The changing leaves and the unique pagodas line the path that lead to the Samseong-gak shrine hall at Yongjusa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.
Hello Again Everyone!!
I’ve been to most of the well known temples here in Yangsan, so I thought I would try out one of the lesser known ones. And like most of the temples and hermitages in Yangsan, I wasn’t disappointed.
When you first approach the temple from the unpaved parking lot, you’ll be welcomed by a cement wall with murals on them as well as stone statues. As you continue walking up the path, you’ll realize that these three dozen statues represent the Nahan (The disciples of the Buddha) as they sit on the cement wall in various poses. In front of them, and on the embankment, are statues of the twelve zodiac animals as well as three stupas dedicated to deceased monks from the temple. All this stone sculpting is beautifully done, especially the Nahan, so take your time and look at all the angelic and twisted faces.
To the far right is the monks’ dorm, which looks more like an old 1930’s North American house than it does a monks’ dorm. Straight ahead is the beautiful bell pavilion that also acts as a Cheonwangmun Gate for the Four Heavenly Kings. These kings are painted on either side of the walls as you pass under the bell pavilion. There is also a cute looking wooden Podae-hwasang statue that stands on the left side of the entrance-way into the Cheonwangmun Gate.
Entering into the main courtyard at the temple, you’ll immediately realize that this temple is a little different than others. At this temple, there are hundreds of uniquely designed stone pagodas on the right embankment. Continuing up this embankment, you’ll see an enclave area with a golden statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) backed by five of the uniquely designed stone pagodas. Further up the path, and next to the trees that are changing all different colours in the autumn air, is the Samseong-gak shrine hall dedicated to the three most popular shaman gods: Chilseong (The Seven Stars), San shin (The Mountain god), and Dokseong (The Recluse). All three have beautiful paintings dedicated to them inside the hall.
But back at the bell pavilion, as you first enter into the courtyard, you’ll see a beautiful main hall that’s surrounded by the autumn colours. The main hall is also surrounded by the Palsang-do paintings about the Buddha’s life. These paintings are larger in size and well executed. Inside the main hall sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) with Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Strength) on either side of him. The most interesting thing inside the main hall is the stone sculpture of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the far left. What is most unique about this Gwanseeum-bosal is the multi-armed white mural that sits behind the seated Gwanseeum-bosal. Have a look because it’s amazing!
Behind the main hall is a highly unique structure that acts as a building for both Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). On the bottom is the Myeongbu-jeon hall that houses Jijang-bosal. He is joined by a wall of a hundred smaller statues of himself on the right wall. The ceiling of this building is beautifully painted with different Bodhisattvas, Biseon, and animals. Surrounding this bottom portion of the hall are some of the most amazingly rendered punishments of hell in all of Korea (only second to Songnimsa Temple in Daegu). The top tier of this structure is taken up by Amita-bul. Inside, much like the Myeongbu-jeon hall, Amita-bul is sitting on the main altar of a triad, and he’s surrounded by hundreds of smaller statues of himself. The exterior of this hall is painted with murals of a mother rearing her child from birth to when he returns home when she’s old and gray.
Uniquely, this Yongjusa Temple has a shrine hall dedicated solely to Yongwang, the Dragon King. To the right of this hall is a coy pond that was covered in beautiful yellow leaves that had fallen to the ground. Inside the hall is a stone seated statue of Yongwang with two dragons overhead. The exterior of the hall has an amazing mural of Yongwang on the right side and Gwanseeum-bosal on the left.
HOW TO GET THERE: Yongjusa Temple is a little complicated to get to. First, take City Bus #12. This bus travels from Busan to Yangsan, and then onto Eonyang. You can get this bus either in front of Oncheonjang, PNU, Dusil, or Bemeosa Busan subways stops. You can also catch this bus easily from the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal. From the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you should ride the bus until you get to Hanseong Apartments (the 12th stop). After you’re dropped off, travel north up the road for 5 minutes. Finally, you’ll be able to find a brown city sign with the name of the temple “Yongjusa: 용주사.” Turn right at this sign, and follow the twisting road as it heads under the highway bridge. You’ll finally arrive at the temple after 5 minutes.
View 선지사 in a larger map
OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. To say I was pleasantly surprised by this temple is an understatement. I was expecting it to be a quaint temple with little to see and explore. Luckily for me, and anyone else that may set out to see it, there’s a lot more to this temple than might first be expected. The highlights of this temple are the hundreds of stone pagodas that are highly original in design, the structure that houses both Jijang-bosal and Amita-bul, as well as the Yongwang shrine hall and Gwanseeum-bosal painting inside the main hall. With all this temple has to offer, you’ll realize why I rate this temple as high as I do.