Wonhyoam Hermitage – 원효암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Picture 008The breath-taking view from Wonhyoam Hermitage at the city of Yangsan down below.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

For whatever reason, I had never had a huge urge to visit Wonhyoam Hermitage here in Yangsan. Perhaps it was the distance, and perhaps it was knowing I would have to climb another mountain to get to it. But whatever the reason, I had yet to visit it. Like  Golgulsa Temple in Gyeongju, Wonhyoam Hermitage was a very pleasant surprise.

Wonhyoam Hermitage (원효암), like the identically named hermitage in Busan, is named after the Silla monk Wonhyo-daesa, who helped popularize Buddhism throughout the Korean peninsula. The hermitage dates back to the Silla dynasty, and it’s located 900 metres up on Chunseoungsan Mountain. If you’ve been to both the Wonhyoam Hermitages in Yangsan and Busan, you’ll know that Wonhyo-daesa really enjoyed isolated hermitages to study.  Interestingly, the hermitage has an fascinating story attached to its very long history. In the summer of 1991, a thunderstorm without rain erupted around the hermitage for two hours. A fireball from this storm struck at Saja-bong ( Lion  Peak), which is east of Wonhyoam Hermitage. As a result of this strike, a blackened figured was discovered on the rocks by hikers the next day. The image that was formed by the strike looked like the image of the Buddha. And after the abbot of Tongdosa Temple, Wolha, saw the image he called it “Cheonwang Yaksa Yeorae,” which in English translates as Heavenly Light Yaksayore-bul, after the Buddha of Medicine. It was named this because Yaksayore-bul resides in the East, which is where the strike of lightning hit near the hermitage.

When you first approach the hermitage, after making the long way up the eight kilometer military/hermitage road, you’ll see some of the most beautiful views in all of Yangsan, and perhaps Gyeongsangnam-do. You can take some breath-taking views from these heights, so take your time and enjoy the view. Walking down the road, you’ll notice a beautiful bell pavilion to the right of you. And to the left, where there’s a bend in the trail, there’s a little rock outcropping. Be careful when you step out onto this outcropping, because one wrong step and you’re rolling down the wrong side of a mountain. However, once you’ve safely made your way out onto the rock outcropping, the valley that the south part of Yangsan is situated in reveals itself before your very eyes.

Continuing towards the hermitage grounds, you’ll first see a brightly coloured green roof that sits upon the main hall. Immediately to your right is the hermitage office. And trust me, the office workers will look shocked to see a foreigner so high up the mountain. Inside the main hall is a triad of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the middle, and to his left sits Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to his right. There is an amazing wooden guardian sculpture on the left wall with a uniquely designed, and multi-armed, Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings) in the centre. Around the main hall are some uniquely painted ox-herding murals. Well hidden, and behind the main hall, is a hall dedicated to the three Shamin gods and Yongwang, the King of the Sea. Along the main altar for the Samseong-gak (The Three Stars Hall) are equally beautiful wooden sculptures dedicated to the three Shaman gods: Chilseong (The Seven Stars), San shin (The Mountain god), and Dokseong (The Recluse). In an adjoining room, intermingled with the mountain’s rocks, is a hall dedicated to Yongwang.

To the left of the main hall are the monk’s dorms and study halls. And to the right of the main hall, and up the embankment, is the beautiful bell pavilion with intricate woodwork and paintings. Interestingly, there’s a set of 108 stairs that leads up to Cheonwang Yaksa Yeorae. Under a canopy, the altar looks to the south with the blackened Buddha figure sitting on the altar.

On a personal note, as I was ready to leave, the junior head monk at the hermitage invited me for a cup of coffee that lasted 30 minutes. It was an amazing experience with his broken English and my broken Korean talking about life and faith.

For the Story of Wonhyoam Hermitage.

HOW TO GET THERE: Like most smaller hermitages or temples in smaller towns, this hermitage is a bit of a chore to get to and find. You can take bus number 12 or 12-1 towards  Tongdosa  Temple. You’ll have to get off at Daeseok village. This area is around the more famous  Hongryongsa  Temple. The hermitage has a shuttle bus that ventures up the 8 kilometre road. The shuttle bus can be found out in front of the Wonhyoam Hermitage shop. And the bus leaves four times a day at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1 p.m.

View 원효암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. This temple has a better view than Baekunam Hermitage near  Tongdosa  Temple, and more beautiful buildings than the Wonhyoam Hermitage near  Beomeosa  Temple. And for these two reasons this hermitage rates slightly higher than the two aforementioned hermitages. Wonhyoam Hermitage has a beautiful bell pavilion and Samseong-gak hall. Couple this with the spectacular views of Yangsan below and the blackened Buddha figure from the lightning storm, and you’ll know why this hermitage is rated as high as it is.

Picture 093
The amazing view of the city of Yangsan from the road that leads into Wonhyoam Hermitage.
Picture 006
A close up of the factories and apartments that are spread throughout the valley below.
Picture 105
The twist in the trail that leads towards the hermitage.
Picture 017
Left of the twist in the trail is this rock outcropping that overlooks the city of Yangsan.
Picture 018
And the breath-taking view from the rock outcropping!
Picture 103
And to the right, and up on the hill, is the beautiful bell pavilion.
Picture 022
And just past the twist in the trail is the hermitage’s courtyard and main hall.
Picture 028
Sitting on the altar inside the main hall is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre, flanked by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left, and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right.
Picture 029
The uniquely designed wooden sculpture of the multi-armed Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings).
Picture 037
One of the ox-herding murals with a larger sized ox, which is symbolic of a person trying to tame their untamed mind.
Picture 109
A view up at the towering boulders that surround the hermitage.
Picture 048
At the centre of the altar inside the Samseong-gak is this wooden sculpture of Chilseong (The Seven Stars).
Picture 049
On the right side of the Samseong-gak Hall are these two paintings. On the right is what is thought to be Wonhyo-daesa, who is the monk that gave the hermitage its name, and on the left is Uisang-daesa, his close friend.
Picture 110
A look inside the hall that houses Yongwang, the King of the Sea. If you look close enough you can see the massive rocks that protrude out from the floor into the shrine hall.
Picture 057
The monk dorms which are left of the main hall.
Picture 111
And a view of the beautiful bell pavilion to the right of the main hall. It rests on the adjacent embankment.
Picture 083
A better look at the brilliant woodwork and paintings that adorn the bell pavilion.
Picture 112
A long look up the 108 stairs that rest on the side of the mountain.
Picture 070
And what lies at the top of those stairs? This canopied altar houses the Blackened Buddha rock: Cheonwang Yaksa Yeorae.
Picture 072
You can see the blackened Buddha shaped design at the centre of the altar.
Picture 113
And just when I was ready to leave…
Picture 115
I met this really nice monk that wanted to have coffee with me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *