Jajangam Hermitage – 자장암 (Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The stunning view from the Chilseong-gak at Jajangam Hermitage in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Hovering over top of Oeosa Temple, precarious placed on the edge of a mountain cliff, is Jajangam Hermitage. The hermitage, which is named after the famed Buddhist monk, Jajang-yulsa, is situated 200 metres up a mountainside trail. While not the easiest of hikes, it is a rather easy hike when it comes to mountainside hikes.

Nearing the peak of the mountain, you’ll see a trail that leads both right and left. To the left, before you enter the temple grounds, you’ll follow a trail that looks down a steep cliff at Oeosa Temple and the beautiful river that runs out in front of it. It’s also from this angle that you get some really great pictures of Jajangam Hermitage up above. So take your time and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Back on the main trail, and heading up towards the hermitage, you can see a tiny trail entrance just before a row of bamboo trees. Take this trail, and once more, you’ll get some great views of Oeosa Temple down below and the hovering Jajangam Hermitage up above.

Finally having crested the mountain, and coming to Jajangam Hermitage, you’ll notice a large beautiful hall to your immediate left. This two storied structure acts as both the main hall and the monks facilities. The first floor houses the monks facilities, while the visitors’ centre and the main hall rest on the second floor. To gain access to the hermitage halls, you’ll have to take the flight of stairs to the second floor.

Inside the main hall, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined to the right by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and to the left by Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). This triad rests under a large new red canopy. And this triad is surrounded by at least a hundred statues of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). On the right wall is the Shinjung Taenghwa painting, while to the left rests an altar for the dead.

Next to the main hall, and up a smaller set of stairs, is Chilseong-gak, which is solely dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This is the hall that is precarious placed on the cliff of the mountain that you can see all the way from Oeosa Temple. Inside this hall is a beautiful golden relief of Chilseong, while the exterior is adorned with two very simplistic sets of paintings: the Palsang-do murals and the Shimu-do murals. Beautifully placed out in front of this hall is a stone lantern that puts an exclamation mark on the entire view.

Around the corner, and rather surprisingly, is a hall dedicated to Dokseong (The Recluse) and the Nahan. The exterior walls are well populated with groups of Nahan, while the altar inside the main hall is adorned with a rather simplistic painting of Dokseong. He’s surrounded on all sides by smaller sized statues of the Nahan.

In the set of hermitage halls, I thought the Dokseong-gak would be the last one in the set; however, rounding the narrow corner, I was pleasantly surprised to see the diminutive hall dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Inside this narrow hall is a similarly designed painting of Sanshin as the one that appears at Oeosa. It’s simple, yet beautiful, in design.

Once more, I thought this would be the final thing to see at the hermitage, when my wife told me that around the elbowed bend in the path were the purported remains of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Above a simple stone altar, and under a twisted red pine, is a budo dedicated to the Buddha’s remains.

HOW TO GET THERE: From Busan, you’ll first have to get to the Busan Intercity Bus Terminal at the Nopo Subway Stop, #134. You can catch a bus to Pohang Intercity Bus Terminal. The trip takes about an hour and twenty minutes, it leaves every ten to fifteen minutes, and it costs 7,700 won. From the Pohang Intercity Terminal, you’ll then have to make your way over to the Ocheon Transfer Station. To get there, you can either take bus #175 for about 30 minutes to the transfer, or you can take a taxi for 17 minutes, and it’ll cost you about 9,000 won. From the Ocheon Transfer Station, you’ll then have to board the bus that says, Ocheonjiseon (Oeosa), 오천지선 (오어사). The ride lasts about 20 minutes, or 11 stops. From where the bus lets you off, you’ll have to walk the remaining kilometre to Oeosa Temple. Just before you enter the Oeosa Temple parking lot, you’ll notice a sign to the right that’s the start of a mountainside trail that leads all the way up to Jajangam Hermitage. It’s about 200 metres to the top of the mountain and Jajangam Hermitage.


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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Rarely does a hermitage rival that of the main temple, but Jajangam Hermitage does exactly that. Secretively, this hermitage slowly reveals a wealth of artistry: both natural and Buddhist in nature. The beautiful scenery that surrounds you on all sides, coupled with the beautifully situated, and designed, halls, make Jajangam Hermitage a must see with or without visiting Oeosa Temple. But since they’re so closely situated to each other, it makes seeing both a no brainer. And then when you add into the mix the purported remains of Seokgamoni-bul, well…you get the point.

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Spring was just starting to come into bloom as we climbed the mountain towards Jajangam Hermitage.

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A look down at the trail that leads up to Jajangam Hermitage.

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A side trail that allows for some spectacular views of Oeosa Temple down below and the surrounding mountains and lake.

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And from this side trail you’ll see the first amazing sights of Jajangam Hermitage up above.

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 A fuller view of the hermitage grounds.

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Finally at the top of the mountain, you’ll first come across the main hall.

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Inside the main hall sits this triad under a large red canopy. In the centre sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And he’s flanked on either side by Daesaeji-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal.

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To the side is this beautiful guardian mural.

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The view from the main hall out onto the mountains and the picturesque Chilseong-gak.

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The view down from the Chilseong-gak at Oeosa Temple.

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 A better look at the Chilseong-gak.

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 Yet another amazing view from the heights of Jajangam Hermitage.

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 Rounding the corner, you’ll pass by the Dokseong-gak.

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 Inside the Dokseong-gak is this simplistic painting of Dokseong (The Recluse), as well as the sixteen statues of the Nahan.

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 To the left of the Dokseong-gak is the Sanshin-gak.

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 Inside this final hall is a rather typical painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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Rather surprisingly, and around the bend that runs behind the Sanshin-gak, is a stone lotus bud with a sari from the Buddha’s earthly remains.

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