.
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A view of the right side of the courtyard at Geumgangam Hermitage.
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To the left of the main hall is the off-limits monk quarters. The front gate to these quarters is painted a unique design.
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A better look at the lotus flower design that adorns the gate at the monk’s quarters.
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The main pieces inside the main hall: Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) is in the centre and on either side of him is what looks to be Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).
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One of the Palsang-do murals of the Buddha’s life. This one is about Mara trying to tempt the Buddha.
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One of the more uniquely designed Nathwi. Notice the eyes staring to the right.
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The Samseong-gak Hall, which is dedicated to the three shaman gods.
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This unique, but fading, eagle painting adorns the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak Hall.
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This is what the interior of the Samseong-gak Hall looks like. To the right (but the central figure on the altar) is Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left is a painted wooden sculpture of San shin (The Mountain god) with a painting of this Shaman god on the left wall.
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On the right side of the altar is this painted wood carving of Dokseong (The Recluse). And on the far right wall is a painting of this Shaman god.
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A look at the diminutive bell pavilion to the right of the main hall at Geumgangam Hermitage.
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Behind the main hall is this opening to a cave and the Nahan-jeon Hall above it.
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Inside the cave is the central figure of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) with tiny white Buddha statues surrounding him. Mountain water is pouring out from his bottle.
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This painting adorns the exterior of the Nahan-jeon Hall, which is dedicated to the disciples of the Historical Buddha.
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Another beautiful altar inside the Nahan-jeon Hall. The golden central sculpture is of Buddha. The painted wooden sculptures on either side of it are of depictions of various Nahan. In front of these three religious art pieces is Seokgamoni-bul being flanked by 15 Nahan figures.
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One of the uniquely designed wooden Nahan sculptures inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.
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And the view from the Nahan-jeon Hall out above the main hall and Gyemyeongam Hermitage on Mt. Geumjeongsan.

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