The 8th century Amita-bul rock statue at Seongjuam Hermitage in south-western Gyeongju.
Hello Again Everyone!!
Seongjuam Hermitage is located in south-western Gyeongju near the Yuldong train station. More specifically, the small hermitage is situated on the eastern slopes of Mt. Byeokdosan (437m).
You first approach the hermitage up some very rural roads in Gyeongju and eventually up a mountainside road. Standing in the remote hermitage parking lot, which has the feel that no one’s parked there for decades, you’ll find the head of the trail that leads up to the hermitage to the right of the parking lot retaining wall. Through a bend in the trail to the left and then to the right, you’ll see a sign that is the surest indication that Seongjuam Hermitage is up ahead. The sign describes the history behind what the hermitage is most famous for: the Rock-carved Standing Buddha Triad.
Up the mountain trail for one hundred metres, you’ll finally come to the outskirts of the hermitage. Uniquely, the first thing to greet you to the right is the hermitage’s Sanshin-gak. The diminutive shrine hall has a beautiful signboard that denotes the name of the hall above the entry. Stepping inside the Sanshin-gak, you’ll see that Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) is making a mudra with his left hand, while the psychedelic eyes of his tiger companion stare out at you.
To the left of the Sanshin-gak, and up a set of uneven stone stairs, is the hermitage’s main hall. Both the main hall and the monks’ dorms are one. The L-shaped building houses the monks’ dorms to the far left, while the main hall is to the right. Inside this extremely small main hall are a set of red paintings that illustrate the guardian mural as well as the Sermon on Vulture Peak.
But it’s to the right rear of this L-shaped building that you come across what the hermitage is most famous for: the Rock-carved Standing Buddha Triad. This triad, which also acts as Korea’s Treasure #122, was first created in the 8th century during the Unified Silla Dynasty. The triad looks out towards the west and has a slightly smiling Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre. This image is flanked on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul) to the left. The triad is reminiscent of the images found at Gulbulsa-ji Temple Site in central Gyeongju.
HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yuldong Train Station in Gyeongju, you need to exit the train station to the south. Along the way, follow the signs that read “경주두대리마애석불입상.” These signs are leading you towards the famed Rock-carved Standing Buddha Triad at Seongjuam Hermitage. The trek is about one kilometre long.
OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While the temple buildings at Seongjuam Hermitage are largely disappointing outside of the beautiful painting housed inside the Sanshin-gak, a bit of the luster that is lost from them is regained by standing in front of the amazing 8th century Rock-carved Standing Buddha Triad.
The head of the trail that leads up to Seongjuam Hermitage.
The actual trail that leads towards the hermitage grounds.
The Sanshin-gak at Seongjuam Hermitage.
The unique signboard that is placed above the entry of the Sanshin-gak.
The amazing Sanshin mural housed inside the shaman shrine hall.
A look towards the monks’ dorms and the main hall at the hermitage.
A closer look at the L-shaped building.
The plateau where the 8th century triad is located.
A look at the amazing triad!
A closer look at Amita-bul.
The view from the stone platform out towards the Sanshin-gak.
As well as some of the beautiful flowers that line that side of the hermitage trail.