Seounam Hermitage – 서운암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Picture 487A view of Seounam Hermitage with Gochujang (red pepper paste) and Ganjang (soy bean sauce) jars surrounding it.

Hello Again Everyone!!

The last stop on our Tongdosa Temple hermitage tour was Seounam Hermitage (서운암). It had been nearly 8 years since I last visited Seounam Hermitage in 2003.  In fact, it was one of the first places my wife and I went when we were first dating.  So it has a lot of sentimentality attached to it for the two of us. And very little has changed with the hermitage, unlike at Okryeonam Hermitage. It was nice to be back at a place that holds so many good memories for us.

As you approach the hermitage, you’ll first have to pass by the hermitage parking lot, which is usually quite packed. To your immediate right is the main compound where all the hermitage buildings are situated.  Unfortunately, these buildings are off limits.  But you can still take a few nice pictures from a distance.  However, what makes Seounam Hermitage noteworthy, strangely, aren’t the temple structures.  Instead, what makes Seounam Hermitage memorable are the beautiful views of the Korean landscape and the massive amounts of Gochujang (red pepper paste) and Ganjang (soy bean sauce) earthen jars that greet you just as soon as you pass by the hermitage buildings. When we visited this time, there was a Korean photography club out taking pictures of these ornamental jars and the neighbouring valley. As we passed by the jars to the left, we made our way up the winding hermitage road that leads to monk dorms up on the hill.  As we walked up this elevated road, we walked by a maintenance tent with an impromptu zoo that houses a solitary guest: a beautiful peacock. At first, the peacock ignored us, that is, until my in-laws kept saying you’re beautiful (in Korean), which allowed for some up-close pictures of the peacock. Instead of walking all the way up the hill until the monk dorms, since we were tired after already viewing three other temples/hermitages, we veered right towards the top of a hill that overlooks the small valley below.  My wife told me that this valley is extremely colourful in the springtime, and since it’s only now entering into the first few days of spring, we were only able to see the budding beauty of the flowers and trees below. Fortunately, there were many more great views of the valley besides the flowering trees and flowers, like the wandering rabbit that came right up to us. Strangely, at least strange in comparison to other temples, the main feature of this hermitage isn’t its buildings or artwork; but instead, the views of a beautiful Korean landscape and wildlife.

HOW TO GET THERE:  Just like Okryeonam Hermitage, Samyeongam Hermitage, and Baekryeonjeongsa Temple, you’ll have to first take a bus to Tongdosa Temple. To get to Tongdosa from the Gyeongsangnam-do area, you can take an intercity bus from Busan, Eonyang or Ulsan. And from Busan, you can take a bus or subway to Nopo-dong intercity bus terminal. There, you can get a ticket for Tongdosa temple. It leaves every 20 minutes.  Once you arrive in Yangsan, and facing the very small bus terminal, you should walk left and then turn right at the first corner.  The temple entrance is past the numerous restaurants and shops.  Walk up a 1.5 km path, sprinkled with ancient graffiti, and you will eventually arrive at the outskirts of the temple grounds.  Once you get to the parking lot for Tongdosa Temple, keep walking up the road for cars to the left.  Follow this road for about a kilometre.  The road will fork to the right or straight.  Follow the road that leads straight, and keep heading straight (unlike the three previous Buddhist structures that veer slightly to the right). Continue up this road for about a kilometres and follow the signs as you go; either that, or you’ll just simply find the hermitage because that’s where this road ends and where the hermitage begins.

And just like Okryeonam Hermitage, Samyeongam Hermitage, and Baekryeonjeongsa Temple, the admission to Seounam  is free to get into; however, you’ll have to pay the 3,000 won entrance fee at the Tongdosa Temple entrance gate.  But that 3,000 won sure does pay for a lot, like being able to see Tongdosa Temple, and any other hermitage your time and effort will allow you to see.

View 서운암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 4.5/10. Just like Baekryeonjeongsa Temple rates four point five out of ten, so does Seounam Hermitage, but for two completely different reasons.  While Baekryeonjeongsa Temple gets the rating it does for its temple buildings, Seounam Hermitage gets the rating it does for the beautiful outdoor adornment (the Korean traditional jars) and the beautiful views of the Korean landscape and wildlife. So often you’ll hear that all Korean temples/hermitages look the same, but if you want to see something a bit different from a Buddhist temple or hermitage, Seounam is certainly the place to visit.

Picture 504
A view of the temple compound at Seounam Hermitage from the parking lot.
Picture 503At better look at more of the buildings at the hermitage.
Picture 473The first field of Gochujang (red pepper paste) and Ganjang (soy bean sauce) in earthen jars nestled beside the hermitage compound.
Picture 476
And a view of the second field.
Picture 478
One last look at both fields with the hermitage in the background, just before we made our climb.
Picture 486
The monk dorms that sit on top of the hill above.
Picture 480
The beautiful peacock that is housed  in the supply tent at Seounam Hermitage.
Picture 481
The wild rabbit that we came across when cresting the neighbouring hill.
Picture 485
A better look at it as it approached us for food.
Picture 490
The beautiful valley below that was just beginning to bud in preparation for spring.
Picture 489
Another view of the beautiful Korean landscape.
Picture 491
An evergreen standing solitarily on the hill with the monk dorm in the background.
Picture 492
Just one more look at the beautiful valley below us.
Picture 493
A glimpse of the trail that was to lead us back home.
Picture 500
A better look at the cherry blossoms that were in bloom.
Picture 501
Yep, spring is just around the corner!!

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