Garamsa Temple – 가람사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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Perhaps the most beautiful and unique depictions of the Buddha’s life at Garamsa Temple in Yangsan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On the way to Yonghwasa  Temple, and down the same steep hillside road, was Garamsa Temple (가람사).  At first, I wasn’t sure if I would go to Garamsa Temple, not because it was disinteresting or any other reason, but because my healing ankle was still hurting me a bit. Who knew that a staff volleyball game could cause a month of pain?  Fortunately, my severely sprained ankle was holding up, so I decided to stop by Garamsa Temple after visiting the neighbouring Yonghwasa Temple.

Situated on the top of the hill, and just above the valley based Yonghwasa Temple, is Garamsa Temple.  Garamsa Temple is situated on the edge of the mountainside, just before it plunges down to the valley basement and the Nakdong River.  In a lot of ways, Garamsa Temple is a far more aesthetically pleasing temple than Yonghwasa Temple is.  Garamsa Temple grounds are bigger than that of Yonghwsa Temple.  As you approach Garamsa Temple, you’ll first see the monk dormitory.  Strangely, the buildings don’t greet the visitor squarely; but instead, they face east, and away from the visitor. To the left of the monk dormitory is a flower garden sitting area that has a great view of the mountains, the valley, and the Nakdong River that all surround the temple. Walking forward, you’ll then be greeted by the main hall, with the shrine hall a bit further to the right, and directly behind the main hall.  As you walk through the gates, there are a pair of beautiful lion sculptures.  Haetae are mythological creatures, both in Korea and China, that consume fire. The main hall itself has beautiful murals depicting the life of the Buddha.  In fact, I would say that these are perhaps the best I’ve seen throughout all of Korea.  They are a mixture of cartoon, feminity, and realism, all mixed into one beautiful set of paintings.  Well, hopefully with the pictures it will. Also, there are some gorgeous ornamental paintings of bouquets of flowers all around the gables of the main hall. Inside the main hall, there are an assortment of standard sculptures and paintings. There is a beautiful golden painting of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left of the main altar piece at the temple.  Just right of the larger statue of Jijang-bosal, are about 100 smaller incarnations of this Bodhisattva.  A little further right is the main altar piece,  Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and Gwanseeum-bosal (Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the immediate right of Gwanseeum-bosal are another 100 smaller incarnations of this goddess.On the adjoining wall is an elaborate painting of the different incarnations of the Buddha and the Nahan.  Interestingly, there are a couple really interesting individual figures in this painting that I’ve never seen on any other Korean Buddhist mural. Just south of the main hall, as you continue to explore the temple, is a meditative hall for monks only.  This hall has a spectacular view of the valley and river below.  It truly must inspire the monks that meditatively sit in it.

HOW TO GET THERE:  Just like Yonghwasa Temple, there are two ways to get to Garamsa Temple.  Either you can walk the 10 kilometre distance, with a good map, from the PNU Yangsan Campus subway station, or you can hire a taxi to drive you the distance.  The total cost of the ride would probably be just under 10,000 won. The only difference is that Garamsa Temple is situated on the top of the hill, while Yonghwasa Temple is about 100 metres below in the neighbouring valley. Admission to the temple is free.

View 가람사 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. Surprising, I thought that Garamsa Temple was more interesting to visit than the historically important Yonghwasa Temple and its seated stone yeorae statue from the mid to late Silla Dynasty.  What really stood out for me about this temple are the beautiful views of the Korean countryside as made evident by the burgeoning valley below, the Nakdong River, and the all-encompassing mountain ranges.  Added to this are some of the most beautiful and unique paintings of the Buddha’s life in all of Korea.  For these reasons, in my humble opinion, Garamsa Temple rates slight higher than the neighbouring Yonghwasa Temple. Both, combined, can make for a nice little adventure just outside the Busan city limits.

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The road that leads into Garamsa Temple.
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The sign that welcomes you to Garamsa Temple (가람사).
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The first sign of the temple as you approach Garamsa Temple: the parking lot!
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The main hall at the temple.
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The lion guardian with a beautiful sky up above.
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And a wider view of both lion guardians at the gateway that leads into the main courtyard at the temple.
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A view of the Nakdong River below from just outside the main courtyard.
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The main doors at the temple with the Chinese inscription above them.
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And the view of the valley below and the mountains above.
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The shrine hall at Garamsa Temple, which is just behind the main hall.
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Some of the beautiful paintings at the temple.  This one depicts the death of the earthly Buddha.
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Buddha with his followers.
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Buddha attaining enlightenment.
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The princely Siddhartha Gautama escaping his father’s castle.
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The baby Buddha is born!
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Buddha’s mother dreams about….
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…an elephant.
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A painting and statue of Jijang Bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
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And 100 tiny statues of Jijang Bosal.
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The main altar pieces are Amita-bul (The  Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre, Gwanseeum-bosal (Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the right, and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the left.
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A beautifully elaborate guardian painting in black.
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At the bottom is a disfigured individual that I’ve never ever seen at any other temple in all of Korea.
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A view of the main hall.
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And one last look at the temple and the beautiful neighbouring surroundings.

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